Looking for quality family time away from home, yet someplace everyone will adore? Head to Shelbyville, Kentucky.
Here in the “American Saddlebred Capital of the World,” you’ll find a welcoming, family-friendly vibe and a small-town feel. There’s plenty to do: Explore the historic downtown. Take a guided horse ride through rolling pastureland. Play golf. Tour distilleries. Visit horse farms. Dine at locally-owned eateries. Fun options abound for every member of your family, from little ones to teens, adults to great-greats. Here are just a few suggestions.
Settle into Saddlebred Suites, a luxury Airbnb located in the heart of charming, historic downtown Shelbyville. You’ll find plenty of space to relax, incredible city views from every window, and furnishings that are as stunning as they are comfortable. Your extended family can gather together in the main living and kitchen areas as well as enjoy privacy in the bedrooms. When you’re ready to get moving, just step outside and stroll Main Street for friendly small-town shopping, eateries that showcase local fare, and an array of historic architecture. “Saddlebred offers both communal time and privacy,” says Stacy Smith Rogers, owner of The Paddock Coffee, Eats + Gathering, a local eatery that’s conveniently located downstairs.
Step into Gypsy Sisters Boutique on Main Street to find helpful salespeople and lots of affordable clothing options, especially for plus-size shoppers. This colorful showroom contains everything from pajamas, tie-dyed sneakers, baby gear, home goods, and must-haves like loungewear, masks, and caps.
For trendy, southern-girl style, head to the EightTwenty8 Boutique. This shop caters to youthful dressers with chic jewelry pieces and leather handbags to pair with bohemian tops and party dresses. Peruse the holiday décor. Show off your Kentucky-pride with pillows and T-shirts. Choose a new sweater, jeans, and boots to create your next go-to ensemble.
If you aim to dress to impress, the Polkadotted Pineapple Boutique has you covered. The upscale boutique shop is recognized throughout the region for owner Dori Lewis’s custom hats and designer dresses for the horse racing crowd. Need an outfit for a special occasion or a one-of-a-kind gift? You’ll definitely find it here.
For a sweet treat while downtown, indulge in a scoop, shake or sundae from Spotz Gelato. Husband-and-wife owners Beth Richardson and Philip Enlow source milk and fruit from Kentucky dairies and farms for their original recipes. Available flavors rotate regularly, but the top selling banana pudding is a regular feature. “We use real bananas combined with vanilla wafers—those wafers are the best part!” says Richardson.
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There’s even more to discover beyond Main Street. Members of your family whose main interest is shopping won’t want to miss The Outlet Shoppes of the Bluegrass, an outdoor mall in nearby Simpsonville where you can find sought-after brands like Gucci, Kate Spade, and Tory Burch. For a break, head to the mall’s lush courtyards that offer dining tables and a food court. The mall even hosts fun beyond shopping and eating: USA Drive-Ins Simpsonville, a drive-in theater, shows timeless films like Jaws and Harry Potter.
Hungry? Shelbyville satisfies with eclectic restaurant options that serve everything from traditional Kentucky delicacies to creative innovations. Among our family-friendly, one-of-a-kind eateries is Claudia Sanders Dinner House, a buffet restaurant founded by Colonel Sanders’s wife Claudia after the couple moved to Shelbyville in 1959. The local landmark is renowned for its Kentucky fried chicken. Everything on the menu is made-from-scratch and served with Southern hospitality. Savor Kentucky classics like ham and biscuits and Claudia’s hot brown. Shop for bourbon balls and Claudia’s legendary chicken seasoning to bring a taste of Kentucky home with you.
The Barrel Room is a family-friendly tap room where the whole family can play board games and adults can sample selections from the 20 regional beers on tap as well as curated spirits and wines. The Barrel Room throws regular Karaoke parties and hosts live bands, so order from one of the many surrounding eateries, which will deliver, and make an evening of it.
Shelby County is best-known for our horse farms and horse shows. Even beginners can saddle up at Red Fern Riding Center at Shelby Trails Park. “We have a tall mounting block, and you don’t have to have riding experience,” says Justine Saudan, owner/operator. “We get lots of kids with grandparents!” Kids eight and younger can enjoy guided pony rides. Teens, adults, and seniors can hit the trails together on well-trained horses for a guided ride through gorgeous scenery that features creeks, shoreline paths, and big gentle slopes. Shelby Park offers 385 acres and 25 miles of trails, so there’s plenty of nature for hikers and bikers to explore, too. If your family would like to tour a horse farm and learn more about specific breeds, head to Kismet Farm for American Saddlebreds, Lettleiki Icelandics for Icelandic Horses, and/or West Meadow Farm for thoroughbreds.
You’ll find more family fun at Guist Creek Lake & Marina, the county’s largest lake. Rent a 14-foot Jon boat or canoe and explore the 317-acre lake, considered one of Kentucky’s best spots for fishing largemouth bass—the record catch is over 10 pounds!
Clear Creek Park sprawls 130 acres and is Shelby County’s original and oldest park. Its Clear Creek Family Activity Center encourages heart-pumping fun for all ages with four playgrounds, an indoor pool, children’s pool, fitness facilities, basketball courts, tennis courts, indoor walking track, and dry sauna. The center also hosts a mix of special programs and the park also offers a 9-hole golf course, perfect for walker or riders.
Whatever your family’s size and mix of ages, come share memory-making bonding experiences in genuine Kentucky.