Lincoln Heritage Scenic Highway
The Birthplace Lincoln and Bourbon Country
|Mileage||67 miles (109 km)|
|DurationThe duration is an estimate of a one-way drive and does not include any stops or side-trips.||2 hours, 20 minutes|
|SeasonsThe seasons listed are the best seasons for this scenic drive. If Winter is not mentioned, the road may be closed during the winter.||Spring, Summer, and Fall|
|Roadways||Kentucky Highway 150, and US Highway 31|
|ServicesThe cities or towns listed have either Food or Services such as gas, hotels, pharmacies, etc.||Hodgenville, KY▼, Bardstown, KY▼, Springfield, KY▼, and Danville, KY▼|
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This scenic drive from Hodgenville to Danville, Kentucky explores the landscape of Abraham Lincoln’s early years and significant Civil War sites. Along the way, discover exquisite natural beauty, friendly small towns, a devoted religious heritage and bourbon country. This drive is an easy getaway, just one hour from Louisville or Lexington, Kentucky, or Nashville, Tennessee.
The Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historic Park (A1) is the perfect beginning for this journey. The visitor center features a film, exhibits, and artifacts, including the original family bible, that tell the story of Lincoln, his family, and frontier life. Visit Sinking Spring, the family water source and the Memorial Building where 56 steps, one for each of Lincoln’s life, leads to a symbolic re-creation of his birth cabin. From Memorial Day until Labor Day, ranger-led tours are offered. The park is free.
In Hodgenville, the Lincoln Museum (M1) features historically accurate dioramas of Lincoln’s life, wax figures, artifacts, memorabilia and much more. Just outside the museum is a statue of Lincoln created by New York sculptor Adolph A. Weinman, and across the square is another statue of Lincoln as boy, reading with his dog. The first full weekend in October is host to Lincoln Days, which celebrates Lincoln with a parade, live entertainment, pioneer games, a car show and Lincoln Look-A-Likes and Oratory Contest. If you’re here in June, don’t miss the LaRue County Fair, one of Kentucky’s oldest, with livestock, a demolition derby, rides, food and much more.
At the Abraham Lincoln Boyhood Home Unit at Knob Creek (A2), enjoy a picnic, then stroll alongside Knob Creek, or take the Overlook Trail to imagine how the early years in Kentucky shaped Lincoln’s character. (Note that this national park unit is closed through most of 2015 due to construction). The park is free.
In the town of Trappist, the Abbey of Our Lady of Gethsemani (A3) is the oldest operating monastery in the United States. The Welcome Center explores monastic life with a film and information, and Mass is held twice a day. Trappist monks live a contemplative life of prayer, work and silence. If you plan on visiting, note that speaking is allowed only in designated areas. The monks grow their own food and support themselves with prize-winning handmade fruitcakes and fudge available for sale in the gift store.
Bardstown has been voted “Most Beautiful Small Town in America,” and is also known as the Bourbon Capital of the World. Home to five distilleries, learn about the history and production of bourbon with a visit to the Heaven Hill Distilleries Bourbon Heritage Center (A4). Heaven Hill Distilleries founded in 1943, offers 3 tours with varying depth of information, tasting options, and price. Or visit Maker’s Mark Distillery (A6) where tour and tasting includes dipping a souvenir bottle in their signature red wax. People under 21 are welcome (and free) on the tour, but no tasting or dipping allowed. While here, enjoy the beautifully-landscaped grounds and glass-blown art by Dale Chihuly. Consider a 30 minute detour from the byway to visit the Jim Beam’s American Stillhouse (A9) where guided tours take you through the mashing, distilling, barreling, storing, and bottling of bourbon. The official Kentucky Bourbon Trail (A10) provides information, maps, passport, bus tours, bike routes, and more, to visit 9 distilleries in the surrounding area. Three days are recommended to fully enjoy them all. If you happen to be here mid-September, don’t miss the 6-day Kentucky Bourbon Festival.
On the National Historic Register, Saint Joseph Proto-Cathedral (A5) is the oldest seminary west of the Allegheny Mountains. Built between 1816-1819, the cathedral is open for Mass and to appreciate the architecture and historic paintings and gifts donated by Pope Leo XII, Francis I, King of the Two Sicilies, and King Louis Phillippe of France.
