Frankfort, Kentucky, is located in the state’s bluegrass region just south of the Ohio River. It’s only a short drive from neighboring cities Louisville and Lexington, and not too far from Cincinnati, Ohio. The mighty Kentucky River roars right through the center of Frankfort, splitting the city in two.
As the humble seat of Franklin County, Frankfort is often overlooked in favor of its more popular neighbors. But tourists from surrounding states like Illinois and Indiana are beginning to add it to their itinerary more often.
What is the Capital of Kentucky?
Correct! The capital city of the Bluegrass State is none other than Frankfort. If you guessed Louisville, don’t feel too bad. Folks often figure the largest city in a U.S. state must also be its capital. For instance, many think that New York City is the capital of NY state, but in reality, it’s Albany.
Few people realize that Kentucky was actually a part of Virginia before it earned its own statehood in 1792. Frankfort became its first capital thanks to the effort local Kentuckians put into building its state house.
As most know, during the Civil War, Kentucky ultimately joined the Confederacy. During that time, the state capital was moved to Bowling Green, KY.
Reasons to Visit Frankfort, Kentucky
1. Kentucky State Capitol Buildings
There’s actually two capitol buildings in Frankfort. The site of the current capitol was decided by the Kentucky General Assembly in 1904, and its construction was finished in 1910; this is where the state government now meets to do business. Although it might not have the same charm as the historic Old Capitol building, self-guided tours can take you past points of interest like its famous Floral Clock and towering statue of Abraham Lincoln.
The Old Capitol is located across the Kentucky River in downtown Frankfort. It is now a museum and the home the Kentucky Historical Society.
2. Beautiful Parks
Although there aren’t any state or national parks very close to Frankfort, the city does have quite a few green spaces to visit. These include Leslie Morris Park at Fort Hill, Capitol View Park, and the scenic Cove Spring Park, among others.
Also, although it isn’t technically a park, you might consider checking out the old Frankfort Cemetery, where you can visit sites like Daniel Boone’s grave and the resting place of the man who baptized General George Washington.
3. Bourbon Distilleries
A few bourbon distilleries are located in the city of Frankfort, the most well known of which is the Buffalo Trace Distillery. Several different tours are offered on their grounds, including a tasting tour and a nighttime ghost tour. Just a short drive from the city you’ll find the distilleries of other famous brands like Woodford Reserve and Bulleit. In addition to distilleries, there’s also a couple of vineyards and wineries in the area.
4. Historic Downtown
Downtown Frankfort is full of historic sites and architecture any fan of the American past will enjoy. From the old State Arsenal that houses the Kentucky Military History Museum, to the Liberty Hall Historic Site, there’s a lot to take in. Additionally, most of it can easily be done on foot or bike.
Only a few blocks from the Old State Capitol Building you’ll also find the Kentucky Governor’s Mansion. The mansion is constructed in the French “beaux arts” style that borrows from Greek and Roman design.
5. Fun Attractions
Outside of history, bourbon, and the outdoors, Frankfort still has more to offer. Popular sources of modern amusement include destinations like Rebecca Ruth Candy Tours & Museum and Josephine Sculpture Park. There’s also a few different tour opportunities beyond those offered at the distilleries, including Kentucky River Tours, although even this one still focuses on bourbon.
6. More Museums
In addition the museums listed above, there’s also the Kentucky History Center & Museum and the Capital City Museum. Of course, if you stretch the definition of museum a bit, you can also include educational sites like the Leslie Morris Park at Fort Hill. It should be noted that destinations we already discussed above like the Governor’s Mansion and Liberty Hall Historic Site also function as museums.
7. Nature and Wildlife
There are two areas dedicated to conservation and preservation right outside the city. Salato Wildlife Center is on the east side of the city, past the airport, and offers nature exhibits, fishing, and hiking. In South Frankfort, you’ll find the Buckley Wildlife Sanctuary, which is administered by the Central Kentucky Audubon Society.
Know any fun things folks shouldn’t miss when visiting Frankfort, KY? Let us know all about it on our Wide Open Roads Facebook!