Madisonville, Kentucky is a charming town in western Kentucky that’s located 32.8 miles directly south of Henderson, Kentucky on Interstate 69.
I’m sharing more about the hidden gems, great places to eat, and the top things to do in Madisonville and the surrounding area during a visit.
This article is written in partnership with Steller and may contain affiliate links. All opinions are my own.
Explore Mahr Park Arboretum
55 Mahr Park Rd, Madisonville, KY
Mahr Park Arboretum is a beautiful 265-acre park that was a former farm of the late Dr. Merle and Mrs. Glema Mahr.
The property was donated to the city of Madisonville to maintain as a park and the former home now serves as a Welcome Center.
The Arboretum is currently at a Level 1 status.
That means that it has an Arboretum plan, organizational or government group, 25 species, varieties, or cultivars of trees or woody plants that have been planted and are growing in accordance with the arboretum plan, and has volunteers or paid staff.
The gorgeous scenery makes this park a very popular venue for weddings and special events.
The park offers outdoor recreation for the whole family. For park guests with pets, there is a dog park with two fenced-in areas to help keep large dogs and small dogs separate.
Kids will enjoy the Nature Play Area equipped with playground elements and natural elements incorporating Douglas fir wood.
Get Moving on the Trails at Mahr Park
My friend and I had a blast with our electric scooters that we brought to use on the biking trails.
While we were on the trail we met several locals who make use of the 2.5 mile paved bike/walking trails multiple times a week.
Bike Rentals and Hiking Trails at Mahr Park
1-hour bike rentals are available at the welcome center during the rental season and come with a bike helmet to use.
If you prefer to hike, the park has several short trails for you to enjoy ranging in distance from .18 miles to .4 miles. The park also offers special guided hikes and educational events throughout the year.
Make sure that you check out the Birding Checklist to help you keep track of year-round resident and common migrant birds.
Play on a Championship Disc Golf at Mahr Park
Seasoned disc golf fans will love challenging themselves on the scenic 18-hole championship course with hills and water features.
If you’re not quite ready for the championship course there is a 9-hole recreational course.
Enjoy Lake Pee Wee at Mahr Park
Park guests can rent single or double kayaks to enjoy Lake Pee Wee, a 360-acre lake. Each 2-hour kayak rental comes with life jackets and paddles to use.
The park has a nice kayak launch that makes it easy to enter the water and stay dry.
You could easily spend several hours at Mahr Park on and off the water.
Make a Custom Soy Candle at MadCity Wicks & Wine
37 S Main St, Madisonville, KY
I’ve previously made candles at other destinations but none have been as witty as MadCity Wicks & Wine.
You know you’re in for a fun candle-making experience starting with your apron selection. Each apron has a pop culture reference or wit, with a candle twist.
*There are kid-appropriate aprons available for younger ages.
Select Your Preferred Soy Candle Scent
MadCity Wicks owner Robyn once again doesn’t disappoint when it comes to the names of the scents in the shop.
The hardest part is deciding if you want to select your candle scent by the witty name or the actual smell. Even better if you find a scent with a witty name that you love.
If you start to feel a little overwhelmed by the quest to narrow down your options Robyn can help make recommendations of scents that blend well together.
Scent themes fall under the following categories:
Enjoy a Complimentary Drink With Your Candle Making Experience
The candle-making experience also includes a drink. Guests 21+ and up can enjoy a glass of wine. There are mocktails available for kids and guests of all ages also have the option of sweet tea.
Be on the lookout for special themed candle-making experiences in addition to the “Choose Your Own Adventure” candle-making. Guests also have the option to create a custom body spray.
Final Candle-Making Steps
The most time-consuming part of the candle-making experience is narrowing down your scent selections.
Once you’ve made your final selections the actual candle-making process goes by pretty quickly. You’re guided every step of the way and can make adjustments to create your preferred custom candle scent.
Your final step is to create a custom label for the top of your candle.
MadCity Wicks also has candles and novelty products available for purchase that are perfect for gifts.
