Thursday, March 29, 2012

What should a pair of Texans do in Louisville, Nashville, Gatlinburg, Asheville + Lexington??

(Hatch Show Print)

Dear ESB,

My husband and I are taking our first post-honeymoon vacation together next month. We're getting the hell out of the cold, gray, bleak Midwestern town where we currently live and heading south for a road trip through Kentucky, North Carolina, and Tennessee (specifically Louisville, Nashville, Gatlinburg, Asheville, and Lexington).

We don't exactly know what to do while we're there, we're just looking for warmer weather, good food, and southern hospitality (we're from Texas, so we miss it). I know this is a long shot, but do you (or perhaps some of your southern readers/twitter followers) have any advice on where we should go/eat/shop? 

We're hoping to find some of the gems that only the locals know about, especially if they won't cost a ton (husband's finishing his PhD, I'm a teacher, so um...not exactly rolling in it).


I've corralled a couple of experts on Nashville and Asheville -- no pun intended -- and I figure I'll let our readers fill in the rest.

Here's Naurnie on Nashville:

When ESB put out the APB on Twitter last week about folks needing Nashville vacation advice, I jumped at the chance. Nashville. My city. I moved away almost two years ago and still I miss it every day. I've put together some things to do in town that are not only local friendly, but also a little touristy just for good measure. Because when you get down to brass tacks, doing some of the touristy junk in Nashville is actually pretty damn fun.


When most people head to Nashville on a vacation, they're normally coming to the downtown area. While, lower Broadway is teeming with rednecks in their cutoffs and Elvis tattoos, the area still offers plenty in the way of cool shit to do (and the people watching can't be beat.) If you are on lower Broadway in the broad daylight, you should hit up the legendary Hatch Show Print. They have been making screen print posters with their distinctive designs since 1879. They've done posters for everyone from the White Stripes to Patsy Cline and everyone in between. They even sell stock posters out of the store front so you can take one home to frame in your kitchen.

(Robert's Western World via Viator)

Just around the corner is the historic Ryman Auditorium, the Mother Church of Country Music and my own personal favorite venue to ever see a show EVER. It was where they broadcast the Grand Ole Opry, among other things, and they offer daily tours. You shouldn't miss it. Johnny Cash kicked the stage lights out in 1965. Those walls hold a lot of stories. Check the schedule, too. You might be able to score some tickets to a pretty bad ass show. You can also walk to the Country Music Hall of Fame. You might not be a fan of country music, but there is a lot of really interesting stuff in there including a car belonging to Elvis (it's tacky in a good way) and Gram Parsons' famous Nudie suit.

IF you are downtown and it is DARK OUTSIDE, you are in luck. You may now visit my most favorite establishment known to man, Robert's Western World. It is the only honky tonk on lower Broadway worth visiting, if you ask me. Boots for sale on the walls, chili cheese fries, and on Friday and Saturday nights they've got the western swing band, Brazil Billy. NOT TO BE MISSED.

East Nashville:

On the other side of the river from downtown is really where most of the cool folks in Nashville spend their free time. It's a neighborhood called East Nashville, and if you ask me it's where the best restaurants are. Have a nice glass of wine in the back yard of Rumour's East, a very lovely wine bar in an old bungalow with a gorgeous back patio. After you've enjoyed your wine, walk on down to Margot Cafe for a very tasty dinner. It's award winning, delicious, and I highly recommend reservations. Across the street from Margot is 3 Crow Bar, a local watering hole. Grab a bushwhacker and hang out for awhile.

Also on the East Side is Marche. It's a GREAT place for brunch and is owned by the same lady who owns Margot Cafe. Again, a reservation on a weekend is highly recommended. Both restaurants have a large focus on local foods. There is also The Pharmacy, an old-school burger parlor & beer garden where you can get specialty burgers and sit outside. Enjoy the spring weather.

(House-made wurst from The Pharmacy by Eric England via Nashville Scene)


Another one of my favorite Nashville haunts is City House. DO NOT MISS THIS. Just don't. It's so good.

