Wander the beautiful grounds of Federal Hill Mansion with the plaintive melody of Stephen Foster's “My Old Kentucky Home” playing over the trees. Savor the smooth taste of perfectly-aged bourbon from the largest distilleries in Kentucky. Marvel at miniature buildings that house perfect replicas of antique furniture and ornaments. Celebrate the life and heritage of our 16th President. These treasures and more await you in the green fields and valleys of the Lincoln Heritage Scenic Highway.
On the western end of the byway is Hodgenville, home to Lincoln heritage sites such as the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historic Park and the Lincoln Museum of Kentucky. Every year the Lincoln Days Festival celebrates the famous president and his local legacy. Dress the kids up as our 16th president, or come in a top hat, beard and black coat yourself for a Lincoln look-alike contest. Established in 1975 and held each year in October, this festival also includes arts and crafts, pioneer games, a parade, Lincoln cloggers, a talent contest, and more.
Want to lift your "spirits"? Check out the “Bourbon Capital of the World”. The byway town of Bardstown is home to many of Kentucky’s largest distilleries, including the nation’s largest family-owned distillery: the Heaven Hill Bourbon Heritage Center and Distillery. Take part in interactive exhibits about the birth of bourbon, and of course, taste the first truly American spirit. With a 50-year collection documenting the American whiskey industry and only a mile away, the Oscar Getz Museum of Whiskey History holds a fascinating mix of whiskey-related artifacts and documents from early American history to the present. Exhibits include unique promotional art, displays of “strictly medicinal” whiskey products from the Prohibition era, and even a whiskey-making still, used by George Washington.
Held in September, the annual Bourbon Festival in Bardstown provides six days of great bourbon, mouth-watering food, and exciting entertainment. Ever see the brightly lit canopies of more than 20 hot air balloons illuminate the night sky? How about a race to roll and arrange 500 pound barrels for the title of “World Champion” of the Bourbon Barrel Relay? The festival also offers visitors the chance to take a tour of historical Bardstown, witness a train robbery firsthand, and so much more.
While in Bardstown, take a break from bourbon and stop by the My Old Kentucky Home State Park. On a tour of Stephen Foster’s muse, the Federal Hill Mansion, you may discover why he was inspired to write the ballad “My Old Kentucky Home,” now the Kentucky State Song. A local favorite, it’s sung at every Kentucky Derby. An exciting musical-theatre experience, The Stephen Foster Story, is performed here each summer and includes more than 50 of Foster’s songs, lively choreography, and vibrant period costumes. You don’t want to miss this long-running summer tradition!
If you are in Springfield the first weekend in October, get a taste of local traditions at the annual Kentucky Crossroads Harvest Festival. The 5K walk/run will work up a healthy appetite, but a hearty harvest breakfast and two barbeques (one of which is a Kentucky Championship Competition) keep anyone from leaving hungry. Let the kids dive into pie plates full of whipped cream on a treasure hunt in the harvest pie contest or enter a pet frog in the frog-jumping contest. The best-dressed scarecrow contest awards a spot in the Harvest Parade to the winner.
Love architecture, but don’t have the time to walk around a sprawling mansion district? The Great American Dollhouse Museum in Danville on the eastern end of the byway is the place for you! See elaborate buildings in a few rooms rather than a few city blocks. The displays include a wide variety of architectural styles, from an Old West town to the elegant Grand Hotel; and a wide variety of neighborhoods, from a Shaker Settlement to a fantasy forest. Each house stands open in the back to display hand-carved furnishings and unique dolls of porcelain, bisque, and other vintage materials, as well as handcrafted, modern additions. If the kids don’t feel like walking around the museum with you, they can create worlds of their own in a hands-on village in the playroom.
For more presidential history, festivals, museums and cultural opportunities in the heart of Kentucky's Derby Region, be sure to visit the Kentucky Tourism website. Experience the charm of the Bluegrass State on the Lincoln Heritage Scenic Highway!
- Public domain. Photo by A. Crane
- Public domain. Photo courtesy of www.kentuckytourism.com
- Public domain. Photo by A. Crane
- Copyright © September 2008 Anne McCall.