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There’s Only One: Check out these uniquely-Kentucky destinations

17 Nov

Kentucky was the 15th state to join the Union and the first on the western frontier. High Bridge located near Nicholasville is the highest railroad bridge over navigable water in the United States. Post-It Notes are manufactured exclusively in Cynthiana; the exact number made annually of these popular notes is a trade secret. The first American performance of a Beethoven symphony was in Lexington in 1817. Pikeville annually leads the nation in per capita consumption of Pepsi-Cola. Teacher Mary S. Wilson held the first observance of Mother’s Day in Henderson in 1887; it was made a national holiday in 1916. The song “Happy Birthday to You” was the creation of two Louisville sisters in 1893. More than $6 billion worth of gold is held in the underground vaults of Fort Knox; this is the largest amount of gold stored anywhere in the world. Cheeseburgers were first served in 1934 at Kaolin’s restaurant in Louisville. Middlesboro is the only city in the United States built within a meteor crater.

There’s no other place like Kentucky.

The spirit of that phrase has inspired the Kentucky Department of Travel to host a campaign and Twitter contest this fall. “There’s Only One Kentucky” highlights 26 uniquely-Kentucky destinations filled with history, fun and beauty.

There’s only one Mammoth Cave National Park. There’s only one National Corvette Museum. There’s only one Cumberland Falls. There’s only one Bourbon Country.

The contest asks you to tweet for 26 days about only-in-Kentucky attractions with the hashtag #OnlyOneKentucky. Each day you tweet, you’re entered to win that day’s prize. You can learn more about the contest rules and details here:

In the spirit of the contest, we’ve put together a short list of some of the “Only One” destinations we’ve visited. We’ve had a great time on our travels so far — we’d love to have you join us in enjoying the Bluegrass State!

Photo by Elliott Hess for My Old Kentucky Road Trip,

1. Lexington is known as the Horse Capitol of the World

OK, we’re a little bias here. We’re both born and raised Lexintonians, and we’ll be the first to tell you there’s no where else in the world like it. The rolling hills of Bluegrass and sweeping fields of thoroughbred horse farms are just the start of its beauty. While you’re there, take a walk through Gratz Park or visit downtown and Cheapside Park. There are tons of great things to do in Lexington.

 2. Take to the high seas Ohio River on the Belle

The Belle of Louisville is a historic steamer docked on the riverfront in downtown Louisville. Take day cruises, dinner cruises or special event cruises. A few years ago, our friends joined us for a special fireworks cruise on the Belle on the Fourth of July. It was a beautiful night of dancing and fireworks.

3. Take a tour of Bourbon Country

Earlier this year, we road tripped to the Maker’s Mark Distillery in Loretto, Kentucky. It was a fun an informative day full of good friends and great bourbon. But the Maker’s Mark distillery is just one stop on Kentucky’s Bourbon Trail. 95 percent of all bourbon is distilled, aged and bottled right here in Kentucky. That makes it a must-see.

4. Hang out with the buffalo in Land Between the Lakes

I’ll always hold a soft spot for Land Between the Lakes and the bodies of water that surround it (Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley). My grandparents live in one of the neighboring counties, and I spent countless summers growing up there with my brothers and sister. In fact, I just made a trip back to western Kentucky a few weeks ago and it is just as beautiful as I remember it. Enjoy the great food, all of the miniature golf, the lovely resorts along the lake — Lake Barkley State Resort Park, Kentucky Lake State Park, Prizer Point, just to name a few — and if you look close enough, you’ll even spot a few buffalo. How very uniquely Kentucky.

5. Whether to rock climb or to eat some delicious pizza, people come from around the world to see Red River Gorge

This canyon system on the Red River in east-central Kentucky is about 44 square miles of high sandstone cliffs, natural bridges, waterfalls and rock shelters. ‘The Red’ attracts rock climbers and bolder-ers from around the world to experience the tons of bolted routes in overhanging, pocketed sandstone. When you’re there, be sure to check out Natural Bridge State Park. This natural sandstone bridge spans 78 feet and is 65 feet high. And don’t you dare leave without stopping at Miguel’s Pizza in Slade, Kentucky. Some of the best pies I’ve ever tasted.

Photo by Elliott Hess for My Old Kentucky Road Trip,

This is just a few items off of the “There’s Only One Kentucky” list. To see them all, go here.

Our Kentucky (Road Trip) Bucket List

23 Jun

Fog in the mountains in Beattyville, KY. Elliott Hess for My Old Kentucky Road Trip,

Do you have a bucket list?

No, we’re not talking about the movie with Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman (though that is a fine flick). We’re not even talking about that Buried Life show on MTV (though it’s pretty awesome, too).

We’re talking about a list of things you have – either in your mind or on paper – that you want to do before you die. Wow, that sounds morbid. Let us rephrase. Do you have a list of things you want to make sure you do in your life? Things you want to see? Places you want to visit? Food you want to try? If you don’t have one, maybe it’s something to think about.

