There's so much to do in this area that it takes two tips to tell about it!
Owensboro is another historic Western Kentucky town, the third largest city in the state. Owensboro is the Barbecue Capital of the world. Every second week in May, the town hosts the International Bar-B-Que Festival where 20 tons of barbecued meat is eaten! All the Barbecue chefs compete for honors in categories such as "chicken, ribs, mutton".
We enjoyed their Natural Science Museum as well as their Fine-Arts Museum. I particularly loved the many Arts & Crafts Shops there, too!
South of Owensboro, almost at the Tennessee border, is Fairview where Jefferson Davis was born. As a child, our daughter Jill was enthralled with the 350-foot-tall obolisk monument dedicated to Davis . We could use an elevator to go up in the 35-story tower.
2/3's of Kentucky's coal deposits lie in the Western Coal Fields of northwestern Kentucky. The Jackson Purchase Area covers Kentucky's southwestern region. It was named after General Andrew Jackson who purchased the region from the Chickasaw people in 1818. Farmlands cover most of the Jackson Purchase area. Kentucky's lowest point is in the lowland near the town of Hickman. It is just 257 feet (78 meters) above sea level!
But, in this area, I am most fond of Kentucky Lake where my folks lived for 20 years. Kentucky Lake was formed by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) which constructed huge dams along the Tennessee & Cumberland rivers, creating Kentucky Lake. It's certainly a beautiful lake & a fisherman's paradise. My Dad & I spent many a day catching blue gill, perch, & catfish; my Mom spent many an hour frying up those fish for us to eat...there's just nothing like a fresh fried fish from Kentucky Lake.
Note: the photo is of my parent's proud possession, their Pontoon boat. We fished from it, took leisturely trips around the lake, and spent a few nights with the radio on just enjoying the Kentucky moonlight.
You might want to start a tour of Kentucky in the far western region where the Ohio River empties into the Mississippi River at the town called Wickliffe. More than a 1,000 years ago, Indians had their own town where Wickliffe now stands. Today, The Wickliffe Mounds Museum contains tools that those ancient people once used.
This long, narrow piece of land called Western Kentucky has some of the state's most beautiful wildlife, but it also has historic landmarks too.
Up the Ohio from Wickliffe is Paducah, an important port on the river. My parents lived about one hour from there, so they went to Paducah frequently. I myself have shopped in the modern malls, walked the Riverfront, & explored the many antique shops nearby.
Southeast of Paducah is another town near my parents called Murray, which is home to Murray State University. I've been to the National Boy Souting Museum there where Kentuckian Daniel Beard was the main founder of the Boy Scouts of America.
There's also a wonderful vacationland just east of Murray with two huge man-made lakes & the land between them. The lakes are called Lake Barkley (named for Vice President Alben W. Barkley) & Kentucky Lake (on which my parents lived). Inbetween the two lakes, it's called Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area. It's home to a herd of bison that stay at the Nature Station. They were reintroduced into this area where they were once plentiful and roamed freely. They are protected there so that they can live safely. It quite a site to see.
There's also an 1800s farm, a nature center, and a planetarium. It's great for families here.
It's located on the border with Tennessee and was not opened until 1963. When we were at the park, we learned about pre-Civil War farm life at the Homeplace with its 16 log buildings where early-nineteenth-century crafts are demonstrated. There are soap makers stirring liquid pots of soap, whittlers carving figures out of wood, & blacksmiths making horseshoes.
When boats were the main way of travel, Paducah (pah . DOO . cah) was one of Kentucky's most important cities. Today, it's still an important port on the Ohio River. But, what I always remember about Paducah is its Museum of the American Quilter's Society, which opened in Paducah in 1990. What a wonderful placeit is, and is it ever popular! This museum shows quilts that are really works of art rather than a blanket to put on your bed. I think that Quilting is a truly American art form. People come from all over the world to participate in the National Quilt Show, and if you wish to attend, you have to get a place to stay at least a year in advance!
Another really neat thing that I liked about Paducah was the Whitehaven Mansion which is used as the State of Kentucky Welcome Center. It looks like Tara from "Gone With the Wind"!
