Bardstown is one of Kentucky’s charming and historic towns, filled with Georgian and Federal architecture. But what sets it apart from other towns is its rich history and culture, including bourbon-making and the Civil War. But there is much more to this city than its historical significance.
The town is home to various outdoor recreational activities and cultural events, making it a great destination for visitors of all ages. In this article, I’ll share 23 of the best things to do in Bardstown that you won’t miss. Read on!
Things To Do In Bardstown Kentucky
1. Stroll Through The Historic District
One of the first things to do in Bardstown is to explore the city’s historic district. This area is home to many of the city’s most historic and architecturally significant buildings. In fact, almost a third of the buildings in this area date between 1780 and 1850.
Therefore, wander through the charming streets and admire the beautiful architecture. Many of these buildings have been maintained, offering a glimpse into the past.
I suggest starting your tour with a stroll along the Cobblestone Path, which dates back to 1785 and runs down the district’s east side. This path is lined with beautiful historic homes and is a great way to get a sense of the area’s rich history.
Other popular Bardstown attractions in the historic district not to miss include the Spalding Hall (1839), Bardstown Station (1860), the Nelson County Jail (1800), and the Old Talbott Tavern (1779).
2. Take A Tour Of My Old Kentucky Home State Park
Do you know Stephen Foster’s famous song “My Old Kentucky Home, Good Night”? Well, My Old Kentucky Home State Park is the inspiration behind it.
Stephen Foster wrote the song when he visited Federal hill and saw how slaves were treated. The song became famous and was made the state song in 1928. And to honor his legacy, the Commonwealth of Kentucky purchased the Federal Hill, where the song was inspired and turned it into My Old Kentucky Home State Park.
Today, you can tour the plantation and the mansion and learn about the history of the area and the people who lived there. In addition, the park also features beautiful gardens, hiking trails, and a golf course. This makes it one of the best places to visit in Bardstown if you’re interested in history and nature, and also a great way to learn about the inspiration behind one of America’s most famous songs.
3. Visit The Abbey Of Gethsemani
The Abbey of Gethsemani is a Trappist monastery located about 15 minutes south of downtown Bardstown. It was founded in 1848 by the order of Trappist Cistercians and is the motherhouse for all monasteries of this order in the US. The monastery is set on a working farm that spans over 2,000 acres, and it’s surrounded by beautiful gardens and natural landscapes.
The monastery is open to visitors interested in learning more about monastic life and the contemplative tradition. There is also a museum that tells the story of the abbey’s history and the lives of the monks who have lived there.
And if you’re interested in hiking, you can get a map from the visitors’ center and explore the many trails that wind through the abbey’s property. The trail offers you a chance to experience the serene and peaceful atmosphere of the monastery.
If you are looking for a spiritual retreat or a peaceful place to meditate, the abbey offers retreats and workshops throughout the year. The monks lead these retreats and provide an opportunity to deepen your spiritual practice, which is also one of the best things to do in Bardstown.
Additionally, the abbey also offers a gift shop where you can purchase bourbon fudge, handmade fruitcakes, and other items made by the monks.
4. Go On A Dinner With My Old Kentucky Dinner Train
Imagine taking a leisurely train ride through the scenic countryside of Kentucky while indulging in a delicious gourmet meal. Sounds like an experience of a lifetime? That’s exactly what you’ll get with My Old Kentucky Dinner Train in Bardstown.
This 37-mile roundtrip journey takes you on a scenic tour through the rolling hills and picturesque countryside of Kentucky. During the trip, you’ll be treated to scrumptious dishes such as salted caramel cheesecakes, pan-seared pork sirloin, a cheeseburger, and many more.
The best part about the journey is that you’ll see some of the famous attractions in Bardstown while enjoying your meal. Some highlights include the Jackson Hollow Trestle in the Bernheim Forest, Jesse James’ safe house, and the Jim Beam distillery.
In addition, the train also hosts special themed excursions throughout the year, such as the North Pole Express, Bourbon Excursions, and Murder Mysteries.
The train ride is two hours, and it departs from the historic Bardstown train station. This makes it a perfect option for a romantic date night, a special occasion, or just a fun and unique way to explore the area.
Therefore, if you’re looking for new ideas and wondering what to do in Bardstown that’s unique and exciting, My Old Kentucky Dinner Train is definitely worth considering.
