Our journey had begun less than an hour ago. Josh and I had glanced at a map and knew which roads we were going to follow, but we had no idea where we might stop along our way.
We knew the major cities that we would pass through: Louisville, Elizabethtown, and Bowling Green. We even had a stop further off the highway planned, since we knew it would be worth it to check out Lincoln’s childhood haunts in and around Hodgenville.
Beyond that, we had nothing on the itinerary. We hopped on the highway, praising the freedom we had to stop wherever we wanted.
We hadn’t been driving for an hour yet when a brown highway sign informed us that the next exit would take us to the historic downtown of Carrollton.
“Okay, I’m in!” I told the sign and Josh. Ever since my encounter with dengue fever last spring, I’ve had such a hard time sitting still for very long without getting aches, and I knew I had to get out of the car and move around very soon.
At this point, I didn’t know a single thing about the town other than its name. And I didn’t know at the time that it derived its name from Charles Carroll, the last surviving signer of the Declaration of Independence. (Those of you who are as inexplicably obsessed with National Treasure as I am will recognize Carroll as the man who passed a secret message to the Gates family at the beginning of the movie.)
Signs led us to the center of the tiny town, and we parked on the same block as the county courthouse.
A short walk took us to a tourism office around the block, where we met a nice woman who explained the area to us and recommended some places to see in Carrollton and throughout the rest of Kentucky as we continued our trip through the state.
(Strangely enough, after we got to talking, we discovered that this woman’s mother grew up in the village right next to mine up in Ohio. I’m always amazed at the strange connections I discover on my travels!)
The main suggestions she gave were to look at the impressive Catholic church down the road and a park by the Ohio River, but she also told us to enjoy walking around to get a feel for some of the town’s older architecture. We gladly followed her recommendations.
Though I’ve been spoiled with religious architecture by having grown up in what some call the land of the cross-tipped churches, I still enjoyed seeing St. John the Evangelist Parish Church and its pretty stained glass. Notice the eagle?!
As we walked through the quaint, colorful streets, a light rain began to fall, but we pulled our coats tighter and carried on with our walk through Carrollton, pointing out the festive fall decorations as we went.
The downtown area was full of old historic storefronts, some of which were moody and abandoned but told stories nonetheless.
Others had been restored and were absolutely delicious-looking, not to mention a nice contrast to the dark clouds that were starting to roll in overhead.
Eventually, we made it to Point Park, where we walked along the Ohio River for a little bit before the rain started to fall harder and we dashed back to the downtown area where we’d parked and drove on to our next charming small town.
Carrollton was an adorable little town, and it made a perfect stop along our trip. I would love to stop here again next time I find myself driving down I-71. On a sunny day, I would want to spend time in the nearby General Butler State Resort Park, which we missed this time because of the rain. I would also want to pay a visit to the Historic Masterson House, which I didn’t learn about until after we left.
So if you ever happen to be in the area, make sure you stop and say hello to this cute little town! I’m sure you’ll find something to appreciate here!