It’s a given that travel isn’t “one size fits all.” In the past few years, niche travel has become popular, with itineraries geared to adventure travelers, family travelers, foodies, history buffs, those looking for an educational component or those in search of a romantic or girlfriends’ getaway.
There are opportunities galore for travelers in each category across the commonwealth. Here are just a few:
For the adventurous traveler
While those with high adrenaline levels undoubtedly know about the miles of hiking and biking trails throughout the state park system, and spelunkers are familiar with the opportunities at Mammoth Cave and other caves in western Kentucky, some adrenaline-boosting activities fly more below the radar.
For example, do you know where the best places to zipline are?
It might come as a surprise, but Mammoth Cave ranks high not just for underground adventures, but for those aboveground as well. Soar through the trees on the Canopy Zipline Tour which has five ziplines ranging in length from 500 to 1000 feet, as well as three sky bridges that span more than 60 acres of scenic woodland.
Red River Gorge also has five lines, including two that allow you to race at speeds of 50 mph at elevations 300 feet over the Gorge.
For an extra dollop of adventure, try zip-lining in the dark (well, mostly dark) at Louisville’s Mega Cavern. Billed as the World’s Only Fully Underground Zip Line Course, there are 17 miles of passageways under the city of Louisville.
It’s no secret that Kentucky has plenty of world class water locations to fish, boat and raft. But did you know that there are also cool spots to scuba dive? Even without an ocean, divers can find enchantment below the water’s surface. From April through October, Greenbo Lake State Resort Park in Greenup operates a 10-acre scuba refuge for certified divers.
Divers may not find coral reefs at the dam reservoir at Lake Cumberland in Jamestown, but they will get up close to bass, walleye and catfish as well as some unexpected sights such as fallen trees and a sunken houseboat. Experienced divers with advanced certification can even explore the ruins of once thriving towns now submerged.
For the family
If this is the year you have promised the family a thrill-packed vacation, here are some spots that deliver. Beech Bend Amusement Park & Splash Lagoon in Bowling Green is perennially listed as a Top 5 Park by Amusement Today magazine. Not surprising since it lacks both high prices and long lines, and offers free parking, sunscreen and inner tubes.
With more than 40 rides and attractions, Beech Bend evokes the thrills and chills of summer vacation at its best. Try the Wild Mouse Spinning Coaster and Shock Drop if you dare; if you want something a bit less white-knuckling, float along the lazy river at the adjoining Splash Lagoon water park. As a full-service venue, Beech Bend offers food, entertainment and campsites for overnight.
The Kentucky Doll and Toy Museum in Carlisle is sure to attract the younger kids with its collection of late 19th and early 20th century dolls and toys, including an impressive collection of fire engines. From toy trains you can move on to the real thing at the Big South Fork Scenic Railway in Stearns. The train takes a scenic 14-mile journey through the mountains to the former Blue Heron Coal Mining Camp, descending 600 feet into the Big South Fork Gorge.
Other activities the family can enjoy together include paddleboarding the Kentucky River at Shaker Village; checking out the exhibits at the Louisville Slugger Museum and visiting the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park in Hodgenville.
For the romantic at heart
If you want to leave the kids at home and rekindle a spark of romance, you have plenty of choices. If you prefer cosmopolitan and chic, there are the art-filled 21C Museum Hotels in Louisville and Lexington, and the Hotel Covington in its namesake city. At the latter, if you book the “Tailored Experience,” the gentleman can be fitted with a custom blazer and two custom dress shirts from Philippe Haas Bespoke Tailoring. So, what does the lady get? After her partner’s indulgence, anything she wants.
If you’re in the mood for a bed-and-breakfast, you can do no better than Southern Grace Bed and Breakfast in Brandenburg, the Dupont Mansion in Old Louisville or the Pinnacle View Inn perched above the Red Lick Valley in Berea.
As for historic inns, the 31-room Beaumont Inn in Harrodsburg is celebrating its centenary as an inn. Famous for its fried chicken in the restaurant, it is also the place to indulge your passion for bourbon in the Owl Tavern.
If you want the true resort experience, head for the small community of Grand Rivers and its lakeside Grand Turtle Bay Resort. It has the Jade & Earth Spa where if you find massages and facials so last year, you can opt instead for sinus therapy. There’s also a Yacht Club located at the resort to take full advantage of the river.
Foodies take heart
This summer (and running through October) you can indulge your passion for all foods Kentucky with the Culinary Trail offered by the Kentucky Office of Tourism and Kentucky State Parks.
Currently, nine parks are on the Trail. Covering all regions of the state, their menus offer commonwealth favorites from burgoo and BBQ mutton at Pennyrile Forest State Resort Park to Kentucky Bibb Salad with Benedictine dressing at Rough River Dam State Resort Park.
If you’re looking for an iconic dining spot, make a trip to Corbin for dinner at Harland Sanders Café, the birthplace of Kentucky Fried Chicken (check out the museum as well); the Boone Tavern Inn in Berea for their justly famous spoonbread, or book a table at the Freight House in Paducah where Sara Bradley and “Top Chef” finalist is quickly attaining celebrity chef status.
So, whether your travel preference is for a secluded fishing hole in a state park or taking in a Broadway show at Louisville’s Actors Theater, you won’t lack for things to do this summer.