Before he died, Kentucky historian Dr. Thomas Clark was asked by a friend of his (former Lexington Herald-Leader photographer David Stephenson) to make a list of his Kentucky Treasures – 10 places every Kentuckian should visit. Clark died before he’d completed his list but his widow Loretta found a type-written list of 11 places in her husbands things. It may or may not have been his final draft. You can find that list here, along with an audio program about Clark and his Kentucky Treasures done by KET.

Last week, the Lexington Herald-Leader put together a “Kentucky Bucket List” of 50 things in the state you should see, taste or do before you die … or maybe even before the summer ends. There are a lot of great things on the list, a few of which we’ve already checked off of our Old Kentucky Road Trip list (Mammoth Cave, Wigwam Village … and we may or may not have had a run in once upon a time with some moonshine, which we are not at liberty to discuss), so we thought we’d pass it along to all of you travelers.

Early Morning on Shadwell Horse Farm in Lexington, KY. Elliott Hess for My Old Kentucky Road Trip,

And in the spirit of this state bucket list, we decided to make one of our own. A few personal things we’d like to see and do in Kentucky in our lifetimes. (The out of KY list is much longer, I’m afraid).

Cameron & Blair’s Kentucky (Road Trip) Bucket List

1. See a moon bow at Cumberland Falls. Only at night during a full moon can you see this phenomenon, not found anywhere else in the Western Hemisphere.

2. See the Mississippi River at the very tip of Western Kentucky.

3. Visit a coal mine.

4. Spend a day in silence at the Abbey of Gethsemani in Nelson County.

5. See the New Madrid fault.

6. Visit Fort Knox.

7. Travel the length of Kentucky Highway 68 from Maysville to Paducah as it weaves its way through dozens and dozens of Kentucky’s most interesting towns. (It’ll take you past the Jefferson Davis monument too).

8. Attend some of Kentucky’s great food festivals. Tater Days? The Country Ham Festival? Yes, please.

Sunset over Lake Barkley. Elliott Hess for My Old Kentucky Road Trip,

The Kentucky Bucket List

**Now Updated** with Reader Favorites!

(and featuring MOKRT)

For more information on each bucket list entry, head over to the Herald-Leader.

1. Visit Mammoth Cave (check!)

2. Dip a bourbon bottle into that famous red wax at Maker’s Mark in Loretto

3. Take a sip at all the distilleries on the Bourbon Trail

4. Watch Harlan County U.S.A.

5. Read the works of Wendell Berry

6. Visit the Harland Sanders Cafe and Museum in Corbin

7. Own a piece of work by a Kentucky craftsman

Read the rest after the jump!

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Historic Kentucky: Floyd Collins Trapped in Mammoth Cave

13 May

While we’re planning our next trip and saving up gas money, here’s a Kentucky Story you may not have heard:

Floyd Collins: A Cautionary Tale about Cave Exploration

Sometimes known as “The Greatest Cave Explorer Ever Known,” Floyd Collins was a pioneer cave explorer and news sensation. The Collins family were owners of Crystal Cave- a lesser known, and more isolated section of the Mammoth Cave system. In a stroke of marketing genius, Floyd Collins decided he would begin searching for a new entrance which would tie Crystal Cave more closely to Mammoth Cave, thereby increasing tourists to the often ignored Crystal Cave. However, cave exploration in the early 1900s was not quite as safe or easy as it may seem today.

On January 30, 1925, Collins became trapped in a small passage on his way out of the cave, a mere 150 feet from the entrance. Friends found him the next day and worked quickly to bring hot food and light. He survived for over a week while efforts to rescue him were made. On February 17, rescuers found Floyd Collins dead from exposure and starvation. Deciding it was too dangerous to remove the body, they left it where it lay and hastily filled the shaft with debris. A doctor later estimated he had died three or four days previously, February 13, being the most likely.

A Publicity Frenzy

Newspaper reporter William Burke “Skeets” Miller from the Louisville Courier-Journal reported extensively on Floyd Collins’ attempted rescue and subsequent death, for which he received a Pulitzer Prize for Reporting in 1926. Skeets’ reports were published in newspapers and via telegraph across the United States, including coverage by the fairly new broadcast radio media. The publicity brought droves of tourists to Sand Cave (as it was called by the media), at one point numbering in the tens of thousands. Vendors set up to sell food and souvenirs, contributing to a circus-like atmosphere. The Sand Cave rescue quickly grew into one of the biggest media events of its time. Though Collins himself was unsuccessful in discovering a new entrance, his death achieved his goal of bringing tourism to the Crystal Cave system; the media attention helped fuel interest in the creation of Mammoth Cave National Park, of which Sand Cave became a part.

Read more about Floyd Collins:

Trapped! The Story of Floyd Collins

James M. Deem


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