Last Updated on December 2, 2022

Planning a recent trip to the Bluegrass State, I was hoping to stay at a historic hotel in Berea Kentucky rather than some run-of-the-mill chain hotel. After all, my visit was about history. One such lodging caught my eye: the Boone Tavern Hotel in Berea Kentucky. It sounded perfect as I was on a quest to walk in the footsteps of my childhood hero, the famous American trailblazing pioneer, Daniel Boone.

I came to find, however, that the name, Historic Boone Tavern Hotel in Berea Kentucky, is somewhat misleading. Yes, this is Daniel Boone country and the famous woodsman lends his name to a variety of venues throughout the state. And I, as a huge Daniel Boone fan, know this well.

But as I arrived and entered the hotel in Berea Kentucky, I quickly discovered there is little in this charming boutique guest house that evokes images of rustic log cabins and frontiersmen except perhaps its Pine Croft Cottage nestled two miles from the main building.

Disappointed? Not on your life.

Instead, the lovely 63-room inn embraces good old Southern hospitality with a warm and elegant ambiance. Even the word ‘tavern’ is used in its earliest form, an inn for visitors and travelers rather than a local watering hole with freely flowing libations.  I was immediately won over.

Hotels Berea Kentucky: The Historic Boone Tavern Hotel

This grand lady of hotels Berea Kentucky resides in this charming college town where the state’s iconic bluegrass region blends seamlessly with the hill country of eastern Kentucky.

Constructed in 1909, Boone Tavern served as a guest house for visitors to Berea College, a tuition-free private college and the first integrated, co-educational college in the South. It sits alongside the campus’s stately tree-filled College Square right in the heart of town.

Today, Boone Tavern hotel in Berea Kentucky is one of state’s most storied hotels and has hosted many a famous visitor including the Dalai Lama, Henry Ford, President and Mrs. Coolidge, Eleanor Roosevelt, Maya Angelou, and Robert Frost. The Boone Tavern is also a member of the Historic Hotels of America and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

I was further surprised to learn that Boone Tavern is owned by Berea College, and its students are a vital part of the staff. Part of the college’s requirements is that the tuitionless students are required to work at least ten hours per week in any one of the college departments and campus work areas including the Tavern.

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Boone Tavern Hotel Lobby and Common Areas

Keeping with its early turn-of-the-century roots, the front desk is constructed of polished wood with room slots along the back wall for correspondence and mail. The door keys are skeleton keys of course. Adjoining the lobby were richly appointed common areas, made for gathering, sharing, or just relaxing. The atmosphere and colorful décor were stylishly refined, yet unpretentious. The downstairs area included a corner coffee café and a larger, well-appointed dining room.

As I climbed the stairs to my room, I passed by yet another picturesque windowed parlor, also richly decorated with heavy curtains, a large antique table, and comfortable sitting chairs.

Outside on the curved portico is a veranda with café tables, chairs, and rocking chairs perfect for afternoon or evening relaxation. This WAS a great place to converse with other patrons staying at the inn.

Boone Tavern Accommodations

King Suite at Historic Boone Tavern-photo courtesy of Boone Tavern

Historic Boone Tavern hotel in Berea Kentucky showcases Victorian architecture with delightful Antebellum charm. Rooms have high ceilings and are trimmed with crown molding. Classy polished wood furniture, woven baskets and mirrors set in mosaic tiles handcrafted by Berea College Woodcraft Industries all add their welcoming touches.

Rooms vary in size and include Executive Suites, Junior Suites and rooms rated by bed size —King, Queen, Doubles, and Scholarly Full Rooms with a single double bed. Suites include a king-size bed along with signature robe and slippers. The Executive Suite also features a Jacuzzi tub and separate shower.

My accommodation was a Queen Room with all the right touches. I felt like I was in a five-star bed and breakfast inn with the its classy furnishings. In keeping with the Victorian image, my bathroom, like the others was all in white.

Though not as expansive as the King Room or larger suites, I had plenty of room and a plethora of guest amenities, including high thread-count sheets, plush towels, a towel warmer, Keurig gourmet coffee maker, soaking tub, flat-screen TV, wireless internet, large dresser, and a desk work station.

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Pine Croft Cottage

Historic Boone Tavern's Pine Croft Cottage- photo courtesy of Boone Tavern
Historic Boone Tavern’s Pine Croft Cottage- photo courtesy of Boone Tavern

For a more rustic experience, Boone Tavern accommodations also include a historic cottage once crafted for a Swedish artisan/instructor overseeing Berea College’s Fireside Industries and weaving program. The cottage sits two miles from Boone Tavern and is adjacent to the Berea College Forest and the pinnacles hiking trails. 

The fully furnished three-bedroom cottage is over 2,000 square feet and includes a kitchen, dining area, den, two bathrooms and a back patio with gas grill.   

LEED Green Gold Certification

As a LEED Green Gold Certified hotel, Boone Tavern is dedicated to eco-friendly, sustainable, and comfortable accommodations. Measures include a master switch for controlling electricity usage. Bathroom amenities are made with all-natural ingredients and packaged in ecological friendly materials.

95% of the air is filtered throughout the hotel.

Boone Tavern is smoke-free and all their organic compound paint and carpets help minimize air pollutants.

Dining at the Restaurant

Dining room at Boone Tavern- photo by Michael Kompanik
Dining room at Boone Tavern- photo by Michael Kompanik

Knowing I’d be tired from exploring the travels and travails of my hero, Daniel Boone, I opted to dine at the Boone Tavern’s Dining Room. This was an excellent choice as this elegant award-winning dining venue would be the envy of any historic inn south of the Mason-Dixon line.

Their entrees reflect classic Kentucky cuisine and Boone Tavern historic culinary tradition. My entrée?  A Boone Tavern Hot Brown, a Kentucky tradition for 98-years consisting of shaved ham and turkey topped with creamy Mornay sauce, sliced tomatoes, crispy bacon, cheddar cheese and then browned to perfection.

Dining room attire is tastefully casual and reservations are required for groups and recommended for evening meals. Breakfast, lunch, and weekend brunch are also offered.

For a lighter morning or lunch option, the hotel caters to its lodgers and college crowd with its Frost Café. Evening libations at the café bar include an extensive array of Kentucky Bourbons.

Biking and Area Attractions

While my quest to explore more of Kentucky’s pioneer past precluded me from enjoying all of the Tavern’s many amenities on my two-night stay, I was happy with the complimentary bicycles available by reservation.

Berea has been featured by many national magazines, including Southern Living, which named it a “Favorite Southern Small Town.” Local artisans, many associated with the college, have made Berea the state-designated Folk Arts and Crafts Capital of Kentucky. Throughout this charming Southern town, numerous shops, galleries, and studios showcase local artists’ impressive handicrafts.

As for me, the history buff? The State Parks of Fort Boonesboro and Old Fort Harrod are well within an hour’s drive, as is beautiful Lexington with its thoroughbred horse farms and famous Bourbon Trail.

RELATED: The ULTIMATE Kentucky Bourbon Trail experience!

For hotels Berea Kentucky, will I return and stay at Historic Boone Tavern Hotel?  That is a definite YES!

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