It’s a good thing that Frankfort is much more than politics. If it was just all of the chit-chat that comes out of our state’s capital city, I’m not sure many would want to visit. For sure this city of 27,000 permanent residents is steeped in as much history as any place in Kentucky.
Tucked into the rolling hills on the banks of the Kentucky River, Frankfort has long been the correct answer on many quiz shows. If you’re from Kentucky it’s an easy answer when confronted with “What is the capital of Kentucky?”
New residents transitioning into our state are surprised to learn it’s not Louisville or Lexington. But whether you’re a Kentucky lifer or new-comer a visit to Frankfort is well worth it.
A visit here should start at the Tourist and Convention Center at 100 Capital Avenue (1.800.960.7200). It is centrally located to many of the nearby historical attractions as well as being close to the Capitol.
The State Capitol is one of the most beautiful capitol buildings in America. In 1904 the Kentucky General Assembly voted to spend $1 million for a new, larger structure to replace an overcrowded statehouse downtown. Six years later in 1910, a magnificent State Capitol was dedicated . The $1.8 million cost had nearly doubled from the original appropriations. Some things never seem to change in that regard, but now we may have a clue where it started.
It is sometime interesting as to how towns arrive at their names. Frankfort is no exception.
Founded in 1786 when Kentucky was still considered a part of Virginia, a pioneer named Stephen Frank was killed at a ford in the Kentucky River. Called Frank’s Ford in the beginning, it eventually became Frankfort, and in 1792 when Kentucky officially became a state, Frankfort became the capital.
Still, Frankfort had to fight off several challenges from Louisville and Lexington in those early years for the Capital designation. However, it was that 1904 vote to build the new building that settled it once and for all.
The Capitol’s 70 iconic columns on the exterior, and the photo-op rotunda inside make this a must. Take a few extra minutes to visit the ever-changing first floor exhibits.
The nearly 170,000 square foot Kentucky History Center can easily take up a good portion of the day. That is why it’s a good idea to plan at least two days in Frankfort. The History Center is a short walk from the Capital Plaza Hotel. This Center has something for everyone, and it includes a $2.8 million interaction “Kentucky Journey” exhibit that gives visitors the chance to experience Kentucky from 10,000 B.C. through modern times. It includes a stroll through the Cumberland Gap, as well as showing the effect the Civil War had on Kentucky.
Buffalo Trace Distillery sits on the banks of the Kentucky River and offers free tours.
The downtown area near the old Capitol offers several antique, craft, book and art shops as well as comfortable places to grab a quick snack. Allow enough time to take in the Liberty Hall Historic Site. It actually includes two homes: Liberty Hall (1796) and the Orlando Brown House (1835) next door.
A Frankfort visit must include a stop at the gravesite of Daniel Boone and his wife, Rebecca. Majestically overlooking the city, 17 Kentucky governors are also buried in this cemetery.
The Kentucky Vietnam Veterans Memorial pays tribute to the 125,000 Kentuckians who served during the Vietnam War. The Memorial Plaza contains the names of more than 1,100 Kentuckians who gave it all. The memorial is unique in that the featured sundial pointer touches the name on the anniversary of the soldier’s death.
The Rebecca-Ruth candy store has a history that includes being the first to make a candy with 100-proof bourbon. Bourbon ball? Probably.
Although there are several good places to eat in Frankfort, I can suggest a couple that are not your run-of-the-mill eateries.
In the downtown area, next to the “singing bridge” is Rick’s White Light Diner. It is one of the most popular places among the locals, and believe me it’s an experience. So, too, is the Office Pub and Deli. It’s not in the downtown area, but well worth the short drive. If this place had walls that could talk, there’s no telling what kind of backroom deals we would learn about.
For sure Frankfort is more than government office buildings, and yes, many of those who work here actually reside in surrounding counties. That means less weekend congestion when you visit.
There’s no excuse. Get up, get out, and get going! Gary P. West can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.