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Things to do in Frankfort Between Bourbon Tours Written by Julia Koslowsky

Kentucky is known for its bourbon, and its capital city, Frankfort, is no different. Home to four local bourbon distilleries, Frankfort attracts people from all over the United States to experience the rich history that can be found in a glass of bourbon whiskey. Each of Frankfort’s distilleries — Buffalo Trace Distillery, Castle & Key, Glenns Creek, and Whiskey Thief — offer various tours and tastings to be booked in advance that will leave you feeling like a Bonafide bourbon expert. Depending on their tour or tasting time slot, visitors often find themselves with some free time to explore the city while waiting on their tour of the bourbon process to begin. Frankfort overflows with culture, art, and history alongside its deep love for bourbon. There’s something for everyone to find and experience in the hidden gems of this charming locale.

For guests who want to spend their time soaking up history, there are plenty of ways to take in the city. Kentucky River Tours offers an alternate way to imbibe the local bourbon history and learn about the famous Kentucky Bourbon Trail as well as the origins of bourbon in the state. Cruise the river in their double decker vessel or their more intimate smaller boat. In the summer, self-guided kayak tours of the river’s bourbon history are available through Canoe KY.

While the river is the true heart of the city, downtown Frankfort has history hidden around every corner. Take a trolley tour of the city or a walking tour led by Colonel E.H. Taylor, Jr., a founding father of the bourbon industry, and learn about the historic homes and buildings dotted around the streets. Depending on the day, visitors might get a sneak peek into one or two of the buildings while on the tour since Mr. E.H. Taylor is rather popular around town. Many of the historic homes and gardens are available for private tours as well. 

Art and sculptures can be found all across downtown Frankfort as a result of the city’s push to fill its streets with art appreciation. QR codes link to information about each art piece, so guests can take their own self-guided art tour at their leisure. Nearby, Josephine Sculpture Park offers a walk-through outdoor experience of rotating art and sculptures, many of which are interactive and encourage hands-on art education.

For those who like to explore the great outdoors, there are plenty of parks, golf courses, trails, and river activities to satisfy the itch to get outside.

For visiting history buffs, Frankfort is a gold mine of museums and local treasures. Buying a single ticket allows museum guests access to three key sites: the Kentucky Military History Museum, the Old State Capitol, and the Thomas D. Clark Center for Kentucky History. At the Military History Museum, dive into the Civil War, World War I, and more, and discover Frankfort’s role in the wars. The Old State Capitol allows a window into the operation of past legislatures and remains the site of the nation’s only gubernatorial assassination. The Center for Kentucky History journeys through Kentucky over thousands of years into the modern day to provide a comprehensive look at the unique features of the state.

Around the corner from the Military History Museum is the Frankfort Cemetery, where — along with other prominent statesmen, soldiers, and businessmen — the graves of Daniel Boone and his wife Rebecca can be found. Next to their memorial is a sprawling view of the State Capitol, downtown Frankfort, and the winding Kentucky River.

Perhaps the most impressive building in Frankfort is the Kentucky State Capitol. The neoclassical building is the only state capitol building that operates in a residential area and is packed with statues and exhibits celebrating the culture and people of Frankfort. The Kentucky legislatures meet within the building, and with public access, it’s possible that during a tour, visitors might get to sit in on history in action. The state capitol overlooks Capital Avenue and gives a lovely scenic view of historic homes. For more Frankfort history, visit the Capital City Museum in downtown Frankfort to get a closer look at the city’s growth and changes over the past few centuries.

Good food is the perfect pairing with a bourbon tasting. Frankfort is home to many wonderful restaurants packed with delicious fare. While cruising on a river tour, guests might see a few favorites overlooking the Kentucky River. Bourbon on Main and Goodwood Frankfort both offer waterfront dining and a delectable spread of pub-style food. Locals and visitors alike make regular pilgrimages for a burger and a beer.

Limewater Bistro + Bar also sits on the river just around the corner from Buffalo Trace for a nearby and upscale lunch. 

The Rebecca Ruth Candy Company, home of Frankfort’s beloved bourbon balls, is just down the street from the Kentucky State Capitol and has been run by the Booe family for four generations. Pop in for a candy tour and delicious treats you won’t find anywhere else. Around the corner from the capitol is Andy’s Artisan Bread, a bakery frequented by the locals that’s open Wednesday to Saturday. Downtown Frankfort presents a plethora of cafes and eateries for every mood.

Hoggy’s Ice Cream is a great way to cool down with something sweet. Kentucky Coffeetree Cafe serves an array of coffee and sandwiches and connects to the shops on either side: Poor Richard’s Books and Completely Kentucky. For dinner, try Serafini’s, Buddy’s Pizza, or Mortimer Bibb’s Public House. The city of Frankfort has a myriad of experiences to offer its visitors. From exploring the river and visiting the historical sites to wandering through the vibrant downtown area, visitors will find themselves enamored by and immersed in the local culture. While waiting for a bourbon distillery tour, embrace the opportunity to discover the city’s charms and diverse attractions that will remain as memorable as the bourbon tour itself.