A Weekend in Paris . . . in Bourbon County, Kentucky
By: Marty Rosen & J.T. Mullen
Bourbon County is quintessential Kentucky. Get away from the big city and experience the soft, subtle charm of small-town Kentucky.
Drive across the county line on Paris Pike (US 68 East/US 27 North), where you’ll discover rolling hills and bluegrass pastures as you explore Central Kentucky. As you make your way through horse country, stop by the side of the road, and you might hear the rhythm of thoroughbreds cantering in the breeze. Paris, the historic seat of Bourbon County, is just a quick 20-minute road trip up from Lexington. Stroll through town, and you’ll be welcomed by the neighborly smiles of the lucky folks who call this place home.
Paris: Historic Small-Town Charm
In Paris – a charming small town of around 10,000 residents – start your visit in the center of town to snap a photo with a 20-foot replica of the Eiffel Tower. Then, head over to the Welcome Center and year-round farmer’s market, where you can chat with the locals and shop for pumpkin butter, bars of old-fashioned soap and a full range of locally made artisanal crafts and goods.
Stop for a bite to eat inside the historic Paris Train Depot. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the depot was built in 1882 and brought in passengers, including the likes of President Teddy Roosevelt, from all over the region until the late 1960s. The depot recently underwent a complete restoration, which saved about 85 percent of the original wood from the building’s exterior. It now houses the Trackside Restaurant and Bourbon Bar.
Stretch your legs a little and explore Main Street. Paris’ historic downtown is filled with a variety of shops and eateries. Pop inside these local stores to peruse vintage clothing, rare antiques, boutique styles and handmade goods.
Then, head over to the world’s tallest three-story building at 8th and Main St. Featured in Ripley’s Believe It or Not! the building houses Paradise Café and Paradise Inn B&B. Book a night at the inn or stop by for delicious Asian fare from the café. A few doors down, go for fresh-baked bread and pastries at Hopewell Bake Exchange. The bakery even offers classes, so be sure to check their calendar to see if an upcoming class aligns with your visit. For your caffeine fix, try Lil’s Coffee House for cappuccinos, breve and a full slate of breakfast and lunch options. Just across the way, Happy People Coffee Company rotates its coffee selections daily and offers a variety of hot tea and espresso options.
Don’t miss Hartfield & Company Distillery, just a block off Main St. Go for a tour and a tasting at Bourbon County’s first distillery since Prohibition. Duncan Tavern is another must-see downtown attraction. Located off Main St. near the Bourbon County Courthouse, the tavern was built in the late 1700s. Take a guided tour of the museum to discover the building’s storied past and the pioneers and historic figures, like Daniel Boone, who frequented the tavern.
Before you leave Main Street, snap a selfie with Jaime Corum’s three-story mural of the legendary racehorse Secretariat. Located on the side of The Baldwin Hotel (at 519 Main St.), the world’s largest Secretariat mural overlooks a plot of land that will soon become Secretariat Park. Plan to visit the park once it opens on Nov. 11, 2023.
Beyond Paris: Bourbon County Experiences
Outside of town, you can circle back in time on the scenic highways of Bourbon County, Kentucky. South of the city, historic Claiborne Farm has been home to some of the most storied thoroughbreds in modern history and is the final resting place for the legendary Secretariat. (Tours are available by appointment.) If you’re looking for peace and solitude, sweet spots dot the northern part of Bourbon County where the Colville Covered Bridge, its massive wooden trusses dating to 1877, quietly spans Hinkston Creek.
Located on KY 537 east of Paris is the exquisitely preserved Cane Ridge Meeting House. It stands as a vibrant testament to the faith of frontier people. Built in 1791, and now carefully sheltered by a deftly designed stone structure, it is believed to be the largest single-room log structure in America. In 1801, it was the epicenter of a great revival that attracted some 12,000 souls. (You can learn more at the on-site museum.) These days, the house is an active church visited by congregations and religious groups that come to hear the echoes of hymns and prayers that have been ringing out for more than 200 years.
Horses, history and hospitality – Bourbon County, Kentucky, has them in abundance. For more information about Paris, Kentucky restaurants, lodging, attractions and events, call 859-987-8744 or visit www.parisky.com.