Here’s my top seven. If you are new to the city, or even if you’ve lived here a long time, you might find something of interest. Our family’s curiosity, and the fact that we have lived on campus, propelled us to explore close by towns to get away for day trips.
7. Midway, Kentucky
Leave campus and never get on the interstate. You will mess up the whole experience if you get on the interstate. Turn left out of campus and stay on Lexington Road until it turns into Shelbyville Road. Stay on Shelbyville Road all the way through Simpsonville and then Shelbyville and then Frankfort. You will pass Claudia Sanders Restaurant along the way, it is a restaurant started by Colonel Sanders’ wife that serves KFC recipe chicken in a southern style home.
Stop in Frankfort in the downtown area. There is a great book store there, a decent coffee shop next door, and a diner that was featured on the Food Channel next to the bridge downtown. Grab a cheeseburger there and then type “Midway Castle” into your smart phone and follow the directions to the castle. It’s worth stopping to look at and take a picture or two. Then type in Midway, Kentucky, and follow the backroads through horse farms leading beside the castle. Midway is a cool little town with shops and upscale restaurants. For the budget conscious family (which we are) you will love the little country style restaurant off the end of the main street that has an apple in the name.
Take the back roads back home. You’ll want a full day for this one. If you want to experience a little city life head into downtown Lexington and drive by Rupp Arena. That’s a little area with lots of shops and restaurants.
6. Jeffersonville, Indiana
It’s just across the river. There’s a great bakery that’s always fun for a special breakfast outing on a Saturday morning. In the winter they have an ice skating rink downtown. You have to visit Schimpff’s Confectionary, one of the oldest candy stores in the state of Indiana. There are a couple cool restaurants along the river if you want to dine with a view of the Louisville skyline (Rocky’s Pizzeria nd Buckhead Grill). There’s a nice park along the river near the “Falls of the Ohio” where we will sometimes go and get ice cream and let the kids play. If you’ve got a couple free hours this is a great option.
5. Nashville, Indiana
Nashville is nearly two hours away but well worth the drive. They have a phenomenal state park with reasonable room rates and an aquatic park that my kids love. Your kids will love it too. If you home school, go in the middle of the week during the school season and you will have it to yourselves. We would often rent a cabin during Boyce’s fall break. The downtown area is somewhat similar to a small scale Gatlinburg but with local stores instead of the traditional tourist chains. Even if you aren’t up for renting something to stay overnight, this is an ideal day trip particularly during the fall. There are a lot of covered bridges there.
4. Bardstown, Kentucky
This is about a 45 minute drive from campus. There is a great state park there. Visit the historic downtown for shops and restaurants. Leave campus and take Grinstead Road to Bardstown Road. Turn left. Stay on Bardstown Road through Mount Washington and beyond. Take it all the way to Bardstown. That’s what the street is named for after all.
3. Georgetown, Indiana
This isn’t so much a day trip as it is a night trip. Get ready for some old fashioned family fun with the drive in movie theater in Georgetown, Indiana (about 15-20 mins from campus). They have a great set up with gravel stretches separating grassy areas where you can park and spread out. Their old speakers still work if you want to stay in your car. Their concessions are really well priced. Show up early for live music. We always wait for a good animated film to be showing on one of their two screens during the first show time. During June and July they are open nightly.
2. Lagrange, Kentucky
This is another close option. It’s about a 45 minutes on backroads. It is a regular destination for the DeWitt crew. A train runs through the middle of the historic main street. We usually grab lunch at the Red Pepper. We visit the shops and always spend some time at the used book store at the end of the street. We will visit the court house nearby and let our kids run around in the surrounding well-treed lot where they do a farmer’s market every Saturday in the summer. If everyone’s up for it, we usually hit “Serendipity” and get an ice cream cone before we head home. We always just take River Road from campus to highway 42 and take that north to the turn off for Lagrange.
1. Madison, Indiana
Last but not least, we make a trip to Madison every four to six weeks. We love it there. Take the route I listed above for Lagrange but stay on highway 42 all the way to Bedord, KY, where you will turn left onto highway 421 that will eventually lead to a large bridge over the Ohio River. Years ago Frank Sinatra filmed a movie there (Some Came Running). There is a star in front of the old downtown movie theatre for that film. Jim Caviezel (Passion of the Christ) also filmed a movie there by the name of the town “Madison” about the history of the annual boat race and its significance for the town. It’s a good family film and worth watching before you go.
There’s a great state park right outside of Madison with hiking trails and some small waterfalls. Once you hit the downtown area you will find shops, antique stores, and restaurants. Visit the townie favorite “Hinkel’s Sandwich Shop” and sit at a stool at the counter to meet locals and grab a greasy cheeseburger. For something a little healthier visit the Downtowner (our favorite). Make sure to take time for chocolates at the Cocoa Safari. If you’re looking for a place for a good photo op with your family walk down to the large fountain off of main street. This town usually has something special going on every time we visit.
In addition to these there are endless more opportunities with cities like Nashville, Indianapolis, Cincinnati, and Chicago all in close proximity for overnight trips. I hope this list is a helpful resource for you to discover some of the places that we have come to love so much over the last decade.