With its red wooden homes and cluster of impressive neoclassical state buildings, Kentucky's capital is immediately appealing. From the moment you arrive, you feel embraced by this small town.
Part of the appeal lies in Frankfort's time capsule nature. The historic core is largely intact after 200 years, and is full of interesting sights, including the grave of pioneer Daniel Boone and the Old Governor's Mansion, which hosted seven US presidents.
But Frankfort is modern too. For a town of just 25,000, it has plenty of craft breweries and hip distilleries, art galleries, museums, and downtown shopping opportunities. It's also a great base to visit the Kentucky Derby in nearby Louisville, or to explore dynamic Lexington, a few miles to the southeast.
The Bluegrass State has exerted a huge influence throughout US history, sandwiched in between the North and South in the Civil War and before that, a key frontier territory. Nowadays, you can visit the Old State Capitol and Governor's Mansion and find out everything you need to know at the Thomas D. Clark Center for Kentucky History.
Frankfort's compact downtown area is packed with galleries, workshops, and craft stores, and the town has a huge proportion of creative professionals. Check out the ceramics at Broadway Clay, pick up some artisan greeting cards at DeSpain Studio and Gallery, or something gorgeous for the garden at Simply Garden.
Frankfort is situated in between Louisville (hometown of the Kentucky Derby and Muhammad Ali) and Lexington ("the horse capital of the world" and with a beautiful historic core). With a rental car you can get to either in around an hour, and be back in a Frankfort hotel to relax by early evening.
Frankfort's main appeal is its humble size and stunning appearance. This is very much a "small town", nestled in a bend in the Kentucky River, with tree-lined streets, 19th-century architecture, and no sprawling suburbs, and this creates an intimate, calming, and family-friendly atmosphere.
Kentucky is famous for its Bourbon, and there are few better places to try a drop than Frankfort's Buffalo Trace Distillery. Then, why not complement the sour mash taste with a plate of Kentucky BBQ from Staxx BBQ, where the retro furnishings and home-cooked meals conjure up another age entirely.
If you intend to venture out into Bluegrass country during your stay, springtime is easily the best time to go. From April through June, Kentucky's countryside bursts into bloom (as do the gardens of Frankfort), and the Derby takes place in May. Summer can be a little sweltering, but fall is pleasant, and winter vacations can even make the most of the stunning scenery.
If you want to fly to Frankfort, you'll have to fly into either Louisville's International Airport or Lexington's Blue Grass Airport. Blue Grass is slightly closer, at around 25 miles, so the taxi won't take longer than 40 minutes and should cost around $40-50. You can also rent a car at the airport from branches of Alamo, Avis, Hertz, and Enterprise.
Train travelers can't alight at Frankfort itself, but you can travel to Maysville, which is around 50 miles to the northeast. Maysville is on Amtrak's Cardinal route, with connections to New York and Chicago, and shouldn't be more than an hour away from Frankfort by taxi.
Driving is probably the most popular and easiest way to reach Frankfort, which lies on the east-west I-64 route. If you are coming from the east, you can take I-64 all the way from Richmond, or use I-68 and meet I-64 at Charleston, West Virginia. I-75 is the road to take if you are driving from the north or south, with connections to Knoxville, Atlanta, and Florida, along with Cincinnati and Detroit.
Frankfort is on the national Greyhound bus network, with a stop at the out-of-town Walmart Supercenter at 301 Leonardwood Dr. If you are traveling intercity with Greyhound, you'll probably have to connect with regional services at Lexington or Louisville before proceeding to Frankfort.
Frankfort constantly plays host to politicians and business travelers, so the center of town is not short on luxury hotels. The Capital Plaza is probably the pick of the central hotels, with a handy location near the river and the Frankfort Convention Center, but there's also the Meeting House, a lovingly restored 1840s home that is now a cozy B&B. Just out of town, check out the functional Days Inn or the Hampton Inn, which always offer reliable accommodation for all types of traveler.
Downtown Frankfort - located on a bend in the Kentucky River Frankfort's downtown is its most atmospheric and historic neighborhood (and home to the state's old political institutions). The areas around W Broadway and Main are a beautifully maintained collection of historic homes, businesses, and museums like the Kentucky Historical Society, and it's the starting point for any exploration of the city.
South Frankfort - in the early 20th century, Kentucky moved its political center across the Kentucky River, a mile or two south. If you want to see the modern political machine in action, southern Frankfort is the place to visit the State Capitol and the Governor's Mansion, along with other gorgeous historic properties like Berry Hill Mansion.
Kentucky State University - located in eastern Frankfort, KSU is a neighborhood all on its own. With plenty of cheaper lodgings and cafes in the area, it's a nice neighborhood for relaxing, but there are plenty of things to see here too - not least the grave of American hero Daniel Boone in Frankfort Cemetery.
Frankfort Transit runs a basic bus service across the central part of town, which can be a useful route between the tourist areas. It's also very cheap, at just $0.25 for a single ticket, but with limited coverage and short hours, don't rely on buses to get you around.
Taxis are a better choice for traveling between north and south Frankfort, and rates should be fairly reasonable at $2.50 for the meter drop, then $2.50 per mile after that. Uber is even cheaper, charging around $1 for the meter drop, then $0.80 per mile.
The best option for getting around Frankfort is to rent your own car. It will open up Bluegrass Country and place Lexington and Louisville easily with reach. Companies in downtown Frankfort include Enterprise and Hertz, and you should be able to find a package charging as little as $20 per day.
Downtown Frankfort is a vibrant craft and art shopping center. Start at W Broadway, where stores like Broadway Clay sell homemade ceramics and Completely Kentucky showcases local artists. Then head to St Clair St, where you'll discover artisan jewelers like M.A. Selberts and the beautifully made furniture at Three Elements Designs. Finally, check out Nitro of Frankfort on W Main, probably the city's best apparel boutique.
Grocery shopping in Frankfort shouldn't be any trouble at all. Just outside town, you'll find large Kroger and Walmart outlets, while Save-A-Lot and Bryant's Pic-Pac Supermarket offer more central alternatives. Prices should be reasonable, at around $3 for a gallon of milk and $1.80 for a pound of apples.
Frankfort has plenty of wonderful eateries, with an emphasis on home-cooked BBQ. Staxx BBQ is a great place to start your culinary adventure, while Cliffside Diner offers great views (and a tasty signature "Frankforter"), Rick's White Light Diner has a cajun focus, while Serafini blends Italian and traditional American cooking in fine style. Prices for entrees range from $10 to $25, but in general, prices will be very affordable.