Northern KY – Gateway Itinerary
Northern Kentucky – or NKY as the locals call it – is quite literally where the South begins! You’ll notice a mixture of north and south from German fusion in their culinary and brewing heritage, and their penchant for good ‘ol southern fried chicken and whiskey.
NKY has played an important role in the movement and production of whiskey throughout our country’s history. Today visitors can explore the booming craft distillery scene, shop at Newport on the Levee and enjoy delicious meals and cocktails at any of their top-notch establishments. NKY is also a great place to start your Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour® passport, with 5 distilleries right there. Need another challenge? While you’re at it, drop in to at least 2 distilleries, 2 bars and 2 restaurants listed on your B-Line passport to complete your NKY Bourbon experience and #FindYourSippingPoint.
Start your Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour® passport at New Riff Distilling. Discover how New Riff is putting their own modern spin on an age-old tradition, making high quality Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey. If time allows, book a limited Barrel Proof or Inside the Lab tour to see their west campus and taste some special offerings in their sensory lab. Don’t leave the New Riff parking lot without dropping into the Party Source and filling up your cart with some nectar of the gods. Party Source is one of the country’s largest liquor stores with more than 20,000 brands to choose from. They strive to carry every Bourbon produced in Kentucky, and have over 50 private barrel selections available for purchase.
See the future at Second Sight Spirits when you consult their still that is shaped like a fortune teller. Settle in for some great stories and even better spirits as Rick and Carus show you around the distillery. And be sure to enjoy the newly opened cocktail bar just next door.
Just a short drive south from Second Sight will bring you to the Boone County Distilling Co. Boone County Distilling has taken up the tradition of a distillery that once was located only miles from the current facility. Stop in to see why their spirits are “made by ghosts” and sample their Kentucky Bourbon, Bourbon Cream and their White Whiskey, Tanner’s Curse.
Keep heading south to Sparta, home of the Kentucky Speedway, and drop in on the Neeley Family Distillery to see what 11 generations of distilling heritage looks like. Founder Royce Neeley’s parents caught him distilling moonshine in his college dorm room and encouraged him to turn his hobby into an official licensed distillery to also include Kentucky Bourbon.
Follow the river back east to Maysville – a picturesque town nestled on the banks of the Ohio River in northeastern Kentucky, just one hour from Cincinnati, Ohio. The Old Pogue Distillery operates under DSP KY-3 by fifth and sixth generations of the Pogue family whose ancestors began operations in Maysville in 1876. Old Pogue makes only Kentucky Bourbon and rye whiskies using their time-honored family recipes. Be sure to make an online tour reservation at Old Pogue as walk-ins are not always available. If you arrive without a reservation or just want to extend your tour, be sure to visit the Old Pogue Experience located at the Kentucky Gateway Museum Center in Maysville.
Now that you’ve knocked off some distilleries on your KBTCT and B-Line passports, it’s time to get your belly full and enjoy some handcrafted cocktails!
Settle into Bouquet for an upscale farm-to-table dinner and choose from their extensive Bourbon selection. If New Orleans-inspired fried chicken is more your speed, then the Purple Poulet has your number. Check into Coppin’s at Hotel Covington for their house old fashioned (on-tap no less!) and rest your head in the luxurious boutique hotel. Make reservations at Tousey House Tavern in Burlington and choose from one of their curated Bourbon flights. While in Maysville, make sure to grab dinner at Chandler’s on Market for one of their signature steaks or fresh fish.
You must be thirsty now, and we’ve got you covered. Coffee shop by day, Bourbon bar by night, you could call Prohibition the superman of Bourbon bars. With more than 2,000 Bourbons, ryes and other whiskeys, Prohibition may well have one of the largest collections of whiskey in the world. Next, head into downtown Covington to The Globe. Formerly Club Venus gentleman’s club, the space underwent a complete transformation into a sleek, modern Bourbon bar known for crafted cocktails and locally-sourced ingredients.
Lace up your sneakers (or leave those heels on) – your next three stops are within an easy two block walking distance in Covington’s Mainstrasse Village. The knowledgeable bartenders and extensive offerings at Bourbon Haus 1841 are sure to please even the most discerning palate. At Old Kentucky Bourbon Bar, Bourbon is undoubtedly their passion. With more than 600 Bourbons to choose from, crafted flights, cocktails and OKBB single barrel selections, your decisions will be tough! Squeeze your way through the narrow Goodfella’s Pizzeria “front” and ascend the stairs to reach the speakeasy at Wiseguys Lounge – ask about their flaming cocktail, the Broken Hatchet.
Northern Kentucky has much more than great distilleries and cocktails to offer. From sports to shopping to the great outdoors, you can find it here. One of the area’s greatest attractions is the Newport Aquarium – showcasing thousands of animals from around the world in a million gallons of water, including the enormously popular “Sweet Pea” and “Scooter,” the stars of the first shark ray breeding program in the world.