Alben W. Barkley Museum is also located in Paducah. Barkley worked as a lawyer in Paducah before he became Vice President of the United States. He was the oldest American Vice President. Barkley Lake is also named after him.
Paducah is the only urban center in The Jackson Purchase area. Rivers form three of the boundaries of this area; the Mississippi on the west, the Ohio on the north, and the Cumberland and Tennessee rivers on the east. Paducah is a center of trade and transportation for the tobacco, soybeans, and livestock that is raised on this region's fertile farms. Not only was Paducah an important port on the Ohio River, but it became an early rail center too. Today, it is also surrounded by superhighways.
They've recently cleaned up the waterfront, and there are several antique shops and unique shops located nearby.
My parents loved Paducah and came here at least once a week to do their major shopping.
When I would visit them, we often came to Paducah, the largest town around their rural, lakefront home.
Kentucky's capital is in Frankfort, and the capitol building is quite beautiful. The present building is the fourth, and it was completed in 1910. Built of granite and limestone, it has marble columns which surround the building. The massive dome is about 212 feet above the floor. Don't miss the Floral Clock behind the capitol. The face of this huge timepiece is made of thousands of flowers!
When I visited the capitol building, I noticed the carving of several figures above the front entrance. We were told that the female in the middle represents Kentucky, and the six figures who surround her symbolize labor, progress, plenty, history, law, and art.
There's a latern atop the capitol's dome, and this latern allows sunlight to shine inside.
The Kentucky Vietnam Veterans Memorial is also here in Frankfort. It lists the names of more than 1,000 Kentuckians killed in that war. Can you believe it has a large sundial, and the sundial's shadow touches each name on the date of the person's death!
The Old State Capitol is now the Kentucky Historical Society Building. This society operates both the Kentucky Military History Museum and the Kentucky State Historical Museum.
I think that most of you would enjoy Frankfort's "Corner of Celebrities". It is a section of the city that contains many expensive, fancy houses. Supreme Court judges, famous generals, and United States senators have lived here.
Because Frankfort is in Kentucky's Bluegrass region, you will sometimes hear it called the Bluegrass Capital
The Pennyroyal Region is an irregularly shaped region covering most of the south-central part of the state. The name is from an annual plant of the mint family, and the traditional native pronunciation is "pennyrile". This area is sometimes called a "a place between other places".
An important town in the mid portion of Kentucky is called Bowling Green, named after a game, "bowling on the green." It's the state's fifth-largest city. Our family visited Bowling Green when our daughter Jill was looking for a college to attend. Western Kentucky University is located here.
Some farmers in southwestern Kentucky send farm products to the city of Bowling Green, and Tobacco is bought and sold here. In addition, milk is package here.
Perhaps Bowling Green is most famous for the Corvette Factory here where you are able to take a tour to see workers assemble the Corvette Sports Car.
The city aslo has a fine museum called The Kentucky Museum which highlights Kentucky's history.
Northeast of Bowling Green, you'll find Mammoth Cave, which is part of the world's longest known cave system (see individual tip about Mammoth Cave).
Then, northeast of Mammoth Cave, you can visit Abraham Lincoln's birthplace. The log cabin can be seen near Hodgenville. Lincoln's family moved about ten miles away when he was two years old. At Knob Creek, there is a cabin like Lincoln's second home.
We enjoyed Bardstown, north of Knob Creek, where songwriter Stephen Foster supposedly wrote "My Old Kentucky Home", the state song. Today, there's a state park called My Old Kentucky Home State Park where you are able to tour this home.
Even though this section of Kentucky is not as popular as some of the others (except for the cave) , it is still worth a visit.
Note: Photo is of red corvette: all corvettes are manufactured in Bowling green. Photo from brochure.
On the first Saturday of May, the Churchill Downs Racetrack in Louisville hosts the Kentucky Derby, the most famous horse race in the United States. 130,000 fans come to the derby (there's only seats for 38,000!), and millions more watch it via television.
