Day Trippin' to Danville
Updated: Sep 11, 2019
While we would all like to take a week off and travel to someplace warm and exotic, the reality is most people (us included) can only afford to go somewhere for a day, or two at the max, and within driving distance of the Central Kentucky area. Fortunately, there are a plethora of places close by that fit the bill for any weekend or the just-for-an-afternoon traveler. One such destination is the birthplace of Kentucky's statehood, Danville, Kentucky.
Danville, Kentucky is located 35 miles southwest of Lexington, and of all the nearby small towns, I feel is the most charming. It has everything that you could want: history/culture, a quaint Main Street with shops a plenty, outdoor adventures to show off nature's splendor, and lots and lots of great food! So what do you do in Danville if you only have a few hours to spend? Here's a few suggestions taken from a trip we made there on a recent rainy Saturday afternoon.
1) Lunch at Melton's Great American Deli. Melton's is owned by Nathan Schepman and his wife, and is the place all the locals go for homemade soups, sandwiches and desserts. Leigh and I loved the club sandwiches we had with small bowls of chili and tomato soup. The desserts are made especially for Melton's by a baker there in Danville, and the best thing we had out of the dessert sampler we shared (okay, I may have had the majority of the Oreo cheesecake and the key lime cheesecake), was the chocolate chip cookie sandwich with a cheesecake filling. Wow! Talk about sugar overload! The sweet tea is also not to be missed. Extra points for the tremendous showing by Nathan and his staff as they went out of their way to accommodate the entire men's soccer team from a nearby college that arrived shortly after we did. You won't get that service in too many places! And don't tell them this, but they probably should raise their prices. They should charge a whole lot more for the quality of food they're dishing up. On a side note, Leigh and I aren't normally fans of horseradish and originally declined it when offered, but after hearing how good it is, we opted to sample some and, boy, are we glad we did! It was fantastic! I would put that stuff on just about anything!
2) Wilderness Trail Distillery. Located at 4095 Lebanon Road, Wilderness Trail is, according to their website, "the oldest legal distillery in historic Danville, Kentucky." They are also number 12 on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour. They offer tours Tuesday through Saturday from 10-4, every hour, and at the affordable price of $7 a person, it's in our budget. We learned about the spirits they craft here which include a bourbon, rye whiskey, vodka and a unique rum they produce using Kentucky sorghum molasses, locally sourced, of course. If you've never had sorghum, please get to your local KY Proud supplier and purchase some. It's great as a glaze for ribs, over popcorn, or in a cake. (You can thank us later.) Having been on a few bourbon tours now, I'm always amazed at all that goes into its production, and every time I seem to learn something new. Emily Toadvine, one of the key players at Wilderness Trail, will blow you away with her knowledge of the process. She obviously loves her job and is one of those people we get so excited about meeting in our travels. A great time to visit them would be at the Kentucky State BBQ Fest coming up September 8-10th. It's an annual event, so if you don't get there this time, mark it on your calendar for next year. To learn more about the distillery, click here. And the info for the KY BBQ fest can be found on their website www.kybbqfestival.com.
As I said, we only had a few hours to spend in Danville the day we went, but if you have more time, I would highly recommend a stop at Burke's Bakery on Main Street. They've been around since the 1930's, so rest assured they know what they're doing. With a donut or cookie in hand, you can walk across the street and explore Constitution Square which is a 3-acre open-air museum that includes the first U.S. Post Office west of the Allegheny Mountains, as well as replicas of a meeting house, courthouse, jail and tavern. For history buffs like me, this is good stuff! This site also is the location for the yearly Great American Brass Band Festival that draws in 40,000 people from all over the country. Interesting fact: Leigh and I forged our friendship in the middle school band at Lexington Junior High School. Therefore, we have a soft spot for the "brass" and love to hear a good band play. We've already marked down May 31-June 3, 2018 on our calendars for next year's festival, and you should, too!
Another cool thing to do in Danville that we have not yet done, but definitely want to is taking in a play at the Pioneer Playhouse, Kentucky's oldest outdoor dinner theater. They always have a great lineup of shows that run throughout the summer months. This is the place where some fine actors start out, the likes of which have included John Travolta, Lee Majors, Bo Hopkins and Jim Varney. What could be better than enjoying high quality theater under a gorgeous Kentucky moon?! You will definitely find us there next season!
As you can see, a limited budget and a nonstop work schedule don't have to keep you from experiencing a terrific time in our beloved Bluegrass. Get out there and enjoy yourselves, starting with where some of the earliest settlers of Kentucky did, Danville. With so much to see and do, you will be assured of a great experience and memories that will stay with you when you're back at your cubicle pondering your next short escape.