Frankfort, one of the smallest state capitals in the United States, charms visitors with its size, history, and Southern friendliness.
Frankfort, located on the banks of the Kentucky River and surrounded by bucolic horse farms, soaring rock faces, and rolling swaths of Kentucky Bluegrass, offers a wealth of leisure possibilities and gorgeous natural surroundings.
The Old State Capitol building is the centrepiece of a vibrant downtown district filled with enticing shops and restaurants, and the Commonwealth capital never forgets that it’s in Bourbon Country, with the native spirit prominently featured in cocktails and on menus across the region.
Take a stroll across the city to see the beautiful architecture, particularly the new and old capitol buildings, as well as the new and old governor mansions, which are all open to the public.
At the Thomas D. Clark Center for Kentucky History, you may learn about the city’s 200-year history, and at the Liberty Hall Historic Site, you can learn about life in old Kentucky.
Things To Do In Frankfort KY
New Capitol Building
The elegant, stately structure that houses today’s Kentucky Capitol, which was completed in 1910 in the Beaux-Arts style, is the fourth building to house the Kentucky government since 1792.
Its forerunner can still be seen in downtown Frankfort. The building’s exquisite façade is made of Vermont granite and Indiana limestone, according to architect Frank Mills Andrews.
Brilliant white Georgia marble, dark green Italian marble, and grey Tennessee marble are used to embellish the inside.
The State Reception Room, which is used for ceremonies and has hand-painted walls with murals and scagliola designed to seem like Gobelin tapestries, is located in the Capitol. There is a lot of art on exhibit around the structure.
The Lincoln monument in the rotunda is one of the most popular items. A fascinating collection of dolls that belonged to various First Ladies is also on display.
Old State Capitol
The Old State Capitol is a stunning structure in downtown Frankfort that served as the centre of Kentucky government from 1831 to 1910, when it was replaced by the current capitol building due to overcrowding.
The structure was planned by young architect Gideon Shryock in the Greek Revival style to look like a Greek temple, with no windows in the front and an unusual self-supporting stairway held together by pressure and accuracy.
The structure has been lovingly restored to its pre-American Civil War look. In 1920, the Old State Capitol was transformed into a museum, and it now houses the Kentucky Historical Society, which oversees the facility and gives tours to tourists.
Salato Wildlife Education Center
Salato Wildlife Education Center, located just a few miles from Frankfort, is an educational centre on the grounds of the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Resources featuring indoor and outdoor interpretive and interactive displays showcasing native animals and plants.
Visitors can witness a variety of Kentucky environments, including lush mountains, hilly plains, marshes, and flowing streams, as well as the animals that live there.
The Eastern Forest Diorama, real snakes, enormous turtles, and local species in huge aquariums can all be seen indoors. You can view bison, bears, and eagles on miles of paved trails.
There are also native plant habitats and gardens, picnic sites for a relaxing weekend, and a lake where you may try your hand at fishing.
Thomas D. Clark Center
The Thomas D. Clark Center for Kentucky History is a sophisticated research facility and museum with a total area of 167,000 square feet.
The Kentucky Historical Society’s headquarters is also located here. The centre offers a large research library as well as a variety of permanent and temporary exhibitions.
“A Kentucky Journey,” the main permanent exhibit, tells the storey of Kentucky and its people from prehistoric times to the present day. The Martin F. Schmidt Research Library specialises on history and genealogy.
It contains manuscripts, books, oral histories, and graphic collections on the places and people that helped shape Kentucky into the state it is today.
Family historians interested in tracing their ancestors frequent the library. The Keeneland Changing Exhibits Gallery, which has a collection of Lincoln memorabilia as well as numerous temporary exhibitions, is also located in the facility.
The Governor’s Mansion in Kentucky serves as the state’s official residence. Since 1914, it has hosted 26 Kentucky governors. The governor’s mansion serves as both a private residence and an official public structure. It serves as the social, political, and ceremonial hub for the governor.
