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  • Touring the Old Forester distillery in downtown Louisville, Kentucky
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    Louisville, Kentucky: The Urban Gateway to Kentucky Bourbon

  • The start of a horse race at Keeneland in Lexington, Kentucky
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    Lexington, Kentucky: Entertainment Meets Idyllic Escapes

  • A bluegrass band performing at ROMPfest in Owensboro, Kentucky
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    Owensboro, Kentucky: Bluegrass and Barbecue

  • Gateway Arch National Park in St. Louis, Missouri
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    St. Louis, Missouri: Icons of the USA

  • The Haygoods, one of the popular live music shows in Branson, Missouri
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    Branson, Missouri: A Show-Stopping Introduction to the Ozarks

  • Couple strolling through downtown Eureka Springs, Arkansas
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    Eureka Springs, Arkansas: Quaint Mountain History

  • Art on display inside the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas
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    Bentonville, Arkansas: From Small-town Charm Meets World-class Art

  • Strolling the underground pathways at Blanchard Springs Caverns & Recreation Area near Mountain View, Arkansas
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    Mountain View, Arkansas: Heart of Ozark Nature and Culture

Rolling grassy hills at Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington
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Bourbon, Bluegrass and Barbecue: Experience the South from Louisville to the Ozarks

By Jason Macumber

  • Route distance:
    1,800.00
  • Suggested Time:
    1-2 weeks

A triple threat of Southern charm, this scenic tour through Kentucky, Missouri and Arkansas provides access to delicious comfort food, historical sites and stunning outdoor vistas.

Indulge in decadent barbecue, groove to soulful bluegrass and taste fine bourbons while exploring towns that are the epitome of Southern hospitality. Explore the gateway city of Louisville, Kentucky, tour cultural monuments in Branson, Missouri, and marvel at the Ozark Mountains in Arkansas. From the city lights to warm country nights, prepare to drink, taste and answer the call of adventure.

01
Touring the Old Forester distillery in downtown Louisville, Kentucky
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Louisville, Kentucky: The Urban Gateway to Kentucky Bourbon

After flying into Louisville International Airport (SDF), rent a car and hit the open road to start your escapades in this delightful city’s downtown. Stop by the Old Forester Distillery, which is known for its trademark – America’s First Bottled Bourbon. Take a tour of the distillery, learn the ins and outs of the whiskey-making process and, of course, taste! Once you’ve sipped and savored some libations, horse-lovers should take a trip to Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby Museum. Featuring interactive exhibits and artifacts from horse-racing legends, the museum is the perfect place to spend the afternoon. At the adjacent Churchill Downs Racetrack, seeing Thoroughbreds in action is simply awe-inspiring. Louisville is more than spirits and stallions. If you’re looking to experience the city from a different perspective, why not rent a bicycle and pedal through Cherokee Park? Cycle across The Big Four Pedestrian & Bike Bridge and work up an appetite that’s best satiated at Harvest, an award-winning farm-to-table restaurant in the NuLu Arts District. Known for its rustic and regional cuisine, the menu changes regularly thanks to utilizing fresh, seasonal ingredients.

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126 km
1.5 hours by car
02
The start of a horse race at Keeneland in Lexington, Kentucky
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Lexington, Kentucky: Entertainment Meets Idyllic Escapes

Once you’ve had your fill at Harvest, drive to Lexington, Kentucky, where rolling green fields and picturesque farmhouses await, as well as more delicious bourbon. Spend the day at The Arboretum State Botanical Garden of Kentucky and wander through a 44-hectare arboretum on the University of Kentucky’s campus. Prepare to admire 1,200 varieties of roses in the Rose Garden. During your stay in Lexington, a trip to the Kentucky Horse Park shouldn’t be missed. Enjoy a trail ride on the scenic outskirts of the property, and take a tour of the horse farm that also doubles as an equine educational theme park. Seeking a night on the town? Groove to musical acts at The Burl, an old train depot turned local hotspot where you can party the night away to trendy tunes. Before you pack up and head to Owensboro, stop for a tour of the James E. Pepper Distillery. Immerse yourself in the art of bourbon making, then head to the Middle Fork Kitchen Bar for flavorful and fresh farm fare. Don’t skip the farm-to-brine pickles if you want the perfect crunch to munch.

283 km
2.83 hours by car
03
A bluegrass band performing at ROMPfest in Owensboro, Kentucky
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Owensboro, Kentucky: Bluegrass and Barbecue

Dream of finger-licking-good barbecue as you drive to Owensboro, Kentucky, and satisfy your cravings at the Moonlite Bar-B-Q Inn. Known for its Kentucky-specific mutton, this down-home, family-owned eatery is famous for its award-winning barbecue. Sample fresh beef, mouthwatering mutton and tender pulled pork. Don’t forget cherry cobbler for dessert. Once you’ve filled up on some good eats, burn off calories with a stroll through Yellow Creek Park. Experience the natural beauty of Kentucky via the many hiking trails, snap Instagram-worthy photos by a sparkling lake or picnic in one of the recreational areas. For those seeking a low-key afternoon, head to the Bluegrass Hall of Fame and Museum, where you can check out interactive exhibits, enjoy live banjo music and experience the preservation of Kentucky’s heritage through instrument demonstrations. If you’re visiting in June, don’t miss ROMPfest. This three-day bluegrass extravaganza features incredible bands and performances that celebrate Kentucky and its musical culture. For those seeking music and moonlight amid the excitement, campgrounds are available around the staging lots.

