Focus On: Jessamine County

Lexington’s “next door neighbor” is Jessamine County, home to Nicholasville and Wilmore. Both of these towns are worth a visit, especially as our hot summer temperatures begin to cool down. Here’s our list of top things to do in Jessamine County.

Camp Nelson Civil War Heritage Park
Located south of downtown Nicholasville on U.S. 27, Camp Nelson has more than five miles of interpretive trails to walk through this history site, which played an important role for the Union Army during the Civil War. One of the best times to visit is Sept. 6-7 during the Living History weekend. This year is the 150th anniversary. Scenarios, period music, artisans, historical presentations, tours of White House (Officers’ Quarters), and more. Have your picture taken with President Lincoln and Frederick Douglass by a period photographer. 6614 Danville Road, Nicholasville. Info: 881-5716 or visit

Wilmore Arts & Crafts Festival
One of the best times to visit Wilmore is next month for the Arts and Crafts Festival, Saturday, Oct. 4, 9 a.m.-4 p.m. in downtown Wilmore. More than 50 vendors will offer fine art and hand-crafted items such as stained glass, jewelry, quilts and hand carved wood pieces. Enjoy live music, wonderful food and a cake auction throughout the day. Info: 858-4411 or

HighbridgeHigh Bridge Park
Until the early 20th century, High Bridge, in Jessamine County, was the highest bridge over a navigable stream and it was the first cantilever bridge in North America. It is designated an engineering landmark and exhibited as a model in the Museum of American History of the Smithsonian Institute. The 11-acre historical park makes for a nice day trip and includes a playground, historic pavilion, gazebos, an overlook extending 35 feet out over a 400-foot cliff to view two rivers, the spectacular Kentucky River Palisades, and the historic High Bridge railroad bridge. 4865 High Bridge Road, Wilmore.

Dix River Adventures – Ky. River Palisades
You and your family will board a boat at the High Bridge boat ramp, then enjoy a leisurely glide up the Kentucky River. Occasional stops will allow you to capture photos of waterfalls, fauna, wildlife, and (of course) the Palisades. It’s a good trip for out-of-town guests or a family outing on a beautiful day. Info: (859) 705-3198.

Asbury University Equine Center and Challenge Ropes Course
The Equine Center has six miles of trails that overlook the Palisades of the Kentucky River, giving trail riders a wonderful experience in the natural beauty of this area. Students conduct rides for the public and for private parties, which gives the students experience managing a string of horses. Info: 858-3511.

Valley View Ferry
One of the most scenic routes around Kentucky is the trip out Route 169 to the Kentucky River where you can cross with your car on the Valley View Ferry. Established seven years before Kentucky became a state, the Valley View Ferry’s charter was signed by Virginia Governor Patrick Henry (“Give me liberty or give me death.”) in 1785. It is the oldest continuous business in Kentucky and the last ferry remaining on the Kentucky River. There is no charge for ferry rides and/or car transport. A picnic area is provided near the river’s edge. Call before you go as high water and bad weather can shut down the ferry. Info: 258-3611.

Wolf Run Wildlife Refuge
Now celebrating its 30th anniversary, Wolf Run provides a sanctuary for many animals, including wolves and wolf-hybrids that have been rescued from unfortunate situations. Families can tour the refuge during special events. Field trips can be scheduled to see the animals, including lions, bobcats, coyotes, parrots and deer that cannot live on their own in the wild. Volunteers and donations are always needed. 7376 Old Danville Road, Nicholasville. Info: 881-3449.

Taylor Made Farm
Get an insider’s view of one of the world’s most famous and successful horse farms, right here in Nicholasville. The 1,600-acre farm is home to more than 500 horses and some of the world’s most productive stallions. Tours by appointment only. 2765 Union Mill Road, Nicholasville. Info: 885-3345.

Polvino Family Art Center
This 1,900 square foot gallery and workshop space in Nicholasville’s historic downtown district offers monthly exhibits, summer art camps for children, workshops and art classes for all ages, and Fifth Sunday Art Talks throughout the year. The gallery is the keystone to the bi-monthly Creative Art League Gallery Hops. 109 S. Main St. Info:

Just for Mom & Dad
Jessamine County was the site of the first commercial vineyard in the U.S. John James Dufour, formerly of Vevey, Switzerland, named his winery the First Vineyard on Nov. 5, 1798. A year later, the Kentucky General Assembly passed a bill to establish a commercial vineyard and winery. It has recently re-opened as First Vineyard on Sugar Creek Pike and is available for tours and for rental.

Chrisman Mill Vineyard, on the site of the historic Chrisman Mill, has been producing wines since 1999.
The Kentucky Wine and Vine Festival is the official wine festival of the state of Kentucky. It’s been held on the second weekend of May for the past 11 years in downtown Nicholasville.