A Taste of Kentucky Family Vacation

by Carmel L. Mooney

Our first stop in Lexington, Kentucky, the Horse Capital of the World, was to tour the spectacular Ashland, Henry Clay Estate. With its grandeur and complex history, we then had an appreciation for a part of Kentucky’s rich history.

Out with the old and in with the new, we decided the Kentucky Horse Park would be a great next stop and we were thrilled we chose it as we took in the sheer beauty, the museums, the training camps, and so much more. We were moved to tears at the massive adorned graves of some of the world’s most beloved, famous, and successful racehorses. We even met Cigar, the still-living, retired, handsome, horse to earn the most money in his lifetime. Talk about a stud! My tween daughter loved him.

A short but utterly serene and beautiful country drive surprised us by taking us past Daniel Boone’s cave where he survived a frigid winter with Squire Boone my great grandfather. Daniel Boone was my great uncle eight generations back, so the spot intrigued us. We’d read all about Squire in our genealogy. And a short stretch further down the road brought us past gorgeous stereotypical Kentucky horse farms to the Shaker Village. There we browsed the shops and historical buildings marveling at the craftsmanship and talents of these interesting former inhabitants. We lunched at the Shaker Village and were served authentic Shaker-style food adding to the fun and immersion in the feeling of the place. The kids found it very cool.

Kentucky lost river cave entrance getting a taste of caving

Leaving the area we headed straight for Cave City, Kentucky where we visited Kentucky Down Under, an unusual animal park educating guests on a vast variety of exotic animals and birds. We especially enjoyed hand-feeding exotic rainbow lorikeets. Then we stopped at Mammoth Cave National Park for a cave tour and to catch a glimpse of the natural wonders of the region.

In nearby Bowling Green, we toured the National Corvette Museum. It was a huge and spectacular museum and we were ready to order a Corvette before we left. Hmmm, how to get two cars home? Surprisingly the kids loved the Corvette Museum most of all.

Having worked up an appetite, we opted for dinner at Verdi Restaurant and Bar in the historic downtown area. We were pleased with savory, succulent, mouth-watering Kentucky raised steaks, delicious gourmet style homemade grits, and aesthetically gorgeous and tasty appetizers. Everything we sampled from the menu was outstanding and everything being served to our neighboring diners looked equally remarkable.

The next day we toured Bowling Green’s fascinating Lost River Cave, Kentucky’s only underground boat tour, where Jesse James reportedly hid. Our great, dark, almost spooky boat tour added to the excitement as we explored the caverns. The whole family found the legends fascinating.

We stopped for lunch at Mariah’s Restaurant, housed in a historic 1818 building. My portabella sandwich was huge, satisfying, and simply the best. Very family-friendly and relaxed this place was a favorite for all ages.

We continued after lunch on the Civil War Discovery Trail and toured the Kentucky Library and Museum where we took in the Duncan Hines exhibit and Civil War Museum. We also visited the Historic Railpark and Train Museum, Fountain Square, Riverview, and Hobson Grove; all were lovely.

We finished the day out by taking a nostalgic, vintage, wooden roller coaster ride at Beech Bend Amusement Park. There, visitors will find all sorts of boardwalk-style attractions and concessions, even a waterpark. One of Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch rides sits there now for all to enjoy. Our kids loved the waterslides and rickety old roller coaster. The park was clean and safe and a pleasure to visit.

We touched on some of Kentucky’s history and modern thrills as well as the beauty of past and present; even some excellent dining rounded out our little taste of Kentucky.

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Carmel L. Mooney is a travel columnist, author, and radio talk show host. She is the editor of Road Trips for Couples.