Three-year-old thoroughbreds run in the Kentucky Derby, and the winning horse receives a blanket of red roses.
This popular event has gone on since 1875. Churchill Downs was called Jockey Club at that time. The Derby has always been run at the same track. A horse named Aristides won that first Kentucky Derby.
My husband Allan and two of his childhood friends, Rich and Jerry, go each year. Many traditions accompany the race such as a band playing, "My Old Kentucky Home" (Kentuckey's State Song) as the crowd sings along before the race. Also, the women all wear "hats", beautiful hats. The owner of the winning horse receives a blanket of red roses and that's why the Derby has been nicknamed The Run For The Roses
The Kentucky Derby is the oldest continuously run horse race in the US; it's also the oldest continuously held sporting event of any kind in all of North America!
The Derby is one of three races that make up the Triple Crown of U.S. horse racing. The other two are the Preakness in Maryland and the Belmont Stakes in New York. The two-week-long Derby Festival opens with the world's largest fireworks display.
There's also a museum called Kentucky Derby Museum at Churchill Downs where you are able to learn a great deal more about this fantastic race tradition.
Note: the photo is of Allan's friend Jerry who won the big race in 2002.
Click on Photo, please
Located in the Bluegrass Region of Kentucky, the city of Lexington attracts the most visitors. It's called the "Horse Capital of the World" because thoroughbred horse farms surround the city, and many of them offer tours.
Although it's not the state's largest city, it's still a city filled with interesting places to visit.
It was once known as "Athens of the West" because of its wealth and its abundant cultural attractions. Still the center for art and history, Lexington's Gallery of Fine Crafts and Art showcases local craftspeople and artist. Another place,ArtsPlace, concentrates on all Kentucky artists.
But, the museum that I enjoyed the most was The Lexington Children's Museum (one of the most visited children's museums in the nation). It's so neat because it encourages everyone to touch, explore, and play with the exhibits. I vividly remember walking through a giant human heart!
For history buffs, the Mary Todd Lincoln House, where she spent her childhood, is delightful. You may also wish to visit Henry Clay's house called "Ashland".
The University of Kentucky and Transylvania University (oldest in state) also reside in Lexington.
The largest "draw" to Lexinton is horses. Kentucky Horse Park, located north of the city, has beautiful bronze statues of famous racehorses such as Man o' War. You also see shows featuring over 40 breeds of horses. In the spring/summer, you're able to see newborn foals with their mothers. They have wonderful, knowledgeable guides there.
Louisville is one of the world's leading cities for making cigarettes and other tobacco products; it is also a big whiskey-making city. Louisville lies on the Ohio River north of Fort Knox, and today, Louisville is Kentucky's largest city.
You might know about Louisville because that is where the baseball bats called "Louisville Sluggers" are made. There's a Louisville Slugger Museum with baseball memorabilia that features a 120-foot, 68,000-pound steel baseball bat! It's easy to spot--the bat looks like it's leaning on the building. The museum is adjacent to the Hillerich & Bradsby Company factory where the bats are made.
Also, the world's largest publisher of Braille books for the blind, The American Printing House for the Blind, is located here and offers tours.
The wonderful Museum of Natural History & Science has great displays about space travel and caves. Don't miss it!
If you're a Railroad buff, there's the Kentucky Railway Museum which specializes in old trains for you to visit.
I would suggest that you see the J.B. Speed Art Museum with its works by Rembrant and Picasso!
In addition, Louisville, being on the Ohio River, has one of the nation's last stern-wheelers called The Belle of Louisville.
Finally, I am fond of visiting cemeteries, so I highly recommend the Zachary Taylor National Cemetery (12th President of U.S.) near Louisville.
There's so much to do (more than I can tell you about) so be sure to see this marvelous city.
Created by the formation of the Kentucky Dam in the 1940s by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), Kentucky Lake is the largest lake in the state, covering about 160,000 acres. It was the largest human-
made lake in the world at the time it was created. This huge lake, along with Lake Barkley (also man-made by TVA), created Kentucky's most popular area for vacationing. Visitors enjoy swimming, boating, fishing, & camping here.
