Skip to content

24 Hours in Frankfort, Kentucky Written by Patti Nickell

You don’t have to spend a week in a destination to get a sense of place. Sometimes a day (and a night) will serve to pique your interest in all that destination has to offer. 

With that in mind, here’s how to spend 24 hours in Frankfort. 

8:30 a.m.  Breakfast with a beat 

Want a side of rock ‘n roll with your bacon and eggs? At this Frankfort favorite, it’s “Happy Days” every day. Listen to ‘50s teen idols Fabian and Frankie Avalon croon about young love on the jukebox while you peruse the breakfast menu. Did we mention breakfast is served all day at Main Street Diner

What will it be – a specialty omelet or the biscuit and gravy plate? You can walk off the calories during a full day of activities.

10:00 a.m.  Museum Mania 

Capital City Museum may be small (8,500 square feet), but don’t let its size fool you – the scope of the exhibits is anything but small. 

Did you know that Frankfort artisans developed the fishing reel? Or that butter lettuce, also known as Bibb lettuce, was introduced in the backyard garden of Frankfort lawyer John Bibb? You’ll find out in exhibits at the museum. 

You can also see exhibits as diverse as the tooth of a giant mammoth common in Kentucky 12,000 years ago, and original oil paintings by artist Paul Sawyier who was to central Kentucky what Claude Monet was to northern France. 

After the Capital City Museum, if you are still in museum mode, a visit to the Thomas D. Clark Center for Kentucky History (the name says it all – it’s the commonwealth in a capsule) or the Kentucky Military History Museum is well worth your time.

12:30 p.m.  Lunch and bourbon (naturally) at Bourbon on Main 

By now your stomach is telling you it’s time to refuel. Luckily, a short stroll will take you to Bourbon on Main Restaurant. 

The view of the Kentucky River from the split-level patio deck is best appreciated in the warmer months, but you can still remain warm and toasty during less benign weather.  How? 

Just order a bourbon flight to go with your burger, beer cheese or Hot Brown. You’ll be spoiled for choice as they have more than 300 bourbons on their three-page drinks menu. 

If you want to spend a little extra time getting acquainted with the commonwealth’s native elixir, you can arrange for a curated bourbon tasting with a certified bourbon steward.

1:30 p.m.  The ghost and Mr. Brown

The two-story red brick Federal-style Liberty Hall may look like any other building in Frankfort’s historic district. But looks can be deceiving.  It was home not just to an 18th century family, but to a significant slice of Colonial American history. 

Now a museum, Liberty Hall was built in 1796 by John Brown, who had the distinction of being the first U.S. Senator from the newly minted (1792) state of Kentucky. 

Today’s visitors see the house through its four main interpretive themes: indigenous people and the land; urban enslavement; a multigenerational family and Brown’s political and civic involvement at the local, state and national level (he was known to hob-knob with presidents and European aristocracy). 

Even with all his accomplishments, however, the Lord of the Manor often finds himself upstaged by the “Gray Lady,” a benevolent ghost who haunts a second-floor bedroom. 

Afternoon:  Shopping and Sipping 

Visitors are often surprised to find Frankfort’s relatively small downtown area has a wealth of specialty shopping opportunities. Art lovers should pop into the Capital Gallery of Contemporary Art and check out the colorful canvases of local artist Ellen Glasgow. 

More of a book lover? We have the perfect place for any bibliophile. Poor Richard’s Books, located in a 19th century building with just the right amount of musty atmosphere, has tomes ranging from A (Austen, Jane) to Z (Zola, Emile), with one-quarter of the space devoted to Kentucky authors and subjects. 

If you’re looking for a piece of the commonwealth to take home, walk next door to Completely Kentucky where you will find the work of Kentucky artisans from handmade pottery, jewelry and glass objects to gourmet food baskets stocked with Kentucky Proud products.

You can also head a bit further afield to Rebecca Ruth Candy Tours & Museum, home of the original bourbon balls. 

Should you find your energy flagging during the strenuous shopping spree, stop in for a jolt of java at Kentucky Coffeetree Café, snugly tucked between Poor Richard’s Books and Completely Kentucky, or Engine House Coffee in a re-purposed building that served as the city’s firehouse for nearly a century.

7:00 p.m.  Elegant Eating 

If you want fine dining with a flair, The Limewater Bistro & Bar is just the ticket. Located in the historic Glen Willis Mansion on the banks of the Kentucky River, it offers a finely tuned menu with an unbeatable ambiance.   

The name comes from the native limestone and clear water that are the lifeblood of central Kentucky.  The menu comes with specialties such as cheddar scallion fritters, shrimp and stone cut grits, porcini risotto and their much-lauded pork schnitzel. 

After Dinner:  Nightcap, anyone

In recent years, finding a classic cocktail in the capital has become much easier. If you want to end the evening with a nightcap, try the House of Commons, a stylish lounge with a carefully curated cocktail menu. 

If you’re looking for something a bit more casual, you’ll love the comfortable ambiance (not to mention the great cocktails) at Mortimer Bibb’s Public House.

Howser Tavern is the capital city’s newest watering hole and pays tribute to the Kentucky Bourbon Trail which meanders through the city.

Checking In: 

Sleep in southern style at The Meeting House Bed-and-Breakfast Inn, located in a Civil War-era house a few blocks from downtown. 

If you are a bourbon fan, you’ll be in seventh heaven here, especially if you snag the room aptly named Angel’s Envy. 

Guests are encouraged to help themselves to a pour from any of the impressive bourbons on a shelf above the fireplace. 

The bountiful breakfast served in the dining room with its stained-glass window and Victorian-style chandeliers will send you on your way with memories of your day in Frankfort’s charming capital city.