Picture-perfect charm in Bluegrass Country.
By Hope S. Philbrick
Georgetown may be the fastest-growing community in Kentucky, thanks in part to its close proximity to Lexington, but the pace feels as relaxed as you’d expect to find in any small town. Picture-perfect Downtown Georgetown is the sort of place often described as “quaint.” It is home to more than 200 buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places, now housing unique boutique and antique shops, eclectic art galleries, and inviting places to eat and drink.
Georgetown is a small town in Kentucky Horse Country that’s home to the water source used by Elijah Craig (“the birthplace of bourbon”), Kentucky Horse Park (“the premier event venue for equestrians and those who love and want to learn more about horses and man’s relationship with the horse”), Ward Hall (“Kentucky’s Grandest Greek Revival Mansion,” circa 1857), and several great places to enjoy bourbon, including Bourbon 30 Spirits Distillery.
Located in the heart of Bluegrass Country, Historic Downtown Georgetown is a great place to stop for lunch and stretch your legs while exploring Bourbon Country. But it’s also a worthy destination in its own right—even if you’re not (gasp!) a fan of “America’s Native Spirit.”
Impressed during my first visit last fall, I was eager to return to Georgetown. Recently, I had the opportunity to do just that and, as anticipated, discovered several more adults-oriented fun things to see, do and savor in Georgetown.
What To Do…
Meet genuine sports legends face-to-face at Old Friends Retirement Thoroughbred Farm. Take a tour and you can even feed them carrots.
Founded in 2003 by former Boston Globe film critic Michael Blowen, Old Friends provides a dignified retirement to Thoroughbreds whose racing and breeding careers have come to an end. Currently, more than 175 rescued and retired horses reside at the picturesque 136-acre site including past winners of the Kentucky Derby and movie celebrities like Seabiscuit’s Popcorn Deelites. “It’s great having your favorite athlete in your yard,” says Blowen.
“Sometimes, I just go to Old Friends to make myself feel better,” one local confided. Surrounding yourself with rolling hills and gentle creatures does erase stress like nothing else.
The Toyota Motor Manufacturing facility in Georgetown is America’s first and the world’s largest Toyota manufacturing facility. That’s right: This U.S. plant is bigger than any of the company’s facilities in Japan!
Tours of Toyota Kentucky are free and last about an hour. You’ll ride a tram through the factory and see cars in various stage of production while learning facts about the cars and company from the tour guide. You’ll also meet some parts delivery robots and hear how Toyota Kentucky ensures workers’ safety.
In the Visitor Center you can see the first Toyota car manufactured in the U.S., in the spring of 1988. A Lexus is also on display. Twenty-seven years after the plant opened, Toyota Kentucky added America’s first Lexus production line, a $360 million investment that brought 750 new jobs to Georgetown and increased Toyota Kentucky’s annual production by 50,000 vehicles. Today the Lexus production line can produce up to 205 Lexus ES Sedans each day, or one about every 4.2 minutes. The Lexus engine and majority of stamped parts are manufactured at the Georgetown facility.
“I think we are a burgeoning art destination,” says Georgetown-based renowned equine photographer John Stephen Hockensmith about the community. “We have quite a few artists in town, several art boutiques, antique shops, and galleries nestled here in Bluegrass horse and bourbon country.”
Several artists live and work in Georgetown, and you can see their works at the various art boutiques and galleries that are located within easy walking distance of one another in Historic Downtown.
Don’t miss Hockensmith Fine Art Editions Gallery & Press, a driving force of the town’s art scene.
Yuko-en on the Elkhorn, the official Kentucky-Japan Friendship Garden, pairs native Bluegrass landscaping with Japanese elements to create a calm retreat that honors Georgetown’s sister city Tahara, Japan.
The four-season, five-and-a-half acre garden is open daily from dawn to dusk and free to enjoy.
The garden is out as a Japanese-style stroll garden, with pathways wandering amid the garden including water elements, buildings, and abundant plants.
Where To Eat…
Josie’s Restaurant is a can’t-miss if you love breakfast, which is served any time of day. The menu features omelets, two types of eggs Benedict, pancakes, waffles, quiche, biscuits & gravy, plus healthy options like organic granola. At lunch and dinner picks expand to include 14 different sandwiches and burgers, build-your-own pasta options and more. The atmosphere is jovial at this local favorite.
Local Feed Seasonal Kitchen & Craft Bar is a must for serious foodies who favor farm-to-table and seasonal fresh approaches to whatever is in the glass and on the plate. Located in a historic building (circa 1890s) that was originally constructed as an ice house, the restaurant is located across the street from Royal Spring (the birthplace of bourbon) and walking distance to Historic Downtown Georgetown. This is a place to linger, sip and nibble; a place to impress your palate.
Slainte Public House is the place to sit and have a conversation while lingering over a drink, whether you crave a creative cocktail or a perfect pint of Guinness. And don’t worry if you’re traveling solo: Somebody at this friendly place in this welcoming town is sure to strike up a conversation. Modeled after Irish pubs, this gathering spot is a dream realized by its owners and located inside one of the oldest homes on Main Street at the edge of Historic Downtown Georgetown. It’s a true bar (the only food is popcorn, which is free).
FatKats Pizzeria & Restaurant is super casual and a bit outside of Downtown but worth seeking out if you like wings and pizza full of flavor, low on grease. Open since 2005, FatKats is a two-time winner of “Best Pizza Midwest’ and three-time winner of “Best Pizza Central Kentucky.” The wings are meaty and doused in sauce so flavorful—don’t miss the bourbon barbecue option!—that they can transform someone who normally shuns chicken wings into a fan (me). Pizzas are offered in a mouthwatering range of topping options, plus you can build your own. Pie sizes range from individual to large; it’s fun to get multiple individual or small pizzas and share to try multiple versions. Salads, pastas, and sandwiches are also on the menu.
Where To Stay…
Accommodation options in Georgetown include a former tavern, cottage at a horse farm, and more than a dozen chain hotels like the Holiday Inn Express.
140 Osborne Way
- Free parking
- Free Wi-Fi
- Complimentary breakfast buffet
- Business center
- Fitness center
- On-site laundry facilities
- All rooms equipped with a mini frig, microwave, Keurig coffee maker
– Photo Credits: John S. Hockensmith courtesy Fine Art Editions; remainder © HSP Media LLC
Featured products, services and/or travel arrangements may have been complimentary in part or in full; this affords the research opportunity but does not sway opinion. Thanks to Georgetown Tourism for hosting my visit.