Whether you’re an early bird, a night owl or something in between, Danville offers great activities for every hour of the day.
Early mornings are lovely for birdwatching at the Central Kentucky Wildlife Refuge. Trails throughout the refuge offer vistas for viewing birds and other fauna, and the refuge’s Fred Loetscher Bird Blind provides close-up views of feeding birds for study and photography, with a guest register for recording visitor names and species seen. In even a brief visit, you may see a dozen or more species, including the Northern Cardinal, Blue Jay, Carolina Chickadee, American Goldfinch, Downy Woodpecker and White-Breasted Nuthatch.
As the sun rises and the mists clear away, it’s time to head back into Danville for a walk through historic downtown. The city’s Main Street has been recognized with the coveted Great American Main Street Award, and as you stroll along it, you’ll see why: bustling shops in vintage storefronts and locals enjoying a midday meal at AJ’s Country Café, Burke’s Bakery and Delicatessen, Plank on Main or Bluegrass Pizza & Pub, with its wide selection of craft beers.
Join us for lunch downtown, or pick up a delicious deli sandwich or salad and enjoy lunch al fresco. Picnic among the manicured gardens and sun-dappled white frame buildings of historic Constitution Square, with its central statue celebrating Kentucky’s establishment as a state in 1792. Or walk over to Centre College, whose lush green lawns, shade-giving trees and stately federal-style buildings are a lovely setting for students and visitors alike to enjoy.
After your lunch, drive out to Wilderness Trail Distillery, 4095 Lebanon Road, for a tour and tasting. Co-founders Shane Baker and Pat Heist, with their strong backgrounds in science and more than twenty years of industry experience, know how to build a great bourbon. They started the Wilderness Trail line with a combination of carefully-curated, proprietary yeast strains, combined with a premium selection of Kentucky Proud® certified seed-grade corn, wheat and rye varietals grown at nearby Caverndale and Walnut Grove Farms and cold, clear water from Kentucky’s natural limestone springs.
During your tour, you’ll see some of the processes that turn these distinctive ingredients into a great Wilderness Trail pour. The distillery’s infusion mashing process, which uses an exact amount of heat to gelatinize starches without derogation of the quality of the grains, yields a soft and flavorful distillate. And because Wilderness Trail uses a clean steam boiler, the first Kentucky Bourbon distillery to do so, the final product is free of the slight chemical taste found in many spirits.
Tours begin in Wilderness Trail’s historic visitors center, on the hour, Tuesday-Saturday 10 am-4 pm (closed 12-1 pm). For groups larger than ten, call ahead: 859-402-8707. Wilderness Trail’s gift shop and tasting bar is open Tuesday-Saturday 10 am-5 pm; tastings, usually $7, are free for veterans, law enforcement and firefighters.
As day settles into evening, plan to catch a show under the stars at Pioneer Playhouse. Founded in 1950 by Colonel Eben C. Henson and his wife Charlotte Henson and still run by the Henson family today, Pioneer Playhouse is the oldest outdoor theatre in Kentucky and a Danville institution.
Colonel Henson acquired many of the theatre’s construction materials in unorthodox ways. He once bartered a fifth of whiskey for hand-hewn two-hundred-year-old rafter beams, and he hired inmates from the local county jail to help him lay the first foundations. Since Henson turned an empty field into a theatre complex, more than 3,000 aspiring actors have strode across the stage, including Lee Majors, John Travolta and Kentucky’s own Jim Varney.
A variety of shows, from Broadway and Off-Broadway standards to works by local playwrights, start at 8:30 pm Tuesday through Saturday throughout the summer, in the outdoor amphitheater unless rain moves the show indoors. But don’t want until 8:30 to arrive! Come early and stroll through Pioneer Playhouse’s quaint replica of early Danville, recently featured on the show “American Pickers.”
Then settle in for a home-cooked feast, announced by the ringing of the Old Danville Firehouse Bell promptly at 7:30. The Kentucky Proud® menu features zesty, slow-smoked BBQ sandwiches with Parmesan-roasted potatoes, coleslaw, farm-fresh sides and homemade pie; vegetarian meals are available with advance notice. Relax and enjoy your meal in the lovely, shaded courtyard while Miss Charlotte sings folk songs on the patio, continuing a popular tradition of more than fifty years. You can also visit the Palace of Sweets, serving many flavors of hand-scooped ice cream, the perfect treat to enjoy on a summer’s evening.
After the show, ready to rest after an exciting day, head back to downtown Danville and retire to Stay Over Danville, a loft apartment whose high Palladian windows overlook beautiful Main Street. The perfect stay for a couple or family group, Stay Over Danville features gorgeous honey-colored wood flooring, a sleek modern kitchen and a distinctive iron spiral staircase. The master bedroom features a king bed and the second bedroom a queen bed.
Enjoy the view of Main Street from the built-in window seats or curl up with a good book in the reading nook at the top of the stairs. Then tuck yourself in for the night, knowing that on this day you’ve made memories that will last a lifetime.