Kentucky's Bourbon, Horses & History Region

Bourbon, Horses & History Region

Anchored by Kentucky’s largest city, Louisville, and dotted with smaller cities and towns, this north-central region is full of attractions for travelers of all ages. Experience the flavors, sights and traditions that define the Bluegrass State – bourbon, horses and history. Below we’ve highlighted a few of the many towns and attractions in the region to help you plan your next road trip!

Must-See Attractions

Bartender pours bourbon into tasting glasses on bar


This region is the heart of the Kentucky bourbon industry – no matter where you go in the region, you can taste and learn about Kentucky’s native spirit! Bardstown is known as the Bourbon Capital of the World® as an Official Gateway to the Kentucky Bourbon Trail®, is home to a number of area distilleries and hosts the annual Kentucky Bourbon Festival®. In Louisville, there’s the Frazier Museum of History, serving as the official starting point of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail®, the Urban Bourbon Trail and downtown distilleries. Bullitt County has its own Wine & Whiskey Trail, Lebanon has the Marion County Trail, Elizabethtown is considered Bourbon’s Backyard, plus Oldham County and Shelby County have distilleries as well. 

Horses race during the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs

Churchill Downs & Kentucky Derby Museum

The iconic twin-spired Churchill Downs racetrack in Louisville is the home of the Kentucky Derby – the longest continually running sporting event in America! No matter the time of year, the racetrack is abuzz with Thoroughbreds training and racing. The adjoining Kentucky Derby Museum offers a unique look at the Thoroughbred horse racing industry through the years up to present day. The museum has a variety of specialty tours, including the Bourbon and Bridles tour offered on Thursday and Friday afternoons where visitors can learn how to make a mint julep, the signature Derby drink. 

Downtown view of Hodgenville with the Lincoln statue and the Lincoln Museum

Lincoln Heritage

Explore the life, history and legacy of 16th U.S. President Abraham Lincoln in central Kentucky. Start in Hodgenville at the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park and his Boyhood Home at Knob Creek, then venture to historic downtown to see the statue and the Lincoln Museum. In nearby Elizabethtown, stop at Freeman Lake Park to see three historic sites: Lincoln Heritage House, Sarah Bush Johnston Lincoln Memorial Cabin and the One-Room Schoolhouse. In small-town Springfield, visit the Lincoln Legacy Museum and the Lincoln Homestead State Park

Bernheim giant Mama Loumari

Arboretums, Gardens & Parks

Bernheim Arboretum & Research Forest in Bullitt County is Kentucky’s Official State Arboretum. It’s a nature lover’s paradise with over 16,000 acres filled with 40 miles of trails for hikers and bikers, wetlands, ponds and natural habitats plus art installations spread throughout the grounds, including the Giants. Yew Dell Botanical Gardens in Oldham County also has an arboretum, log cabin, castle, sunken garden, meadow and woodland trails. Other outdoor spaces around Louisville include the recently opened Waterfront Botanical Gardens, Waterfront Park and The Parklands of Floyds Fork

Exterior view of the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory

Museums, Museums & More Fascinating Museums

Sports fan? Visit the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory to see a Louisville Slugger baseball bat being made from beginning to end – it’s also a part of the city’s new Unfiltered Truth Collection, experiences designed to share stories of Louisville’s Black Heritage. Learn about legendary boxer and activist Muhammad Ali’s life and legacy at the Muhammad Ali Center, a stop on the U.S. Civil Rights Trail. Visit the Kentucky High School Basketball Hall of Fame in Elizabethtown. History buff? Check out Louisville's Frazier Museum of History, Bardstown’s Oscar Getz Museum of Whiskey History or The Civil War Museum & the Women’s Museum of the Civil War, the Oldham County History Center, the La Grange Railroad Museum, the Shelbyville History Museum, the Hardin County History Museum and the Bullitt County History Museum. Other regional museums include the Kentucky Center for African American Heritage, Roots 101: African American MuseumKentucky Science Center, the Speed Art Museum, the KMAC Museum, Swope Cars of Yesteryear Museum, and Radcliff & Ft. Knox’s Kentucky Museum of American Pocketknives and the General George Patton Museum. 

Barn8 Restaurant's pan-seared pork chop

New Restaurants

New restaurants are fun to try, and these two unique places are sure to please your taste buds. Housed in a historic renovated barn at Hermitage Farm, Barn8 Restaurant in Oldham County uses locally-sourced ingredients to craft a gourmet farm-fresh menu and hand-crafted cocktails at the bourbon bar. With an on-site greenhouse just steps away from the kitchen, fresh takes on a whole new meaning. In downtown Louisville on the 25th floor of the renovated Galt House Hotel, you’ll find a new retro, supper-club style restaurant, Swizzle. The restaurant boasts twin revolving floors, an open concept kitchen and an expansive bar and replaces the iconic restaurant Rivue. Swizzle offers prime steaks, sustainable seafood, local produce and head-spinning cocktails – all surrounded by beautiful river and city views. 

Boy paddles on Freeman Lake in Elizabethtown

Elizabethtown – Kentucky’s first urban Trail Town

Explore miles of greenspace trails around Elizabethtown, fondly known as “Etown” and Bourbon’s Backyard, and Kentucky’s first urban Trail Town! Whether you want to paddle, walk, run, hike, bird watch or something else – there’s a place for all that and more. Freeman Lake Park is a beautiful park surrounding a 170-acre lake, offering fishing, tennis, disc golf, boat rentals, a playground, dog park, and historical sites. The nearby Elizabethtown Nature Park offers 104 acres of gently rolling land to explore, including a walking trail that ties into the Freeman Lake Park trail system and the Hardin County Veterans Tribute, a beautiful star formation with sculptures honoring each branch of the military. 

Exterior of My Old Kentucky Home State Park in Bardstown

State Parks

Visit one of the Kentucky State Parks in this region to learn about history and enjoy the outdoors. Travel back in time in Bardstown at My Old Kentucky Home State Park, a 19th-century estate with costumed tour guides that was the inspiration for Stephen Collins Foster’s song which later became the state anthem. In Breckinridge County, see beautiful views of the 5,000-acre Rough River Lake at Rough River Dam State Resort Park in Falls of Rough. Rent a pontoon boat, play disc golf, fish, explore the orienteering course and stay overnight at the lodge or a cottage. There’s also the Taylorsville Lake State Park in Spencer County and the Lincoln Homestead State Park in Springfield

Foal and mare at Hermitage Farm

Farm Tours

Oldham County, located directly east of Louisville along I-71, is the self-dubbed “Farm Tour Capital of Kentucky.” Farm tours are offered in the spring, summer and fall, presenting a unique opportunity to get an inside look at area operations from horses, alpacas, dairy cows, chickens, sheep and bison to gardens and produce. Hermitage Farm has a variety of tours, including an art walk experience, a bourbon tasting, a Thoroughbred horse tour and sport horses tour, plus an educational agriculture tour at sister location Woodland Farm. Next door in Shelby County, also known as the “American Saddlebred Capital of the World,” tour Kismet Farm LLC, a Saddlebred horse farm. 

Guy plays guitar


COVID-19 has greatly affected live music venues in the region, but most have added safety protocols or adaptations to present performances, with some even going virtual, like Old Forester’s Paristown Hall. On Saturday evenings, you can still listen to the weekly “Shepherdsville Country Music Show” that’s been going strong on radio for over 40 years with classic country, oldies, rock-n-roll and Southern gospel music. Limited seating is available in the Bullitt County showroom. Other musical event venues around Louisville include the Louisville Palace Theatre and the KFC Yum! Center

Louisville Skyline at night

More information about the region