The estate was erected in 1914 in the Beaux-Arts style, which drew inspiration from Versailles’ Petit Trianon palace, and its interiors are decorated in French neoclassical motifs.
The structure is on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP). The Governor’s Mansion in Kentucky is one of the few executive mansions in the United States that is open to the public for tours.
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Liberty Hall Historic Site
The Liberty Hall Historic Site comprises of two historic residences built for John Brown, Kentucky’s first senator, and his family on three acres of stunning formal and informal gardens.
Brown erected Liberty Hall, a Georgian-style magnificent estate, in 1796, and the Orlando Brown Building, a Greek-Revival house, for his son in 1835.
Brown family photos, magnificent furnishings, and a collection of Paul Sawyier watercolours may be found at both houses.
Visitors can take part in activities such as hearthside cooking, crafts, music, children’s activities, seminars and lectures by famous specialists, exhibits, and events like teas in the Orlando Brown parlour.
Liberty Hall is open to the public on a daily basis for guided tours. The gardens are open to the public for free.
Cove Springs Park
Cove Springs Park, located on the outskirts of Frankfort, is a lovely 240-acre nature preserve and park with wetlands, waterfalls, streams, springs, woodlands, ravines, and a number of historic structures including the ruins of an old stone dam and a crumbling limestone overflow tower.
The park is an excellent place to go hiking — there are six paths totaling three miles – for environmental education, nature observation, picnicking, Frisbee throwing, and more.
An elevated boardwalk over wetlands is part of one path, which also features a number of explanatory markers. Two shelters also provide interpretive displays about the park’s history and environmental elements.
Old Governor’s Mansion
The Old Governor’s Mansion in Frankfort, completed in 1798, is the oldest American government executive residence still in use, but it has been used by the Lieutenant Governors of Kentucky since 1956.
The building, which was originally created in the Federal style, has undergone various renovations as fashions have evolved, and certain Victorian embellishments have been added.
Thirty-five governors and their families have lived and entertained in the house. James McCreary was the last governor to reside here.
The Governor’s office was housed in the residence until 1872. Andrew Jackson, William Jennings Bryan, Henry Clay, and Theodore Roosevelt were among the notable visitors to the residence. The National Register of Historic Places recognises it.
Elkhorn Creek has a well-deserved reputation as one of Kentucky’s top smallmouth bass streams, but it also offers excellent paddling and floating options.
This 17-mile picturesque length of water, which begins on the outskirts of Frankfort and flows to the Kentucky River, has enough fun for anyone.
On its banks, there are various campers, and Canoe Kentucky rents boats and provides shuttle services. Fishing on the Elkhorn is so popular that many yearly kayak fishing events have sprung up.
Paddlers and kayakers will enjoy some fantastic sections, and the rapids, which may reach class III when the water level is high, add to the thrill.
Capital City Museum
The Capital City Museum in Frankfort is a remarkable small museum that manages to convey 200 years of history of this attractive historic small town with extraordinary exhibits in what is essentially one room.
The museum is housed among the ruins of the famed 150-year-old Capital Hotel, which is now a museum in its own right. From Senator Goebel’s assassination to the Kentucky River, Capitol Hotel, and Veteran’s Hall, there’s a lot to see in a variety of fascinating displays.
Local fire fighters, the police department, various election buttons, early furniture, agricultural instruments, and other facets of life in Frankfort are all represented in memorabilia collections.
The museum is the starting point for many Frankfort history tours. A study library with maps, historic documents, books, journals, and genealogy information is also available at the museum.
Kentucky Vietnam Veterans Memorial
The Kentucky Vietnam Veterans Memorial is located on a hill with a view of the state government building. The memorial, which was completed in November of 1988, is an outstanding piece of mathematics-based architectural design. It’s made up of a massive sundial with a stainless steel gnomon and a granite plaza underneath it.
The names of the 1104 Kentuckians who died in Vietnam are etched into the plaza, and on the anniversary of their deaths, the shadow of the dial passes over each name. The memorial is a magnificent homage to the departed, drawing big audiences each year.
