This is truly horse country, and Shelbyville is known as the saddlebred capital of the world, with some 90 farms and breeding and training facilities.
Agritourism experiences abound, whether you’re tasting bourbon at the source, riding a trail or stopping by a quaint farm for U-Pick fruit.
Shelbyville’s Main Street has a lot to love, with a dynamic events calendar, while for contrast the only premium outlet mall in the state is just a few miles west, off I-64.
1. Bulleit Distilling Co. Visitor Experience
At the high end of the mass-produced bourbon market and now owned by Diageo, Bulleit has been around since 1987, resurrecting a 19th-century brand. In 2017 Diageo opened a new $115-million distillery in Shelbyville.
This is set on 300 acres and has recently opened a visitor experience, if you’re curious to see what a 21st-century distilling process looks like.
The facility is out in the countryside just east of Guist Creek Lake, with a Visitor Experience open Tuesday to Sunday. Guided tours begin by revealing the long history of the Bulleit name, and the forward-thinking minds that helped revive the brand.
This is a high-tech operation, and one of the most memorable stops on the tour is the control room where the entire process is coordinated.
At the end of the tour you can enjoy a multisensory tasting experience of the Bulleit portfolio, including Bulleit Bourbon, Bulleit Bourbon 10 Year Old and Bulleit Rye Whiskey.
2. The Outlet Shoppes of the Bluegrass
Kentucky’s only outlet shopping center is off I-64, within a few minutes of downtown Shelbyville.
Outlet Shoppes of the Bluegrass opened in 2014 and like most malls of this kind is designed like a little town.
Among the 80+ stores and services are factory outlets for the likes of Adidas, Banana Republic, Hugo Boss, Calvin Klein, Columbia, Gap, Le Creuset, Levi’s, Michael Kors, Nike, Polo Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger, Under Armor and many more.
Expect savings of up to 60%, with constant promotions in specific stores, and additional discounts for teachers, military, healthcare workers and seniors.
3. Jeptha Creed Distillery
This distillery was set up on a local family run farm, and recalls the days before prohibition when most farms had a still and made their own distinctive spirits.
Jeptha Creed Distillery has only been around for a few years, but is steeped in history, as the farm sits at the foot of Jeptha Knob, a prominent natural landmark named by Daniel Boone’s brother, Squire (1744-1815).
Many of the ingredients for Jeptha Creed’s range are grown on this land, including four acres of non-GMO “Bloody Butcher” corn.
There’s a bar and cafe at the distillery, and you can stop by for a free Spirit Tasting or in-depth Barrel Tasting experience, letting you sample Jeptha Creed’s bourbon straight from the barrel.
4. Main Street Shelbyville
Concentrated on a few blocks of Main Street, downtown Shelbyville is a pocket-sized commercial district that will reward a little exploration.
The main drag is two rows of dainty old storefronts with lots of interesting details, especially further up in the cornices and corbels.
West of the impressive Shelby County Fiscal Court, these are packed with inviting establishments like the popular Sixth & Main Coffeehouse and stores for antiques, home design, pet care and clothing.
Main Street has an events calendar to put most towns to shame, with something fun happening every month of the year, but especially in May when you’ve got Main Street Week and the Art & Music Festival
5. Gallrein Farms
This farm has been in the Gallrein family since 1929, and for two generations was devoted to dairy farming until it was diversified in the 70s and then opened to the public as a farm market in the 90s.
Gallrein Farms is multifaceted, and like all farms moves with the seasons. So in spring there are nine greenhouses for flowers, while in summer you could come for U-Pick strawberries or to buy veggies picked straight from the field.
Fall means all kinds of fun, with hayrides, a tractor train, corn maze, a pumpkin patch and many more family-friendly activities.
Spring through fall there’s also a petting zoo, which is one of the main attractions at the farm, with donkeys, cows, sheep, chickens, llamas and horses.
6. Shelby County History Museum
Another great reason to explore Main Street is for this well-presented local history museum.
The setting is the beautiful Presbyterian Manse building, constructed in an Italianate style in 1872. This houses the Shelby County Historical Society, with a museum open Monday to Friday.
When we wrote this list there was an enlightening exhibit about the historic local tobacco industry on the second floor, while downstairs you could delve into Shelby’s saddlebred trade with a display about the celebrated Crabtree Saddlebred Farm.
7. Shelbyville Fountain
In a little plaza southeast of the Shelby County Fiscal Court there’s a beguiling monument that has been a fixture in Shelbyville since the 1890s.
Labeled with an historical marker, the Shelbyville Fountain depicts a reclining woman with a rampant mythological winged lion.
The neighboring marker explains that this figure is ‘“Atlantis” pattern’. The sculpture was cast by New York’s J. L. Mott Iron Works, which was founded in 1828, and produced everything from kettles and fire irons to statuary and water fountains.