Candle Care Tips from MadCity Wicks
You’ll receive a candle care card with your candle that includes a few things to keep in mind.
(I also realized that I’ve been taking care of my soy candles wrong for YEARS!)
To get the best burn of your soy candle you’ll want to do the following things for optimal smell and longevity.
- Make sure that the entire surface area burns evenly, especially on the first burn.
- It’s recommended to burn the candle for at least 4 hours for the first burn.
- After the first burn, trim the wick 1/4 inch each time before you light it.
- Wait two weeks before you burn your candle for the first time so that it has enough time to cure and try not to burn the candle for more than 4 hours at a time.
Try BBQ Burrito at Swaggy P’s BBQ & Catering
45 Veterans Dr, Hanson, KY
If you’re looking for delicious barbecue, Swaggy P’s BBQ and Catering is a MUST!
You have several menu options to enjoy their hickory slow-smoked BBQ. One of the popular variations on the menu is the BBQ burrito.
The BBQ burrito is made with pulled pork, mac n’ cheese, baked beans, shredded cheese, and house hot sauce wrapped in a grilled tortilla.
Trust me when I say the combination of ingredients works in the best kind of way.
The BBQ Baked potato is another popular option made with pulled pork, butter, shredded cheese, and bacon bits piled high on a baked potato.
If you prefer a more traditional menu item, you can’t go wrong with the pulled pork sandwich with a side of mac n’ cheese.
There are plenty of non-pork items on the menu too…but honestly, you don’t want to miss out on their 100% hickory bbq.
All of the pork butts are hand rubbed and take 8-9 hours, low and slow.
Admire the ARTcan Tours in Downtown Madisonville
The trash receptacles in downtown Madisonville add beauty to the downtown in an unexpected way.
Throughout downtown Madisonville, there are ARTcan trash receptacles by local metal sculptor, Tim Corum.
Make sure that you admire each side of the sculpture receptacle.
The closer we looked at each sculpture the more details we discovered that made each one so unique.
Walking Tours in Downtown Madisonville
If you want to continue your exploration of downtown Madisonville there are three walking tours to choose from.
You can download all three walking tour guides in Madisonville for the following tours:
- Historical Walking Tour – 24 stops that are on the National Register of Historic Places.
- Patriotic Walking Tour – 14 stops that include memorials and buildings used by the military from different eras.
- Artistic Walking Tour – 23 stops that include murals and sculptures.
Photo Ops Near Beard’s Park
110 South Main St., Madisonville, KY
If you are looking for a high concentration of photo ops near one location, Beard’s Park in downtown Madisonville is the place.
Take a seat in the GIANT blue chair underneath the Madisonville sign and then view the beautiful butterfly mural in the adjacent alley nearby.
You’ll also want a closer look at the incredible three-dimensional mural across the street that will make you do a double-take.
Walk to Big City Market & Coffee Bar
25 Sugg St, Madisonville, KY ( Located across the street from the Madisonville Visitor Center)
Big City Market & Coffee Bar is a great spot to stop for specialty coffee, pastries, or sandwiches in between the walking tours or exploring the local shops in downtown Madisonville.
At Big City Market & Coffee Bar we tried the “The Luck of the Kentuckian” specialty coffee made with Irish cream and bourbon caramel syrups which was a fun fusion of flavors.
There is plenty of seating for guests who want to socialize or work.
Make sure that you check out the old photos of Madisonville landmarks on display in the coffee shop while you’re there.
View the Murals at Elmer Kelley Stadium
745 City Park Drive, Madisonville, KY
Elmer Kelley Stadium is home to the Madisonville Miners, a summer collegiate baseball team, and Madisonville North Hopkins High School Maroons.
The stadium is also the location of a series of incredible murals surrounding the outside walls of the baseball stadium.
The walls on the outside of the baseball stadium help tell the story of Madisonville and significant events over the years.