5. Take A Tour Of The Civil War Museum
One of the Bardstown best attractions in Bardstown is the Civil War Museum, popular for anyone interested in learning more about the Civil War era. The museum ground spreads over a large area and is divided into several sections, each showcasing different aspects of the war. Popular sections to check out include;
a. The Civil War Museum of the Western Theatre
This museum demonstrates the struggles between the Union and Confederate soldiers, making it an essential stop for history buffs. Some of the exhibits to see here include canons, swords, flags, and various war artilleries. You will learn about the battles, strategies, and personalities of the war, as well as the impact it had on the people of the region.
b. The Old Bardstown Village Civil War Museum
This museum recreates the entire village from the Western American Civil War period. You can browse through the village and learn about the struggles and hardships that the people of Bardstown went through during the Civil War. The museum also has an extensive collection of photographs and documents that provide a glimpse into the everyday lives of soldiers and civilians during the war.
c. The Women’s Civil War Museum
The Women’s Civil War Museum aims to educate visitors about the important contributions women made during the American Civil War. It tells the stories of the women who lived through the war, including soldiers, suffrage, journalist, writers, nurses, and other important positions during the war.
You can explore the museum’s exhibits, which include artifacts, photographs, and personal letters, and gain a deeper understanding of the sacrifices and struggles of the women who lived through one of the most pivotal periods in American history.
6. Visit Heaven Hill Distilleries For A Taste Of Authentic Bourbon
Founded in 1935 by the Shapira family, Heaven Hill Distilleries is one of the largest family-owned and operated producers of distilled spirits in the United States.
Today, you can tour the distillery and learn about the history of the Shapira family and the distillation process. In addition to distillation, the company has its own bottling facility, allowing them to control the entire production process from start to finish. There is also a museum that showcases the history of bourbon distilling.
After the tour, you can taste some of their products, such as Rittenhouse Rye, Larceny, Old Fitzgerald, Elijah Craig, and the popular Evan Williams. So if you’re a whiskey enthusiast, this is one of the must-do things in Bardstown.
7. Explore Bernheim Arboretum And Research Forest
For a peaceful and serene getaway in nature, the Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest is an ideal destination.
This natural oasis encompasses 16,137 acres and is home to a wide variety of plant and animal species. Ongoing efforts to catalog the diversity of life found within the forest have found at least 911 plant species, over 400 moths, 82 snails, 47 mammals, and a host of other overlooked organisms.
The arboretum is dedicated to educating visitors about the importance of conservation and the natural world. Many hiking trails and educational programs allow visitors to explore the forest and learn about the different species that call it home.
What’s more? The arboretum also hosts a number of events and festivals, such as the Bloomfest in May, CONNECT in August, and ColorFest in October. These events offer you the opportunity to experience the beauty of the forest in different seasons and learn about the unique flora and fauna.
Therefore, adding this arboretum to your list of cool places to visit in Bardstown is a must. It’s perfect for nature lovers and those looking for a peaceful and relaxing day out.
8. Go Winetasting At Mcintyre’s Winery
Located in an 80-acre estate, Mclntyre’s Winery and berries offers homemade country fruit wines made from homegrown berries. The vineyard was first planted in 1973 and has become a popular spot for wine lovers.
The winery offers tours of the vineyard and wine production process, as well as tastings of their signature fruit wines. The winery also has a beautiful outdoor patio where visitors can sit and enjoy the views of the vineyard while sipping on a glass of wine. You can also purchase bottles of wine and other wine-related items from the gift shop.
Overall, McIntyre’s Winery is a great place to visit for wine lovers. So if whisky is not your thing, then a visit here should be high on your list of things to do in Bardstown.
9. Go Antique Shopping At Rusty Rooster
Rusty Rooster is a small family-owned antique store that offers a unique shopping experience if you’re looking for vintage items. The store is nestled in the heart of the city and is known for its charming atmosphere and friendly personnel.
Upon entering, you’ll be greeted by a smell of aged wood and a display of antique furniture and decor. The store has a vast collection of vintage home decor, handmade furniture, Americana, primitives, and farmhouses.
A visit here will blow your mind with its incredible selection of rare and one-of-a-kind items. Therefore, if you’re looking for a treasure from the past, The Rusty Rooster is one of the perfect spots in Bardstown to start your search.
10. Attend The Kentucky Bourbon Festival
If you’re in Bardstown during the month of September, attending the Kentucky Bourbon Festival is a must-do. This annual event started back in 1991 as a way to celebrate the rich history and tradition of bourbon-making in the area. And over the years, it has grown into one of the state’s most popular and beloved festivals.
