The very best day journeys from Louisville (for a day away from the races)

Kentucky’s most vibrant metropolis, Louisville has lots going for it. On high of an awesome eating and consuming scene, enjoyable arts occasions and picturesque neighborhoods, the town lies inside simple attain of a various vary of points of interest. Snaking caverns, world-renowned thoroughbred horse farms and among the greatest distilleries in America are all lower than two hours’ drive from the River Metropolis.

In case you’ve come down for the Derby and wish to see extra of Kentucky, the next day journeys are perfect for vacationers keen on exploring rural and concrete landscapes. The state’s sun-dappled bluegrass pastures make a fantastic counterpoint to historic downtowns dotted with whiskey bars and eclectic eateries. You’ll additionally discover loads of surprises, from a tiny metropolis famed for modernist structure to a Tibetan monastery on the sting of a vibrant school city.

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Wherever you head from Louisville, you’ll want a automobile – public transportation is sadly fairly restricted right here. As soon as you’ve got sorted out your wheels, purpose them at these 5 high day journeys from Louisville.

Columbus, Indiana  

Why Go: To admire an astonishing assortment of Twentieth-century structure

Even many Indiana locals are unaware of the nice architectural treasure trove within the southern a part of the state. From the center of the Twentieth century, the city of Columbus, Indiana, turned a veritable drafting board for among the world’s best dwelling architects. Greater than 60 buildings right here have been designed by well-known names, together with Eero Saarinen, Richard Meier, IM Pei, Cesar Pelli, Harry Weese and Deborah Berke amongst many others. 

The American Institute of Architects has ranked Columbus the sixth-best metropolis within the nation for its excellent array of structure – not unhealthy for a metropolis with a inhabitants of simply 50,000. Don’t miss the First Christian Church, designed by Finnish architect Eliel Saarinen (father of Eero Saarinen) in 1942; the brick-and-limestone construction is a Modernist masterpiece.

There’s additionally some spectacular public artwork on show, with works by the likes of Henry Moore, Robert Indiana and Dale Chihuly. Obtain the free ”Columbus, IN Tours” app in your smartphone and you’ll discover the nice artwork and structure at your leisure. It’s also possible to prepare excursions and choose up maps on the Columbus visitors center.

In case you want a break, cease in at Zaharakos, a superbly restored, 1900s-era ice cream parlor with a mahogany counter, stained glass home windows and Tiffany-style lamps, in addition to excellent selfmade ice cream and traditional American fare.

The best way to get to Columbus from Louisville: In case you’re driving, it’s a straight shot up I-65 from Louisville to Columbus; permit about 75 minutes for the 70-mile drive. For a dose of nature alongside the way in which, cease in at Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge. You possibly can stroll one among 5 trails whereas protecting a watch out for the 290 chook species that move by way of annually, together with larger sandhill cranes in winter.

It is all in regards to the horses in Lexington, Kentucky © Lottie Davies / Lonely Planet

Lexington, Kentucky 

Why go: To go to leafy neighborhoods and thoroughbred farms in America’s horse capital 

Set within the coronary heart of Kentucky’s Bluegrass nation, Lexington typically outscores its greater neighbor to the north with regards to desirability for each guests and residents. The state’s second-largest metropolis repeatedly makes the highest 30 in annual round-ups of one of the best locations to dwell within the USA (that is one thing you may wish to preserve to your self once you’re again in Louisville, as the 2 cities are long-time rivals).

Historic houses, inviting parks and a large assortment of family-friendly points of interest make Lexington effectively price your time for a day journey, and even an in a single day keep. This equine-obsessed city is usually referred to as “the horse capital of the world” for the thoroughbred farms simply outdoors of city. You possibly can study all about Lexington’s beloved racehorses (and even go for a experience) on a go to to the Kentucky Horse Park. Alternatively, catch turf racing at Keeneland or see harness racing on the Red Mile racetrack

Past horses, there’s a lot to do in Lexington, from visiting the grand mansion and manicured gardens on the Ashland Estate to sipping your means by way of the city’s notable distilleries and microbreweries. You possibly can try the town’s liquid largesse on the whimsically named Brewgrass Trail.

The best way to get to Lexington from Louisville: Permit about 90 minutes for the 80-mile drive east from Louisville on I-64. Alongside the way in which, you’ll be able to cease in Frankfort, the state’s charming capital on the banks of the Kentucky River. Take a chew at Frank’s White Light Diner, which serves up hearty Cajun cooking close to the Singing Bridge.   

