Nicknamed “The Coolest Place in History,” Harrodsburg, established in 1774, is Kentucky’s oldest settlement. Nestled amid the rolling hills of the Kentucky bluegrass region and about an hour from Lexington, Harrodsburg has managed to retain its small town roots. To be honest, I have a soft spot for Harrodsburg and have visited three years in a row. It seems there is something new whenever I visit. Planning a visit to Harrodsburg? Use this Travel Guide to Harrodsburg, Kentucky to help plan your trip.
Must Visit Sites in Harrodsburg:
1. The James Harrod Amphitheater– Located beside Old Fort Harrod State Park, a full-scale replica of the original fort build in 1774 by James Harrod, the amphitheater is the site of two outdoor productions each year during the months of June and July. Performed by the Ragged Edge Community Theatre, the yearly June production features a musical. The yearly July production is devoted to James Harrod: The Battle For Kentucky. Just finishing its sixth season, the production centers around the fascinating history of James Harrod as he tries to establish a settlement in the wilderness of Kentucky. The production, done with almost no props, manages to capture the spirit of the first pioneers as well as the frustrations of both the settlers and the Native Americans during their frequent clashes. Although there are intense dramatic moments, including several scalpings and one implied burning at the stake, the play also includes humorous exchanges between the characters, creating an equal balance. And, if you are looking for a dramatic reenactment of the history, don’t miss the Old Fort Harrod Settlement and Raid held annually held annually in June. This event includes re-enactors from around the country and Native Americans from several tribes. The festivities include celebrations of Native American culture, re-enactings of settlement life, and the raid of Fort Harrod.
Note: James Harrod: The Battle for Kentucky does include some profanity, some suggestive content (which seemed to sail over the heads of the younger children in the audience), and some violence.
2. Shaker Village: Established in the early 1800’s, Pleasant Hill grew from a small community to a thriving village with close to 500 Shakers living on approximately 4500 acres. Over the years, the thriving community dwindled to twelve members, the last of whom died in 1923. The Shaker life was over, the buildings auctioned off, and the quiet community of Shakertown was established. Many of the over 260 original structures were repurposed or torn down. In 1961, a group of preservationists began to purchase the land and formed The Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill.
Today the Shaker Village is a hub of activity for anyone interested in history, outdoor enthusiasts, and festival fans. You can check out the daily activities that change seasonally. Many of the activities, such as the Discovery Tours, Farm Fresh Tasting Tours, and Bird Count! are available every day, while some, such as the Shaker Music or Nature’s Bounty: A Foraging Stroll are available on Weekends. New this year is the PRESERVATION@WORK: The Centre Family Dwelling and Meeting House tour. In the largest preservation work done since the village was opened in the 1960’s, craftsmen are working to restore damage caused to the interior and exterior of the Centre Family Dwelling and Meeting House. You’ll gain firsthand knowledge of the superior craftsmanship used to create the buildings and how the restoration work will take place.
If you are a festival fan, don’t miss the annual Well Crafted Festival, a blend of local craft brews and bands, held in June, or the upcoming Hard Cider Bash held in September. Kids will enjoy the yearly Harvestfest held in September as well.
3. Olde Towne Distillery: Everyone knows Kentucky is the home of the Bourbon trail, but what about Moonshine? Yes, that’s right! Moonshine. Olde Towne Distillery is the first distillery in America to produce Hemp Moonshine. Described as having a ” smooth nutty flavor,” this blend uses Hemp seed grown in Kentucky. While tours of the facility are not available, their gift shop and tasting room are open Monday through Saturday from 10 AM until 6 PM. Here you can enjoy FREE tastings of their premium blends. You’ll find the following blends available:
Old Towne Exclusive Hemp Moonshine
Chaplin Hills Moonshines, available in several yummy flavors, including Maple, Watermelon, Blue Raspberry, Hemp, Peach, and Apple Pie. The blends come in collectible stone jugs.
Elkhorn Bourbon, available in traditional or honey, and produced in small batches.
The Battlefield Collection– a tribute to the site of the Battle of Perryville, this blend is available in classic collectible bottles, featuring the two commanding generals, Don Carlos Buell and Braxton Bragg.
Moonshiner Chico Spirit Whiskey; a 90 proof blend developed by Matthew Tunsgate, who appears on the Discovery Channel show, Moonshiners.
