Bourbon Country Fun For Families
It is an often-mentioned fact that bourbon barrels outnumber humans in Bourbon Country by close to double. Though Kentuckians are very proud of the treasured, caramel-colored libation the state is well known for, the Bluegrass State also has a plethora of art, museums, history, food, adventure, and sweet hospitality on and off the Bourbon Trail that will draw your family in and steal your hearts. As a Cuban-American mom who was raised immersed in culture, sports, nature, and an appreciation for excellent food, Kentucky serves up so much of what my family craves in a travel destination. The only tricky part is in figuring out how to squeeze it all in without packing up and heading to the Bluegrass state for good!
If you’re looking for a day drenched in culture, education, and some of the finest art in the nation, the state has a wide array of remarkable museums. Some of them feature activities and things Kentucky is widely known for, such as horseracing, fast cars, bourbon, and baseball, while others may revolve around subjects and themes not commonly associated with Kentucky. For exploring the well-known connections to the state, Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby Museum, Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory Tours, and several distilleries for whiskey lovers with kids will hit the spot. Buffalo Trace is a favorite distillery with little ones in tow. The grounds are massive and perfect for exploring outdoors and guides cater to kids on tours by handing out candy and juice and diving into attention-grabbing scientific details about the bourbon-making process. If you want to venture out to discover the atypical, however, there is also plenty to enjoy. Mixing it up and trying a bit of everything is a sure way to fully savor Kentucky.
The Aviation Museum of Kentucky in Lexington offers an environment where families can immerse themselves in the history and science of flight. Located at the Blue Grass Airport in Lexington, the museum opened its doors to the public in 1995 and includes over 20,000 square feet of aircraft bliss. Exhibit space, an aircraft restoration area, and a library are all must-sees.
The KMAC Museum, formerly known as the Kentucky Museum of Arts and Crafts, is another museum you will not want to miss. Located in downtown Louisville’s West Main Historic District, KMAC’s mission is to connect people to art and creative practice. The museum features the works of many local artists, giving them a platform to share their varying skills and techniques. One of the core values of KMAC is to provide accessibility to art through experiences that transform people of all ages, by lighting a fire of curiosity, promoting connection, and nurturing a profound sense of inclusion. Though exhibits and features are consistently amazing, you can check KMAC’s event calendar ahead of your trip for a preview of what’s in store.
For a unique multi-venue experience that combines several features travelers and explorers desire, 21c – with locations in both Lexington and Louisville – wraps contemporary art museum, cultural center events, restaurant, and hotel into a beautiful, educational, inspiring, and convenient package. Locals and visitors alike are welcomed to enjoy curated exhibits, cultural events, and chef-driven restaurants all in one location. Make sure to look for Cracking Art’s penguin statues, which are now permanent staples at each location and often-perched where you least expect them.
After the cultural infusion, head outdoors and connect with nature in and around Bourbon Country. Whether your family opts for adventures on land, in water, or even underground, there’s a bounty of beauty to soak up and fun to be had!
There are thousands of miles of trails to explore on foot, by bike, or by horseback. For some of the best kid-friendly hiking trails, head over to Red River Gorge in East-Central Kentucky inside the Daniel Boone National Forest where you will find several well-maintained and clearly marked trails including the Rock Bridge Trail. Rock Bridge Trail is one of the most scenic trails in Red River Gorge and includes the “rock bridge” after which the trail is named as well as Creation Falls, a stunning waterfall.
Also located within Daniel Boone National Forest, Cumberland Falls State Park is a hiker’s paradise and contains the largest waterfall in Kentucky. With 17 miles of hiking trails that wind through nature’s majesty, a favorite path is the 10.8-mile long Moonbow Trail that parallels Cumberland River. Cumberland Falls is the only place in the Western Hemisphere where you can see a Moonbow and though some parts of the trail are a little more challenging, there are portions that are appropriate for all skill levels. Cumberland Falls also offers gem-mining, canoeing, swimming, fishing, and horseback riding. Be sure to give yourselves enough time to enjoy your peaceful surroundings, stop to inspect rocks, leaves and insects, and take tons of pictures.
For below ground fun, head over to Mammoth Cave National Park for the world’s longest cave system. The whole family can load up for a mesmerizing cave tour where you will see prehistoric artifacts and stunning rock formations.
After everyone has worked up an appetite, moving along to a few quaint spots for amazing food should be next on your list and, boy, does Bourbon Country deliver. From quaint cafés in small towns to white tablecloth dining and everything in between, Bourbon Country dining offers a wonderful feast for the senses.
A favorite for families looking to dine in Louisville is Mussel & Burger Bar. This casual American Bistro melds classic favorites with unique flavors. Their service is amazing and the ambiance is very family-oriented. They also have a great kids’ menu and they offer a carefully put together cocktail list. In Louisville as well, and part of the 21c museum hotel, Proof on Main is another eatery that offers a great selection for families. Serving breakfast, brunch, lunch, and dinner, Proof on Main presents a menu of imaginative yet accessible food and beverage items paired with warm, top notch service in an art-filled setting. If you are celebrating something extra special, head to the stunning Holly Hill Inn in Midway. The restaurant is owned by James Beard-nominated chef Ouita Michel and her husband Chris and features a creative seasonal menu as well as a selection of over 100 bourbons.
Sweet treat options, craft breweries, and entertainment options are also plentiful. Muth’s Candy in Louisville was established by Rudy Bennet when he returned home from WWII and is still run by his family. Crank & Boom Craft Ice Cream in Lexington offers premium ice cream made with JD Country Milk out of Logan County and they family run business also supports other local farms and community initiatives. For a bit of everything in one complex, 4th Street Live! Offers 350,000-square-feet of entertainment, dining, and shopping.
Bourbon Country has historically been thought of as the quintessential boys’ trip destination. Though Bourbon is undeniably at the core of culture and tradition, the area also offers a multitude in terms of places to eat, explore and experience for the entire family. From museums and attractions to outdoor adventures and restaurants, rev your travel engines, because Bourbon Country is ready to knock your socks off.
Written by Magaly Fuentes
January 17, 2022