Kentucky is a unique state. The 15th member of the Union stretches from the fertile grain fields along the Mississippi River to the towering mountains of coal country along the Virginias.
In between is as much diversity as you would imagine, but perhaps nothing is more universal in the state than horse racing and fine spirits. Getting the opportunity to capture a real experience with both should be the goal of every traveler to the Bluegrass.
It’s the lime-heavy soils that have yielded strong-boned thoroughbreds for racing in Kentucky, and the first Saturday in May gives the world a chance to see the nation’s best battle it out for two minutes of action that leaves hooves and hearts pounding.
And those same soils have brought forth quality corn and grapes that have been skillfully refined into some of the world’s best bourbon and wine. If you’ve thought about getting a travel package that includes Kentucky Derby tickets, don’t just stop at Churchill Downs. The state offers a number of opportunities to partake of its perfectly-aged beverages as well.
One easy way to enjoy those offerings is to travel the Bullitt County Bourbon & Wine Trail. Situated just south of Louisville, Bullitt County is conveniently located to flights and hotels, leaving your local travel to a minimum. Just a quick jaunt down I-65 from the city lands you in this region of quality products.
The trail has developed as part of the state’s overall emphasis on its history with bourbon, with labels like Jim Beam and Maker’s Mark logging decades of production and small-batch products like Woodford Reserve and Town Branch joining in more recently. Coupling the home-grown product with an ancient beverage like wine is a perfect mix that provides something for everyone. Add in the popularity of wine-related travel and you’ve got an ideal journey for anyone who enjoys a fine drink.
So now that you are sold on the Trail, why Derby week? Isn’t it the most chaotic time to visit Kentucky? The answer is yes, and it’s beautifully chaotic.
The state needs no help from us to be absolutely gorgeous in May. Redbuds, dogwoods, cherries, and dozens of other species may be in bloom, and the bluegrass that gave the state its nickname is growing vigorously and emitting its namesake bluish cast on bright spring mornings.
But the Derby became the icing on the cake when it began in 1875, building into a week-long celebration of all things Kentucky that makes it a heaven for any traveler. There is live music and food throughout the city, and Derby Week features a number of famous balls and galas that draw in celebrities from around the world. For something unique and absolutely breathtaking, watch the Great Balloon Race as it carries dozens of colorful hot-air balloons across the Kentucky countryside.
Tying in a trip to Bullitt County is a perfect connection. The weather is already likely to be beautiful. You’ll have a great variety of travel packages to choose from, and with the Trail’s flexibility, you’ll be free to enjoy whatever Derby events you want to see while still having plenty of time for the wineries and distilleries.
Kentucky is a place of immense variety. It straddles two time zones, borders seven other states, and was torn between Union and Confederate loyalties during the Civil War. Its elevation ranges from the peak of Black Mountain in Harlan County at 4,131 feet to the Kentucky Bend of Fulton County at 257 feet above sea level.
With so much to see, a visit to Kentucky should never include just one event or attraction. And with nothing bigger than the Derby to bring you in, the Bullitt County Bourbon and Wine Trail is a perfect complement to your travel meal. There’s nothing better to pair with the fastest two minutes in sports than wine and bourbon that took decades to make.