The Vest-Lindsey House
The Vest-Lindsey House is a federal-style mansion erected in the early 1800s and is one of Frankfort’s oldest homes.
The mansion has gone through various transformations throughout the years, but it has finally been restored to its original architecture.
Senator George Graham Vest of Kentucky and Daniel Weisiger Lindsey, Inspector General of the Union Army’s soldiers in Kentucky, were both inhabitants of the house.
Robert Wilson Burns and John Fox, Jr. are only two of the famous authors and artists that have visited the house. The house is now used as a state meeting house once more. For scheduling information, please contact the Division of Historic Properties.
Josephine Sculpture Park
The Josephine Sculpture Park is a rural park filled with foreign artists’ sculptures and artwork. Melanie Van Houten established the park on her grandparents’ farm. Guests can engage with dozens of works of art and learn about natural plants and animals.
The sculpture park also hosts workshops, classes, and theatre performances to help promote the arts in Kentucky. The park is open to the public from sunrise to sunset and is free of charge. For a price, the grounds can be rented for parties, weddings, and family gatherings.
The Floral Clock
The lovely Floral Clock can be found on the grounds of the state capitol in Frankfort. The clock was made on request. The clock was commissioned in 1961 by then-governor Bert I. Combs, whose face spans 34 feet and is decorated in flowers grown exclusively in Kentucky.
A pool of water beneath the clock is frequently utilised as a wishing well, and monies placed into the well are used to finance scholarships. The Floral Clock is one of Frankfort’s most popular attractions, and it’s open to the public every day from dawn to sunset.
Switzer Covered Bridge
There are thirteen famous covered bridges in Kentucky, and several lovely back roads. The Switzer Covered Bridge, which spans North Elkhorn Creek in Franklin County, is one of these bridges.
The bridge was completed in 1855 and has been restored three times since then, the most recent time in 1998 after the old bridge was totally washed away in a flood.
In 1974, the Switzer was added to the National Register of Historic Places as Kentucky’s official covered bridge.
The Grand Theater
The Grand Theater, Frankfort’s cultural centre, is where you can enjoy the arts. The Grand Theatre was built in 1911 as a vaudeville venue. For decades, it was utilised as a movie theatre. The Grand was meticulously restored in the early 2000s to its current state as a performance hall and movie theatre.
Throughout the year, there are live concerts, theatre performances, movies, art exhibits, and children’s theatre events. Tickets can be purchased online, over the phone, or at the box office of the theatre.
River View Park
River View Park in Frankfort is a great spot to play, picnic, or simply relax. It is located on both sides of the Kentucky River and offers stunning views of the water from a variety of perspectives.
Hiking on the park’s pathways, renting a kayak or canoe to take out on the water, and having a picnic lunch at a shelter house overlooking the river are all options for visitors.
There are also 16 historical sites in the park containing information on prehistoric, Native American, and early settlers. Weather permitting, guided tours are offered seasonally.
Clyde E. Buckley Wildlife Sanctuary
The Clyde E. Buckley Wildlife Sanctuary is a 374-acre piece of land along the Kentucky River. Mrs. Emma Buckley donated the site to be utilised as a preserve in 1967, and it is now maintained by the Central Kentucky Audubon Society.
The refuge was established to safeguard and promote eastern Kentucky’s native plants and wildlife. Two ponds, fifty acres of fields, and limestone and mineral deposits are all part of the property. Birdwatching is also a popular activity at the refuge. Bird walks through the area are conducted on a regular basis.
Leslie Morris Park at Fort Hill
At Fort Hill’s Leslie Morris Park, take a trip through history. Fort Hill, located just outside of Frankfort, was the location of a Civil War fight between Union and Confederate troops. Two Civil War forts, as well as the Sullivan family log home, are maintained on the property. Hiking trails, picnic pavilions, and breathtaking views of downtown Frankfort may all be found in this park.
Vehicles are welcome all year, and guided walking tours are offered for free from Memorial Day through the end of October. A trail that begins behind the Capitol plaza leads to the park, which can be reached on foot from downtown Frankfort.