Now I know what you’re thinking, bourbon and horses in Kentucky, what a cliché! But really, what’s more fun than bourbon and horses? In all seriousness, there is way more to Kentucky, and specifically Georgetown, Kentucky than the obvious. You will find a charming downtown, surprising history, beautiful boutique shops in historical buildings, and delicious food. Plus, the beautiful thing about visiting a small town, is you can do all of this in a weekend!
So read on for the top My Town picks, to plan your future weekend trip to Georgetown, Kentucky!
Inns and Institutions
It seems like every small town has unique old buildings that capture your attention and your imagination. It is wonderful when you’re able to visit a town that has invested resources in these institutions and brings them back to life, or they have been lovingly maintained. In Georgetown you will find these investments at Ward Hall and the Kentucky Horse Park.
Did you know that Georgetown, Kentucky has roots in the Mississippi Delta? I know, it was a surprise to me too, and such an interesting one. You can start to learn about this connection at Ward Hall. Click Here for aerial footage of Ward Hall.
Junius R. Ward is the son of Colonel William Ward who married into the Johnson family. A powerful and politically connected family from Virginia, who acquired thousands of acres near the Great Buffalo crossing on the Elkhorn in Scott County, near where Ward Hall is now located. An incredibly prosperous dynasty, the Johnson and Ward families were involved in all the needs of the times: shipping, stagecoach, rail lines, mills producing flour, lumber and gun powder, stockades, and plantations. The family also had several dignitary titles- General, Colonel, State Representative, Judge, Congressman, Senator, well you get the picture. The subject of this family line is Junius R. Ward who made most of his fortune by way of opportunity in the Mississippi Delta.
“In 1820 with the treaty of Doak’s Stand, vast areas of Mississippi previously occupied by the Choctaw Indians became available for settlement. The Johnsons and grandson Junius Ward, were among the first to settle these lands near Lake Washington, Mississippi and Chicot County, Arkansas. Junius Ward was the first of planters to reach Washington County. Ward built a settlement cabin there.”(wardhall.net/history) This home can still be seen in Washington County Mississippi today.
Roots in Mississippi
By 1855 Junius decided he needed a summer home and chose the current location of Ward Hall. The building spared no expense. The beautiful front columns are actually made of steel, all the hinges on the doors are made of real silver, all window and door frames are made of cut stone, and the best embellishments, flooring, wall coverings, light fixtures, and artwork money could buy. The three-floor spiral staircase is a masterpiece now photographed by photographers from all over the country. The home served as a place to relax, and entertain the many influential people known by the Johnson and Ward families, and was a place of refuge for many who would visit from the Mississippi Delta area.
Ward Hall Today
Completed in 1857, Ward Hall is now a shining gem of Georgetown, KY. This historic summer home is one of the best-preserved examples of Greek Revival architecture in America. The imposing beauty of Ward Hall is an enduring testament to a past Antebellum era of Kentucky. A time when Southern Belles graced the halls of this beautiful home. Thanks to the endless hours of work by many volunteers, it continues to be preserved and restored each day.
“There have been horses on this ground for more than 200 years.”(kyhorsepark.com/about-us/history-of-khp/) It’s true the grounds of the Kentucky Horse Park have been a haven for thoroughbred horses for centuries. It started in 1777 with 3,000 acres of land being granted to William Christian for his service in the French and Indian War, and ended its private ownership with Mary Edwards who eventually sold the her land to the Commonwealth of Kentucky in 1947, which became the Kentucky Horse Park. For full history click here.
Kentucky Horse Park Today
The Kentucky Horse Park now is THE Destination to learn about horses. Since its inception in 1978, they have created The International Museum of the Horse (a Smithsonian Affiliate), and The Breeds Barn where you can watch live shows with rare horse breeds and ask questions up close. The Big Barn built in 1897, is 476 feet long, has 52 stalls making it one of the largest horse barns ever built. Live shows to learn about the horses in the Big Barn are also a daily event. The Park also functions as a year-round national and international competition site- something that is quite spectacular to see when you visit!
The biggest highlight of our visit was the Hall of Champions. Getting to see legendary racehorses like the famous Funny Cide, reading their stories, and watching their races in the covered amphitheater was a horse experience I will not forget! Another aspect that stuck with me was the staff at each of these barns. Their dedication, knowledge, and enthusiasm for these horses not only is commendable, but it is incredibly memorable.
There is more to do at the Kentucky Horse Park than I ever imagined. Just walking the grounds and viewing the barns and the memorials is an experience. But no matter how much time you spend at the park, I guarantee you will leave with more knowledge than with you came, and new memories that only horses can give.
The Delicious and Delectable of Georgetown
There are wonderful choices in Georgetown when it comes to great food. From formal dining to casual downtown staples, here are a few My Town Picks:
My Town went to a destination for lunch in downtown Georgetown! Local Feed is a seasonal kitchen and craft bar, located in a renovated 1890’s ice house. The made from scratch farm to table dishes were amazing. For me the Small Plates were the star of the show! Featuring: butter beans with braised ham and cornbread, brussel sprouts with mustard cream, lardon, and farm egg, and the most delicious deviled eggs with bacon!
I went with my husband, and we split everything, down to the endless bourbon list! Local Feed is truly a dining experience, it was a lot of fun, because of the appreciation you will have for the preparation and presentation, and the food is as good as it looks!
In addition, it’s located right across from Royal Spring, where Elijah Craig pulled water to make the very first bourbon!
Jambalaya, gumbo, and fresh fish and shrimp brought in daily is what you will find at Broussard’s Delta Kitchen!
You are probably thinking…why is there a restaurant serving creole dishes in Georgetown Kentucky? Well, as mentioned earlier, this part of Kentucky has Mississippi Delta roots.
