When you start planning a trip to Kentucky Bourbon Country, of course you’ll plan on multiple distillery tours and bourbon tastings. We adore them, too! But here in Covington, Frankfort, and Bardstown, bourbon is so much a part of our culture that it’s seeped into some unexpected places also worth any bourbon loving visitor’s time and attention. Step into a museum and discover little-known aspects of bourbon history. Trace bourbon’s passageways on a scenic drive through rolling hills of bluegrass and alongside flowing rivers. Belly up to the bar in a historic tavern, enjoy the nightlife at the edge of Bourbon Country, and discover bourbon’s influence on local products in the shadow of one of the nation’s prettiest state capitol buildings. Whether you stay three nights, nine, or longer, there’s plenty here to keep you busy. Perhaps best of all, the ideas on this list are each a wallet-friendly $50 or less.
Come to Covington
Covington and the Northern Kentucky area (aka NKY) offer easy access to five distilleries (each with tours under $50, some even free), dozens of bourbon-centric bars and restaurants (all with tastes under $50), a unique bourbon tour dubbed The B-Line, Hotel Covington (USA Today’s pick as the best hotel in Kentucky), special events and experiences at multiple hotspots including New Riff Distilling, and a spectrum of cultural attractions from the Ark Encounter to gangster tours, and more. Among the stops it would be a shame to miss...
Maysville, which is located about an hour southeast of Covington on a scenic drive alongside the Ohio River—one of bourbon’s original key distribution channels—is home to the Kentucky Gateway Museum Center. Its Bourbon Walk exhibit showcases “where bourbon began its journey,” detailing how bourbon was shipped from Maysville into the rest of the country—a story that begins in 1784! The Old Pogue Experience, adjacent to the museum on the first floor of The Limestone Building, shares Maysville’s and Mason County’s distilling history through Pogue family artifacts and bourbon industry relics. Admission is $10/adult and $2/student.
The World Peace Bell is our local ‘cheers’ to the world. Located in Newport, it’s one of 20 Peace Bells around the world and was first used to ring in the year 2000. Measuring 12 feet in diameter as well as height and weighing 66,000 pounds, it was the largest free-swinging bell in the world from 2000 to 2006. Cast in France on the 50th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, an inscription commemorates that document while other engravings mark the most important events of the past 1,000 years. Guided tours are $1.
Walk, bike, or drive across the John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge, which connects Covington, Kentucky to Cincinnati, Ohio. The longest bridge in the world when it opened to traffic on January 1, 1867—a record it held until 1883 when Roebling’s Brooklyn Bridge opened. The bridge was an engineering prototype for the Brooklyn Bridge and is today a National Historic Landmark spanning the Ohio River, the true bourbon line. Free.
Prohibition Bourbon Bar in Newport’s Historic East Row District is home to the world’s largest collection of bourbons and rye whiskies—over 1,500 and counting! There’s also a great selection of Scotch, Irish and Japanese whiskies plus over 50 wines and 50 craft beers. Come try different bourbons side by side, finally sip that elusive bourbon you’ve long craved, or savor a classic cocktail. The extensive menu makes finding a worthy sip under $50 a breeze.
Want to buy a bottle of bourbon for under $50? Head to The Party Source in Bellevue, a one-stop shop for a mind-boggling selection of bourbon—including top shelf and hard-to-find bottles—beer, wine, spirits, cigars, specialty food, party supplies, and more.
Frankfort offers easy access to seven distilleries (all with tours under $50, many free), dozens of bourbon-centric bars and restaurants (all with tastes under $50), the Kentucky State Capitol (where bourbon legislation happens) as well as the Old State Capitol, the unique Kentucky Distilled Experience (that showcases distilleries, wineries, and breweries), the birthplace of the famous Kentucky Bourbon ball, art venues like the Capital Gallery of Contemporary Art and the Josephine Sculpture Park, outdoor adventures like Canoe Kentucky, and accommodations from well-known national hotel brands to unique Airbnbs. Among the must-sees…
Strike a pose by the Kentucky Bourbon Pole at the corner of St. Clair and West Main streets and snap a selfie. Signs point to more than 30 distilleries and note their distances from that spot in historic downtown Frankfort. More than 15 distilleries are within a 20-minute drive from the pole! Check in at The Kentucky Bourbon Pole and tag #VisitFrankfortKY #Bourbon on social media. Free.