The monument sits among cute landscaping with shrubs, a small lawn and four surrounding benches.
8. Mulberry Orchard
Another place to go for quality local produce is this family-run farm that opens to the public in summer and fall.
At the time of writing, Mulberry Orchard had 16 types of apples, harvested June to October, and 17 varieties of peaches, available in July and August.
These are the main specialties but the farm also produces a wide selection of berries and vegetables throughout the season, as well as tempting fresh baked donuts.
For families, visiting Mulberry Orchard is a day out, with hayrides, a play area and friendly farm animals, as well as a pumpkin patch and corn maze in fall.
9. Shelby Trails Park & Red Fern Riding Center
Part of the Shelbyville-Shelby County parks system is this unique public space northwest of the town, designated for horseback riding.
These 462 acres are on former farmland, deeded to the parks and recreation department by horse enthusiasts Dr. Roger & Diane Shott of Anchorage, KY in 2010.
The park now has 21 groomed hiking and horseback riding trails, complemented by a 32-stall barn and indoor and outdoor arenas.
The Red Fern Riding Center is on hand, offering guided horseback rides for the public, as well as lessons, training and full-service boarding, while also hosting special seasonal events.
10. Lake Shelby Park
In the northeast of Shelbyville you’ll find Lake Shelby, which was built on Clear Creek in 1949. This served as Shelbyville’s main water supply for around two decades before Guist Creek Lake was constructed, paving the way for Lake Shelby to become a spot for recreation.
On 20 acres, the lake is stocked with crappie, bluegill, catfish, bass and more, and is also perfect for paddlesports and birdwatching, with bald eagles commonly spotted in winter. You’ve also got 15 tent/primitive camping sites and 10 RV sites.
Just south of Lake Shelby Park is the 130-acre Clear Creek Park, featuring a 9-hole public golf course and numerous other recreation facilities, including the Family Activity Center (pool, basketball courts, fitness room, classes and more).
11. Kismet Farm
In a place billed as the Saddlebred capital of the world, you have to take the opportunity to visit a horse farm and find out a little more about this industry.
One facility that welcomes guests for tours by appointment is Kismet Farm, embedded in 150 acres of gorgeous rolling scenery and bounded by the stunning Elkhorn Creek.
On a visit you’ll see the main barn, paddocks, rambling biosphere fields, the picturesque wooded banks of Elkhorn Creek and the fine Main Residence, dating back some 200 years.
Kismet Farm offers a full-service show horse operation, and this includes riding lessons for all ages.
12. Talon Winery
Founded near Lexington in 1999, this well-regarded Kentucky brand opened a second location just outside of Shelbyville in 2009.
Talon Winery is close to Jeptha Creed Distillery, just off I-64, and is open to the public for tastings seven days a week.
The tasting room is set upstairs, with vistas taking in an old limestone quarry. There’s normally free live music on the porch on weekends, and you’re free to bring a picnic if you’d like to linger for a while.
A couple of noteworthy Talon wines are Afterglow (Catawba), a robust red, and Moondance (Pinot Gris), a fresh and fruity white.
13. Shelby County Farmers’ Market
If you want to pick up super-fresh seasonal produce, the Coots Barn at the county fairgrounds hosts a farmers’ market on Saturdays, April through October.
This was launched in 2001, and has an informative website, introducing you to the vendors and explaining which fruits and vegetables are available when, starting with asparagus in spring and concluding with apples and pumpkins in fall.
Also available are free range eggs, jams, breads, pickles, plants, cut flowers and bulbs, along with handmade soaps and locally roasted coffee.
14. Red Orchard Park
This public park by Clear Creek in the south of Shelbyville has a lot of history. The land was settled in the 1790s by Aquilla Whitaker, who planted the namesake orchard here.
At that time Whitaker Station was a vital refuge for early settlers, and eventually gave rise to Shelbyville. Red Orchard Park was donated to the Shelby County Parks Department by one Clarence Miller, whose family had owned the land since 1925.
You can come for an easy walk along the winding trails, or to make use of the disc golf course. There’s also a dog park, exercise equipment, a playground and the fine Red Orchard Barn, which is rented out as an event venue.
15. Guist Creek Lake
The largest body of water in Shelby County is less than ten minutes east of downtown, and is off the radar in an idyllic rural landscape.
This reservoir was built in the early 1960s and boasts 27 miles of picture perfect shoreline, with wildlife such as deer and wild turkeys often sighted near the water.
Open spring through fall, Guist Creek Lake is a hotspot for camping, water skiing and boating, with a full-service marina complete with a supply shop.
If you’re here for some fishing, the lake is stocked with almost 8,000 channel catfish each year, and two Kentucky state fishing records have been broken right here, for bullhead catfish (5lb, 3oz) and white catfish (1lb, 9oz).