The Kentucky Dam backs up to the Tennessee River for 184 miles, creating Kentucky Lake that stretches south across the western part of Kentucky and nearly the entire width of Tennessee (now, that's BIG)!
The lake is indeed a "magnet" for fishermen and vacationers (17 million visitors per year). Along its shores, there are many hundreds of boat docks & resorts. In addition, there are four state parks, two state wildlife areas, ten camps, three small wildlife areas, & ninety-two commercial recreation areas.
The Land between Kentucky Lake & Lake Barkley is a 170,00-acre national recreation area in Western KY and Tennessee near I24. President John F. Kennedy (1963) created The Land Between The Lakes National Recreational Area to demonstrate how such an area with little timber, agriculture, & industry resources could be converted into a recreation asset; it's the only such area in the nation.
Today, LBL is a six million dollar tourism industry & perhaps the most visited area in KY and Tennessee.
My parents lived at Johnathan Shores on KY Lake for 20 yrs, but they vacationed on the lake for years before that. As an avid fisherman, my Dad loved this "fisherman's paradise". We often caught Catfish at night, blue gill, largemouth bass, & croppie (marina across the lake from my folks each spring sponsored a "Croppie Contest"..my Dad won it once).
In the Daniel Boone National Forest Area near Corbin, Kentucky, we found the single most spectacular natural sight in the state of Kentucky (now, that's a mouthful, huh?) But, I firmly believe that Cumberland Falls is marvelous. It's the second-largest waterfall east of the Rockies; only Niagara Falls is larger.
But, what's really so marvelous about Cumberland Falls is that for three or four nights each month around the time of the full moon (if there are good weather conditions), a moonbow can be seen in the mist of the falls. The waterfall sends up a mist, and if you look through that mist, you'll see a many-colored moonbow, actually. Experts say that this happens only at one other spot in the world, and that would be at Victoria Falls, Africa.
Lots of people who visit this area go river rafting in the Cumberland River Gorge which is right below the falls. Talk about exciting!
The Falls is located at Cumberland Falls State Resort Park. The Falls is 125-foot wide, and it drops 68 feet into a boulder-strewn gorge of the Cumberland River. When the water strikes with such force, it creates a perpetual mist that hovers over the valley. On most days, a regular rainbow graces Cumberland Falls too.
There are several well-marked trails where you can have spectacular views of the falls. But, to really gain the most out of the experience, take a tour and have a guide row you upriver to the very base of the falls. You will certainly be drenched by the spray thrown up, and you cannot talk because you cannot be heard, but, boy, is it ever exciting.
In the south-central portion of Kentucky called the Penny-royal (named for the purple/blue flowering plant of the area), lies a series of caves that stretches underground for more than 350 miles! These connected caves make up the longest cave system in the entire world, Mammoth Cave! The entire system has not even been completely explored. Experts think that there may be 600 miles of yet-to-be-discovered caves! It was turned into a National Park in the 1940s, and the park includes the caves and 52 acres of ground above the caves. On the land, there is camping, hiking, and river canoeing.
Mammoth Cave is perhaps the most well known cave in the nation, and it's located right here in Madisonville, Kentucky.
Experts know that Prehistoric people once mined minerals from the cave; bodies of Prehistoric people have been found in the cave as well as many of their artifacts.
There's a series of walkways built in the cave so that visitors can walk through the caves without harming the walls or the floor. These caves are made of limestone and were formed by water that seeped into the ground, eating away at the limestone (of course, this took place over millions of years!)
The tour guide told us that rainwater seeped into the ground, picking up carbon dioxide from the soil Water and carbon dioxide become carbonic acid (similar to the acid found in Soda Pop.) The acid enters cracks in the limestone, eating away at the stone until the cracks become bigger and bigger turning into caves!!! Some of the water-filled cracks became underground rivers such as Echo River in Mammoth Cave.
(to be continued...
Eastern Kentucy is part of the Appalachian Plateau, and thick forests cover much of this plateau. Great deposits of coal lie beneath this area (1/3 of Kentucky's coal is here). Both the Cumberland and Pine Mountains stand on this plateau. One of the mountains belonging to the Cumberlands is called Black Mountain, and it is the highest point in Kentucky at 4,145 feet above sea level.
