Seven places to see in Frankfort (without seeing a politician)

jcheves@herald-leader.comSeptember 22, 2011 


Barrels of bourbon age in a warehouse at Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort, Ky., on 5/29/02.


FRANKFORT — Anyone interested in Kentucky politics has a lot to visit in this town, including the handsome state Capitol, the Thomas D. Clark Center for Kentucky History and the lovely old mansions named after long-dead politicians who once lived in them.

Never mind that.

If you don't like politicians — many don't — Frankfort has plenty of places to go where you're unlikely to meet one.

■ Start downtown on Broadway Street, which is bisected by railroad tracks. You can walk to a number of art galleries, stores and restaurants within a few blocks.

The biggest draws on Broadway are three adjacent businesses linked by interior doorways: Poor Richard's Bookstore (an independent bookseller,; the Kentucky Coffeetree Café (good food and drink, live music many nights,; and Completely Kentucky (sells the work of local artisans, This is where Frankfort's hipsters gather to see and be seen.

■ Around the corner on St. Clair Street sits The Grand Theatre. Built in 1911 as a vaudeville house, then closed in 1966, the Grand was restored and reopened in 2006 after extensive fund-raising efforts. It offers live music, movies and other entertainment. Visit:

■ There are two attractive vantage points from which to look down on the city and the meandering Kentucky River, which splits it in two. One is Leslie Morris Park, 400 Clifton Avenue. Visit: The other is the grave of frontiersman Daniel Boone in the Frankfort Cemetery, 215 East Main Street. (502-227-2403). To avoid politicians, tread carefully at the cemetery: There are 17 Kentucky governors and a vice president of the United States buried there. Or, depending on your feelings toward politicians, tread as you wish.

■ Speaking of the Kentucky River, you can get on it in Frankfort by buying or renting a canoe or kayak at Canoe Kentucky (instruction is available and rental reservations are recommended; visit Additionally, you can paddle Elkhorn Creek northeast of town courtesy of the same business.

■ For more communing with nature, try the Salato Wildlife Education Center, 1 Game Farm Road, off U.S. 60 west of town. Salato has hiking trails, native plant habitats and live animals on display, including a bald eagle, bison, a black bear, elk, wildcats, deer and turkeys. Visit:

■ There's also the Clyde E. Buckley Wildlife Sanctuary, 1305 Germany Road, 6 miles off U.S. 60 south of town. Buckley covers 374 acres in Woodford and Franklin counties and is managed by the Audubon Society. Visit:

■ Finally, when the wind blows just so, a thick, yeasty smell hangs over Frankfort. (As compared to when the legislature meets; that's a whole other smell.) This is evidence of the local bourbon industry.

Take a tour of Buffalo Trace Distillery, 113 Great Buffalo Trace, off Wilkinson Boulevard, to see bourbon being aged, bottled and labeled. Yes, there are free samples. The distillery's Firehouse Café can put food in your belly to soak up the booze. Visit

More Central Kentucky bucket lists:

Reach John Cheves at (859) 231-3266.

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