Frankfort, Kentucky, a delightful surprise tucked into the hills of the Bluegrass State, rests between Louisville and Lexington. The city has served as the capital since 1792 and features not one, but two beautiful state capitol buildings. Better still, lots of attractions in town are free.
But it's not politics as usual in Frankfort. In addition to its history, this winning city offers a wonderful getaway, complete with a downtown that would make any visitor vote yes for a pleasant escape.
Friday for Filibustering
Check in to the Holiday Inn Capital Plaza ($94.95) on Wilkinson Boulevard (502-227-5100) for the ideal location from which to base your explorations.
Now hit the official stuff, because the government buildings won't be open beyond Friday afternoon. Wander on over to Broadway Street where you'll find the Old State Capitol. Built in 1830, the limestone Greek Revival structure now serves as a museum, and it's free. After viewing the former statehouse, drive to Capital Avenue for a free tour of the new State Capitol, one of the prettiest in the country.
Put the veto on politics for a while, and cast a vote for a fine meal at Serafini, located on the corner of Broadway and St. Clair Streets. Try the Goat Cheese and Apple Salad ($8) and the Pork Ossobuco ($18).
Free concerts take place every other Friday night on the Old State Capitol lawn in summer months. Call Downtown Frankfort, Inc. (502-223-2261), for details. Or check out Nema's Grille on St. Clair Street. This Middle Eastern spot features belly dancers on Friday nights, starting around 8:30.
Saturday for Shopping
Take a stroll to Marshall's Restaurant on West Main Street for breakfast. Grab a booth, and dive into the special--two eggs, sausage or bacon, hash browns, and biscuits ($3.50).
Thoroughly fortified, enjoy the fun shops downtown, such as Paisley Peacock (stylish purses) and Wilma's Linens and Lace (vintage quilts). Poor Richard's Books, Kentucky Coffeetree Cafe, and Completely Kentucky (which specializes in regional crafts) are also must-sees.
For lunch, head over to Gibby's on Broadway for a gourmet salad ($1.65-$6.95) or hot sandwich ($5.45-$6.95). You can eat outside or in while planning your next move.
It's time to learn a little more about the state, so amble down the street to the Kentucky History Center, which offers exhibits on everything from prehistoric to present-day Kentucky. If you're a genealogy fan, you'll find lots of help here in the Thomas D. Clark Research Library.
Don't let the day go by without touring Buffalo Trace Distillery, just a short drive down Wilkinson Boulevard. Take a free tour of the bourbon warehouses (a tasting is included). Try Jim's Seafood, also on Wilkinson Boulevard, for dinner. The fried shrimp is good, the blackberry cobbler is great, and the view of the Kentucky River from your table is just mesmerizing. Entrées are usually around $12.
For after-dinner entertainment, head back to St. Clair Street to The Brick Alley bar. Live music fills the club and spills out into the street.
Sunday for Outdoors
After breakfast in the hotel restaurant, drive up to Frankfort Cemetery. The view overlooking the city and the river is terrific. You can also see the grave sites of Daniel Boone and his wife, Rebecca, here.
Now, grab an early lunch at the White Light Barbecue Company on Bridge Street. Go for the Pulled Pork Sandwich for $5.59. Have dessert at Rebecca-Ruth Candy Factory (known as the originator of delicious bourbon confections) on Second Street.
Head for the wild side of Frankfort at Salato Wildlife Education Center, a great free place to see native Kentucky plants and animals.
Out of time? You'll have to return to try your hand at canoeing on the Kentucky River. But that's no problem. After one visit, you'll want to come back to this political, fun center of the state. It's a capital idea.
For More information
Frankfort Tourist Commission: (502) 875-8687, 1-800-960-7200, or www.visitfrankfort.com.
This article is from the May 2004 issue of Southern Living. Because prices, dates, and other specifics are subject to change, please check all information to make sure it's still current before making your travel plans.