Additional Things to Do at Madisonville City Park
The stadium resides within Madisonville City Park and offers lots of things to do for all ages and interests.
The park has the following amenities:
- 18-hole mini golf course
- 9-hole golf course
- Community pool
- Splash pad
- 18-hole disc golf course
- 250 acres of trails
- Shaded picnic areas
- Pickleball courts
- 2 stocked lakes for fishing
- Tennis court
- 1.25-mile walking trail
Caffeine Stop at Simply Poured Coffee
190 Madison Square Dr. Suite A, Madisonville, KY
We enjoyed this coffee shop so much that we visited it twice during our 2-day visit!
The full coffee bar offers espresso, hot chocolate, tea, and more.
If you’re having a hard time narrowing down your options, I highly recommend ordering a coffee flight so that you can try more flavors.
Pictured above is a coffee flight with Brown sugar bourbon, Coconut macchiato, and Salted Caramel.
After trying The Casey Jones Brown Sugar Bourbon Latte I had to buy their brown sugar bourbon syrup to bring home.
During my visit, I discovered that one of the employees at Simply Poured created the Bourbon syrup using products from Casey Jones Distillery.
Enjoy a Meal at The Crowded House – Madisonville’s Only Gastropub
26 W Center St, Madisonville, KY
One of the perks of dining at a gastropub is that you know you’re going to have great drinks AND great food to match. I’m happy to report that The Crowded House didn’t disappoint with either.
Enjoy Your Drink of Choice
You have plenty of options when it comes to drinks. The hardest part will be narrowing down all of your choices including specialty cocktails, wine, and 16 rotating taps with beers ranging from Porters to IPAs.
The bourbon selection listed on the wall is truly impressive and features over 75+ bourbons that are “rare and wonderful.”
I asked to see the bottles of a few of the closest producers in the area.
We had visited Green River Distillery the day before in Owensboro and The Bard Distillery was next on our list to try on a tour the following day.
We didn’t want to sample from The Bard Distillery before our official tasting so we decided to try Larceny and Castle and Key small batch.
Casey Jones Distillery was another fun tie-in as an ingredient for the bourbon syrup at Simply Poured.
Do you need a reservation for The Crowded House?
The Crowded House is a very popular restaurant and reservations are highly recommended if you have a preferred time and date.
Every Saturday restaurant patrons can also enjoy live music.
Sandwiches at The Crowded House
We tried two of the sandwiches and split both. First was the “Mother Clucker” sandwich.
It’s made with grilled chicken breast, topped with Swiss cheese, fried egg, chipotle aioli, fresh jalapenos, and avocado on a toasted brioche bun.
We also used their chipotle aioli as a dipping sauce for our fries.
Our second sandwich selection was the “Round Here” burger. The 1/2-pound burger is made with Deer Creek Farms beef topped with applewood smoked bacon, and American cheese, fully dressed with TCH house sauce, and served on a brioche bun.
The Crowded House sources its food as locally as possible. You can’t go wrong with the hand cut fries or the house-made kettle chips.
Leave Room for Dessert at The Crowded House
For dessert, we tried the brownie and ice cream with a twist. Our server suggested a shot of Skrewball peanut butter whiskey on top and it was AMAZING!
Enjoy a Local Craft Beer at Tradewater Brewing Company
111 W Arch St, Madisonville, KY
Tradewater Brewing Company is Madisonville’s first craft brewery residing in the former building of Ruby Concrete Company which was founded in 1869.
The brewery sources locally whenever possible including grain, hops, and fruit, and is currently open on Fridays and Saturdays from 4-10 PM.
Tradewater is also the first brewery to open in Hopkins County but owner Ted Webb isn’t a novice when it comes to making beer.
He has won more than 100 medals for beers in the last few years as a homebrewer.
Now locals and travelers can enjoy his skill set on a bigger scale with 6 different varieties of beers on tap including a sour.
Breakfast at Ferrell’s Snappy Service
112 N Main St, Madisonville, KY
Ferrell’s Snappy Service is a cozy American diner serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner that dates back to 1929.
