Make the most of a brief visit to “The American Saddlebred Capital of the World.”
By Hope S. Philbrick
We spent less than 24 hours in Shelbyville, Kentucky—eight of them asleep. Though a longer visit is in order to “The American Saddlebred capital of the world,” if your road trip from Point A to Point B along I-64 passes through Shelbyville—which is located in Shelby County, about 30 miles east of Louisville—heed our advice to make most of an overnight stop.
Grab lunch at Harvest Coffee & Café (524 Main St.; 502-633-8090). The deli serves a range of options, from soup to ice cream, quinoa salad to sandwiches, and you can always count on a few vegan and gluten-free options if that’s your thing. Ingredients are sourced locally as much as possible and healthy preparations are favored over fast. You may have to wait a bit for your order to be filled, but no problem: Walk around the shop and browse through antiques while you wait.
Shop historic downtown Shelbyville, stepping into some one-of-a-kind boutiques like the Needle Nest, Polka Dotted Pineapple—where owner Dori Lewis stocks some of the showy hats popular for the Kentucky Derby—the Tipsy Gypsy, and others.
Don’t miss the Wakefield-Scearce Galleries at historic Science Hill (525 Washington St.; 502-633-4382). Founded in 1947, it boasts an extensive collection of drool-worthy English antiques—in fact, it’s one of the largest collections of antique English furniture, antique silver, and antique home décor in the United States.
Rent a pontoon boat and explore the 325-acre Guist Creek Lake (Marina & Campground, 11990 Boat Dock Rd.; 502-647-5359). These picturesque waters comprise one of the best bass fishing lakes in Kentucky. Catches of fish that weigh over five pounds are routinely reported and one record-holder brought in a ten-pound bass. Fish include largemouth bass, hybrid stripers, catfish, crappie, blue gill and rock fish. Don’t fish? Don’t worry: Motoring around a lake is a great reprieve from any road trip. The lake has many inlets to explore with views changing from mansions to farms, a park to a dam, and other surprises.
Check into Holiday Inn-Express & Suites (110 Clubhouse Dr.; 502-647-0109) to relax and read the latest articles on Getaways for Grownups.
Whether you’re traveling for business or pleasure, this recently renovated hotel provides everything you need for a comfortable overnight stay: clean, cozy comfort and attentive service from friendly staff members will make you feel welcome.
- Free high-speed wireless Internet access
- Free breakfast
- Free parking
- 81 rooms; 17 suites; 5 accessible rooms
- 64 non-smoking rooms
- Pet friendly (+$25 per night per pet up to $100 per visit)
- Outdoor pool
- Fitness center
- Located near the Weissinger Hills Golf Course http://www.weissingerhills.com/
- Check-in at 3 p.m.; check out by 11 a.m.
- Hotel was renovated February 2011
Pick up a copy of the “Downtown Walking Tour of Shelbyville, KY” brochure at the hotel and drive to historic downtown.
Enjoy dinner at La Cocina de Mama (535 Main St.; 502-633-1114), which serves some of the best Mexican fare on the planet, or at least outside of Mexico. An unexpected find in a surprising location, perhaps, but this is one restaurant you don’t want to miss if you like high-quality ingredients, skilled preparations, amazing flavor combinations, and good service. Order a margarita, then peruse the menu and choose whatever most piques your interest, because you cannot go wrong here. There are many reasons to visit and re-visit Shelbyville, but this restaurant is on the top of my list.
After dinner, take a stroll through the streets of historic downtown Shelbyville, referencing the walking tour brochure as a guide to 18 key sites within five blocks, including a three-story jail (circa 1892), Greek Revival cottage (circa 1830), Colonial Revival building (circa 1927), Queen Anne style office building (circa 1900), Art Deco building (circa 1925), Court House (circa 1913), and more.
When you’re ready to call it a night, head back to the hotel.
Enjoy complimentary breakfast at the hotel. This isn’t just a continental breakfast—though you can have that, if you prefer. The buffet features a variety of hot items plus fresh fruit, yogurt and more.
Check out of the hotel.
Tour a horse farm, such as Undulata Horse Farm. Options abound: There are more than 80 Saddlebred establishments in the area that provide many of the most famous and accomplished show horses to the country.
During a tour you’ll get to see some Saddlebred horses up close, get a behind-the-scenes peek at training, and learn more about the breed and industry.
According to Visit ShelbyKY, “Shelby County is ‘The American Saddlebred Capital of the World’ because it is home to many of the most outstanding American Saddlebred breeding and training facilities in the U.S. The Saddle Horse has been a part of the area’s history since the 1760’s when Daniel Boone and his brother Squire traveled to Kentucky on ‘American Horses,’ the forerunners of the modern Saddlebred. As the American Saddlebred breed grew, some of the most historic farms were located around Shelbyville. One of the most famous was Undulata, where Civil War veteran Harry Weissinger and his sons bred the great stallion American Born. Later owned by Jane Meyer, Undulata was the home of the Beau Gallant. Now the home of Saddle Horse breeder and trainer Edward Bennett, it is again returning to prominence in the Saddle Horse world.”
Saddlebred horses impress with their grand stance, graceful movements, distinct skills, and sheer beauty. Watching trainers in action offers a behind-the-scenes peek at the skill, effort and inherent risks and rewards of their work.
Tours are by appointment only, so contact Visit ShelbyKY for details: 502-633-6388.
Depart Shelby County with plans to return.
– Photos © HSP Media LLC
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