The event takes place over several days and includes various activities and events, such as bourbon tastings, distillery tours, and live music performances. You can also attend educational workshops to learn more about the art of bourbon-making. And, of course, there are plenty of food and craft vendors on hand, offering everything from traditional Southern cuisine to handmade crafts and gifts.
11. Have Fun At The Bardstown Community Park
Don’t let boredom set in during your visit to Bardstown while there are plenty of opportunities for outdoor activities. The Bardstown Community Park is a great place to spend a day with family or friends.
This park offers a variety of recreational opportunities, including playgrounds, picnic areas, and walking trails. The park also features a ball field, horseshoe pits, and a basketball court for sports enthusiasts. Additionally, the park is also host to many festivals, events, and concerts throughout the year, making it a vibrant hub of community activity.
With its wide range of amenities and activities, this community park is one of the must-visit places in Bardstown for visitors of all ages.
12. Make A Quick Stop At Oscar Getz Museum Of Whiskey History And Learn The History Of Whiskeys
You’ll easily notice that there are a lot of distilleries and bourbon-related attractions in Bardstown. But the Oscar Getz Museum of Whiskey History is a unique and informative stop for any whiskey lover. The museum tells the history of the American whiskey industry and features a variety of exhibits that cover the history of whiskey production in the United States from 1960.
You will learn about the different types of whiskey, the distillation process, and the impact of the industry on American culture and society. The museum also features a collection of rare and historical whiskey bottles, as well as artifacts and memorabilia related to the whiskey industry.
13. Visit The Basilica Of Saint Joseph Proto-Cathedral
The Basilica of Saint Joseph Proto-Cathedral is one of the state’s oldest and most significant Catholic churches. It is considered a proto-cathedral, meaning it once served as the main cathedral for the diocese.
The church was built from 1816 to 1819 and was the first Catholic cathedral west of the Allegheny Mountains. The church’s interior is adorned with intricate murals, frescoes, and stained glass windows. The church is still an active place of worship and holds regular mass services. Visitors are always welcome to attend mass and experience the church’s rich spiritual heritage.
14. Get Terrified At The Bardstown Ghost Trek
Are you looking for a ghostly adventure? Why not try the Bardstown Ghost Trek? This guided walking tour explores some of the most haunted locations in the city, such as the Talbott Taverns, Pioneer Cemetery, Jailer’s Inn, and more.
The tour guide will share the history and ghost stories associated with each location, and participants may even have the opportunity to experience paranormal activity themselves. The tour is designed to be both informative and entertaining, and it happens every Saturday.
Overall, the Bardstown Ghost Trek is a fun and spooky way to discover the city’s hidden history, legends, and ghost stories. It’s a memorable and entertaining experience that offers a different perspective on the city and its inhabitants. So be sure to include it on your list of fun things to do in Bardstown, Kentucky.
15. Get Amazed By The Beautiful Arts At The Fine Arts Bardstown Society
Don’t let the small-town feel of Bardstown fool you. The city has a thriving community of artists and art enthusiasts. And at Fine Arts Bardstown Society, you can see local artists’ work displayed all in one place.
Founded in 2005, this art gallery provides a platform for local artists to showcase their work and an opportunity for the community to engage with the arts through classes and events.
16. Spend A Day At Sympson Lake
For a day of tranquility and nature, Sympson Lake in Bardstown is an excellent spot to visit in Bardstown. The lake is a popular spot for fishing, boating, and picnicking, and it’s also home to a variety of bird species, making it a great place for bird-watching.
The lake is also surrounded by a paved walking trail that offers a beautiful view of the lake and the surrounding nature. You can take a walk or bike along the trail and enjoy the peacefulness of the lake. The trail is also great for jogging or running and is a popular spot for locals to exercise.
17. Go Antique Shopping At Bardstown Peddlers Mall
Take a break from all the sightseeing tours in Bardstown and head to the Peddlers Mall for a unique shopping experience. This mall features several vendor booths filled with a wide variety of items, including antiques, collectibles, clothing, vintage home decor, and more. It’s a great place for visitors to find one-of-a-kind items, and it’s a popular destination for shoppers looking for a vintage or unique items.
The mall has a variety of shops, including furniture and home decor, clothing, jewelry, and toys. You can also find a range of vintage items and antiques, including books, records, and other collectibles.
And with a wide range of vendors, you’re sure to find something that will suit your taste and budget. The mall is also a great spot to spend a day browsing and discovering new items, and it’s a great place for finding a special gift for someone or yourself.
