As the nights draw in and the air turns cool, do you ever reach for a bottle of bourbon to warm your blood? If you do, there’s a good chance your medicinal liquor came from Bardstown — Bourbon Capital of the World.
But Bardstown in Nelson County is more than just the home of bourbon. In the fall, it’s also a wonderful place to experience nature at its most beautiful as the local forest erupts in a blaze of autumnal colors. And there are world-famous, historic sites that make this little city in the heart of the Bluegrass region of Kentucky a fascinating destination for anyone.
Here’s a list of 5 things to do in the fall in Bardstown.
#1. Admire the autumnal foliage
Bardstown is blessed with an amazing local forest and nature preserve—The Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest, just 15 miles northwest of the city. This 16,000+ acre site is a wonderful place to wander and admire the hues of red, orange, and brown as the trees of Kentucky prepare for winter.
The attached arboretum boasts over 1,900 labeled trees, including a renowned collection of over 350 species of holly. You can also see buckeyes, conifers, crab apples, ginkgoes, maples, oaks, and ornamental pears.
Bernheim also hosts the Art in Nature program, which includes a large collection of statues donated to the park since it was founded in 1929. With stunning artwork framed by trees in their fall colors, this is an excellent place to bring your camera.
You can explore Bernheim and admire its art and beautiful scenery by making use of its 40 miles of trails. These trails are designed for hikers of every ability, from family groups with young children to serious athletes. Many of the trails are also suitable for biking.
Also, make sure to check out Mama Loumari and her children, Little Nis and Little Elina! These three forest giants have been a worldwide draw since their debut in 2019. These three special forest giants will wow you!
#2. Visit My Old Kentucky Home State Park
There are close to 300 historic houses in Bardstown, but the most significant one is so famous that it has appeared on a U.S. postage stamp and the reverse of a Kentucky State Quarter. Federal Hill was a farm owned by U.S. Senator John Rowan. After it inspired the anti-slavery ballad My Old Kentucky Home, Good Night, the farmhouse became famous.
Whatever time of year it is, My Old Kentucky Home State Park is a fantastic place to visit. Take a tour around the old mansion and learn about the life of the house slaves and 19th-century farms in Kentucky. Or enjoy one of their themed tours that are only offered in the fall.
What’s more, the park boasts a 39-site campground with showers, restrooms, utility hook-ups, and a dump station. That makes this an ideal location for your whole family to camp while exploring the beautiful countryside surrounding Bardstown.
#3. Visit during a local festival
From late September until late October, Bardstown hosts various popular festivals designed to appeal to a wide range of people. The most famous and popular of these is the Kentucky Bourbon Festival (Sept. 15th – 17th) where distilleries gather in the lawn of Spalding Hall to create a truly authentic experience that brings together bourbon enthusiasts from all over the world. The Bardstown Arts and Crafts Festival is held (Oct. 14th & 15) in Downtown Bardstown and is free to the public, displaying hundreds of tents from local artists, live music, food trucks, and more!
#4. Tour the bourbon distilleries
Bardstown is home to many world-famous bourbon distilleries. Most are official stops on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. With nine distilleries within 16 miles of downtown and three more currently under construction, it’s no wonder Bardstown has rightfully earned their moniker as “The Bourbon Capital of the World.” This is your opportunity to meet the distillers who created your favorite bourbon whiskey and sample their product in the place where it was bottled.
Just check out the website of your favorite distillery for information. For example, Bardstown Bourbon Company and Lux Row Distillers welcome you to visit their Bardstown distilleries, where they offer tastings, tours, cocktails, and bourbon-related events. Please doublecheck all hours before visiting, and reservations are recommended.
#5. Visit Museum Row, Home of the Civil War Museum, Old Bardstown Village, and More
If you’re a history buff, you can’t leave Bardstown without visiting its magnificent Civil War Museum on Museum Row. It holds America’s biggest collection of Civil War memorabilia of the Western Theater. The museum building stands side-by-side with three related attractions.
The Pioneer Village contains buildings erected in Nelson county between 1776 and 1820. The Woman’s Civil War Museum is the only museum in the nation that focuses on the role of women in the War of Northern Aggression and is housed in an antebellum (1840) house. The Hal Moore Military Museum honors local veterans who fought for freedom from the War of Independence to the modern-day.
There’s so much more to do
That’s just a sample of the many things you can get up to around Bardstown in the fall. For a small town, Bardstown offers a great selection of world-class attractions. Why not take your family there and join in the fun?