Day Tripper: Danville is poised to be an entertainment destination

History, hostelries and hip new places

Contributing Travel WriterMarch 25, 2011 

  • IF YOU GO

    Danville

    Places mentioned in this story: V the Market, 130 S. Fourth St., (859) 236-9774, Vthemarket.com. The Twisted Sifter, 128 Church St., (859) 285-0306, Thetwistedsifter.com. 303 W, 303 W. Main St., (859) 236-2159, 303-w.com. Bluegrass Pizza and Pub, 235 W. Main St., Suite 100, (859) 236-7737, Bluegrasspizzaandpub.com. Beer Engine Microbrewery and Tap Room, 107 Larrimore Ln., Kybeerengine.com or search for Beer Engine on Facebook. Mermaids Bar and Bistro, 219 S. Fourth St., (859) 238-2040, search for Mermaids on Facebook. The Cottage Bed and Breakfast, 2826 Lexington Rd., (859) 236-9642, Cottageofdanville.com, $132 a night.

    Other attractions:

    ■ Great American Dollhouse Museum. With more than 200 houses, it is one of only 10 dollhouse museums in the United States. Antiques and Collecting Magazine has described it as "a vivid social history museum in miniature," but perhaps the best testimonial comes from Jillian of Scout Troop 1221, who proclaims it "the coolest place in the whole universe." Thedollhousemuseum.com.

    ■ Community Arts Center. In addition to changing exhibitions, the center offers Starry Night Studio, where you can channel your inner Van Gogh and enjoy a social painting experience at the same time. Communityartscenter.net.

    ■ Lawn Chair Theater, featuring classic films, runs every Friday night from May to mid-August on Constitution Square. The second annual Lawn Chair Film Festival is scheduled May 20, and filmmakers are asked to enter their work (there's even a category for films shot on cell phones).

    Learn more: Danvillekentucky.com.

DANVILLE — It's Friday, your paycheck is burning a hole in your pocket, and you're looking for a place to part with some of it, so of course, your first thought is ... Danville.

Wait — Danville?

That smallish town 45 minutes south of Lexington, whose Constitution Square was the birthplace of the Commonwealth of Kentucky?

Yes, the very same. Most Lexingtonians have at least a nodding acquaintance with Danville — perhaps from attending performances at Centre College's Norton Center for the Arts, taking a tour of the Ephraim McDowell House or getting a sugar high from the goodies at Burke's Bakery. But if you haven't been there lately, you don't know Danville. The quiet Southern town is poised to become a tourism hot spot.

The transformation came after the vote last March that made the town fully wet, resulting in a slew of new entertainment options, said Adam Johnson, executive director of the Danville/Boyle County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

A good place to begin your Friday evening odyssey is V the Market. Owner Mary Robin Spoonamore has tastings every Friday from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., and the twist is you never know what you are going to be tasting. One week it might be vodka, the next, bourbon, and the one after that, scotch. (The night I was there, she offered a flight of three Glenmorangie scotches.)

Be sure to leave V's in time to make it over to Twisted Sifter bakery on Church Street before it closes at 7 p.m. You won't be sorry: The melt-in-your mouth cupcakes are nothing like the ones your mother made.

With 110 flavor combinations, you can choose an Ale-8-One cupcake or, for something stronger, a Guinness cupcake. How about a fuzzy navel, mai tai or margarita cupcake, in which the cocktail is used in the batter? And perhaps the strongest of all: Have you ever had a Hot Tamale cupcake?

My friends and I had decided on a progressive tour of some of Danville's new eateries. First stop was 303 W for drinks and appetizers (the baked pretzel sticks dipped in a spicy pimento aioli were delicious).

Next, it was Bluegrass Pizza and Pub, where the menu choice was obvious — our pizza came with enough toppings to satisfy all four of us. What was not so obvious was finding out that, according to owner Colin Masters, the pub is the proud possessor of the only keg of Avery Brewing's Mephistopheles Stout in the commonwealth.

Trying the Avery gave us the urge to check out the new Beer Engine Microbrewery and Tap Room. With its tin ceiling and bar tops fashioned from bowling-alley lanes, it is a great place to sample the 12 beers on tap, including three brewed on the premises.

We ended the evening with coffee and dessert at Mermaids Bar and Bistro: S'mores made at our table over a mini-campfire. Housed in a tiny bungalow with a spacious patio and a dramatically lit bar, Mermaids is the kind of place I would expect to see in California's Napa Valley or Santa Fe, N.M. It has a level of sophistication that no doubt will draw foodies from Lexington and beyond.

If you've done too much celebrating to drive back to Lexington, I suggest booking the suite at The Cottage Bed and Breakfast. The 1890s cottage is on a farm that was part of a Revolutionary War Land Grant. The furnishings are country chic, and owner Chris Kubale provides a deluxe continental breakfast with pastries from Burke's. The breakfast can be enjoyed on the spacious deck overlooking rolling hills planted with four types of wildflowers and three native grasses.

Patti Nickell is a Lexington-based travel writer. Reach her at pnickell13@bellsouth.net.

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