A huge passageway in Mammoth Cave, Kentucky
Stalactities, stalagmites and large subterranean passageways are the important thing options of Mammoth Cave © Posnov / Getty Photos

Mammoth Cave Nationwide Park, Kentucky 

Why go: To see a glittering subterranean panorama on the earth’s largest cave system

Protecting greater than 400 miles of underground passageways, Mammoth Cave Nationwide Park staggers the creativeness. Strolling by way of these cool, silent passageways, you’ll see pure wonders shaped over tens of millions of years, from waterfall-like columns to shimmering stalactites adorning huge cathedral-like chambers.

Nationwide park guides run all kinds of guided journeys all year long. The four-hour Grand Avenue tour takes you thru slot canyons, gypsum-lined tunnels and up steep hills – a journey that showcases the caves’ geological variety. It’s also possible to study centuries of human affect within the cave on a historic tour, or see the caverns lit up by lantern on the Violet Metropolis tour. Be sure you ebook effectively forward, as excursions can replenish weeks prematurely.

The best way to get to Mammoth Cave Nationwide Park from Louisville: The 88-mile drive from Louisville to the caves takes about 90 minutes. It is price spending the night time for a little bit of uninterrupted stargazing – in 2021, Mammoth Cave was named an international dark sky park. You possibly can keep in a single day on the Lodge at Mammoth Caves (run by the park service) in nice picket cottages surrounded by greenery.

Barrels of bourbon whiskey in a rick house (storage barn) at Heaven Hill Distillery, Bardstown
Barrels of bourbon whiskey in a rick home (storage barn) at Heaven Hill Distillery, Bardstown © Lottie Davies / Lonely Planet

Bardstown, Kentucky 

Why go: To style Kentucky’s best bourbon at historic distilleries

One of many oldest settlements in Kentucky, Bardstown is a captivating small city with Georgian red-brick structure and a walkable middle that invitations you to discover. You possibly can try eye-catching domestically owned retailers and tempting meals stops resembling Hadorn’s, a third-generation household bakery famed for its cinnamon rolls and donuts.

Snacking and window procuring are fantastic preludes to the primary occasion right here – specifically delving into the lore of bourbon whiskey. Bardstown calls itself “the bourbon capital of the world” and it’s exhausting to dispute that declare given the city’s staggering variety of distilleries and bourbon bars. You possibly can study in regards to the spirit’s previous on a go to to the Oscar Getz Museum of Whiskey History, then go for excursions and tastings at iconic distilleries resembling Barton 1792, Heaven Hill or Willett.

The best way to get to Bardstown from Louisville: It takes about an hour to cowl the 44 miles between Louisville and Bardstown. In case your focus is simply on bourbon, you’ll be able to ebook an tour from Louisville with Mint Julep Tours, which visits three bourbon distilleries (additionally they provide customized excursions).

A teaching by the Dalai Lama at the Tibetan Mongolian Cultural Center, Bloomington, Indiana
Bloomington’s Tibetan Mongolian Cultural Heart is a serious hub for Buddhist examine – even the Dalai Lama has spoken right here © Craig Lovell / Getty Photos

Bloomington, Indiana

Why go: To see Indiana at its most eclectic 

One of many loveliest school campuses in America lies amidst the rolling hills of south central Indiana. Unfold throughout 1900 acres, Indiana College is an inviting expanse of grassy lawns, woodlands and creeks, with historic limestone buildings sprouting among the many greenery. After strolling the grounds, you’ll be able to spend the day taking in some spectacular tradition, from modernist masterpieces tucked contained in the IM Pei–designed Sidney & Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art to the uncommon manuscripts within the Lilly Library.

Sprawling across the college, Bloomington is one among Indiana’s most culturally dynamic small cities. Yow will discover excellent ethnic fare at locations resembling Samira, a much-loved Afghani restaurant, or hear up-and-coming native bands at The Bluebird. Southeast of the middle, take time to walk the peaceable grounds of the Tibetan Mongolian Buddhist Cultural Center, based by Thubten Jigme Norbu, the late brother of the Dalai Lama, again in 1979. 

The best way to get to Bloomington from Louisville: Bloomington is a two-hour drive northwest of Louisville. Set out early so you’ll be able to cease in at Brown County State Park alongside the way in which; 18 miles of mountain climbing trails loop by way of Indiana’s largest state park, providing some fabulous views throughout to the hill-covered horizon.