Meeting planners wanting to host their events outside of a major urban center have their pick of smaller Kentucky cities. Here are five destinations that boast amazing attractions, full-service hotels and unique meeting venues to satisfy the needs of any size group, and all within a short drive of Louisville, Lexington or Cincinnati.
Sixteen miles outside of Lexington, Georgetown is a small town in the midst of horse country. Georgetown’s picturesque downtown is filled with local restaurants and shops offering unique Kentucky Bluegrass experiences. Meeting attendees wanting to learn more about the state’s famous horses and Thoroughbred racing will want to make time to visit The Kentucky Horse Park and Old Friends.
The Kentucky Horse Park, a working horse farm, educational theme park and equine competition facility is the largest state-owned tourist attraction and the largest attraction in central Kentucky. It also is one of the top meeting venues in the area, hosting horse and trade shows, conferences, weddings and concerts. Its indoor facilities can accommodate thousands of people.
The 1,224-acre park features dozens of different breeds of horses at work and at play. The park hosts daily equine presentations, offers horse-drawn wagon tours and has museums dedicated to the history of horses.
Old Friends, a 136-acre Thoroughbred retirement farm, is another big draw, allowing visitors to get up close and personal with some of the stars of horse racing, including Kentucky Derby winner Silver Charm.
Georgetown has 1,191 hotel rooms, with an additional 94 coming online this fall. It has two full-service hotels, the 108-room Hilton Garden Inn with 4,076 square feet of meeting space and Holiday Inn Express with 85 guest rooms and 6,500 square feet of meeting space. After hours, groups can enjoy craft beers, live music and trivia nights at Georgetown’s own Country Boy Brewing or ride horses at Whispering Woods Riding Stable.
Shepherdsville-Bullitt County, just 20 minutes south of Louisville, is known as the birthplace of Jim Beam. People come from all over the world to visit the Jim Beam Visitor Center in nearby Clermont, take tours of the distillery or participate in bourbon tastings or cocktail mixology experiences. The Kitchen Table restaurant on-site has a small dining area that can host smaller meetings.
The county is also home to Four Roses Bourbon, which offers distillery tours and an expanded visitor center in nearby Lawrenceburg, and four award-winning wineries. The Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest is a 16,140-acre nature preserve in Bullitt County that was donated to the people of Kentucky by the Bernheim family, which made its money in bourbon. It has beautiful art installations throughout, hiking trails and a green-built visitor center.
Meeting planners will not have a hard time getting attendees to visit the area. Not only is it just a few minutes’ car ride from everything Louisville has to offer, but it has plenty of meeting space and lodging outside the hustle and bustle of the city. The Paroquet Springs Conference Centre has more than 20,000 square feet of indoor space that can host groups up to 2,000. The 12,000-square-foot Salt River Expo Hall can host 684 for a banquet. There is a full-service kitchen and outdoor meeting spots available. There are two hotels within walking distance, Sleep Inn and Suites and Country Inn and Suites.
The seventh-largest city in Kentucky, Richmond is the site of Fort Boonesborough State Park, one of the earliest settlements in Kentucky, and Battle of Richmond Visitors Center and Battlefield Park, the site of the second-largest Civil War battle fought in Kentucky. About 23 miles outside of Lexington, Richmond is a nice option for meeting groups wanting to be near the larger city. Richmond relies on Eastern Kentucky University for most of the conferences and events held there.
The Carl D. Perkins Conference Center on the EKU campus features meeting, classroom and special event spaces for 20 people up to a banquet of 200. Other buildings available for rental on campus include Alumni Coliseum, Brock Auditorium, Keen Johnson Building and O’Donnell Auditorium. Ravine, an outdoor amphitheater, can host groups up to 5,000 people with greenspace and a stage.
White Hall State Historic site is managed by the university. It is a 45-room mansion built in 1791 by Green Clay, a prominent businessman, surveyor and slave owner. The home later passed to his son Cassius Marcellus Clay, a writer and politician known for his emancipationist views. The space is now a museum and event venue. Chenault Vineyards has a large reception hall that can seat 300 guests for dinner. The facility has a large patio with fire pits overlooking the vineyards and surrounding farmland. Silver Creek Barn can seat up to 120 guests for a banquet. The vineyard’s Welcome Center and Kirksville Saloon are also available for smaller events.
Richmond has 15 hotels with 700 guest rooms.
Kentucky is known for its bourbon and Thoroughbred horses, and Shelbyville has both. The city is home to two bourbon distilleries, Bulleit Distillery and Jeptha Creed Distillery, which are within easy driving distance of all the distilleries on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. The city also has bourbon-themed lodging, shopping and dining.
Shelby County is home to more than 90 Saddlebred horse farms, earning it the moniker Saddlebred Horse Capital of the World. The Shelbyville Horse Show is one of the most popular events in the area and is known around the world. Meeting planners wanting to take part in these very Kentucky activities have several meeting venues to choose from, including the 11,700-square-foot Shelbyville Conference and Welcome Center, which can host groups from 10 to 500 people. The center includes a large banquet hall and three smaller meeting spaces that can host up to 142 guests for a sit-down dinner.
Groups wanting to take a tour of local distilleries, wineries, farms and Kentucky’s only designer outlet mall can organize a ride on the Shelbyville Trolley. Stargazer Plaza is an outdoor venue in the heart of downtown Shelbyville. The venue is ideal for concerts, events and programs and includes a stage, restrooms and a small parking lot.
The second-largest city in northern Kentucky, Florence is located off of Interstate 75, next to the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport. Meeting planners wanting to host events in Florence not only have access to everything the city has to offer but also everything Cincinnati and nearby Kentucky towns have.
Some of the top attractions in Florence also make great meeting venues. Groups can take in a Florence Y’alls baseball game or watch a live horse race at Turfway Park, which has 17,000 square feet of indoor event space. Bourbon lovers will want to take a tour of Boone County Distilling Co., and visitors to the area can’t pass up a chance to visit two of northern Kentucky’s most famous attractions, the Ark Encounter and Creation Museum. There are 7,000 hotel rooms in northern Kentucky, and more than 3,000 of those are in the Florence area.
Because of its proximity to the airport, some of the top meeting venues in Florence and the surrounding area are full-service airport hotels, including Hilton Cincinnati Airport, with 7,000 square feet of meeting space; Holiday Inn Cincinnati-Airport, with 304 guest rooms and 13,000 square feet of meeting space; Hyatt Place Cincinnati Airport-Florence, with 126 sleeping rooms and 920 square feet of flexible meeting space; and the 302-room Marriott Cincinnati Airport, which has 11 event rooms and 10,593 square feet of meeting space.