18. Taste The Best Bourbon Brands At Lux Row Distillers
You’ll have to agree that there are a lot of great distilleries to visit in Bardstown, and most of them are well-established. One of the new entrants to this industry in Bardstown is Lux Row Distillers, having opened its doors in 2018. However, it has quickly made a name for itself as a top-notch whiskey producer.
Some of the best brands produced here include the Daviess County, Blood Oath, David Nicholson, Rebel, and Ezra Brooks. The distillery also has a beautiful tasting room where you can sample their various offerings and purchase bottles to take home.
The tour here lasts around 45 minutes, followed by a 15-minute guided tasting. So, it’s a great opportunity to learn about the distilling process and to taste some of the finest whiskey produced in Bardstown. And for that reason, be sure to include it in your list of the best things to do in Bardstown.
So whether you’re a die-hard bourbon enthusiast or just looking for fun things to do in Bardstown, this festival is sure to be a highlight of your trip.
19. Go Shopping For Unique Items At Shaq & Coco
Shopping is always a fun experience in Bardstown, especially when you don’t know what to expect. One store that always surprises me is Shaq & Coco. This unique boutique offers a mix of clothing, accessories, and home decor, all carefully curated to reflect the latest trends and styles. And from the moment you step inside, you’ll immediately be drawn in by the colorful displays and unique finds.
But what attracts many shoppers here is its range of unusual clothes and accessories. Yes, the store has a great selection of trendy clothing and jewelry, but what sets it apart is the unique and one-of-a-kind pieces that you can’t find anywhere else. They have a great selection of vintage clothing and vintage-inspired pieces, which is always fun to browse through. They also have a great collection of handmade jewelry, which is always a great find.
The home decor section is also great for finding unique and interesting items. They have a great selection of candles, pottery, and other decor items that are perfect for adding a touch of personality to your home. The prices are also very reasonable, so you don’t have to break the bank to add some new pieces to your collection.
All these make Shaq & Coco one of the best places in Bardstown to find unique and stylish pieces to add to your wardrobe and home decor collection.
20. Enjoy Hearty Meals At The Old Talbott Tavern
Since the late 1700s, the Old Talbott Tavern has been offering delicious food and drinks in a historic setting. The tavern is located on Court Square in historic Bardstown and has a charming and rustic atmosphere that makes you feel like you’ve stepped back in time.
The menu at Old Talbott Tavern is a mix of classic American dishes and vegetarian options. The tavern’s bar is also great for enjoying a drink and catching up with friends. The bar serves up a variety of beers, wines, and cocktails. They also have a great selection of bourbons, which is perfect for whiskey lovers.
So when you feel like indulging in some tasty foods and drinks, this is one of the best spots in Bardstown not to miss.
21. Tour The Spalding Hall
Spalding Hall is a historic building built in 1839 in the historic district of Bardstown. It was initially used as a private boys’ school and later as a civil war hospital for confederate soldiers.
Today, this hall serves as an educational facility that teaches about the history of whiskey and its role in the region’s development. You can take guided tours of the building and learn about the history of whiskey making in the area. There are also a lot of artifacts on display, including past advertising materials, collections of bourbon bottles, and other equipment used in the whiskey-making process.
There is a lot to learn and discover during your visit here. So allocate at least two hours to fully explore and appreciate the rich history of Spalding Hall and the whiskey industry in Bardstown. After all, this is one of the top sites in Bardstown that you shouldn’t miss.
22. Explore General Hal Moore Military Museum
The General Hal Moore Military Museum is another museum attraction in Bardstown that provides a unique look into the history of military service. It focuses on American military history and showcases the bravery and sacrifice of soldiers throughout different wars and conflicts, from the Revolutionary War to Iraq.
Of particular interest is the role played by Kentucky’s men and women during World War I and World War II. Guided tours are available to help you understand the stories of those who served and their contributions to the country.
23. Admire Beautiful Art At The Bardstown Art Gallery
Founded in 1971, Bardstown Art Gallery is the oldest private art gallery in the city. The gallery features original watercolor and oil paintings by Jim Cantrell. His collection of paintings is truly impressive, with a variety of landscapes, still lifes, and portraits on display. His use of color and composition is truly masterful, and his work represents the region’s beauty.
The gallery also features a rotating selection of works by other local and regional artists. These works include paintings, etchings, collages, pottery, drawings, Woodcuts, and more.
For art lovers, visiting here is one of the most exciting things to do in Bardstown. So when you’re looking for some inspiration or a unique piece to add to your collection, Bardstown Art Gallery is the perfect destination.