Nights in Nashville can be quite fun. I'd say at any given night, hit up the Patterson House for some delicious cocktails. Don't be alarmed; there is no sign on the outside of this old house that serves as a speak easy. They make all of their own bitters and juices, and if you can, get a Sazerac. You will not be disappointed. The Station Inn is also a great place for a night time adventure. It's typically a bluegrass venue, but you can head in there on any given night and see any number of amazing musicians.

12 South:

Imogene + Willie is located in the 12 South area. It's a fabulous little joint that smells so good and has the best stuff. Matt + Carrie, the owners, have designed their own line of denim that they make and sell out of their renovated gas station front. They also have various vintage goods and friendly help. Down the street from Imogene + Willie is Burger Up, a fantastic restaurant with gourmet burgers in a very relaxed atmosphere. Walk another couple of blocks and grab a home made Mexican popsicle from Las Paletas. You can enjoy your tasty treat in the park across the street.

(Imogene + Willie via the K.I.D. Collective)

If you're like me and you can't get enough of digging through bins for vinyl, check out Grimey's for new and pre-loved music. Also, Nashville is home to Jack White's Third Man Records. Visit their brick and mortar location to grab some great vinyl and look at some taxidermy.

My general advice: Enjoy yourself. Ask people around you questions. Nashvillians are so very nice, and they love to talk about their city. They can give you advice about what to do if you find yourself in an unfamiliar location and are always willing to show you where to go. And? Avoid lines at the Pancake Pantry. It looks tempting, I know. But it's disgusting and you don't want to wait in line that long for disappointing pancakes.


And here's cevd on Asheville:

ok, so here is the list of MUSTS, followed by the list of if you have times:

1.  cúrate - if you do one thing in AVL, please, PLEASE let it be eating here.  in fact I'd go as far as to say that if you weren't planning a trip to AVL you should change your plans only so you can eat here.  seriously deeeeeeeeelish.


2. grab lunch from laurey's and head up into the blue ridge mountains. it's going to be beautiful there until november so it doesn't really matter when you go. but do it, spend some time outside, re-live the hunger games if you must, just go. my favorite spots include graveyard fields and mount mitchell, but here's a list for you, just in case.

2A. 12 bones. you guys i nearly forgot this one, and it is IMPORTANT that you go. maybe just slightly more important that laurey's? you can get 12 bones to go as well, but then you miss out on the never ending bbq sauce and very good beer selection.

3. hit up the j.crew outlet, it's just off the blue ridge parkway, it'll be easy! i know I'm going to be blasted into the ether for even saying j.crew in this post, but whatever. it's one of those honest to goodness outlets where you can buy clothes that say SAMPLE on them. also, they always have madewell denim for like $20 and last time I went I scored the cutest alexa chung for madewell dress.  totally worth it. oh and if you happen to be there on a weekend when they are doing the all out warehouse sale, go. i've found designer dresses with barneys' tags on them. seriously, this is the real deal. [Editor's Note: that's cool. you all know I left this one in because of the madewell thing. right??]

4. grab a beer and walk around downtown, maybe in the reverse order? blue spiral 1, mast general store, and others. just stroll, you'll love it.

5. tupelo honey. the S. AVL outpost is a bit less crowded than downtown, but maybe no longer open for breakfast on the weekdays? if you're downtown, they'll serve you breakfast, but you'll wait. however I will say that the ginger cornbread, warm biscuits, sweet potato pancakes, eggs betty, and grilled cheese are all worth it. also, the S. AVL one is kind of lame in that new big restaurant way. it is by no means a chain, but still, the downtown version is cute and quaint and lively, you might not want to skip it.

(The Orange Peel via Skyscraper City)

6. FRENCH BROAD CHOCOLATE LOUNGE. skip dessert at cúrate, oooh it hurts to say that, and head over to the chocolate lounge. get the highland mocha stout cake and the indian kulfi sipping chocolate. go to bed happy.

