There's lots of talk these days about getting our generation of screen-addicted kids into the great outdoors. In Central Kentucky, it's not hard to do. Here are some of our favorite places to take the family for natural fun:
1. Raven Run Nature Sanctuary (ravenrun.org) has 734 acres and 10 miles of trails along creeks, meadows and woods that take you to some of the region's most spectacular scenery, the Palisades of the Kentucky River. There's also a great nature center and plenty of programming for kids.
2. The Arboretum (arboretum.ca.uky.edu) fills 100 acres between Tates Creek and Nicholasville roads, featuring trees and plants from throughout the various regions of Kentucky. There are also a 2-mile paved hilly path that wanders through fields and woodland, elaborate gardens of perennials and annual flowers, a huge vegetable garden, and a memorial rose garden dedicated to the victims of the crash of Comair Flight 5191. For the younger set, the Arboretum opened the Kentucky Children's Garden, where kids can get down and dirty amid flower beds and tiny streams.
3. The Salato Wildlife Education Center (1.usa.gov/1sZe48E) is a little further afield, in Frankfort, but well worth the trip. Run by the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, Salato starts with an education center of Kentucky's fauna, including native fish and turtles. Then you step outside into a veritable zoo of Kentucky wildlife, including bison, two shy wildcats, deer, elk and even a black bear. For fishing enthusiasts, there are several lakes and poles that can be checked out. If you're under 16, you don't need a fishing license.
4. If you like the water, two liveries offer canoes and kayaks on two of the area's prettiest waterways. Canoe Kentucky (canoeky.com) provides livery on the Elkhorn Creek in Northern Franklin County, while Central Kentucky Kayaking (centralkentuckykayaking.com) is a newer outfit just outside Paris on Stoner Creek.
5. Sure, Shaker Village at Pleasant Hill (shakervillageky.org) is known for the pure lines of its buildings and its Shaker furniture, but when the kids get bored, wander down to the farm, where you can meet oxen and other farm animals and see the vegetables you might get lucky enough to eat for lunch. If everyone is still full of energy, trails crisscross 3,000 beautiful acres; during the warmer months, you can take the road down to Shaker Landing for a ride on the paddleboat Dixie Belle down the Kentucky River.
6. For animal lovers, think about a trip out to Old Friends (oldfriendsequine.org), a farm for retired racehorses — some of them quite famous. Reservations are required for the tour, which introduces you to horses like Danthebluegrassman, a former Derby contender, and Little Silver Charm, a miniature horse saved from the slaughterhouse. Tours are $10 for adults and free for kids 12 and under. All proceeds help support the 150 retired horses who live at Old Friends.
These are just a few ideas to get you started. Central Kentucky also has numerous parks, sanctuaries, pools, orchards and trails to keep little ones away from the screens whenever you want.