There is bar seating where you can watch the cook in action or you can sit on the stools in front of the large windows.
We visited during breakfast time and ordered the classics. Eggs over easy, bacon, and biscuits and gravy.
Our seating in front of the cook made me appreciate her attention to detail even more which included removing the excess grease on the bacon before serving it to us.
The diner is open 24/7 the prices are very affordable and the hours help serve the community on varying work schedules. We saw several patrons picking up orders after completing a night shift.
You may notice a large display case with an assortment of rubber ducks when you walk in.
Many of these rubber ducks are gifts from customers that have come from all over the world over the years.
Worth the Drive – A Tour and Tasting at The Bard Distillery
5080 KY-175 South, Graham, KY
A tour and tasting at The Bard Distillery is definitely worth the 25-minute drive from Madisonville.
The Distillery is housed on a 1920s school site where owner Thomas Bard and his father attended the school as a youth.
Thomas’s family lineage is also a direct line to William Bard, the founder of Bardstown, Kentucky, known as the “Bourbon Capital of the World.”
Thomas is the fourth great-grandson of William Bard, bridging the family’s history with a town known for bourbon with a new distillery that’s also an official member of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.
Who knew that a former schoolmate would one day return to the area to give the abandoned schools new life and purpose.
You have to smile at the irony of the spirit-producing stills located on the stage of the former gym.
The restored gym is also a beautiful space for special events.
When are tours and tastings available at The Bard Distillery?
Tours are available every hour starting at 10am and the last tour is at 4:00 PM (Open Thursday – Sunday )
If you are on a tighter schedule you can skip the tour and go straight to the tasting, which of course is the best part!
The Bard Distillery is a place that’s reputation had been building during the course of our Western Kentucky road trip from other distilleries and staff who had visited.
When we mentioned that we were going on a tour of The Bard Distillery, the immediate response was to talk about how AMAZING co-owner Kim Bard was.
(Her husband Thomas is great too…we just spent more time with Kim during our tour and tasting.)
Bourbon With a Big Heart
After our visit, we understood why. Even though we only spent a few hours with Kim it felt as if we had known her for years. She connects with people in such a genuine way that you feel like family by the end of your visit.
Her professional history as an educator, NASCAR Busch driver (now XFINITY Series), driver for Monster Jam in Central America, and present driver for monster trucks in Australia made me in awe of her even more.
But what got me teary-eyed was hearing more about their heart and future plans to continue to bring back life into a town that never really recovered after it lost the coal mine industry in the 1950s.
The evidence of their heart is imprinted on the community that they give back to in so many ways and programs and the staff who are like an extended family that works for them since operations began in 2019.
Award Winning Bourbon
The Bard Distillery has a product that matches its heart and its heart is BIG!
They also have the trophies to prove it. There are multiple Ascot Awards lining displayed on the shelves next to their award-winning products.
The Ascot Awards are an international spirits competition created by veteran tasting judge, Fred Minnick. The competition focuses on two categories for bourbons being judged: taste and marketing + design.
Cinder & Smoke Bourbon has racked up multiple awards including the Ascots Awards Platinum medal, The Gold Medal from John Barleycorn, and the Double Gold medal from the SIP Awards.
I’ve been on many bourbon tours and this is a distillery to have on your radar that’s definitely worth the drive!
Lodging in Madisonville, KY
Looking for a place to stay in Madisonville, KY?
234 Midtown Blvd., Intersection Of Pennyrile Park, Madisonville, KY
During our visit, we enjoyed a comfortable stay at the Holiday Inn Express & Suites.
Amenities at the hotel include an indoor pool, parking, gym, free wifi, and free breakfast.
Make sure that you try one of the delicious Cinnabon sweet rolls on the breakfast bar that are served warm.
Additional Things to Do in Madisonville, KY
Glema Mahr Center for the Arts – Located at Madisonville Community College, 2000 College Drive, Madisonville, Kentucky