7. check the schedule at the orange peel. it's one of the best venues i've ever been to.

now if you find yourself with more time to kill :

DINNER : if you're around for another dinner here is my list in order ... the admiral, doc chey's, limones, posana, and table

SHOPPING : head to biltmore village. there is this great jewelry store there, blue, amazing, they make just about everything in house and i've scored some really wonderful pieces there. the rest of the village is pretty suburban, j.crew. williams sonoma. brooks brothers. lilly pulitzer. but it's cute and cobblestoned and the obama's had dinner at the corner kitchen, so there's that.

STUFF :  i guess you could go to the biltmore estate. people love it. it's huge, and the grounds are well kept. also, do you like to zip line? if so, i'd say go with navitat



  1. You are the best advice columnist ever.

  2. One of my favorite travel sites, Designtripper, has some posts about these areas - places to stay and check out.

  3. ME TOO ! i read this and just wanted to hit the road. this is one of my favorite parts of the country ...

  4. Wow. Your readers went above and beyond this time. P.S. I missed you SO MUCH yesterday.

  5. Ahh, where were you when I went to Asheville last summer? I felt so clueless! I did have brunch at the downtown Tupelo Honey which was as charming as you say.

  6. Excellent post, ladies. Nashville is a six-hour drive from here; get ready, Naurnie. xo.

  7. I got all stoked to read about Louisville since I"m going this summer and Rob's only sage advice was "find their version of Bourbon Street and drink."


  8. Replies
    1. We need a lady meet up in somewheres cool. Like Nashville.

  9. COOL!
    i'm totally close to all these things!

    So Louisville's motto is "Keep Louisville Weird," a nod to Louisville's mandate of supporting local artists and business. Bardstown Road is Louisville is a great example of that: it's full of local shops, boutiques, restaurants, and coffe places.

    Also--LOUISVILLE--if you're looking for some entertainment--the Actors' Theatre of Louisville is PHENOMENAL and invests in really groundbreaking work. The Humana Festival is about to happen, and it's INCREDIZIBALLz.

    also, bobby flay had a throw-down with lynn of Lynn's Paradise Cafe over bourbon french toast.....and she won. So...maybe worth a stop into weirdville.

    1. Didn't Austin have that motto first??

    2. When I was in Portland, I was told that was THEIR motto.

      Chicago's all "keep Chicago fratty!" (I kid b/c I love)

    3. You beat me to it, esb. Portland is apparently also trying to take it from us.


      well, i suppose it's a motto worth sharing.

  10. also, ESB, i *almost* died yesterday without your posting. i checked every two hours or so at my normal job to see if you posted it yet.

    have i mentioned i hate my day job? oh i do.

  11. Asheville: The Wedge. Good beer, (in my experience) friendly people. Great atmosphere.

  12. As a recent transplant from Louisville to Nashville, I am excited about this post. Everything Naurnie said is spot on with the exception of Pancake Pantry- yes there is a line but it moves amazingly quickly and on nice days you just hang out with friends listening to the street musicians, drinking the free coffee, and keeping an eye out for celebrities. Then order the sweet potato pancakes. Patterson House is overpriced but fun. It now shares the house with The Catbird Seat so that is the sign you will see out front.

    For Louisville: Lynn's Paradise Cafe for brunch, wander down main street to 21c museum hotel and have fun exploring the lobby, Frankfort Ave and Bardstown Rd have lots of good restaurants and small stores, Friday Night Trolley Hops, there are a number of cool glass blowing studios downtown, Homemade Pie and Ice Cream for dessert. If they overlap with the derby festival at the end of April into the beginning of May there will be lots of fun events going on around town.

    1. Welcome to Nashville, Kentucky gal! Hope you are enjoying it. I'm standing by my Pancake Pantry comments. They got a 50% health department score last year and had to shut down for a couple of days...

