Harrodsburg Rocks its Pioneer Heritage
Visit Shakers and early settlers, sip bourbons and brews, go boating and golfing
all in the Coolest Place in History
Kentucky’s first settlement has come a long way since its frontier founding in 1774, two years before the Declaration of Independence was signed. The first permanent settlement west of the Allegheny Mountains and the coolest place in history, Harrodsburg, a Preserve America Community, has been named one of “the 10 Most Beautiful Towns in Kentucky” by TheCultureTrip.com; one of the “50 Best Small Town Downtowns in America” by Best Choice Reviews, one of “Five hidden US Travel Destinations” by BBC NEWS magazine and one of the “20 Best Small Towns to Visit” by Smithsonian Magazine.
Harrodsburg celebrates its pioneering past in its attractions, history, architecture – even shopping. With a picturesque setting amidst four National Register Historic Districts in the heart of Kentucky’s famed Bluegrass Region, Harrodsburg offers plenty to see and do, including many new reasons to visit.
History bursts to life
Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill, a 3,000-acre landmark Discovery Destination comprising The Historic Centre, The Farm and The Preserve, presents dynamic and interactive programming while preserving the heritage and presenting the story of the Kentucky Shakers. From meeting local working artists and taking a variety of hands-on workshops, including creating Shaker Spirit Drawings, taking a fossil hike and learning about beekeeping to trundling into the fields on hay rides and departing the Village for bourbon tours and more, the emphasis is on active fun.
Also part of Shaker Village’s ramped up roster of active fun: Fresh Food Adventures into the garden, bourbon dinners, an [Un]Pleasant Hill Trail Run series, waterfall photography hikes, wildlife cruises to the Blue Heron Rookery, wildflower and night hikes, horseback riding along a 40-mile trail system, stargazing in the West Family Amphitheatre, sheep shearing, happy hour on the lawn and a number of fairs and festivals. Paddling events are offered in partnership with Canoe Kentucky.
At Old Fort Harrod State Park visitors find a full-scale replica fort commemorating the first permanent settlement west of the Allegheny Mountains, with cabins and blockhouses furnished with handmade utensils and furniture, and craftsmen in period dress demonstrating early pioneering skills. Here is the famous Osage Orange tree that kids have been climbing for generations and a fully accessible Little Tikes state-of-the-art fort-themed playground.
Visit animals at the fort’s corral, have a picnic on the grounds, tour the Mansion Museum, see the Lincoln Marriage Temple not far from a monument to the pioneers that was dedicated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and stroll through a pioneer cemetery – one of the oldest in Kentucky. Come for an event, including the Grand Council in the spring, the Old Fort Harrod Settlement & Raid in June, Pioneer Days Festival in August and the Fort Harrod Jazz Festival in September. Halloween brings the 3-day Haunted Frontier; a free Holiday Open House with visits with Santa and Mrs. Claus takes place in November.
Historic, homey – and humming with things to see/do
Enjoy downtown Harrodsburg’s hometown atmosphere, with streets lined with architectural treasures and lots of locally-owned restaurants, including the Kentucky Fudge Company, a fun lunch stop with an original soda fountain and live music on Saturdays, and the Olde Bus Station, a former Greyhound Bus Station and home of local foodie fave, the Big Daddy Burger. Find local and regional artisan-made crafts at shops like the Arts County of Mercer County Studio & Gallery and bargains galore at area antique shops like Charmed and Reflectivity. Live theatre is downtown at the Ragged Edge Community Theatre.
Other Harrodsburg fun include the Burgin Barn, featuring country music house band Larry Sanders and Borderline; Black Watch Alpaca Farm; the authentic sternwheeler Dixie Belle with excursions to the geologically ancient Kentucky River Palisades; Good Time Paddling with canoeing and kayaking on Chaplin River; and Herrington Lake with five marinas providing boat rentals, plus lakeside dining and accommodations.
On the bourbon and brew trails
Harrodsburg’s Beaumont Inn is an official stop on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail® and home to Olde Towne Distillery, the first distillery in the U.S. to produce Hemp Moonshine. It is also on Kentucky’s Brewgrass Trail, which showcases craft breweries like Harrodsburg’s Lemons Mill Brewery, the first tavern or taproom in the area since before the 1920s. Central Kentucky Tours offers bourbon, Keeneland, Derby and specialty tours departing from Harrodsburg lodgings.
Lodgings not found anywhere else
Step into the world of the Shakers with an overnight at the Inn at Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill. Seventy-two guest rooms, suites and private cottages, each offering distinct character and located in 13 restored Shaker buildings, are comfortably appointed with Shaker reproduction furniture, original hardwood floors, memory foam mattresses and spectacular countryside views. Dining at The Trustees’ Table is a celebration of Shaker Village’s roots with seasonally-inspired dishes prepared with straight-from-the-garden ingredients.
The Beaumont Inn, the state’s oldest family-operated country inn – celebrating a century of service in 2019 – and a recipient of a James Beard America’s Classic award, has spacious rooms and suites tucked into three gorgeous buildings in a park-like setting. Three onsite restaurants – the Main Dining Room, Old Owl Tavern and Owl’s Nest Lounge – each have a different menu and vibe, and over 100 bourbons. The inn’s spa, located in Bell Cottage, offers a number of rejuvenating treatments.
The Bright Leaf Golf Resort is Kentucky’s first all-inclusive golf resort, with 36 holes, including a championship18-hole course. Resort amenities include pro shop, health club, swimming pool, restaurant, golf villas and recently renovated hotel units. Additionally, Harrodsburg has an array of unique overnight options, including bed and breakfast inns, lakefront cottages, a studio suite, a bunkhouse and more.