Advice for Visiting Kentucky| Exploring the Midwest Episode 8

Last Updated on April 29, 2021 by Jody Halsted

Unfortunately Kentucky Tourism was unable to join me for this episode of the broadcast. So I recruited my friend, Kentucky resident and travel writer, Nedra McDaniel.

Nedra loves nothing more than sharing a first time adventure with family and friends. Her website, Adventure Mom shares experiences and encourages her readers to try something new, face fear, and step outside their comfort zone.

Is Kentucky in the Midwest?

Many would say no. Kentucky has a decidedly southern feel. From the delicious comfort food and the smooth Bourbon, to it’s mild temperatures and overall relaxed pace.

But if you look at Kentucky on a map it is no further east than Ohio and no further south than Missouri, which nestles it neatly into the Midwest. In fact, the Midwest Travel Journalists Association includes Kentucky in their Midwest region for authors and destinations.

horses graze at Gainsway Farm in Kentucky
horses graze at Gainsway Farm

Plan Your Kentucky Adventure

Northern Kentucky

Northern Kentucky pretty much identifies a lot with the Cincinnati region, just because of the proximity. We are so close. So we are definitely a little bit more unique than the other areas of the state because we’re so close to and we live on the border. So, you know, we have the Ohio river separating us. And so, it’s a different kind of vibe up in Northern Kentucky than in different parts of the state.

Kentucky Bourbon

  • Kentucky is the birthplace of Bourbon, crafting 95 percent of the world’s supply. Only the Bluegrass State has the perfect natural mix of climate, conditions and pure limestone water necessary for producing the world’s greatest Bourbon.
  • There are now 2 barrels for every person living in the Commonwealth. (also, I love that Kentucky isn’t a state but a Commonwealth)
Makers Mark Distillery
Makers Mark Distillery

Bourbon Trail 

So the bourbon trail has 18 stops on it. How much time should to expect to spend visit that?

You need a decent amount of time, because it takes a little bit to get to some of the distilleries. It’s not like they’re located necessarily right on top of each other. If you plan on drinking at each distillery consider a tour, let them worry about the driving. And then you can just kind of relax and enjoy each one as you go.

So you could do a few in a day. It just kind of depends on your preference and how fast or slow you want to experience it.

Outdoor Activities in Kentucky

Kentucky abounds with outdoor recreation opportunities, including activities such as camping, fishing, hunting, motorcycling, off-roading, snow sports, trail sports, water sports, wheel sports and wildlife viewing.

Pine Mountain Kentucky
Pine Mountain
  • Climbers come from all over the world to climb at Red River Gorge. You can kind of experience it however you want at your own pace as well. So you could take the chairlift up to the top of natural bridge, or you could hike up there. They also have an underground cave that you can do clear kayaks, or you could do a stand paddle board. They have zip-lining there.
  • At Cumberland Falls. you can stand up paddle. Do a tour there to the base of the falls. And you can do e-bike rides that will take you over to different falls in the area. You can sleep in a covered wagon, too.
  • Mammoth Cave is the largest underground cave system in the world. So you, you definitely need to check out that national park.
  • Louisville’s Waterfront Botanical Gardens are now open to the public. Enjoy the beauty of native and non-native trees, shrubs, perennials and ornamental grasses that contribute to local pollinator health and bird habitat.
  • The Breaks Interstate Park in eastern Kentucky is planning to build a 725-foot pedestrian swinging bridge across the Russell Fork Gorge.  The bridge will start on the Virginia side of the park and end on the Kentucky side, with a planned 2021 opening.
  • Visitors can hike and kayak within one of Kentucky’s most beautiful natural areas – the Kentucky River Palisades, a 450-million-year-old ecosystem – but now for extra adrenaline, visitors can soar 185 feet above the Palisades and the spectacular Boone Creek gorge with Boone Creek Outdoors’ Zipline Canopy Tours. Featuring six zip lines, three sky bridges, a rappel, a spiral and a floating staircase – it’s sure to be an adventure to remember!

Kentucky History and Culture

Kentucky has very diverse and distinct history and culture. From music to arts, and even spirituality, Kentucky seems to have a bit of everything…

Heritage trails include the Civil War Heritage Trail, Civil Rights Trail, Kentucky Lincoln Heritage Trail, Boone Trace, the Country Music Highway, and the Hatfield & McCoy Trail.

Shakers in Shaker Museum
Shakers in Shaker Museum
  • Shaker Village sits on 3000 acres and when you’re there, you feel like you have stepped back in time. It’s so incredibly peaceful. There is a nature preserve, hiking trails, even a waterfall. The food is farm to table.
  • Old Frankfort Pike in Central Kentucky, running between Lexington and U.S. 60 in Woodford County, has recently been named a National Scenic Byway by the Federal Highway Administration. The scenic byway offers a beautiful drive between stone and wood fences where horses frolic in pastures.
  • The Mill Springs Battlefield National Monument in Pulaski County is Kentucky’s newest addition to the National Park System. The Battle of Mill Springs was a significant Union victory early in the Civil War. The battlefield extends from Nancy to Mill Springs, a distance of about 9 miles.

Food in Kentucky

Because of all the different areas of Kentucky, you have some very distinctive flavors.

Hot Brown meal in Kentucky
Hot Brown

Things to try

  • Bourbon balls
  • Appalachian meals
  • A Hot Brown
  • Derby Pie
  • And KFC began in Kentucky so definitely fried chicken

Advice for Exploring Kentucky

Iron Bridge near Bowling Green Kentucky in fall
Iron Bridge near Bowling Green

Consider splitting the state into quadrants and stick to one during your trip.

For more tips to plan your Kentucky vacation be sure to visit AdventureMom.com to read her Kentucky articles.

And get your Kentucky visitors guide – in print or online- at KentuckyTourism.com

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