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The Group Travel Leader Going on Faith Select Traveler

Shelbyville, Kentucky: Booming in the Bluegrass

Shelbyville, Kentucky at a Glance

Location: Central Kentucky, between Louisville and Lexington

Access: Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport (33 miles from the Shelbyville Conference Center), Blue Grass Airport in Lexington (41 miles); Interstate 64

Major Meeting Spaces: Shelbyville Conference Center, Hampton Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Comfort Inn and Suites

Hotel Rooms: More than 500

Off-Site Venues: Bulleit Distilling Company, Jeptha Creed Distillery, The Stratton Center, Gatsby Inn, Claudia Sanders Dinner House

Contact Info:

ShelbyKY Tourism and Visitors Bureau


Named for Isaac Shelby, who served as the state’s first and fifth governor, Shelbyville, Kentucky, is centrally located between Louisville and Lexington. Or, in Bluegrass State equine parlance, between Churchill Downs and Keeneland Race Course.

The town is located in Shelby County, which is branded as ShelbyKY and is known as the American Saddlebred Capital of the World. Lush, rolling hills dotted with exquisite barns and high-stepping show horses surround its two main towns, Shelbyville and Simpsonville.

In the past 15 years, this rural region has experienced phenomenal growth, as witnessed by the recent addition of the Shelbyville Conference Center and, a few years earlier, the state’s only designer outlet mall, Outlet Shoppes of the Bluegrass near Simpsonville. New lodgings are popping up to accommodate the increase in visitors, including a Fairfield Inn that’s being built next to Jeptha Creed, one of two established distilleries in Shelby County. Another, thus far unnamed, is coming soon.

“We are an ever-evolving county on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail,” said Lynsey Dennison, sales and sports director at ShelbyKY Tourism and Visitors Bureau. “We’re super excited at how we’re blossoming in the bourbon industry.”

In the spring, downtown Shelbyville is showy with dogwood blossoms, its streets populated by specialty shops such as Wakefield-Scearce Galleries, internationally known for English antiques and silver. One of several downtown bed and breakfasts, Bottled in Bond Loft, has been featured on HGTV. The boutique Saddlebred Suites occupies the entire upstairs of a beautifully renovated 1890s building and offers four spacious guest suites with exposed brick and hardwood flooring. A property buyout is perfect for a corporate retreat.

“Our conference center has taken us to a whole new level meetings-wise and allows for a lot bigger groups than we’ve been able to host before,” said Dennison. “We do the ‘front-end loading,’ so when attendees walk into the conference center, the meeting is set up and ready to go.”

Yet ShelbyKY still emanates a folksy, small-town feel, a blend of sophistication and countryside. Meeting attendees can breathe in fresh air as they walk or cycle on the local greenway or take a hayride at Gallrein Farms. Locals show up to see talented Saddlebreds at the annual Shelbyville Horse Show each August. And Claudia Sanders Dinner House, built by the Colonel Harland Sanders for his wife, is known for its “favorite Kentucky dishes the way your grandmother made them.”

A Brand New Conference Center

Opened in October 2021, the Shelbyville Conference Center hosts corporate and community events. Three historic silos stand as outdoor centerpieces in front of the center’s contemporary façade. With 6,800 square feet of meeting space, the center can handle 600 theater-style and 400 banquet-style, and has a boardroom for 12. Lodgings are 10 minutes away, either downtown or nearby along Interstate 64.

Downtown, groups can grab a sandwich at McKinley’s Deli and a beverage at the Old Louisville Brewery’s Barrel Room, then take in a summer concert in the outdoor, covered Stargazer Plaza.

Off-Site Venues

For five generations, the Nethery family has lived on the land where they built Jeptha Creed Distillery. Most of the ingredients in their bourbon, vodka and moonshine are sourced from their farm. Mom Joyce is master distiller. The venue can host events for up to 100 people.

At the county’s other distillery, Bulleit Distilling Company, a customized guest experience can include a distillery tour or classes in cocktail-making, food-and-cocktail pairings and bourbon-tasting.

Team Building

Corporate teams can hit the links for a golf scramble, on-course contest, golf clinic or tee-time event in western Shelby County near Louisville at Persimmon Ridge Golf Club, rated in 2022 as Kentucky’s ninth Best Golf Course by Golf Digest. Or they can compete in a charity fundraiser in Shelbyville at the Weissinger Hills Golf Course.

Groups in town for a few days can try their hand at Gogh Crazy, a pure fun, paint-your-own-pottery studio; learn how to ride Saddlebreds at Kismet Farm; or mount up for a trail ride with experienced guides at Red Fern Riding Center.

Outside the Meeting

ShelbyKY’s “things to do” list can keep attendees’ family members busy. In this equine-centric area, working horse farms abound, some with behind-the-scenes tours, some with hands-on education about a variety of breeds.

Guests can have a genteel brunch and afternoon tea at the circa 1902 Bell House. For wine aficionados, Talon Winery has free live music on weekends and a wide wine selection. Smith-Berry Winery has a 100-year-old tobacco barn event space.