Maysville, Kentucky, is a river town soaked in history: Daniel Boone, the Underground Railroad, Rosemary Clooney. But any visit should start at Parc Café, which opened way back…in late 2013. In addition to somehow successfully melding the town’s history with the aura of Paris, the café offers coffee and espresso, a variety of tasty baked goods, plus sandwiches and pizza—and generally feels like the kind of place where you’d bump into your significant other in the Lifetime movie of your love story. Sit for a while on the cobblestone terrace, then take a short walk down to the waterfront and admire the series of floodwall murals chronicling Maysville’s past.
The city’s location made it prominent and important long ago, first as a river port, then as an Underground Railroad stop just across from the free Ohio border. There’s a small museum dedicated to the latter in the old Bierbower Home—a former safehouse for runaway slaves—as well as the Kentucky Gateway Museum Center, featuring exhibits, artifacts, and art galleries detailing Kentucky lore, a genealogical-historical library, and the rather incredible Kathleen Savage Browning Miniatures Collection of tiny, preposterously detailed homes and local landmarks.
Grab lunch at Delite’s, a 1950s-style diner that serves burgers, gyros, and homemade desserts, or swing by Hutchison’s Grocery for some of its signature country ham. You’ll have to drive a bit south along Route 68 for roadside flea markets and antique shops, but there are plenty of places to peruse in town, such as the swanky EAT Gallery, Whitney’s Fine Jewelry & Gift, Kenton USA men’s clothing, Lasting Impressions Salon & Spa, and Hay House collectibles.
If you’re staying for the evening, grab dinner at Caproni’s and catch a movie at Russell Theatre, the Spanish Colonial Revival–style palace that opened in 1930 and later hosted the world premiere of hometown girl Rosemary Clooney’s first picture, The Stars Are Singing. The building was shuttered in the mid-’80s, but a group of locals formed a nonprofit to purchase and revitalize the venue in 1995. Repairs (and fund-raising) are still ongoing, but the theater now runs old flicks, hosts events, and offers tours. It’s only a block away from the Washington Opera House, home to the Maysville Players stage performers—and where Rosemary’s nephew George premiered his own 2008 film, Leatherheads.
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Drive the Route 52 Ohio River Scenic Byway to get there. It takes a little longer, but it lets you cross into Maysville via the Simon Kenton Memorial Bridge—a view well worth the few extra minutes.