Kentucky paid a visit to Canada Tuesday night, highlighting the state's travel attractions and offering guests a taste of one of its most famous exports.
Fittingly held at the Turf Lounge in Toronto, the TMAC (Travel Media Association of Canada) ‘Munch & Mingle’ event was hosted by Kentucky Department of Travel & Tourism, and included delegates from Lexington, Louisville and Northern Kentucky.
Located on the northern state border, Northern Kentucky is considered the northern gateway both to Louisville to the southwest and Lexington to the southeast. Together, these three urban centres represent the state’s “Golden Triangle” region and Eric Summe, president & CEO, Northern Kentucky CVB, along with Niki Heichelbech, director of media services, Lexington CVB and Stacey Yates, VP of marketing communications, Louisville CVB, shared highlights of the region, both new and existing.
“We really bill ourselves, along with Louisville and Lexington, as the metropolitan areas of the state”, Summe explained, “but from a proximity perspective you can also get between Northern Kentucky and Louisville or Lexington in an hour or hour and a half by car, so you can really have a lot of different experiences along the way.”
New to downtown Lexington in early 2016 is the grand opening of the latest and much anticipated 21C hotel location. “We’ve had a lot of mid-tier hotel openings this year”, said Heichelbech, “but nothing quite like 21C.” 21C Museum Hotels is a unique luxury hotel group that specializes in refurbishing and renovating older buildings. Another location, a 91-room boutique hotel and contemporary art museum, can be found in Louisville.
Also in Louisville, a popular choice with thrill seekers is Mega Cavern – a manmade underground adventure featuring an aerial ropes course, tram tours, zip lines, and now, a 320,000 square foot Underground Bike Park featuring over 45 trails. “Just last month they opened this, the world’s only underground extreme bike park, with miles of trails”, said Yates. “It’s been a sensation already.”
Current stats indicate there are 12.7M visitors to Louisville each year. Canadians are the top international visitors to Kentucky, with an ever-growing number of ‘snowbirds’ driving through and making stops en route, often visiting bourbon distilleries, The Kentucky Bourbon Trail or Louisville’s Urban Bourbon Trail and staying over for a night or two. Road trip, anyone?
Buffalo Trace Bourbon
Also on hand at the Toronto Kentucky event was Amy Peske, public relations & events manager at Buffalo Trace Distillery. Accompanying Peske, Buffalo Trace’s Master Blender Drew Mayville (who, incidentally, hails from Waterloo, Ontario and began his career at Seagram’s) led attendees through sipping and sampling a selection of bourbons.
“We produce 18 different bourbons just at Buffalo Trace”, said Peske, "such as Pappy Van Winkle, E.H. Taylor, Blanton’s and Buffalo Trace, so a lot of big name bourbons.”
Buffalo Trace Distillery is the most award-winning distillery in the world and is also the longest operating, distilling since 1773 and operating throughout Prohibition. A national historic landmark, the distillery is located in Frankfort, the capital of Kentucky (population approximately 14,000).
Interest in bourbon is on the rise and bourbon distillery tourism is booming, with 110,000 guest visits to Buffalo Trace Distillery in 2014, with projected numbers climbing higher still for 2015.
PHOTO: Eric Summe, president/CEO, Northern Kentucky CVB; Joanne Scalamogna, founder, Access Marketing; Niki Heichelbech, director of media services, Lexington CVB; Meghan E. Crosman, international sales coordinator, Kentucky Department of Travel and Tourism; Stacey Yates, VP - marketing & communications, Louisville CVB; Scottie Ellis, communications director, Kentucky Department of Travel and Tourism; Amy Peske, public relations & events manager, Buffalo Trace Distillery; Drew Mayville, master blender, Buffalo Trace Distillery.