Kentucky State
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Historic Sites
Tourist Attractions

Historic Sites

Cumberland Gap National Historic Park
Cumberland Gap National Historical Park is located at the far southeastern corner of the state. Here you will be taken back in time to the history of early America. For nearly 150 years the forbidding Alleghenies kept early colonists from Kentucky. Although the gap had been used for centuries by Indians, it was not until 1750 that Dr. Thomas Walker documented its location. Daniel Boone and John Finley followed in 1769, making their way to the fabled Bluegrass region. In 1775, Boone returned with 30 axmen to mark what became the Wilderness Road. By 1783, some 12,000 settlers had entered Kentucky through the Cumberland Gap. Begin your adventure at the visitor center, which has an orientation program, museum, and crafts sales area. Pinnacle Overlook features a panoramic view of three states. Nearby is Fort McCook, built by Confederate troops in the Civil War to guard the passageway through the mountains. Visit Hensley Settlement, a restored Appalachian community of log cabins and split rail fences that flourished for nearly five decades on an isolated plateau. Founded in 1904 by Sherman Hensley, the community had a peak population of 160 in its heyday during the Depression years. For information call: (606)248-2817


Fort Boonesborough State Park
Fort Boonesborough State Park is the site of Boonesborough, established in 1775 by Richard Henderson and Daniel Boone of the Transylvania Company. Boone, in the advance party, first constructed several log huts in a sycamore hollow which led to the Kentucky River. The settlement was later moved by Henderson to a nearby rise on the river bank. A hollow squared stockade enclosing about an acre of ground with blockhouses and cabins was eventually completed in September 1778 - just in time to withstand a nine-day attack by Indians and Frenchmen, later known as "The Great Siege." Today, Fort Boonesborough has been reconstructed as a working fort complete with blockhouses, cabins, and period furnishings. Resident artisans perform pioneer craft demonstrations on 18th-century antiques and impart pioneer experiences to modern-day visitors. For information call: (800)255-7275


Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill
Located in the Bluegrass region of the state, the peaceful atmosphere and simple beauty of the most completely restored Shaker community in the country will make you feel as though you have wandered back in time. There are 30 original buildings and more than 20 miles of stone fences preserved on 2,700 acres of gently rolling countryside. Given the name "Shakers" because of the trembling they did during their devotional dancing, the United Society of Believers in Christ's Second Appearing believed in simplicity, pacifism, celibacy and separation from the world. The Shakers at Pleasant Hill had almost 500 members during their peak in the 1830s. Innovative builders and farmers, the Shakers are credited with a variety of inventions, from the clothespin and circular saw to the modern flat broom and water-repellent fabric. Today, as you wander through the buildings, watch artisans use Shaker tools and methods to demonstrate crafts such as weaving, yarn dyeing, broom making, candle dipping, quilting and woodcrafting. For information call: (800)734-5611


My Old Kentucky Home State Park
Located in Bardstown, My Old Kentucky Home State Park is known throughout the world because of the beautiful song written by Stephen Foster. His inspiration for the ballad was his cousins' plantation, Federal Hill, now the focal point of the park. The home, completed in 1818, rests on a sloping 285 acres deeded to the Commonwealth in 1922. Its builder, Judge John Rowan, was a man of great distinction, serving both on the Kentucky Court of Appeals and in the U.S. Senate. At Federal Hill, Judge Rowan entertained such brilliant and celebrated guests as Henry Clay and Aaron Burr, and his home became a landmark for lavish entertaining during a colorful era of Kentucky's history. It was in 1852 that Stephen Foster visited his cousins, the Rowans, and wrote the ballad "My Old Kentucky Home." The home's decor, including rare and beautiful furnishings, is much as it was when Foster was a guest here. Authenticity to the smallest detail is maintained wherever possible. Guides in antebellum costumes lead tours through the home, extending gracious hospitality reminiscent of the leisurely South. If visiting during the summer, you will want to experience the tradition of Kentucky's longest-running outdoor drama - "Stephen Foster - The Musical." This celebrated musical features colorful period costumes, lively choreography, and more than 50 Foster songs. For information call: (800)255-7275


The State Capitol
Nestled among the rolling hills of the Bluegrass in a beautiful Kentucky River valley is Frankfort, chosen the state capital in 1792. So much of Kentucky's history has been written here; the old frontiersman Simon Kenton pleaded relief from taxes, Daniel and Rebecca Boone lay in state in the Old Capitol, Henry Clay practiced his oratory, former Vice President Aaron Burr was charged with treason and the stories go on and on. In Frankfort visit one of the most beautiful State Capitol buildings in the country. The Beaux Arts-style building was dedicated in 1910 at a total cost, including furnishings, of $1,820,000. The rotunda features statues of prominent Kentuckians and a dome patterned after Napoleon's tomb in Paris. Outside is the giant Floral Clock, 34 feet in diameter and supported by a 100-ton base. On the east end of the capitol grounds is the Governor's Mansion, a beautiful Beaux Arts mansion on a bluff high above the Kentucky River. Twenty-two Kentucky governors have lived here. Constructed of native limestone in 1914, it was modeled after Marie Antoinette's summer villa. Free tours are available of both the capitol and the Governor's mansion. For information call: (502)564-3000