  13. this trip sounds like a blast

  14. When in Asheville, you really must go to Ultimate Ice Cream and order a double scoop of their Molasses Gingerbread. You won't regret it. I second the suggestion for the Admiral, which by all appearances is a total dive, so don't be scared off. Table is also great, but I would add Mela to my list of top dinner places, if you like Indian food. Be sure to order the goat cheese naan and shahi paneer. For breakfast, I would skip Tupelo Honey, which is just too damn touristy, and head over to Sunny Point Cafe in West Asheville. They have great patio seating and killer Huevos Rancheros.

    Besides eating six meals a day, you also might enjoy checking out the Blue Ridge Parkway or taking a rafting/kayak/canoe tour of any of the rivers that converge nearby. Warren Wilson College, my alma matter, has lots of hiking trails and a beautiful campus to wander through, if you are looking for less vigorous walking or hiking routes. And if you are up for a day trip, I would suggest checking out Lake Lure, Chimney Rock State Park, or cruising up to Hot Springs to enjoy (of course) the hot spring pools.

    Lastly, it is worth the trip to Pisgah Brewery in Black Mountain, just east of Asheville. On the weekends, you are likely to find live music and a full house here, as well as great $4 drafts.

    1. ULTIMATE ICE CREAM!!! i totally forgot. they are the best, maybe ever. thank you.

      but sunny point, i think their huevos are meh, and ever since the whole best breakfast in america on the today show put their name out there they've become quite a trap themselves. though their patio is nice.

  15. If headed to/around Lexington, make sure to do some Bourbon Trail distillery visits: Maker's Mark is gorgeous, but many of them are great (the scenery around Wild Turkey is pretty fantastic). Sure, you don't end up learning or tasting much after the first few visits, but it's really quite interesting and usually free.

    Not quite sure when you'll be visiting, but during spring/fall meet, be sure to stop by Keenland. Even if you miss the meets, go to the (early!) brunch at Keeneland, which overlooks the horses being taken out and warmed up in the morning.

    The Horse Park is always listed as a must-see, and it is picturesque (and the museum isn't bad), but I'm always a fan of taking visitors out for a drive to see the country, the horses, etc, but you're bound to see a fair bit on your road trip.

    If you're at all outdoorsy, be sure to enjoy a day out in Red River Gorge (or the most accessible part of it, Natural Bridge). There are trails maintained for the casual tourist to gung-ho backpackers and rock climbers.

    I know it sounds strange, but please visit the Lexington Cemetary! Henry Clay may be buried there, as well as denizens from the mid-1800's til today, but it's absolutely gorgeous--flowering trees, flowers, gently rolling slopes--especially in the spring and summer. It's really a surprisingly romantic place to wander about and take pictures.

  16. I was born and raised in Asheville and I'm still shocked that it's so cool now. Used to be we didn't have a J. Crew and Sunday dinner at Western Sizzler on Tunnel Road was the ultimate in dining. I always try to get in a meal at Rezaz when I'm home for a visit. Also drive on the parkway out to the Folk Art Center and buy one of my mom's quilts please!

  17. When you get to Louisville, pick up a copy of the LEO to see what's happening around town that week. (You can find it at any of the shops on Bardstown Rd. and Frankfort Ave. mentioned above.)

    My favorite restaurant is Sari Sari. The daily specials are always awesome and their soup is amazing. It's a small place (only 6 tables) so I recommend going on a weeknight.

    Brunch/Lunch is great at Blue Dog Bakery on Frankfort Ave.

    Another cool area of town to check out is NuLu where on the first Friday of every month is the Trolley Hop which is a fun way to see all of the shops and galleries in the area (a lot of places give out drinks and/or snacks). Stop into Scout where they have lots of beautiful home furnishings, jewelry and fun gifts. And next door is the Beer Store which is a great place to stop for a pre-dinner drink.

    If you want to just enjoy the outdoors check out Cherokee Park.

