Hey, y’all! With the current state of the world, I know that travel largely seems off of our radars. That said, it is feasible to travel locally during this time. If you are based in Kentucky, this list is for you; however, please travel with safety as a priority, continue to social distance, wear masks, and insistently use hand sanitizer! With that said, I’m happy to introduce my list of the Top Kentucky Small Towns To Visit In 2020.
Kentucky Small Towns To Visit
#1. Jamestown + Russell Springs, Kentucky
This is where I was reared, as I grew up saying. A small community nestled in the heart of Southern Kentucky, both Jamestown and Russell Springs offer the best access points to one of Kentucky’s grandest treasures: Lake Cumberland. Lake Cumberland is the Houseboat Capital of the World, is vast enough to cover the entire state of Kentucky with three inches of water, has more shoreline than the entire state of Florida (yes, you read that correctly), and is (in my completely biased opinion) the best lake in the Commonwealth of Kentucky.
For delicious bites, visit my friends at the Esto Country Store & Cafe, Coe’s Steak House for amazing fried fish, Reel Java and Creamery for fantastic pizza, and the Little Chop Shop for finger-lickin’ good BBQ.
#2. Shelbyville, Kentucky
There are small towns in the Commonwealth — and then there is Shelbyville. Known as the Saddlebred Capital of the World, Shelbyville is a first-class community chock-full of southern charm. Shop at the Outlet Shoppes of the Bluegrass, visit Jeptha Creed Distillery, drool over English antiques at Wakefield Scearce Galleries, and stay at the gorgeous Saddlebred Suites! Come hungry, too, y’all. Visit the Red Lion, the Science Hill Inn, the Bell House, and/or Claudia Sanders Dinner House for some delicious bites. End your evening with a sweet treat at Spotz Gelato downtown (trust me on this one).
Come hungry and ready for adventure!
#3. Elizabethtown, Kentucky
Conveniently tucked off of I65 just outside of Louisville, Elizabethtown is a true Kentucky gem. From a downtown brimmin’ and bustlin’ with business, to fantastic food, to boutiques that will keep even the most avid shoppers appeased, to state of the art public parks and facilities — Elizabethtown is chock-full of fun!
My fellow southern and preppy style lovers, be sure to check out the Swanky Shoppe. Love house plants (who doesn’t these days)? There’s no better place than Denizen. Beer lovers will enjoy Flywheel Brewing, those that want a cocktail will find their place at the Bourbon Barrel Tavern, while coffee aficionados will find their fix at Vibe Coffee downtown. Hungry? For food, check out Back Home Restaurant, the Wicked Eye Woman, Impellizzeri’s Pizza, Reuben’s Classic Deli, and Dewster’s Homemade Ice Cream!
#4. Georgetown, Kentucky
Scott County is, to say the least, a really special community. The fastest growing city in Kentucky, Georgetown is largely influenced by the local Toyota Manufacturing Plant (the largest in the world). Be sure to see Ward Hall, a 12,000-square-foot villa completed in 1857 and considered one of the finest examples of Greek Revival architecture in the South. It’s breathtakingly beautiful. Georgetown also boasts Old Friends Thoroughbred Retirement Farm, a first-class retirement facility for many world-renowned thoroughbred race horses.
A great destination for foodies, be sure to visit Local Feed, Broussard’s Delta Kitchen, A Cup of Commonwealth, and Rodney’s on Broadway. For beer, look no further than visiting my friends at Country Boy Brewing — and if you have a sweet tooth, Spotz Gelato has another location here!
#5. Horse Cave + Munfordville, KY
Located in Hart County, both Horse Cave and Munfordville are Central Kentucky gems located right off of I65.
Munfordville can be found on the banks of the Green River and is chock-full of adventure. When in town, be sure to visit the Brew House for coffee, Detweiler’s Amish Country Store, while also grabbing southern food at Murray’s.
Your time in Hart County won’t end there. Be sure to visit my friends in Horse Cave, as they have so much to offer: the beautiful Dennison’s Roadside Market, explore Hidden River Cave, enjoy country food at 5 Broke Girls, grab a fried bologna sandwich at the WigWam General Store, pet a kangaroo at Kentucky Down Under Adventure Zoo, and end your day with pizza at Turtlelini’s Pizza and Pasta.
#6. Murray, KY
Murray is an absolute gem of Western Kentucky. Home to Murray State University, a plethora of restaurants, and named “The Friendliest Small Town In America”, southerners are sure to love their time in this community.
Start your morning with breakfast at Rudy’s, and to satiate your hunger later in the day, look into visiting the Keg, Sammons’ Bakery, Shaffer Coffee Company, and – hands down – HRH Dumplins. You’ll adore their homemade yeast rolls (the best I’ve ever had) and their fruit tea.
A trip to Murray isn’t complete without a trip to the Dairy Queen (yes, the Dairy Queen!), which is a local institution. It’s unlike most around the world, due to the fact that it is solely a walk-up!
#7. Berea, KY
Berea is a community located in Eastern Kentucky that is dedicated to the arts. At every corner, you will find world-class artisans and creators. The shops in town rival any in the state, if not surpass, as they are truly one-of-a-kind.
If visiting Berea, there’s no better place to stay than Historic Boone Tavern, which is located downtown and near the college. Once there, be sure to have some spoonbread from the restaurant! On your trip, don’t miss the Kentucky Artisan Center, Papaleno’s, Native Bagel Company, the Berea College Farm Store, or Noodle Nirvana — home of the most delicious yellow curry bowl.
Berea is like no other town in Kentucky — visit and you’ll understand why.
#8. Danville, KY
Last, but certainly not least, I had to recommend a visit to Danville, KY – home of my alma mater, Centre College. One of the most beautiful Main Streets in the state, a visit to Danville is good for the soul. When visiting, be sure to visit Constitution Square Historic Site, which is the birthplace of Kentucky’s statehood.
Bourbon is also alive in Danville, as it is the home to Wilderness Trail Distillery.
Grab a pizza at Bluegrass Pizza and Pub, a sweet treat at Burke’s Bakery(a Kentucky landmark), have coffee at the Hub, and visit the newest restaurant in town – Copper & Oak – which is a craft burger restaurant. No trip to Danville, however, is complete without a walk through the most beautiful campus in Kentucky. Centre Dear, you will always be my home!
Other Kentucky Small Towns
What are your favorite small towns in Kentucky? Any other recommendations? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
Y’all come back now, ya hear?
JC Phelps, Unabashedly Southern
Have plans to explore the Top Kentucky Small Towns To Visit In 2020? Keep up with my other Kentucky adventures here.