Tourist Attractions

Mammoth Cave National Park
Mammoth Cave National Park, with more than 350 miles of explored passageways, is the longest known cave system in the world! This World Heritage Site and International Biosphere Reserve supports several species of rare animal life and many types of cave formations, with the formative process still active today. Cave tours are offered year round (except Christmas Day); and reservations are recommended during summer, holidays and weekends. Call the park for cave tour details, 502/758-2328, then call Biosperics for reservations, 800/967-2283. The cave temperature remains around 54 degrees, so dress appropriately. Above ground, there are 52,830 acres of scenic protected forest lands for camping, hiking, biking, fishing and horseback riding. Mammoth Cave is between Louisville and Nashville off I-65 at Exit 48 or 53. For information call: (502)758-2328


Land Between the Lakes
Land Between The Lakes (LBL) is the 40-mile-long peninsula that lies between Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley. It was developed by the Tennessee Valley Authority as a national recreation area and is now a World Biosphere Reserve. This vast outdoor playground is a great vacation spot for the entire family. There is fishing, boating, waterfront tent and RV camping, swimming, hiking and unlimited chances to enjoy and learn about nature. With more than 300 miles of undeveloped shoreline there are plenty of places to "come outside and play." Begin at the Golden Pond Visitor Center & Planetarium located midway along The Trace, LBL's major north-south artery. Stargaze in the planetarium and stop in the exhibit room to learn more about the history of the people and traditions of the area. For information call: (800)884-6558


Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom
Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom is located in Louisville at the intersection of I-264 and I-65 adjacent to the Kentucky Fair & Exposition Center. It features Mile High Falls; Thunder Run, ranked the "world's most terrifying roller coaster;" The Giant Wheel; and T2- Terror to the Second Power - a suspended looping roller coaster that will turn you upside down and inside out! Then challenge yourself to Chang, the world's longest, tallest, fastest and most inverted stand-up roller coaster, and the largest vertical loop and the largest dive for any coaster!! And for a different thrill, step to the rear and drop to the bottom on Hellevator, a 15-story freefall ride! Or attempt two maniac rounds of pure coaster adrenaline on Twisted Sisters, the world's first dueling coasters. Tropical Hurricane Bay is a 7-acre water park including a 750,000-gallon wave pool, children's activity area, water slide complex and an action river tubing adventure. New to the park is The Batman Thrill Spectacular, a heart-pounding action-packed stunt show featuring state-of-the-art pyrotechnics, motorcycle madness and daredevil stunts. Batman's arch nemesis, The Penguin has crafted a chilling new white water adventure that includes waterfalls, waves and the mysterious Penguin's Lair. Along the way, this criminal mastermind has sprinkled in a few chilling surprises for those who dare to ride The Penguin's Blizzard River. In all, there are more than 70 rides and attractions for all ages. The park is open weekends only in April, May, Sept, Oct and daily June-August. For information call: (800)-SCREAMS


Churchill Downs Race Track
Churchill Downs Race Track is Louisville's best-known and most-visited attraction. On the first Saturday of every May, America's best three-year-old Thoroughbreds assemble at historic Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. What has become known as "the greatest two minutes in sports" is now one of the major sporting events of the year. Millions watch on television while over a hundred and twenty-five thousand watch in the shadows of the famous Twin Spires. The Kentucky Derby is a race whose format and purpose have not strayed far from the original intentions of its founder, Meriwether Lewis Clark, in 1875. Col. Clark, generally taking his lead from the famous English Derby at Epsom Downs, established the Kentucky Derby as a race for three-year olds at one mile and one-half, a distance later reduced to the mile and one- quarter run today. Today the Kentucky Derby is more than just a race; it is a season of the year. Two weeks before the Derby, events become reasons for various kinds of entertainment. From the Great Balloon Race, to riverbank picnics enjoyed while the steamboats are racing down the Ohio River, the fantastic fireworks display Thunder Over Louisville and the Pegasus Parade, the people of Kentucky enjoy entertaining long before the actual day of the Derby. The track also hosts a two-month spring meet and a month-long fall meet. The Kentucky Derby Museum, next to Churchill Downs, captures the thrill of the Kentucky Derby every day in an exciting 360-degree multi-image show. The museum has exhibits, computerized hands-on displays, memorabilia and art to delight all ages. For racing dates and further information call Churchill Downs, 502/636-4400. For information call: (502) 637-1111


Kentucky Horse Park
Located in Lexington, Kentucky, the Kentucky Horse Park is like no other in the world. At the Park entrance, visitors are welcomed by the majestic Man o' War memorial. One of the greatest race horses to ever live, Man o' War symbolizes the courage, strength, and magnificence of all horses. The Visitor Information Center, introduces guests to the fascinating world of horses with the spectacular film "Thou Shalt Fly Without Wings." In the International Museum of the Horse, the largest of its kind in the world, visitors learn about the 58-million year history of the horse. The ring of the farrier's hammer and the smell of new leather from the harness shop welcome visitors to the Walking Farm Tour. From April through October, the color, sound, and excitement of the show ring is captured twice daily in the Parade of Breeds. This half-hour presentation highlights the unique characteristics of some of the park's 40 different breeds. After the show, visitors have an opportunity to meet and pet their favorite horses, and talk with riders. At the Hall of Champions, legendary horses representing Thoroughbred, Standardbred, and Quarter Horse racing are presented in three daily presentations, April through October. A relaxing way to see and learn about the park is aboard a covered wagon pulled by a team of gentle draft horses. Surrey rides, guided trail rides, and pony rides are also available. For information call: (606)233-4303