Take a Day Trip to Central Kentucky: Danville and Nearby Sites

Danville, KY and the surrounding area is a perfect place to take a day trip to Central Kentucky. It was home to my grandparents, so I grew up traveling there quite a bit. They owned a farm just outside of the city, and I would spend many weekends and summers exploring the farm, riding horses, and taking day trips with them around the area.

Even in middle school and high school, Centre College in Danville hosted many cheerleading camps that my squad and I attended. Little did I know I would end up there for college where I met my husband (a fellow student), and eventually send our oldest son to Centre who would meet his wife there. (My youngest son ended up going to Georgetown College and then University of Kentucky, so we know the Central Kentucky area quite well.)

Central Kentucky

Danville, KY: A City of Firsts

• First Kentucky courthouse in Kentucky in 1785
• First capital of Kentucky in 1785
• First U.S. Post Office west of the Alleghenies in 1792
• First political club in the West in 1786
• Danville’s own Dr. Ephraim McDowell became the first physician in the world to successfully remove an ovarian tumor

Per danvilleky.org: “Danville was also the location of the first college in the West (1783) and the first law school in the West (1799). The first state-supported School for the Deaf opened in Danville in 1823. Among (other) “firsts” in Danville was the development of education for African-Americans. Danville was the site of the first black home school in Boyle County… The first kindergarten for African-Americans was established by the City Federation of Women’s Clubs. In 1881, John W. Bate established Danville’s first public school for blacks.”

Visit The Kentucky Castle

Over the years on our trips to Danville, we would pass this mysterious castle that was being built in Versailles, Kentucky. We never really knew who was building it or why. Then, the over the years the building stopped, and it remained on the landscape, reminiscent of a European ruin. Now, The Kentucky Castle is a luxury hotel, a farm-to-table restaurant and an event venue. 

Day Trip to Central Kentucky: Your Intinerary

For a fun day exploring Central Kentucky, here’s a sample itinerary:

  1. Begin your trip by putting in Old Frankfort Pike in your GPS and enjoy the drive by taking stops along the way. It’s 15 miles of landscapes with small rural communities, a two-mile scenic section of canopied trees along with rural churches, vistas of historic homes, barns and fields.

    You’ll find Keeneland Race Track National Historic Landmark, Weisenberger Mill, and the historic railroad town of Midway. There is a self-guided walking loop at the Old Frankfort Pike visitor viewing area. The McConnell Springs Visitor Center and Nature Sanctuary marks the original 1775 encampment where Lexington was named. This city park has hiking trails through a nature preserve, archeological remains, an amphitheater and education center. 
Keeneland hosts live racing for 6 weekends every Spring and Fall.
  1. From Old Frankfort Pike, head to Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill for brunch and a tour. If possible, try a slice of lemon pie.
  2. From Shaker Village, head over into Danville to explore. Walk the campus of Centre College and head downtown for a few historical tours. Depending on the time you visit, there’s the Norton Centre for the Arts and Pioneer Playhouse, but don’t miss out on something sweet from Burke’s Bakery. For years, the only cake I wanted for my birthday was a white cake with white icing from Burke’s Bakery. It’s perfection. There are more Danville tours and activities you can view here.
  3. If you’d like a drink and a snack before you head out, check out Jane Barleycorn’s for a bourbon flight. She has an impressive selection of over 60 bourbons to try. Can’t afford Pappy or another expensive bourbon? Order a taste at Jane’s. 
  4. If you’re a history buff, as you’re leaving Danville, head to Old Fort Harrod in Harrodsburg. Then travel to Woodford Reserve for a tour. (You can’t go to Kentucky without touring at least one distillery.) After this tour, drive the scenic Pisgah Pike to The Kentucky Castle. If you have time, take the scenic drive to Midway.
  5. Enjoy dinner at The Kentucky Castle and either spend the night or head back home. 
Don’t miss a tour of Woodford Reserve on your day trip to Central Kentucky!

Kentucky is full of interesting things to do: check out more blogs here.