Walk out of the aquarium and you are at Newport on the Levee. There’s something for everybody with tons of options for shopping, arcades, bowling, movies and so much more. As the sun sets, you’ll have the most spectacular view of the Cincinnati skyline just across the river.
Major League Sports
Buckle up sports fans, because NKY/Cincinnati is home to three major league teams – the Bengals for football, the Reds for baseball, and FC Cincinnati for soccer. If racing tickles your fancy, NKY has both race cars and race horses. The Kentucky Speedway has hosted NASCAR, Indy Racing League and ARCA racing since it opened in 2000. Turfway Park conducts live Thoroughbred horse racing during two meets each year – Holiday (December), and Winter/Spring (January to late March/early April) – and offers year-round simulcast wagering from tracks across the continent.
Nobody does events like the fine folks of NKY. Glier’s Goettafest is a 8-day celebration of the German-influenced meat and grain sausage popular in the region. The spectacular Labor Day fireworks show featured during Riverfest is one of the largest in the country. Every February, the Bootsy Collins Foundation hosts the Cabin Fever Music + Art Fest in Ludlow to break up the dreary winter blues. Featured artists have included DJ Lance from Yo Gabba Gabba and Bootsy himself – former band member with James Brown and the Parliament-Funkadelic. Coming for the first time in October of 2019, the Kentucky’s Edge Festival will feature Bourbon tastings and pairings, a Bourbon-centric conference, music, and a Kentucky artisan market. Color us excited!
NKY is also home to some architectural gems. The Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption was built in 1894 and is one of 85 minor basilicas in the US. The cathedral’s magnificent gothic architecture was inspired by the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris – try to find all 32 gargoyles and 26 chimeras on the outside of the building. The cathedral isn’t the only architecturally impressive church in the area. The Mother of God Church was built by its German congregation in 1870 in the Italian Renaissance Style with high ceilings and large murals.
The John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge, named for the civil engineer who designed it, has been a northern Kentucky icon along the city skyline for nearly a century and a half. When the Roebling Suspension Bridge opened to traffic on January 1, 1867, its 1,057-foot span made it the longest suspension bridge in the world, a record it retained until 1883 when Roebling’s most famous project, the Brooklyn Bridge opened.
We know that the best architect is mother nature, and did she ever bless NKY! Devou Park is a regional asset spanning 700+ acres. This park offers an array of recreational and entertainment opportunities including an 18-hole golf course, multiple playgrounds and picnic shelters, more than eight miles of mountain bike trails, an amphitheater, a fishing lake, paved and nature trails, and more.
Leave the car behind, there are so many other fun ways to see the city. Set sail from the Newport Landing and relax on a BB Riverboat cruise. Grab some friends and BYOB on a pedal wagon tour of Covington, or check out a Red Bike and glide around town on two wheels at your leisure.
If you feel like having a little adventure away from the hustle and bustle of the city, head west to Rabbit Hash – population, ~300. The community is noted for electing canine mayors – Brynneth Pawltro the pit bull is the current mayor residing over the community. Make sure to visit the famed Rabbit Hash General Store built in 1831 and operating today as an antique store and venue for local musicians. Big Bone Lick State Park is considered to be “the birthplace of American paleontology” due to the 1k pound fossilized mastodon skull that was found there. The park features educational hiking trails and a herd of bison that can be seen year round.
Come back into town to hit another B-Line stop or enjoy some of the local German heritage at one of the craft breweries in town such as Braxton, Wooden Cask, Bircus, Darkness, and Hofbrauhaus. Rise and shine with a fresh cup of Carabello coffee, roasted right here in NKY. From trendy taco joints to traditional German fare, you certainly will not go hungry in NKY! Click here for more info on dining options.
NKY is your destination for music, fine art, ballet, theatre and so much more. Take in a show or peruse the art museum at The Carnegie. The Southgate House Revival is housed in an 1866 church. And has three rooms that host live music every night: the sanctuary, the lounge and the revival room. The Sanctuary still has an original pipe organ that was made in Cincinnati and sits behind the main bar.
Located just across the river in Cincinnati, The Taft Museum of Art is one of the finest small art museums in America. Housed in part in a National Historic Landmark built in 1820, the Taft is home to an extensive art collection that includes major works by Rembrandt, Goya, and Whistler, as well as the greatest Gothic ivory sculpture in America.
Recently voted the #1 Hotel in Kentucky, stay at Hotel Covington to experience the local influence including Covington-made Donna Salyers’ Fabulous Fur throws in every room. Another boutique hotel option is Aloft at Newport on the Levee, where you have quick access to downtown Cincinnati via the pedestrian-only Purple People Bridge. Looking for more options? Choose from any of these other hotel or B&B offerings.
NKY is a convenient place to begin and/or end your KBTTM journey because it is home to the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, which has the lowest airfares in the region and connects to most airports within the country and beyond. A quick drive down I-71 to Louisville or I-75 to Lexington will get you started on your Kentucky Bourbon Trail® passport.