  18. I'm a three year Louisville transplant and I can say the city has upped their game since I moved here in '08. As far as food in Louisville goes there are tons of great options. I personal think Lynns Paradise Cafe is overpriced and somewhat over rated, but they do have killer Bloody Marys. A better breakfast option might be North End Cafe (there are two locations) or The Cafe (but it is closed Sundays for some stupid reason). The NULU area is pretty cool, there are lost a galleries and good restaurants Wiltshire Pantry is amazing if you want something a little more fancy. Defiantly try Hammerheads, its off the beaten path in Germantown but they have great barbeque (try the duck tacos) if you happen to not eat meat they also have good vegetarian options.
    You can get fancy cocktails at Meat in Butchertown which is above the Blind Pig restaurant, the food there is pretty good too. I could go on and on but I will stop here since I'm guessing you will only be in town a few days.
    Of course you have to go to Churchill Downs to watch some horse racing.It's more fun then you would think, have a Mint Julip while your there.
    Cherokee Park is gorgeous for a romantic stroll, and so is St. James Court in Old Louisville. Hope this helps!
    Have fun!!

    1. Sorry about the bad grammar and spelling, I'm rushing to get to class on time but just had to write this first.

  19. As an Asheville local I say skip Curate replace with Zambras (which has a nicer atmosphere and doesn't focus so heavily on cured meats). Def. Skip Tupelo and go to either Sunny Point or Early Girl for breakfast (although at Sunny Point I'd call in an order and take it to the garden behind their parking lot to eat). Skip the Orange Peel and grab a Mountain Xpress to see who's playing at the Grey Eagle. Also, stop by Harvest Records in West Asheville (they'll be able to tell you if there are good shows while you're here AND sell you tix). Hit Lexington Ave. downtown; have coffee at Izzy's, shop at Minx and Honey Pot, get the veggie bowl at Bocca at lunch or the Tuna Poki at Heiwa).


  21. Can I please say THANK YOU for making a Robert's Western World tag?

    1. I've got limited characters, so I rly have to weigh my tags carefully on these ones. Glad you approve ♥

    2. Naurnie, you know RWW's chili cheese fries are of the devil (enter finger horns on top of head here). Your post was well-written and made me miss you. lots. Please come home soon so we can make bedroom eyes at the Brazilbillies. Love, Jem

  22. I tried not to say the part about " don't go to Gatlinburg" but really, it's disgusting.
    More re: AVL, Skybar for a sunset cocktail, Sazaarac for their upstairs patio and delicious cocktails, and if you want to get truly local, head to Broadways for cheap drinks, pool, and a decent jukebox.

  23. Ok, since I grew up in Tennessee, I figure I'll weigh in on the Gatlinburg situation. As Bill Bryson so eloquently put it in A Walk in the Woods , "For years it has prospered on the confident understanding that when Americans load up their cars and drive enormous distances to a setting of rare natural splendor what most of them want when they get there is to play a little miniature golf and eat dribbly food."

    With that being said, do not get your hopes up about being there. Granted, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park can be lovely, although I do get quite car sick on those curvy roads. Visit Cades Cove, try to do some hikes. It's a popular past time in that area to rent a "chalet" complete with a hot tub for the weekend.

    The Dixie Stampede is pretty fun. We used to love it as children. It's much like one of those Mideval Times restaurants except take out the knights and replace them with the RODEO and some Civil War reenactors. They will also serve you Coke in a glass shaped like a cowboy boot that you can take home with you.

    I would vote that Dollywood is pretty fun. Dolly DOES hang a giant bra on the sign out front when she's in the park. But the only time I was at Dollywood was when I was twelve and was leading a group of Special Olympics athletes throughout the theme park. This, of course, is a story for another time.

    I would just avoid the Ripley's Believe It or Not museum. But the aquarium is kind of cool for like an hour.

    1. a walk in the woods is one of my favorite books EVER. i've read it ... six times? which is a lot for me.

    2. Concur with Naurnie and others. I'm from east Tennessee and got married in Townsend, the town just outside of Cades Cove park. I heartily recommend Townsend over Gatlinburg for your home base. Do the Abrams Falls trail or Gregory's Bald. The latter is a greater elevation change and longer, so it is both harder and more rewarding. Non-hike option: you can rent bikes from the Cades Cove ranger station and just ride the loop or even drive it.

