Battlefields to Barbecue: Things to do in Campbellsville, Kentucky

Despite its location in the heart of Taylor County, the town of Campbellsville, Kentucky is known to few outside the region. It holds a population of about 11,000 people, most of whom are students from the local university. Established in the early 19th century, the town was named after brothers Andrew and Adam Campbell. It was in fact a major stop for stagecoaches before being ravaged by skirmishes during the American Civil War. However, the post-war construction of the county railroad revived Campbellsville, moulding it into the quaint town it is today. With something for everyone, Campbellsville is known for its rich history, pristine natural environment, all-American food, and a range of other activities.

For the History Buff

If you’re the kind of person who likes to experience history rather than read about it, Campbellsville offers a variety of historical landmarks. The old brick and iron buildings that line the streets of the Campbellsville Historical Commercial District, for example, are an excellent illustration of Italianate architecture. Of the many buildings in this area, the Merchant Tower is popularly considered the most remarkable. Formerly called the Merchant’s Hotel, this was originally a rooming house, but has now been converted into a multipurpose building, housing retail outlets, restaurants, and office spaces. What’s more, it overlooks Campbellsville University, and is renowned for its Romanesque architecture — particularly its three main archways, elegant second story balcony, and iconic tower that gives the building its name.

Remnants of the Civil War also litter the town, particularly in what we now know as Green Lake State Park. As you explore the park, you can take a walking tour of the Green River Bridge Battlefield — the site of a strategic skirmish during the war; or if you can stomach more grisly details, you could visit Atkinson-Griffin Log House-Confederate Hospital. During the Civil War, this log cabin was converted into a hospital for Confederate soldiers, and now exhibits several battle artifacts as well as the original blood stains on the floor. For those looking for something a bit less macabre, there’s the Hiestand House, the stone plantation house first owned by German immigrants. With manicured gardens and displays, this house gives you a picturesque glimpse into the lives of some of the first Southern settlers.

For the Outdoor Enthusiast

Campbellsville is home to several carefully preserved parks and reserves that are the nature lover’s dream. Among these, the Green River Lake State Park is probably the most well known. Created after the damming of the Green River, it boasts a variety of wildlife, including bass, bluegill, and various waterfowl. The park also contains campgrounds, hiking trails, picnic areas, playgrounds, and beaches, all open to the public. Within these grounds you can also find the Green River Stables, which holds riding trails and an equestrian camp among other treasures.

If you’re interested in a guided learning experience, visit the Clay Hill Memorial Forest. This 305- acre educational and research woodland offers a range of opportunities to learn through natural observation to both local university students as well as the general public. And for those who prefer a more curated outdoor experience, there’s Millers Park. With an amphitheatre, gazebo, picnic area, and a variety of sports facilities, this park is the go-to place for picnics and other community events.

For the Food Fanatic

Located in the heart of Southern United States, Kentucky is no slouch when it comes to serving up delicious all-American food. Happily, Campbellsville is no exception. Brothers Restaurant on East Main Street is a classic example of a critically acclaimed eatery that brings a new kind of barbecue to the table — a melding of the famous flavors of Kentucky, Texas, and North Carolina. On the other hand, those with a bolder palate might prefer Garcia’s Restaurant, which serves what many consider to be the best Southwestern and Mexican cuisine in town.

People looking for a taste of Kentucky’s renowned fried chicken need look no further than Lee’s Famous Recipe Chicken. Other delicacies on the menu include classic Southern comfort food such as pot pies, country fried steak, and macaroni and cheese, all at a pocket-friendly price. If you want to follow this feast with the perfect dessert, head to Harden Coffee — the go-to place for pastries, coffee, and tea in all of Campbellsville.

For the Casual Visitor

If none of these attractions pique your interest, Campbellsville offers a range of other activities. Fans of retail therapy can visit Awaken Boutique and browse its wide selection of trendy clothing, or explore the Campbellsville Peddlers Market for interesting antiques and curios. For a more cultural experience, there’s the Oak and Axe, an art gallery dedicated to preserving regional artwork and craftsmanship. And those looking for a good ol’ massage can visit Green Room Day Spa, located a mere eight minutes from Campbellsville University.

They say small towns hold big stories, and Campbellsville, Kentucky is no different. This university town may not catch the eye at first glance, but explore a little further and you’ll find it chock-full of history, culture, and beauty.