Visit the Oscar Getz Museum of Whiskey History and Bardstown Historical Museum (M3), both housed in Spalding Hall. Discover a collection of rare whiskey artifacts from pre-colonial to post-Prohibition days, including antique bottles, moonshine stills, advertising art and more. The Bardstown Historical Museum exhibits include Indian artifacts, Lincoln documents, Stephen Foster memorabilia, and more relating to 200 years of the area’s history.
Just 1.5-miles from downtown is My Old Kentucky Home State Park (H1). Relax in nature, picnic, do some bird watching, peruse hand-made crafts such as quilts, pottery and woodwork in the gift shop, or tour Federal Hill Mansion, the Georgia-style house that inspired the Stephen Collins Foster song “My Old Kentucky Home”. Nearby is a bronze sculpture of Stephen Collins Foster, a golf course, tennis courts, playground and outdoor music theater. This is a great location to snag one of 39 campsites for tent and RV’s.
For history buffs, the Civil War History Museum of the Western Theater (M2) in Bardstown is a must see. Fascinating exhibits include over 50 Union and Confederate uniforms, artillery, flags, and artifacts. The Old Bardstown Village features buildings from 1776-1820, among them, the cavalry room, infantry room and naval room. Also on-site is the Women’s Civil War Museum and the War Memorial of Mid America. Living history demonstrations and reenactments are held on weekends. Tickets are valid for two consecutive days.
Continue on the byway. In Springfield, there are two other Lincoln attractions. Lincoln Homestead State Park (H2) features the original home of Lincoln’s mother and his uncle Mordecai Lincoln, and replicas of the cabin and blacksmith shop where his father grew up and learned his trade. Observe furniture and artifacts from pioneer life and get a deeper understanding of the Lincoln family roots through informative plaques. Explore the expansive grounds, covered bridge, and split rail fences. There is a small charge to enter the Cabins which are closed Nov 1 through April 30. The park itself is free. There is also an 18-hole golf course and pro shop, for golfers of all levels. The Lincoln Legacy Museum (M4) is located in the historic Courthouse which was built in 1816. Learn more about Lincoln’s Kentucky roots beginning in 1806 when his parents married. A sculpture of Abraham Lincoln stands across the courthouse.
Dotting the verdant countryside are farms, many open for agritourism. Indulge in seasonal produce, visit wineries, and browse handcrafted items made from alpaca and llama hair.
In Perryville, pick up a tour booklet and walk a self-guided route through downtown to see 35 historic homes. The Perryville Battlefield State Historic Site (A7) is the site of the largest battle fought in Kentucky. It is also one of the most unaltered Civil War sites in the nation. Take a self-guided driving or walking tour with over 40 interpretive signs. In general, the east/west trails follow the line of Confederate attack and the north/south paths follow Union defensive lines. The museum exhibits depict photos and personal stories of actual soldiers, as well as a film, artifacts, uniforms and weapons. There is a small entrance fee for the museum, park entrance is free. The weekend closest to October 8, (the anniversary of the Battle) is host to the annual Battle Commemoration. Don’t miss this captivating reenactment with hundreds of costumed actors. The Perryville Battlefield was also featured on Ghost Adventures and paranormal tours are available.
The byway continues to Danville, located in the Kentucky Bluegrass Region. On June 1, 1792, Kentucky became the 15th state in the union. At Constitution Square State Historic Site (A8), visit the location where the constitution was drafted and signed. Explore renovated and replica buildings such as log cabins, the courthouse, the jailhouse, post office, and stroll the beautiful grounds. There is no charge for self-guided tours. The nearby Danville National Cemetery (A11) is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and honors soldiers who died during the Civil War.
Our drive officially ends here in Danville, but depending on where you begin the drive (it can be done in either direction) or how long you will be in the area, we recommend these other Kentucky scenic drives: the Duncan Hines Scenic Byway, Red River Gorge Scenic Byway, and the Old Frankfort Pike which travels through horse country.