      Food: Melrose Station barbecue on Lamar Alexander Pkwy is not bad and pretty inexpensive, though I really wish I could give you my grandmother's sauce. For a splurge, you can eat with the gourmet folk at Dancing Bear Lodge. OR stop at the Market in Maryville on the way from the interstate (606 High St) and pack a picnic to the park.

      The people at Wood and Strings know their Appalachian music and can give you a little hammered dulcimer lesson. If you're into that kind of thing and coming straight down from Kentucky on I-75, you might as well stop at the Museum of Appalachia, but find out first when there's a concert or storytelling session.

      Also there's not much for nightlife in Townsend.

      It occurs to me one reason you might have wanted to go to Gatlinburg was the fly fishing, but you can also do that in the Little River on the Townsend side of the mountain. For a lazy alternative to see the stream, you can go tubing, though it'll be cold in April!

      The drive from Townsend to Asheville is beautiful any way you go. We honeymooned in Asheville, actually, after our wedding in Townsend. Some words of caution: the park road (441) can get crowded with traffic, Tail of the Dragon (129, south side of the GSMNP) has many hairpin turns, and if you DO get down to Chattanooga as suggested, you can take the Cherohala Skyway from Tellico Plains to Robbinsville, NC.


  24. Wow, thanks so much to cevd, naurnie, and all the commenters for your suggestions (and of course to esb for hooking a gal up). We leave tomorrow, so we will try to take as many of these suggestions as we can. I'm super excited, especially since it was 35 degrees when I left for work this morning.

    Also, I love theme parks and I love Dolly Parton, so we will definitely be hitting up Dollywood.

  25. This comment has been removed by the author.

  26. The Lou suggestions are great - but I'll also add in: some of the Urban Bourbon Trail stops are pretty fun too. I particularly love Baxter Station - GET the bourbon fried chicken and thank me later. ALSO get the fried chicken at Maker's Mark lounge downtown - holy cannoli. Don't eat anything but fried chicken while you are in the great commonwealth. AVOID LOU AND LEX ON SATURDAY 3/31, fyi... there are going to be riots in both places, no matter the outcome of The Game.

    1. Oh that is a good point. The Final Four game of March Madness is happening Saturday and it's between two Ky teams with a huge rivalry. Defiantly steer clear or at least don't go to Bardstown Rd. area or Downtown. Its gonna be ugly. Glad I will be in Chicago.

  27. What a fun road trip! May I suggest a side trip to Chattanooga in between Nashville & Asheville? We have a vibrant downtown scene, tons of outdoor activities thanks to the mountains and Tennessee River, and a first-rate aquarium. (Yes, I have lived here for 7 years now and love it!)

    Also, my husband & I honeymooned in Hot Springs, North Carolina, and one day we went on a day trip to the Navitat zipline course north of Asheville. It's 3 hours zipping through the pristine Appalachian canopy, and even though it rained (!) on the day we registered, we had SO much fun!

    1. OH, and if you come down to Chattanooga, you could make a side trip to both the George Dickel AND Jack Daniels distilleries! (No free samples, due to being in dry counties, but still, a free tour is a fun way to kill an afternoon.)

  28. For the love of god, do not go to Gatlinburg. The Smokey Mountains are beautiful, but that place is a hell hole. Rent a cabin in the mountains instead. Or swap the time you'd spend there for time in Memphis!

  29. Um... I am not a Louisville transplant, lived here most of my life with stints in CA and Italy so from a non-transplant, there are much better things to do than touristy things suggested above (no offense to those) it is just not typically what ESB readers want to do. SO here are my suggestions:

    Louisville is mainly a food place, so be sure to come hungry. Go to JBrown's Cafe in the Brown Hotel, yes this is a bit touristy but it will set the mood. Make sure to take some time to explore the hotel, we are nice here and no one will stop you. If the ballrooms are empty go ahead and peek in, imagine people waltzing away the evenings in the 20's and you will feel great.

