Travel Thoughts by Kim
Let’s go on an adventure together … to Kentucky!
I had several adventures in mind as I thought about this edition of “Travel Thoughts By Kim” and had pretty much decided on one in particular. But, a new friend suggested I check out a travel blog he enjoys – “Tennessee Crossroads” – and while I was skimming through it, it kept reminding me of my trip to Kentucky last year. Yeah, I know, it should have reminded me of Tennessee, right? Well, I’ve been to Tennessee a few times, but it has been many years ago, now, so memories are a bit faded. I want to do a visit to Tennessee, again – in fact, I had considered a trip to the Memphis area this spring (I still have “cry on Elvis’ grave” on my bucket list) and I had a trip to Nashville booked for this November. But, unfortunately, this year resulted in a lot of cancelled plans. So, Tennessee will have to wait. No, reading through that travel blog really got me reminiscing about my time in Kentucky, so that’s what I want to share with you this time.
In 2019, I was able to spend time in the last three states that finished off my “visit all 50 states” bucket list item. Kentucky was my # 48…..Colorado and New Mexico wrapped up the list in September and October. I went to Kentucky the last week in August. I thought it was going to be a “check the box” trip – didn’t think there’d be much to do or see there. But, I was so wrong! It was a 5 day trip – two travel days and three full days to explore. In that time, I put 460 miles on my rental car and traveled another ~150 on a bus tour and still wished I had more time to do more! I absolutely loved Kentucky and everything I did while I was there. Let me try to condense all the wonderful things I crammed into three days into one short story for you all.
I decided to fly into Louisville as my base for the trip. I stayed at the Radisson, Louisville North in Clarksville, Indiana which is just across the Ohio River from Louisville. So, I drove across a huge bridge between Kentucky and Indiana over the Ohio River at least twice every day. Across the parking lot from the hotel was a dinner theater – Derby Dinner Playhouse. I checked out their web site and found their current production was “Million Dollar Quartet” – the story of the night of Dec 3, 1956 when Sam Phillips got Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, and Jerry Lee Lewis together for the first and only time for a jam session and made Rock and Roll History at Sun Records. I was exhausted after a long day in airports, but couldn’t resist – I went and saw a totally awesome live performance that blew me away!
Louisville, itself, didn’t impress me much – it is a huge city with lots of traffic and a bit hard to get around. I’m not much of a big city kinda girl, so I was a bit out of my comfort zone, but that’s OK – it was just the base for my exploration. I did do a little driving around the city with no particular goal in mind and found some cool things to look at – including a really cool historic water tower, Thomas Edison’s home, and Louisville Slugger Field – all of which were great photo ops, but I didn’t take the time to explore further. But, the rest of the trip…..WOW!!!
Day one started with a stop at Cave Hill Cemetery right in the heart of downtown Louisville. It was really odd to find this huge and absolutely stunning park-like cemetery in the middle of a busy city. I love old cemeteries – especially ones with so much history, character, and beauty. Cave Hill didn’t disappoint. Established in the mid-1800s, it has rolling hills, lakes, streams, abundance of nature, and lots and lots of stunning statues and memorials – some of the most unique and elaborate I’ve ever seen.
It is also home of Louisville’s National Cemetery for veterans. I planned to just do a quick drive through and find the two most famous residents – Colonel Sanders and Muhammad Ali – and move on to the next stop on my Day One Agenda, but it was all so gorgeous and there were so many photos I felt compelled to take, that I ended up spending over two hours there. I could have easily spent another couple hours if I didn’t have admission tickets to the Ark Encounter to get to. If you’re ever in or near Louisville, do yourself a favor and spend some time in Cave Hill Cemetery – you won’t regret it. For now, be sure to click the link at the end of this article that will take you to my blog post with the photos I took – so amazing!
After my wonderful morning at Cave Hill Cemetery, I drove about an hour and a half to Williamstown, KY to visit the Ark Encounter. The Ark Encounter sits on 200 acres and is a 510 foot long, 85 foot wide, and 51 foot high replica of Noah’s Ark with life-like exhibits of how life on the biblical ark would have been like. What an awesome experience. It was absolutely fascinating to go through and includes a small zoo with many of the animals that would have been on Noah’s Ark. And, you can even ride an actual camel while you are there! Definitely a must see – but, don’t cut your time short – it’s an easy 4 or more hour visit. I didn’t include the nearby Creation Museum – maybe on another trip.
