Taking an autumn drive to see the leaves change colors is a time-honored tradition in the north and east of the country. While Kentucky might not be the first place you think of as a leaf-peeping destination, the state is full of scenic byways and rolling countryside to be explored. Plus….there’s bourbon.
The Kentucky Bourbon Trail is composed of eight distilleries scattered around Lexington, Bardstown and Frankfort, which are all about one hour from Louisville. Autumn is the perfect time to visit. The leaves are changing, the crowds are gone, and the weather is mild. You can fly into either the Louisville or Lexington airport, though flights to Louisville seem to be cheaper.
Four of the distilleries are closer to Bardstown. These are Jim Bean, Heaven Hill, Maker’s Mark, and Tom Moore. Buffalo Trace, Wild Turkey, Four Roses and Woodford Reserve are closer to Frankfort. Most are open Tuesday through Saturday (some are open Sundays in summer as well) and offer tours every hour. Tours are generally free, or cost just a few dollars. Tours will often include a walk through the production area, a lesson in the history and production of bourbon, and of course, a tasting session.
You’ll need a car to get between the distilleries, so travel with a designated driver or visit no more than two distilleries per day. You could also book a tour guide and driver with a company like Mint Julep Tours.
Where to Stay
For a more urban experience, look for a hotel in Louisville or Lexington, where you should be able to find a room at a national chain for around $100 per night. You’ll find more bed and breakfast accommodations in the smaller town of Bardstown.
What to Do
Other than visiting the distilleries in the area, you can go also go wine-tasting, visit a Civil War Museum, Kentucky Train Museum, take a two-hour dinner train ride through the vibrantly-colored foliage of the countryside, or visit the Kentucky Horse Park. The Park features a daily parade, equine education, horseback and pony rides, and horse shows.