The mountain people call their narrow valley, "hollows" or "hollers". These mountain people are famous for crafts and country music. One of the lovely spots of Eastern Kentucky is Yahoo Falls. Yahool Falls has a 113-foot drop, which makes it the state's highest waterfall.
Daniel Boone roamed this area, and The Daniel Boone National Forest takes up much of the land in the area.
The forest is located close to Winchester
The town of Barbourville has a "Daniel Boone Festival" each October where people wear pioneer clothes as they enjoy the music and games of the Daniel Boone time period. One year we went, and it was quite educational and so historic.
Mammoth Cave continued
The long tunnels in the cave are called avenues and are given names. One is called Kentucky Avenue, and it connects to Boone, Audubon, and Cleveland Avenues.
There's a deep hole near Historic Entrance called Bottomless Pit (105 feet deep). The shapes that have been created throughout the years are really quite beautiful, especially the one called Frozen Niagara (looks like a waterfall on a winter day).
There's 130 different kinds of animals and insects in Mammoth Cave. They have adapted to life in a dark cave. Some have no eyes, so they never leave the cave. (Such as the eyeless fish). Bats, grasshoppers, and crickets do leave at night to find food. They are called trogloxenes (cave visitors).
In 1990, Mammoth Cave National Park was made into a biosphere reserve, meaning it's now protected from pollution and other human activities that could harm it. However, some pollution enters the cave through underground rivers. People who live near the park are working with the Park to lower pollution that enters.
The rangers at the Park are helpful, well educated, and interesting. One program that rangers provide is called Wild Caves. Visitors who join this program wear caving gear (helmets, kneepads, and overalls) and explore parts of the cave that are closed to the rest of us. They have to crawl through tunnels and climb ledges.
I think Mammoth Cave is one of the finest natural phenomenons in America. Be Sure you experience it!
If you're going to be anywhere near Lexington then I fully recommend stopping by the Kentucky Horse Park. It is a working horse farm with 1,200 acres surrounded by 30 miles of white fencing. It features two museums, twin theaters and nearly 50 different breeds of horses. You can see all sorts of horse-related activities, from horse shows and competitions to plowing. You can also take rides, including ponies for the little ones, and horse and buggy rides.
If you don't want to ride there are other things to do. Exhibits, shops, and things of that nature. It's actually a pleasant place to just walk around in, too.
You really need to check out their website for an updated schedule because there is always something going on. During Christmas they have a whole Christmas light extravaganza that’s a pretty big deal around here. So big, in fact, that the local radio stations give out tickets as “prizes.”
March 15 - October 31: Open 7 days a week, 9 am - 5 pm
November 1 - March 14: Open Wednesday -Sunday, 9 am - 5 pm
Monday and Tuesday, November 1 - March 15 Thanksgiving Eve & Day, Christmas Eve & Day, New Year’s Eve & Day
This racetrack, which gets lost under Churchill Downs sometimes, is supposed to be one of the most beautiful racetracks in the world. Well, it IS pretty. Live Thoroughbred racing takes place April and October. No racing on Mondays or Tuesdays. My ex boyfriend and I were here with about 300 others to pose as extras in the movie "Seabiscuit." They used Keeneland to act as one of the tracks in Maryland because since it hasn't changed much it looks historical. Although it is a place of gambling, it CAN be a family outing. We've taken the kids there before and Jenny (the 10 year old) called it a lot better than the adults. There's a cafe and bar onsite.
Group Rate:Yes (for races); grounds tours are free
Hours: Open year-round.
During race meets, first post time is 1:15 p.m.
Grounds are open for visitation from 6:00 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily
Stayed here while in town for a boat show free parking, and great weekend rates* discounted apply...more
The sleeping accommodations at the hotel were average. The king bed was reasonably comfortable, but...more
We crossed into the Eastern Time Zone, and got gas in Indiana before we crossed into Kentucky....more