Day two was devoted to an eight hour Bourbon Tour. It was an expensive tour – they pride themselves on small focused groups with detailed, informative tours and it was so worth the price. The tour I was on was in a large SUV with me and three young guys from Australia and the guide. We had so much fun – the guys treated me like their long-lost aunt – and I learned a lot about Kentucky and bourbon. I’m not a bourbon/whiskey drinker, but thought the distilleries would be interesting and how can you go to Kentucky without doing something along the Bourbon Trail?
It was a wonderful tour and I actually got a new appreciation for bourbon. We traveled about 150 miles in eight hours and visited five distilleries (two unscheduled additions our guide made to make our tour a bit nicer) – Maker’s Mark, Willett, Heaven Hill, Barton, and Jim Beam – and the day also included a nice lunch at a beautiful Country Club. I learned that “all bourbon is whiskey, but all whiskey is not bourbon” – there is a very strict list of requirements by law to be able to put the word “bourbon” on a whiskey label and that 95% of the world’s bourbon is made in a triangle area in Kentucky that I toured that day. The distilleries were stunning and so interesting – I’m really glad I spent the day with my three new young friends from Australia tasting bourbon. Be sure to click on the link at the end of the article that takes you to the Bourbon Trail blog post for tons of information about Kentucky and the distilleries – so fascinating.
I did a lot of driving and saw a ton of stuff on Day Three. I started out just down the street from my hotel in Clarksville, Indiana. I saw signs for Falls of the Ohio and, since I love waterfalls, I had to check it out. I discovered it wasn’t a waterfall, after all. It was a series of rapids caused by lime stone tables along that section of the Ohio River resulting in the world’s largest exposed fossil bed and it was awesome! The photos I took nowhere near do it justice….so beautiful! From there, I went to Churchill Downs where I took the walking tour and learned all about the history of the famous horse track – very interesting. I capped my time at the Downs with a stop in the bar for a Mint Julep – I was told it was against the law to go to Churchill Downs without having one, so……hahaha! It cost me $12 for the experience – I had a couple sips and left the rest. It was actually pretty good, but oh-so very strong and I had a long drive and day ahead of me, so thought it was best to just say I tried one and move on.
After Churchill Downs, I started out on a little over an hour and a half drive to Lexington with plans to go to the Kentucky Horse Park and whatever else grabbed my attention along the way. The first side trip that caught my eye was Frankfort – the capital of Kentucky. Frankfort is a lovely little town with an amazing capital building and the home of the original Bourbon Ball candy.
I couldn’t resist a stop at the Rebecca Ruth Candy Museum to get some of her historic Bourbon Balls and other sweet treats. It seems that Ruth Booe is the Mother of the Bourbon Ball and started a candy business with her friend, Rebecca, in 1919 and kept it going until 1964, when her son took over the business.
Back on the road, I saw signs for Historic Georgetown and knew I had to check it out. It was a quaint little town with lots of charm and shops. I finally made it to Lexington and the Kentucky Horse Park, where I took a horse and buggy tour led by two gorgeous Clydesdale horses. Definitely worth the long drive. On the way back to Louisville, I found a highly recommended “hole in the wall” BBQ restaurant out in the middle of nowhere – Red State BBQ – and had the best beef brisket dinner I’ve ever had! For sure this place can be the poster child for “don’t judge a book by the cover” and one you really should put on your “to do” list if in the Lexington area! Also, venturing out beyond Louisville gave me the joys of seeing the absolute beauty of the great state of Kentucky – rolling hills and miles and miles of horse farms, board fences, and the deepest blue grass I’ve ever seen in my life.
I really loved Kentucky and hope I can go back, someday, to see more of their gorgeous state. My only regret? Underestimating it and not planning more time while I was there.
If you’d like to see more photos and lots of great info on my amazing trip to Kentucky, you can visit these posts on my blog:
Cave Hill Cemetery
The Ark Encounter
Churchill Downs and Kentucky Horse Park