Abraham Lincoln famously said, “I hope to have God on my side, but I must have Kentucky.” This from a man known for telling it like it is.
True lovers of Kentucky know that the literal and figurative heart of this gracious southern state is the capital city of Frankfort, perfectly positioned on the shores of the Kentucky River between Louisville and Lexington. Frankfort embodies the essence of everything that makes Kentucky special from her natural charm and beauty to her world-renowned bourbon, all in one distinctly small and spirited package.
You could say that Frankfort is Kentucky Distilled.
It all starts on Capital Avenue where the rotunda of the Capitol building rises above the city, a testament to classic architecture and big ideas. Inside the building’s legislative halls and chambers, some of the nation’s best and brightest minds are shaping and reflecting the nature of Kentucky.
Business certainly benefits from its location in Frankfort. Being the seat of state government means educated citizens with great people skills. It means diversity, including renowned Kentucky State University. It means being close to where the most important decisions are being made for Kentucky business. Frankfort is hands-on. You can go to the decision-makers and talk to them on a personal level.
Even as Frankfort is fueled by big ideas, it is powered by hard work and strong character. Kentucky is a manufacturing and industrial state and Frankfort represents that very essence. In Frankfort, Jim Beam bottles 100 different brands of alcohol for global distribution. Montaplast of North America provides automotive components for Mercedes and Jaguar that are shipped all over the world. Centria is a $150 million commercial siding manufacturer. And, like the men and women who made Kentucky great, the workforce in Frankfort is tough and independent-minded.
As surely as Frankfort is making modern history, the city is also deeply rooted in Kentucky’s past. Legendary frontiersman Daniel Boone is buried in Frankfort. Historic architecture graces government buildings from the current Capitol to the old state Capitol, the Governor’s mansions, the region’s only Frank Lloyd Wright house and Liberty Hall, the home of John Brown, one of Kentucky’s founding fathers. Leslie Morris Park sitting atop Fort Hill offers a glimpse into Frankfort’s role during the Civil War and a myriad of museums provide insight into everything from Kentucky’s government to its military to the state police. Frankfort even has one of Kentucky’s few remaining original covered bridges.
Capital city aside, Mother Nature refuses to be upstaged by politics in Frankfort. Winding its way around the base of the city is the mighty Kentucky River. Sheer stone walls rise up to meet rolling hills with thick canopies of trees – green in the summer and red and yellow in the fall. A blanket of bright tulips is a colorful carpet leading to the Capitol and specialty gardens with unique features like the famous floral clock grace many of the government buildings. Away from the city, rural roads with stone stacked walls lead to a sprinkling of iconic farms. Frankfort embodies the best of bluegrass beauty.
Of course, Frankfort’s natural bounty is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts. Boaters benefit from the recent opening of the Kentucky River all the way from the Ohio to the Capital City. Water lovers have their pick of marinas, boat rentals, swimming, fishing, kayaking and canoeing. Parks featuring winding trails are popular with runners, walkers and cyclists. Small and spirited Frankfort even has one private and two public golf courses, a mountain bike course and a wildlife sanctuary!
Culturally, Frankfort offers a microcosm of Kentucky’s comfort food, candy, music, art and southern hospitality. For example, Completely Kentucky features products, crafts and artwork from more than 650 of the best artisans in the state. Rebecca Ruth candy epitomizes “Kentucky Distilled” by mixing the iconic flavors of Kentucky into nationally renowned sweet treats – Mint Kentucky Colonel and the iconic Bourbon Balls. And public art, sculpture trails, gardens, art societies and numerous galleries speak to the city’s commitment to the arts.
Perhaps no place in Frankfort better represents the city’s balance between the charm of history and the influx of new ideas than Historic Downtown. In the shadow of the Old State Capital, historic buildings (some more than 150 years old) are home to modern boutique shops, galleries and restaurants. Red brick streets are filled on Friday and Saturday nights with visitors and residents enjoying live music, special events, good food and friends.
But let’s be honest, if we’re talking Kentucky … we’re talking bourbon. Declared by Congress in 1964 to be America’s Native Spirit, bourbon by definition is made in the United States. But really, everyone knows that means Kentucky – 95% of the world’s bourbon is made in this state, where there are more barrels of bourbon than people. And Frankfort’s iconic Buffalo Trace Distillery is the leader among the legendary spirit makers of Kentucky, staying true to the traditions of the craft while embracing change that results in improvement. Kind of like the city of Frankfort itself.
Truth is, you can’t really tell Frankfort’s story without telling Kentucky’s story. They are inextricably entwined. Frankfort is the best of Kentucky, the heart of Kentucky, the soul of Kentucky. Frankfort is capitol halls and bourbon balls, rolling hills and rushing rivers, southern hospitality and global connections. Frankfort is big decisions and small town charm, calloused hands and cutting-edge technology, historic buildings and civic sophistication. Frankfort is beauty, big ideas and bourbon. Frankfort is … Kentucky Distilled.