    Next hang out in Cherokee Park, take a picnic blanket and marvel at Olmstead's little known outside the Bluegrass design. It is lovely. Then head over to Bardstown Rd. for some shop wondering. We have a fantastic local bookstore (Carmichael's) that was voted the best indie in the country in 2009 by Publisher's weekly. Also check out the Why Louisville store for some kitchy souvenirs of your time here.

    Then head to either the Blind Pig, L&N wine Bistro, Bourbon's Bistro or Basa. They are romantic and have really good food. Also remember, Bourbon is for drinking, not eating. People tend to put it in everything for people coming to "Bourbon country" (which is really our motto btw, not Keep Louisville Weird, that is an advertising campaign...) and it is really only good on salmon.

    If you are in the mood for some drinking after dinner, go to the Back Door. It is a dive bar like no other, literally in the back of a grocery store parking lot, but they have the strongest cheapest drinks in the city and some of the best people watching ever. Also bar games and really amazing pub food if you are still hungry for some reason. And be prepared for a long haul, bars are open till 4am.

    In the morning on your way out of town, head to North End Cafe or Toast on Market for some breakfast. Lynns is a tourist trap that has crappy food. North End's mimosa is kickass and Toast has some really interesting permutations of french toast that will make you wish you lived here so you could eat there again.

    Also, if you need a romantic place to stay I recommend Dupont Mansion in Old Louisville, the largest Victorian neighborhood in the country. It is gorgeous and every room has a private jacuzzi. There is a lovely garden and tasty food. So maybe head to Toast on your way out for some brunch instead.

    Point is, don't get sucked in to the tourist, we have a lot to offer. And if you need more advice, just call Carmichael's. They are like hip city concierges.

    (Not Anon b/c I am hiding, but b/c I don't have a blog. Hi, I am Corin.)

  30. ESB and company, thank you so much. We are heading out to our honeymoon in Asheville in 3 and 1/2 weeks (!!!) and your recommendations could not have been more timely. We are so excited to check out some of the many spots that were suggested. You rock as always! -Beth (also of no blog)

  31. Although it sounds like your bellies will be full for a long, long time, I have to step into the ring and offer my advice as a Lexington native. My husband and I are both students, so we've pretty much scoured the entire town for good food+fun that won't empty our penny jar.

    I definitely second the Bourbon Trail recommendations. My husband is a bourbon fanatic, and I've been to them all. Twice. My favorite tour is Buffalo Trace. It's a little less posh than Woodford Reserve, but much friendlier, and VERY generous with their samples. Their cream liquor is a must-try. You will never drink Bailey's again.

    I am not a huge fan of the Horse Park, and much prefer a country drive as a way to see those fabled farms with mahogany stables and million dollar horses.

    For lunch or a casual dinner, try Stella's Kentucky Deli. They have simple, fresh, and delicious food, with a good selection of Kentucky classics, like the Hot Brown. They are very vegetarian friendly as well. After you eat, take a walk down Jefferson St. and peek inside Wine and Market (a french-style shop with a lot of local foodstuffs and fresh macaroons made by a NYT-rated pastry chef), then walk down 2nd and 3rd street to get an eyeful of some of the prettiest southern architecture in downtown Lexington. The area in and around Ashland Estate is also a great place to walk (and no entry fee!). Table 310 is your best choice for a romantic dinner in Lex. It's got great lighting, impeccable service, and a trendy but not obnoxious vibe. It is fairly expensive, though. We usually go just for dessert and coffee.

    A few other random suggestions: Scout Antiques is really fun/weird shopping, Glover's Bookery and Black Swan books have a fun selection of used/old books, and you can pick up autographed Wendell Berry broadsheets there, too. Spalding's Bakery has the best donuts (a 3rd generation bakery with a line out the door at all times). If you time it right, you might be here for the races at Keeneland, which are only twice a year in October and April. This year they run from April 6-27. They are THE BEST place to see southern fashion, hats and all. I'd advise placing a few $2 bets just to get into the spirit of it all.