In honor of me having achieved my goal of visiting all 50 US States, each day for the next 50 days, I will post a picture of somewhere I have visited in each state and write a paragraph or two about my experience. There is so much to see in every one of them, so I am just selecting one of my best memories.
It is home of the world-famous chicken, of Bourbon and Baseball bats, Bluegrass fields with Bluegrass Music and majestic thoroughbreds that run for the roses. The sun shines brightly on this old Kentucky home. And with just one visit you’ll discover this state to be cooler than a Mint Julip on a hot July.
As you can already tell this place is full of contrast. Poxed marked mountains full of coal mines to the east that turn into rolling bluegrass fields and eventually the swampy flatlands of the Mississippi and Ohio Valleys of the extreme west.
The state’s largest city has a treasure trove of bounty for visitors including Churchill Downs, home of one of America’s most famous annual events The Kentucky Derby. The horserace is the highlight of the year in Louisville and caps off the two week Kentucky Derby Festival. Ran every year on the first Saturday in May, the Derby showcases Kentucky’s most beautiful thoroughbred horses and has been an annual event since 1875. The Derby is the first jewel of the Triple Crown which includes The Preakness and the Belmont Stakes. To win the triple crown, a horse must win all three of these races. Next to the racetrack is the Kentucky Derby Museum which traces the history of the race and some of the most famous horses that have been showcased.
Also in Louisville is the Muhammad Ali Center. The Center has exhibits that cover the life of the colorful Ali, from the time he was a young neophyte boxer named Cassius Clay to the time he became Muhammad Ali, the world heavyweight champion. The museum also has a replica of his training area and a boxing ring.
If you are a baseball fan make sure you check out the Louisville Slugger Museum. You can’t miss it, (literally) the building sits next to a 125-foot baseball bat. Inside you’ll see the bats used by such greats as Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and the bat used by Hank Aaron to hit his record-setting 700 home runs.
Just down river from Louisville is Owensboro, home of the Bluegrass Hall of Fame. Bluegrass museum originated in the Appalachian Mountains of eastern Kentucky and found a voice in such pioneers as Bill Monroe and Ralph Stanley. Today luminaries like as Allison Krause and Marty Stuart and Rhonda Vincent continue the tradition. In the Spring and Summer, it is uncommon to hear live music in the adjacent amphitheater. In the colder months, the Hall of fame uses an indoor venue. Make sure you check out one of the concerts after visiting the museum.
East of Louisville is Lexington, Kentucky’s second city which sits in the middle of the states bluegrass belt. This belt is named for the grass and not the music and his prime grazing land for horses. Kentucky has a tradition of breeding the nation’s most famous horses. While in Lexington, make sure you visit the Kentucky Horse Park. The Park is a working Horse farm and offers visitors a chance to have buggy rides and for experienced equestrians an opportunity to ride. These are magnificent specimens, and you’ll get to see why the state is world renown as a breeding center.
For a different kind of famous, head to North Corbin to see Sander’s Cafe. This restaurant was once owned by Harland Sanders aka “The Colonel.” It is here he started his secret recipe fried chicken that is now known the world over as KFC. There’s a small museum, and the Cafe still serves fried chicken and all the sides.
Also in southern Kentucky is Mamouth Cave National Park. The Cave is the longest cave in the world with over 400 miles explored so far. The standard tour lasts a couple hours, and you won’t even see nearly all of it. There is a section where you can look upon an area called the lower cave an entire mostly unexplored cave system underneath. Some of the highlights include a large domed area that has a ceiling 200 feet above, a massive subterranean lake, and an area called the ruins of Karnak that are massive limestone columns that resemble an ancient temple.
Kentucky has a real spirit, and I don’t mean the whiskey. But a spirit of down-home food, libations, and music. All overlooking rolling, verdant fields of pastureland with world champion horses. Sounds like the right place to me.