Near the center of Kentucky’s Bluegrass Region, Georgetown is folded into some of the prettiest countryside you could hope to see.
Bordering the town is rolling, fertile pasture, crisscrossed by rock fences, in a part of the world long associated with thoroughbred horses.
One of the world’s great horse-themed attractions, the Kentucky Horse Park is practically in Georgetown’s backyard, along with stables for horseback riding experiences, and the Old Friends Thoroughbred Retirement Farm, where champion horses spend their golden years.
A turning point in Georgetown’s modern history arrived in the mid-1980s when Toyota chose the city for what is now the auto manufacturer’s largest factory outside of Japan. Do not miss the chance to see this 21st-century facility in action on a tour.
1. Kentucky Horse Park
On the boundary between Georgetown and Lexington, the Kentucky Horse Park integrates a working horse farm, a competition facility, an educational theme park and an equine office park into one 1,224-acre site.
The theme park, open April through October, is the largest attraction to be owned and operated by the Commonwealth of Kentucky, and welcomes more than 500,000 visitors each year from all over the world.
Some of the essentials here include the International Museum of the Horse, exciting live equine presentations and a choice horse-drawn tram tours, trail rides and pony rides.
Also in the park is a 260-site campground, with amenities like a pool, tennis courts, playgrounds and convenient bike access to the Legacy Trail.
2. Georgetown Scott County Museum
In the grand 1915 Post Office building downtown, this free local history museum tells you all you could want to to know about Georgetown and Scott County.
As the perfect intro you can study a detailed timeline of the county starting in 1773 and taking you through to the present day.
There’s much to dive into, from quilts, to details about the Underground Railroad in Central Kentucky, the Native American peoples that lived on the banks of Elkhorn Creek, a stunning collection of equine portraits and tons more.
One affable member of staff is Pete the Crow, an animatronic version of a real life talking crow that became a local legend in Georgetown in the early 1830s.
3. Downtown Georgetown
Commanded by the theatrical Scott County Courthouse (1877), Georgetown’s Main Street is small-town America at its prettiest.
For several blocks there’s a twin row of ornate Victorian facades, with storefronts for restaurants, boutiques, galleries, gift shops and craft supply stores.
These are some of the 200+ buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places in Georgetown.
Yet for all that history, downtown Georgetown is a sprightly kind of place, especially in September when the Festival of the Horse brings live music, parades and family activities downtown.
4. Ward Hall
In the care of a foundation, this antebellum Greek Revival villa is raising funds for a long-term restoration, but you can take a look on the first two weekends of the month, April through November.
The elegant Greek Revival residence was built as a summer home for planter Junius Richard Ward (1802–1883) and his wife Matilda (Viley) Ward in the mid-1850s.
Using enslaved people as staff, the plantation cultivated hemp and tobacco, and true to the location, also raised thoroughbred racehorses.
The opulence of Ward Hall is still obvious, particularly in the portico, supported by Corinthian columns 27 feet tall.
Visiting this place, you’ll also find out a little about the Ward family, in particular Junius Ward’s free-spirited niece, Sallie Ward (1827-1896), a famous socialite and quintessential Southern Belle.
5. Whispering Woods Riding Stables
It hardly seems right to visit the Bluegrass Region and not experience the scenery on horseback. One place you can do this is Whispering Woods Riding Stables, on 250 wooded acres just north of Georgetown.
Whispering Woods has a maze of trails on the property, over hills and creeks, and under a mantle of hardwood trees. Wildlife abounds here, and you may see deer, raccoons, skunks, wild turkeys and foxes on your ride.
You can book a 45-minute or 90-minute guided trail ride, while children under the age of eight can take a pony ride, either in the yard or through the woods for an intro to a real trail-riding experience.
6. Old Friends Thoroughbred Retirement Farm
This 136-acre farm in the southwest of Georgetown, is a retirement facility for more than 150 thoroughbred racehorses.
Old Friends is unique, as the only retirement farm that routinely accepts retired stallions, and has a number of world-famous horses calmly grazing in its paddocks.
At the time of writing, the star was Silver Charm (1994), who won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes in 1997.
Other notable residents included Amazombie (2006), winner of the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Sprint, and Sarava (1999), who won the Belmont Stakes in 2002, in the biggest upset in the race’s history.
You can visit the farm on a 90-minute guided tour, meeting as many as 15 retirees, including Classic winners like Silver Charm.
7. Toyota Factory Tour
The most pivotal moment in Georgetown’s modern history came in 1985, when Toyota chose this city as the base for Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky, Inc..
This is now the largest Toyota manufacturing plant outside of Japan, employing more than 10,000 people and covering 7.5 million square feet, which is roughly 156 football fields.
The factory complex is so vast that when you take a free tour you’ll travel by tram instead of on foot. On this visit you’ll witness a high-tech manufacturing process so efficient that a new vehicle rolls off the production line every 55 seconds.
Tours are available Monday to Friday, and there’s also a 10-minute plant overview video and a variety of interactive exhibits at the Visitor Center.
