Downtown Shelbyville, Kentucky. Image credit Blue Meta via Shutterstock

7 of the Most Charming Small Towns to Visit in Kentucky

You know fun is on the horizon in a state famous for bluegrass, horse racing, and bourbon. These things are just some of the things that make Kentucky a joy to visit.

Some might not know, but Kentucky was once a Virginia county. Over time their desire for self-governess grew into statehood and Kentucky joined the Union on June 1 of 1792.

Since then, Kentucky has created a distinct heritage for itself, like the bourbon industry, which makes up the majority of the world's supply.

Do not forget about the prestigious Kentucky Derby and the beautiful Appalachian Mountains.

There is a lot to see in Kentucky, so read on to learn about seven of the most charming towns in Kentucky.


Overlooking the countryside around Berea, Kentucky.
Overlooking the countryside around Berea, Kentucky.

Some of the best arts and crafts in the state are traced to Berea. The town is filled with many artists and craftspeople, using traditional methods from the Appalachian region.

The Boone Tavern Hotel, named after famous explorer Daniel Boone is a special hotel in the Berea College area. It is celebrated for its warm Southern welcome and commitment to eco-friendly actions. The hotel's dining room is famous for its "spoonbread," a traditional Kentucky dish.

The Old Town Artisan Village in Berea is a charming spot full of finely aged buildings that are now home to art galleries and studios.

You can wander down the stone-paved streets, and take in the art made by folks from the area.

Near Berea, the Pinnacles are towering rock formations and cliffs that give out amazing views of the area around. If you like to climb, you will not leave disappointed.


Rosine General Store.
Rosine General Store, Kentucky. Image credit Jon Roanhaus, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Rosine used to be known as Pigeon’s Roost because there were so many pigeons in the cedar trees nearby. It got its new name, Rosine, to honor Jennie Taylor McHenry, a poet who liked to call herself "Rosine" for her pseudonym.

The town gained fame after it became the home to Bill Monroe, known in the music world as the father of bluegrass music.

Now, the Bill Monroe Bluegrass Music Foundation maintains his old home, and visitors can stop by to see historic items that celebrate his life and all he did for bluegrass music.

Not too far off, there is a copy of the home where Bill Monroe's uncle, James Pendleton Vandiver, stayed. He was a fantastic fiddle player and had a big impact on Monroe's path in music.

If you want to jump into the music, the Rosine Barn Jamboree is where to go every Friday night, all the way from April to December. Bluegrass tunes fill up the air there, and the atmosphere is electric.


Town square in Hodgenville, Kentucky, USA.
Town square in Hodgenville, Kentucky. Image credit Jamie, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Abraham Lincoln, one of the country's most acclaimed presidents, was born outside this town. That legacy has not been forgotten in Hodgenville.

Take, for example, the Lincoln Museum, a place filled with special items related to Lincoln. You will find wax models, antique objects, and big, detailed scenes showing parts of the president's life.

Another place to visit is the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park. It honors Lincoln's young life and has a duplicate of the log cabin he was born in.

While there is debate if it was the exact location where he grew up, the cabin is referred to as his "symbolic cabin" to commemorate his early life.

Love fresh veggies? Then check out Hinton’s Orchard & Farm Market, which is open from April to November and has all kinds of fresh produce and local products for you to enjoy.

After you can head to McDougal Lake for quiet time outdoors. It has a 4.1-mile trail for walking, hiking, or running. Plus, the lake is a fantastic spot for catfishing.


Frankfort, Kentucky, town skyline on the Kentucky River at dusk.
Frankfort, Kentucky, town skyline on the Kentucky River at dusk.

Frankfort is a town full of stunning views, unique animals, famous alcohol-making spots, and cultural spots.

At the Salato Wildlife Education Center, Kentucky's animals are the star attraction. They have bison, black bears, deer, and elk. There is also a spot set aside for monarch butterflies.

Liberty Hall Historic Site is a local iconic heritage spot, made up of two buildings, called Liberty Hall and the Orlando Brown House. These houses share the stories of the well-known Brown family from Kentucky.

When you take a tour of this property, you learn about John Brown, a lawyer and senator who first owned it, and also about the enslaved people who were part of the household.

Wander over and see the Old State Capitol, a key building for the government from 1830 to 1910. The columns on the front are a reflection of its Greek Revival style and will be hard to miss.


Downtown Shelbyville, Kentucky.
Downtown Shelbyville, Kentucky. Image credit Blue Meta via

During the Civil War, Shelbyville was the site of a substantial battle when Confederate fighters attacked the local courthouse in 1863.

Since then, the town has created an important educational space. The Science Hill building has a vital connection to the town and area, related to both schooling and building design. The structure has gone through several additions and expansions since its creation in 1825.

Its importance is bigger than just its physical exterior. It was also known for the Science Hill School for Girls.

Now, the building is on the National Register of Historic Places and holds places like the Science Hill Inn restaurant and the Wakefield-Scearce Galleries inside.

A landmark to check out if you are in town is the Shelbyville Fountain. It includes a sculpture known as the "Atlantis" design from the J. L. Mott Iron Works.


Roundabout near the historic courthouse and Talbot tavern in Bardstown, Kentucky.
Roundabout near the historic courthouse and Talbot tavern in Bardstown, Kentucky.

Welcome to Bardstown and hold onto your hats, because this spot is none other than the world-famous Bourbon Capital of the world.

The town has one of the best lineups of distilleries you can find, as steeped in history as they are in spirits.

Do not forget the highlight event, the Kentucky Bourbon Festival. Year after year, it is a magnet pulling folks from every corner of our planet to revel in a little Southern comfort and experience bourbon-making magic.

For something on a different vibe, check out the Civil War Museum & the Women's Museum of the Civil War, one of the biggest museums in the country focusing on the Civil War.

There is also the Old Talbott Tavern, established in 1779. It is considered the oldest western stagecoach stop in America still in operation. The tavern has been host to many famous guests through time, including Abraham Lincoln and Daniel Boone.


Old Murray Paris Road in Calloway County, Kentucky.
Old Murray Paris Road in Calloway County, Kentucky.

Murray is close to not one but two fantastic lakes. Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley, along with the Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area, are perfect for tackling the outdoors.

For a touch of local history and heritage, Wrather West Kentucky Museum offers a detailed look at the economic, cultural, and social progress of Western Kentucky. It gives visitors a thorough understanding of the area's history.

Murray State's Arboretum covers 13 acres and is filled with gorgeous flowers, and loads of trees to enjoy. There is even a butterfly house inside the grounds.

Downtown Murray is a place with over 200 years of history to see and take in. The best way to see it all is by a self-led stroll around the neighborhood to check out all the sites and sounds.

On that walk, look for the Calloway County Courthouse, raised in 1913 following a fire that destroyed the earlier one in 1906, which has long been central to the history and life here.

Kentucky is a remarkable area famous for its rich history, role in American heritage, and stunning scenery.

In locales such as Bardstown, celebrated for its bourbon, and Rosine, where bluegrass music blossomed, you can see Kentucky's blend of culture and tradition.

All this makes Kentucky a great place for anyone wanting to learn more about history and enjoy its lovely outdoors and important American legacy.

If you can see yourself having fun with a side of bluegrass and a touch of bourbon, there is no better state to visit.

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