A lovely discovery that adds to the interesting and unique parts of Georgetown.
The food at Broussard’s- well, let’s just say if you like creole, you will think you are in New Orleans while in this small town restaurant.
Broussard’s prides themselves on their unique and fresh dishes, and there was not a morsel left on our plates.
Everything is brought in from the gulf and made in house. All sauces and desserts are made from scratch. The atmosphere was charming and comfortable. As an added bonus they are located right downtown, making this a great food destination while exploring Georgetown.
Why are all these people standing in line in the rain? For the famous Sweet Matriarch Cattywampus shakes! Yes, these shakes are so delicious that locals stand in line as long as it takes to get one. Just imagine the look on a child’s face (or really anyone) who receives one of these!
Sweet Matriarch is a family and woman owned business. They started in Georgetown in 2013, and chose downtown Georgetown because of its charm and welcoming nature. “Everything we offer is something special. Every dessert that comes out of this shop is made from scratch with local flour, cage free eggs, real butter, and fresh fruits. The recipes are family-crafted from traditions that have been passed down. I wanted people to know that even though we’re offering these fun shakes, our primary goal is to share and bake great desserts.” (Tia Chancellor, owner of Sweet Matriarch)
Unique, Interesting, Yours of Georgetown
What is it about a town that makes it special? A local attraction, a family-owned business that has been there forever? A piece of history you can’t find anywhere else, or a bookstore with just the right vibe? Here are a few of the Unique, Interesting, Yours of Georgetown.
This may be one of the coolest experiences I have had on a My Town trip, making my own Signature Bourbon at Bourbon 30! The entire Signature Experience was just so much fun. It does not matter if you like bourbon or not. The proprietor and Master Crafter, Jeff Mattingly will become your best friend through the process of choosing barrels, mixing, and tasting, until you find your perfect blend.
Mattingly grew up in the unincorporated community called Mattingly, with his five brothers and sisters. His father was the mayor of this community and who started the tradition of bourbon appreciation in his family. Jeff carries on his family legacy at Bourbon 30.
After you have mixed and crafted your blend, you also get to be a part of the bottling, wax sealing, and labeling. It’s a start to finish process that you can only get at Bourbon 30!
Did you know there is a Living History Equine Facility for Racehorses in Georgetown, KY? Old Friends is where you can see beautiful, talented, and now retired thoroughbreds up close! Like Sun King (pictured), who is just full of personality, and the famous Silver Charm! See his 1997 Kentucky Derby Victory Race Here.
It’s a blast not just to see and feed these beautiful horses, but to hear their amazing stories! I never had horses as a kid, but always wanted to learn more about these animals, and now as an adult I had the opportunity. At Old Friends you don’t just learn about the horses, you also learn about horse culture, and the enthusiasts who love these animals. Walking around Old Friends, you will see the memorials of the beloved horses who have passed on. These graves are lovingly maintained and frequently visited. A takeaway to show you what a special place this is. When you visit, you immerse yourself in something that is completely new, or that you will love and appreciate as a horse enthusiast.
Tours are happening- just call ahead! “Old Friends provides a dignified retirement to Thoroughbreds whose racing and breeding careers have come to an end. By promoting these one-time celebrated horses through a campaign of education and tourism, we hope to raise awareness of all equines in need.” (oldfriendsequine.org)
Even though Georgetown is a small town, it houses the largest production brewery in the state, and it’s a can’t miss when visiting Georgetown! Country Boy Brewing was founded in 2012 by four native Kentucky boys, and My Town had the pleasure of interviewing one of their visionaries Daniel Harrison who goes by “DH.”
DH is one of the most talented Brew Masters I have met to date. He is incredibly passionate about Country Boy’s products, and he has traveled all over the world collecting information to make County Boy’s beers the best they can be.
My Town has been on brewery tours all over the country, and I believe Country Boy is incredibly unique. Not only do they have a solid brand that is known throughout Kentucky, but they have a true dedication to small town Georgetown and serving the community.
My Town had the Shotgun Wedding Brown Ale (one of their core brands), and I can tell you it’s delicious! In 2018 they opened their kitchen, which is serving brewery paired dishes from their own barbecue pit master on site. We had Bubby’s Nachos and Hot Brown Flatbread (Queso base, Oven Roasted Turkey Breast, Sharp Cheddar Cheese, Bacon and Tomato). This brewery is a uniquely Georgetown experience you must put on your to do list.
Small Town Story Highlight
Usually My Town would highlight a current small town success story, but in Georgetown, the past story of the famous Southern Belle Sallie Ward was too good not to share. Enjoy this guest piece on Sallie Ward written by: Maryjean Wall included in the publication Enduring Influence: Antebellum Kentucky Embodied in Ward Hall
Belle of Ward Hall / Saucy Sallie a Celebratory of Her Day
A woman who often greeted guests beneath the portico of Ward Hall mansion could have been the prototype for Scarlett O’Hara in
Gone With the Wind. Sallie Ward, born in 1827
and the niece of Junius and Matilda Ward, was
popularly known as the Belle of Louisville. Rich,
spoiled, tempestuous, and extravagant, Sallie
stood at the center of attention everywhere…..Read More
MTT Antique and Market Finds
Great Antique Shops and Farmers Markets are familiar sights in small towns. This includes Thrift Shops, Local Eats, and the like! In Georgetown there are great Antique and Market finds everywhere you look. Below are some of My Town‘s Favorite Finds.
My Town Today has started a referral section of each article. It’s based on visiting a town and finding out what town the majority of its residents recommend My Town should visit next.
The referral for this entry is: Bardstown, KY. Stay tuned for My Town to pop up there soon.
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