Mammoth Cave National Park
Kentucky is home to a vast network of caves, thanks to its incredible karst topography. In fact, the state’s Mammoth Cave National Park is the longest known cave system on the planet, a complex labyrinth of sinkholes, springs, and tunnels that’s brimming with flora and fauna. These mosses, lichens, reptiles, and crustaceans have helped earn the entire park the designation of UNESCO World Heritage Site and International Biosphere Reserve. And it’s not the region’s only subterranean wonderland. The area is home to at least seven other privately owned caves, each with its own natural appeal. While most of Mammoth’s passages are dry, these “wet” caves feature stunning stalagmites, stalactites, and rock formations so spectacular they look like an artist created them.
Fire & Ice
Kentucky Cooperage, Lebaanon
As the only bourbon barrel maker on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail®, the Kentucky Cooperage in Lebanon takes skilled craftsmanship to a whole new level. Witness this American artistry firsthand on a facility walking tour, watching workers transform raw oak logs into staves, then stacked outdoors for seasoning, and later assembled into barrel shapes, before undergoing a quick burning process called charring. Every barrel here is customized to its customer’s specifications, which includes the bourbon’s particular recipe. Lighter levels of char show more of the natural oak’s flavor, with hints of spice and earthiness, while darker char levels extract more color and a sweet, rich caramel flavor. Enjoy a little bourbon on ice afterwards to cap off your “fire and ice” experience.
Living is Easy (Equine)
Old Friends & Our Mims Retirement Farms
Discover why they call Kentucky the Horse Capital of the World at places like Our Mims Retirement Haven, a non-profit that rescues, revitalizes, and cares for retired thoroughbred racehorses and broodmares. Watch the older mares interact in open pastures while touring the Paris property, or pay homage to those who have passed at the haven’s Wall of Honor. A short drive southwest stands Kentucky Horse Park, a working horse farm where you can watch live international equestrian competitions and embark on horseback rides. Its Hall of Champions is home to thoroughbred legends like fan- favorite Funny Cide, winner of the 2003 Kentucky Derby, while its International Museum of the Horse delves into the vast impact that horses have had on civilization.
Kentucky's Large Lakes
Kentucky’s largest lakes offer some of its most exciting water recreation opportunities. At nearly 65,000 acres, the enormous Lake Cumberland is known as the “Houseboat Capital of the World.” Choose among the country’s largest fleet of rental houseboats, with amenities ranging from full kitchens to rooftop decks with waterslides. Further west, 58,000-acres Lake Barkley is the place to test out your jet skiing skills, while neighboring Kentucky Lake hosts lessons in sailing basics. A canal connects the two water bodies, creating one big recreational complex. Certified divers have the run of a 10-acre scuba refuge in Greenup’s Greenbo Lake State Resort Park, though the dam at Laurel Lake features some of Kentucky’s clearest and deepest diving waters.
History, Culture and Culinary Delights
Whether your passions include bourbon or Daniel Boone (or both!), Kentucky is a crossroads of American culture that boasts driving trails for every interest. Discover President Abraham Lincoln’s Kentucky roots, or travel the scenic route of Kentucky’s Country Music Highway, highlighting must-stop music venues and iconic artists like Loretta Lynn and Crystal Gale. Stops along the Civil Rights Trail include Louisville’s Muhammad Ali Center, dedicated to the city’s native son, while the Kentucky Appalachians are home to a trail highlighting one of the most bitter family feuds in history, the Hatfields & McCoys. When it comes to culinary trails, you’ll find everything from crispy fried chicken to mouthwatering Western Kentucky barbecue, “Brewgrass” to country ham…and then some.