While you are visiting, don’t miss tasting the “MooShine” Beer Cheese, an awesome spreadable dip. Note: Olde Towne Distillery is in an out of the way spot, located on a side road. You’ll find it on a hill in an old warehouse. It is easy to drive past the building.
4. Lemons Mill Brewery: Central Kentucky’s newest craft brewery and the newest member of the Kentucky Brewgrass trail, Lemons Mill is the brainchild of four men; LeMayne Ellis, Steve Anderson, Keith McQuerry and Jay Anderson. Started as a side hobby that has grown and expanded, the men have kept their day jobs but follow their passion for craft brewing on evenings and weekends. The Lemons Mill Taproom is a cozy place, designed to give the impression you’re spending an evening chatting with friends. While no food is available at the Taproom, Lemons Mill partners on the weekends with local food trucks to offer delicious- and ever changing -fare.
Although the four men produce a variety of craft brews, including OCD 2, because two of the brewers have OCD, one of their main passions was finding a gluten free beer that didn’t taste “gluten free.” After much experimentation, they created a smooth blend using sorghum. Small batch- and labor intensive-these brews will please the most discriminating palate. I recommend O.G. Citrus Blonde Ale (it’s gluten free!) and the Red Rasc-ale Raspberry Dark Amber Ale or the G-Spot Jalapeno Ale for those who prefer something a little different. Although I admit, if you are a beer drinker, you can’t go wrong with any of their featured blends.
Where to Eat in Harrodsburg
1. High Mountain Steakhouse– Located in an old hardware store, the High Mountain Steakhouse offers a delicious meal in a lovely environment. The ambiance is soothing and the wait staff is friendly, anticipating needs as soon as they arise. This is a true farm to table concept, with freshly prepared side dishes and entrees. We tried two different entrees and were impressed by the portion sizes, which could easily serve two people from the same meal, and the taste. Opened a year ago, High Mountain is located off of Main Street on East Lexington Street. It is truly a hometown establishment and you’ll find the owners grilling meat outdoors or waiting tables.
We tried the Ribeye with sides of baked potato and cole slaw, as well as their classic hamburger with roasted potatoes and green beans. The green beans were tender and flavorful, the roasted potatoes crispy and delicious, and the cole slaw was prepared with a light and creamy dressing. I ordered my steak rare, which is always a gamble. Some establishments think rare means “medium” or “well done.” Instead, it was perfect. I was too full to try dessert, but if I had room I would have sampled the Peanut Butter Pie. Oh, well, there is always next time. I will definitely return!
2. Trustees Table– You can’t get any more “Farm to Table” than this. The food is grown in the garden and farm located beside the restaurant. The menu captures the essence of the Shakers with ingredients they would have used in their own kitchens. It’s classic Southern dining with an upscale twist. I tried the Fried Green Tomato Hot Brown, a combination of Grilled Chicken Breast, Bacon, Fried Green Tomato, Goat Cheese and Basil Crostini, while my son tried the Cornmeal Fried Catfish Sandwich served on Toasted Potato Bread with Pickled Green Tomato Relish and a side of Fries. The meals begin with a complimentary order of pickled vegetables. The Trustees Table provides friendly service, tasty food options and a selection of cocktails if desired. The restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Note: Be sure to make reservations because seating is limited.
While you are in the area, don’t miss out on the delicious Kentucky Fudge Company, located in the former Dedman DrugStore originally established in 1865. Don’t let the name fool you, they serve a variety of sandwiches and sides as well as desserts. You will not be sorry you visited! Hint: Arrive early in the day if you want to try their tempting desserts.
Where to Stay in Harrodsburg:
*Are you a fan of golf? The Bright Leaf Golf Resort is Central Kentucky’s oldest golf resort. The staff is friendly and the golf course and the pool are lovely. We tried the Breakfast Buffet and the service was excellent. While most of the travelers seemed to be groups of men on golfing retreats, the central location offers easy access to the historic sites and shopping in downtown. Although the hotel was packed, we didn’t notice any noise during our stay. Stay and Play Golf packages are available in increments of three, four, and five days.
*Looking for something more historical? Try the Beaumont Inn, a historic bed and breakfast that has welcomed guests since 1917. It’s an official stop on the Bourbon Trail, allowing you to try 70 different bourbons without leaving the Inn.
*If you are looking for a family friendly option, try the Baymont Inn and Suites. Conveniently located, it includes free wi-fi, free breakfast and is pet-friendly.
Have you visited Harrodsburg, Kentucky? What was your favorite place to visit?