Art, Nature and Entertainment: A Weekend in Henderson, Kentucky

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The perfect weekend getaway awaits in Henderson, Kentucky. Nestled on the shores of the scenic Ohio River, this riverside sanctuary boasts small-town charm, stunning green spaces, and a thriving arts and culture scene.

From the lush wilderness of Audubon State Park to sculptures and murals downtown, prepare for an incredible weekend in Henderson County.  

Day 1: Discover Art, History and Entertainment

Morning

Kick off the weekend at one of Henderson’s downtown cafes or coffee shops. Grab a breakfast burrito at Sidewalk Cafe, chow down on a homemade muffin at Roast Coffee Bar, or get your caffeine fix at the trendy Antler Specialty Goods, serving lattes with homemade syrups ranging from toasted walnut to rum-infused maple.

Audubon Mill State Park and RiverWalk. Photo Credit: Henderson, Kentucky.

Spend the morning exploring the riverfront and downtown Henderson. Check out the RiverWalk, a 2.5-mile-long paved walking trail with views of the Ohio River and the downtown area. Enjoy a stroll over gently rolling hills and watch for the trains rumbling over the CSX railroad bridge. While downtown, take the self-guided Audubon Bird Sculpture Tour. You’ll find 15 of the 16 bronze bird sculptures throughout the area – all recreations of John James Audubon’s work by Kentucky-based sculptor Raymond Graf. Keep an eye out for sculptures like the Belted Kingfisher, Great Horned Owl, and Pigeon Hawk (some sculptures even have hidden creatures on them).

Love history and architecture? See pre-Civil War, Italianate, and 19th-century Victorian buildings throughout downtown Henderson on a self-guided walking tour. Check out the stained-glass windows and metal ornamentation of the Blackwell-Vaughn House, marvel at the pink facade of the Talbott-Gadient House, and snap photos of The Vault, a bank dating back to the late 1800s.

Afternoon

Grab lunch at Homer’s for authentic Kentucky barbecue like pulled pork and baked beans (the brisket grilled cheese is also a hit). Favor Italian? Check out Rockhouse on the River for its famous strombolis and pizza with views of the Ohio River.

Next, it’s time to see more of Henderson’s art scene and enjoy some shopping. Check out rotating exhibits featuring still photography, digital art displays, and more at Gallery 101 in The Depot Welcome Center. Or, admire regional artwork from the Beaven Art Gallery at the Henderson Public Library and Preston Arts Center. Be sure to scope out the street art in Henderson’s downtown area – you’ll find murals around every corner, like the “Discover Your Nature” mural, depicting local flora and fauna and Henderson’s railroad bridge. Snap a selfie while you’re there!

Gallery 101 in The Depot Welcome Center. Photo Credit: Henderson, Kentucky.

Round out your afternoon by shopping at Henderson’s unique shops and boutiques. Browse stores like Butler’s Apothecary (check out the old-fashioned soda fountain) and Corkscrew Curiosities, home to antiques and one-of-a-kind vintage pieces.

Evening

Nothing beats some good old Southern comfort food, and Hometown Roots is where it’s at. Order classics like fried chicken, catfish, and country-fried steak, or go for an iconic Kentucky Hot Brown. For fresh seafood and steak, you can’t go wrong with Rookies. Feast on their famous prime rib, groove to live music or watch the game on one of the 12 flatscreen TVs.

End the evening with a night of quality Henderson entertainment. Catch a show at the Preston Arts Center. Sing along with Broadway-style productions like Chicago and concerts from groups like the Vienna Boys Choir. Or, jam out at The Elm, a 5,000-square-foot historic downtown venue with live music from bands like The Sellouts and 2 Miles Back. Grab a drink, listen to great music, and maybe even dance! If you’re still searching for the perfect souvenir, the onsite pop-up market showcases local vendors like Olive + Mae Boutique and Buzzy Body Bath.