Browse historic downtown Frankfort’s eclectic shops, including Completely Kentucky which showcases works by more than 650 of the state’s best artisans, many of whom are carrying on generations of their family’s crafts—and bourbon themes are common. Kentucky Knows produces artisan roasted, barrel-aged coffee in small batches plus makes home furnishings and housewares hand-crafted from retired bourbon barrels. Kentucky Gentlemen Cigar Company features hand-rolled cigars made using bourbon barrel-aged premium tobaccos from around the world. It’s free to look and many items are priced under $50.
The Kentucky Historical Society’s Thomas D. Clark Center for Kentucky History exhibit, “A Kentucky Journey,” showcases the state’s 12,000-year history from prehistoric times to modern day, “from bourbon to baseball bats, horse racing to sporty cars” and more. Admission is $8 per adult, $6 for children age 6-18, and free for youngsters 5 and younger. At Capital City Museum there’s a permanent bourbon display. Free admission.
Looking to buy a bottle of bourbon for under $50? Shop at Capital Cellars in historic downtown Frankfort. The only place in Frankfort that combines a bourbon, wine, beer, and spirits store with a restaurant and bar, Capital Cellars boasts the best selection of bourbon in central Kentucky.
Bourbon comes from Bardstown
Bardstown boasts easy access to nine distilleries (all with tours under $50), dozens of bourbon-centric bars and restaurants (all with tastes under $50), the unique My Old Kentucky Dinner Train, cultural attractions such as the Kentucky Railway Museum and Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest, historic sites like My Old Kentucky Home State Park and Wickland (home to three governors), plus several one-of-a-kind accommodations including the Bourbon Manor Bed & Breakfast Inn and Jailer’s Inn Bed & Breakfast. Among the possibilities…
The Oscar Getz Museum of Whiskey History at Spalding Hall chronicles the history of American whiskey from pre-colonial days through the 1960s. Among the items on display see Abraham Lincoln’s liquor license, unique advertising posters, prescriptions used to purchase bourbon and other spirits during Prohibition, moonshine stills, novelty whiskey containers, rare antiques, and more. Group tours are $5 per person; free entry to individuals but small donations encouraged.
Grab a seat at the bar at Old Talbott Tavern and rub elbows with more than 240 years of history. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Old Talbott Tavern on Court Square in historic downtown Bardstown has provided shelter, food, and drink to visitors since it opened in 1779! Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln, Henry Clay, Stephen Foster, John James Audubon, and Jesse James are just some of its notable previous guests. Today, knowledgeable bartenders pour your pick from the impressive bourbon selection with many options under $50.
The Blind Pig Bourbon Speakeasy harkens back to the Prohibition era, so you’ll need to enter a code number into the back door in order to get inside (but unlike days of yore a clue is conveniently posted on the front door). Sink into a velvet couch or leather chair and sip your pick among more than 300 bourbon options, many priced under $50. Can’t choose just one? Try a flight of multiple bourbons for your own side-by-side taste test.
Classes covering a gamut of bourbon-related themes are hosted throughout the year at various venues throughout Bardstown and are typically $45-50 per adult. Among them, The Bar at Willett hosts lectures about the history of the distillation process, cocktail demonstrations, and discussions on how to mix perfect cocktails. Bardstown Bourbon Company’s classes feature seasonal topics such as holiday cocktails and Mardi Gras cocktails.
Ready to buy a bottle of bourbon for under $50? Toddy’s Liquors specializes in Kentucky bourbons and whiskies and boasts the area’s largest selection with more than 180 different brands in stock.
*During the Coronavirus pandemic, many venues are limiting public access and events with safety in mind. Please call to confirm visitor details in advance. We anticipate that regular operations will resume as soon as possible. In the meantime, wash your hands frequently, stay safe, and keep calm.
We're open. Let's have fun. Travel safe. Stay informed about coronavirus precautions and updates in Covington, Frankfort, and Bardstown. Hours of operation and offerings change rapidly these days, so confirm details and options before you arrive. During the pandemic, when visiting public places please wear a mask, keep your hands clean, and stand far enough away from other people that you’ll need to raise your bourbon glass in a toast rather than clink glasses.