332 km
3.17 hours by car
04
Gateway Arch National Park in St. Louis, Missouri
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St. Louis, Missouri: Icons of the USA

With bluegrass and barbecue in the rear-view mirror, your Southern adventure continues to St. Louis, Missouri, where iconic sites are waiting to be explored. Your first stop should be Gateway Arch National Park along the banks of the Mississippi River. Once you’ve snapped photos of the arch in all its glory, tour historic buildings such as the Old Courthouse and Museum of Westward Expansion. For families looking for a fun afternoon with the kids, the St. Louis Zoo in Forest Park is a must-see destination. A leading zoo in animal research and conservation, highlights include Polar Bear Point, where the great white giants roam, and Big Cat Country. If you’re looking to listen to blues music, the National Blues Museum is an immersive experience that transforms you into a blues artist for the day. Feel the thrill of producing, wander through ultra-cool exhibits and enjoy the rich musical heritage of St. Louis. You can’t experience the city fully without grabbing some delicious local grub. Pappy’s Smokehouse is a popular spot with the locals – bite into tangy, wood-smoked St. Louis-style ribs that are sure to tantalize your taste buds.

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406 km
3.83 hours by car
05
The Haygoods, one of the popular live music shows in Branson, Missouri
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Branson, Missouri: A Show-Stopping Introduction to the Ozarks

From luxury resorts to lively entertainment, Branson, Missouri, is the perfect gateway to the wonders of the Ozarks. Venture back to the 1880s at Silver Dollar City, a theme park that features over 40 rides, toe-tapping entertainment and exceptional shopping. Don’t leave before you’ve experienced the American Plunge, a thrilling ride that climbs five stories before plummeting at 56 km per hour into the water below. Next, continue your adventure at the Branson Strip, a famed thoroughfare that features attractions such as Dick Clark’s American Bandstand Theatre, Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede and Presley’s Country Jubilee. During your stay in Branson, indulge in a bit of pampering. Treat yourself to mountain views in the heart of the Ozark Mountains at the Chateau on the Lake Resort Spa. Release the tension of travel with an 80-minute relaxing massage before dining at the lakeside Chateau Grille – the butter-poached shrimp are tender and tasty. Wrap up your Branson trip with a sunset cruise on Lake Taneycomo. Take off from Branson Landing on a grand riverboat or luxury yacht for a unique view of the city as the sun dips below the horizon.

80 km
1.17 hours by car
06
Couple strolling through downtown Eureka Springs, Arkansas
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Eureka Springs, Arkansas: Quaint Mountain History

After exploring Branson, take a short detour to Eureka Springs, Arkansas. Nestled in the Ozark Mountains, this picturesque town beckons visitors with its artsy allure, outdoor recreational activities and historic charm. Begin your adventure with a tram tour of downtown and see popular sites such as the haunted Crescent Hotel and the Grotto Spring Museum. After you’ve toured the city, enjoy a performance at the Intrigue Theatre. Illusionist Sean-Paul dazzles with displays of magic and wonder that must be seen to be believed. A trip to Eureka Springs warrants a visit to the Funnel Cake Factory. A hit with the locals, you can indulge on stuffed corndogs and funnel cakes topped with delicious delights. Once you’ve filled up on sugary confections, spend the afternoon at Mitchell’s Folly Antiques & Fine Art. This captivating store offers an eclectic collection of vintage art and antiques with a dash of quirky charm. Finally, cap off your trip to with a drive to Basin Spring Park – an ancient healing spring used by the local Native American Tribes and settlers. It’s the perfect place to refresh and recharge before heading out on the next leg of your journey.

63 km
1 hour by car
07
Art on display inside the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas
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Bentonville, Arkansas: From Small-town Charm Meets World-class Art

Now that you’re rejuvenated from your trip to the healing spring, buckle up and settle in for a scenic ride to Bentonville, Arkansas. Known for its small-town charm, art scene, unique eateries and the original Walmart, you’ll find there’s much to see and do. Discover world-class exhibits at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. Featuring works from revered artists such as Georgia O’Keefe, Norman Rockwell and Andy Warhol, this museum is an architectural gem surrounded by a pristine Ozark forest. Don’t leave the museum before walking along the art trails that include Jame Turrell’s breathtaking “Skyscape, The Way of Color.” No trip to Bentonville is considered complete without a visit to The Preacher’s Son. Once a Gothic Revival church, the property is now home to an elegant restaurant featuring succulent dishes sourced from local, sustainable ingredients. Try the house-made cornbread with whipped butter – it’s melt-in-your-mouth perfection. Prior to heading to your final stop on this tour de force trip of the South, check out the Walmart Museum and relive the birth of the historic store chain. The insight into the store’s legacy is worth the visit, and the souvenirs from the gift shop make great gifts.

270 km
3.42 hours by car
08
Strolling the underground pathways at Blanchard Springs Caverns & Recreation Area near Mountain View, Arkansas
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Mountain View, Arkansas: Heart of Ozark Nature and Culture

Answer the call to adventure in Mountain View, Arkansas, where awe-inspiring views and natural wonders await. Start the day at the Ozark Folk Center State Park, an immersive experience devoted to showcasing and preserving the Ozark culture. Meet crafters and artisans, listen to the melodic rhythm of bluegrass and wander through expansive herb gardens. Grab lunch on-site at The Skillet Restaurant known for its fried chicken and buffet. Next, venture underground and into the Blanchard Springs Caverns & Recreation Area. Explore impressive cave formations, dip your toes in cool, clear streams and don’t miss the fascinating Water Works exhibit. For those seeking a challenge, there are a variety of scenic trails in the Ozarks where you can view sandstone bluffs along the North Sylamore Creek area. Your last stop should be PJ’s Rainbow Café. They’re dishing out country-fried cuisine that’s sure to please any palate. With your belly full and sense of adventure satiated, you can fly out of Memphis, Tennessee, as your journey comes to a close.