Day 2: Explore the Great Outdoors

Morning

Start the day with breakfast at one of Henderson’s hidden gems, Cairo Country Cafe. Chow down on decadent breakfast sandwiches, scrambled eggs, and silver-dollar pancakes. For something sweet, grab fresh donuts and a coffee at Golden Glaze.

It’s all about exploring Henderson’s natural landscapes this morning, and there’s no better place than John James Audubon State Park. Here, you can explore 649 acres of wilderness, trails and even a museum. Hike on six miles of trails that weave through wetlands and a cypress slough. Tour the John James Audubon Museum, which features the world’s largest collection of art and artifacts from the famous artist and naturalist. Love birdwatching? Keep an eye out for waterfowl, sparrows and warblers. The park’s lake is perfect for kayaking. And if you love sports, play a game of golf, pickleball or tennis.

Check out the Henderson Farmers Market at the Henderson County Fairgrounds if you’re in town Tuesday, Friday or Saturday. Sample local honey and jams while you shop for massive heads of cabbage, cauliflower, and other fresh, seasonal produce. Pick up a bouquet of locally grown flowers, listen to one of the live bands that play under the pavilion, and indulge in baked goods by the slice from one of the many vendors!

Afternoon

Ready for lunch? Recharge with a burger or bowl of chili at Metzger’s Tavern, the oldest continuously operating tavern in the state. Or, satiate your barbecue cravings at Thomason’s Barbecue. Order the mutton with a side of their legendary barbecue baked beans.

Thomason’s Barbecue. Photo Credit: Henderson, Kentucky.

Prepare to choose your own adventure for your second afternoon in Henderson. Chill out at Boucherie Winery, just 15 minutes outside of town. Renowned for its refreshing fruit wines made from grapes grown, bottled and aged right on the estate, this winery is one of the largest vineyards in Kentucky. Relax on the patio with one of their famous wine slushes or sample a mix of their iconic wines, like the Catawba sweet rosé at the tasting bar.

Not into wine? No problem! Enjoy an adrenaline-pumping good time at the horse races instead. The century-old track at Ellis Park hosts thoroughbred racing every summer from July to Labor Day. Feel the thrill of watching and betting on steeds as they gallop around the track. Grab a bite at the Dade Park Grill – the fried cheese curds are a must-try. And with monthly promotions like T-Shirt Tuesdays, Golden Gamers, and Monster Mash, something exciting is always happening here (like the annual wiener dog races)!

If you love wildlife, no trip to Henderson County is complete without a visit to The Sloughs Wildlife Management Area. Home to over 10,000 acres of wetlands, woodlands, and observation platforms perfect for spotting rare birds, this region attracts birdwatchers hoping to spot bald eagles, short-eared owls, and red-headed woodpeckers!

Evening

End your weekend in Henderson with a lovely dinner at Farmer & Frenchman Winery & Cafe. This European-inspired winery serves delicious locally sourced dishes like duck confit and salmon over risotto. Sample one of their many wines, like the sweet blackberry or blueberry.

Farmer & Frenchman Winery & Cafe. Photo Credit: Henderson, Kentucky.

Afterward, grab a drink at Henderson Brewing Co. – the town’s first craft brewery that dates back to the 1800s. Relax in the dog-friendly taproom, tour the three-barrel brewhouse or play a game of cornhole while you sip on award-winning beers like the Bridgeview, featuring notes of malt and earthy spice, or The Depot with hints of caramel and toffee – many of the beers are named after historic Henderson taverns.

Accommodation Options

Whether you’re staying for the weekend or just overnight, Henderson offers a variety of accommodations beyond the typical hotel chains. Check in at the L&N Bed and Breakfast, a red-brick, two-story Victorian stack house downtown. Rather enjoy wine and luxury? Stay in an exquisite cabin at  Farmer & Frenchman Winery & Cafe and relish 360-degree woodland and farmland views. Henderson also has short-term rental options like The Nest, a newly renovated 1,800-square-foot loft.

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