8. Bluegrass Country Driving Tour
If you’re determined to see everything that the Bluegrass Region has to offer, head for the Georgetown/Scott County Tourism office, where you can grab a map for this self-guided driving tour.
The route will take you along lesser traveled back roads, with plenty of opportunities to pause and admire the lush rolling hills, horses grazing in pasture and those quaint rock fences.
The map also goes into detail about the region’s geography, its history and the famous horse rearing heritage.
9. Bourbon 30
You can also make time for Kentucky’s favorite beverage at a craft distillery with a storefront opposite Royal Spring Park downtown.
Bourbon 30’s spirits are handcrafted by a master distiller. Led by the friendly staff, you can arrange an in-depth guided tasting session that can last for an hour or more as you get to know the many nuances that distinguish one bourbon from the next.
For the ultimate Kentucky souvenir, connoisseurs can even sample from the many barrels at the facility to create the perfect blend for your very own bottle.
10. Evans Orchard & Cider Mill
The only cider mill in Central Kentucky can be found in the bucolic countryside, just east of Georgetown.
Evans Orchard is on more than 300 acres, and the land was mainly used for cattle and tobacco until the early 1990s when vegetables and fruits like apples, peaches and pears were planted here.
In season, these can be purchased in the Farm Market & Gift Store, which is set in the beautiful old tobacco barn, along with homemade jams, honey, home decoration and delicious fresh pressed cider.
Spring through fall the farm has plenty going on, with all kinds of fun at the kids’ Play area and Barnyard, as well as U-Pick strawberries, blueberries, sunflowers, pears, apples and pumpkins.
11. Yuko-En on the Elkhorn
The official Kentucky-Japan friendship garden can be found in Georgetown, wrapped in a bend on North Elkhorn Creek.
On six acres, Yuko-En is a typical Japanese strolling garden, landscaped in 2000 as a shared project between the citizens of Georgetown and its sister city, Tahara, in Aichi Prefecture.
You wouldn’t know it today, but this plot of land was once flat, where there are now little undulating hills, with paths beckoning you through a Zen rock garden, a traditional water garden and along the bank of Elkhorn Creek.
The garden’s focal point is a koi pond, fed by the Upper Waterfall at the foot of a small cone-shaped mountain inspired by the island of Yashima in southern Japan.
By the lower falls, there’s a sculpture of the Tahara-born scholar, painter and statesman, Watanabe Kazan (1793-1841).
12. Equus Run Vineyards
In 1998, the 31-year veteran of IBM, Cynthia Bohn turned a tobacco and cattle farm into the first vineyard in the area.
Although winemaking is relatively new on this side of Lexington, the Bluegrass Region has some great characteristics, from its fertile soils to the rolling hills and climate, with four distinct seasons.
The setting is particularly good at Equus Run, with a rich loamy soil over limestone shelf-rock and clay. On a self-guided tour of these idyllic 38 acres you’ll get to see a range of grape varieties growing, and note how these vines are trellised in different ways.
For an inside look at production, you can also take a guided tour of the winery, housed in a converted tobacco barn, while a tasting session includes samples of six different Equus Run wines.
13. Bi-Water Farm & Greenhouse
Family-owned since 1959, this farm is at a picturesque location where the Dry Run Creek flows into the North Elkhorn Creek in the north of Georgetown.
On more than 184 acres, Bi-Water Farm started opening up to the public in the mid-1990s with a farm store and the annual Autumnfest. The farm is open spring through fall, starting with greenhouses and a spring market in the early growing season.
Then you’ve got a bounty of fresh produce in the summer, and then classics like apple cider donuts and pumpkins in fall. Mid-September through October, Autumnfest has grown over the years to become a local tradition and one of the largest fall farm festivals in the state.
Some of the attractions are a corn maze, a 20-acre pumpkin patch, hayrides and the popular Spooky Farmhouse and Sky High Slide.
14. Georgetown College
Southeast of downtown Georgetown, this private Christian college was founded in 1829, with roots that go back to an academy established by Baptist preacher Elijah Craig (1738-1808) in the late 18th century.
You don’t need to be a prospective student to be interested in the attractive campus, which is on the National Register of Historic Places.
On a self-guided visit you can take in the refined brick buildings like Giddings Hall, Pawling Hall, and Highbaugh Hall, all of which are antebellum.
Georgetown College also has a host of varsity teams competing in the NAIA. The football team, playing at Toyota Stadium, is recognized as one of the strongest teams in the NAIA, and has been crowned Mid-South Conference Champions no fewer than 19 times since 1987.
15. Festival of the Horse
In a city known for horse rearing, it’s only natural the most anticipated event of the year in Georgetown should be the Festival of the Horse. Every September this three-day event lights up the charming downtown area with an exciting program.
The most iconic spectacles to look out for are the Colt & Filly Review Parade, Toyota’s Grand Parade of Horses and the Horse Show.
The festival has been running for more than 40 years now, and for half that time the curtain raiser has been the Chili Cook-Off.
There are marquee headliners at the Country Boy Stage on Courthouse Square, as well as craft, food and display booths, carnival rides and a midway.