A few years ago, when my daughter was in the 2nd grade, she brought home a project about presidents. I thought to myself, why just research this, let’s live it! We live in the birthplace of our greatest president, Abraham Lincoln. So, we woke up early one February morning for a day trip to Abraham Lincoln’s Birthplace National Historical Park. It was at this point that I realized how easy it was to plan a trip without spending a fortune on hotel rooms and eating out. We picked a theme to help narrow our selection of places to visit and since my family has lived in Kentucky since shortly after the Revolutionary War, we chose to experience all the places that our ancestors helped discover. We have started day trips to sites all around the state. We are calling it “Our Kentucky Grand Tour” .
We Live in a state that has one of the best state park systems in the country and many natural wonders. How could you not be curious and adventurous to visit it all? Now, the kids (and my husband) don’t mind so much when I say “ Get in the car we’re going day-tripping!”
What started it all:
One: Abraham Lincoln’s Birthplace National Historic Park
This National Park is about 2 hours from our home in Union. There are hiking trails, a museum, and a large marble monument built around a symbolic log cabin. The cabin is from the same time period as the Lincoln family’s and is the same type. Here we are standing on one of the 56 steps leading to the memorial, one step for each year of Lincoln’s life. This is the first memorial to Lincoln, so it predates even the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC. https://www.nps.gov/abli/index.htm
We also had time to go to Hodgenville to visit the Kentucky’s Lincoln Museum. It’s about 7 miles from the National Park and sits in a quaint city square with a statue of Lincoln in the center.
There are 16 dioramas in the museum with wax figures depicting scenes from Lincoln’s life. The staff seemed a little anxious when we rolled up with 4 kids under the age of 7, but they mellowed out and we really enjoyed the experience. http://www.lincolnmuseum-ky.org/
Our favorite so far:
Two: The Kentucky Horse Park
If you live in Kentucky you should probably know a little bit about horses, and one of the best places to learn about and experience all thing equine is at The Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington. The Horse Park is run by the Commonwealth of Kentucky and is home to every type of horse from Kentucky Derby winners down to the lowly donkey. There is the opportunity to ride the trails on the back of a Tennessee Walker or do the pony loop on a miniature horse. I recommend the show Horses of the World. The volunteer riders are amazing, and afterwards you have a chance to talk to the riders and meet the horses.
The Museum of the Horse is a great place to discover the history of the horse, not just in racing, but in transportation, farming and even in conquering armies. It clearly explains about breeds of horses and what regions of the world they are from.
If you want to see the celebrities head to the Hall of Champions. This is where Kentucky Derby winner Funny Cide spends his retirement. They will not let you get too close because championship horses tend to be divas. They will bite and kick and throw a hissy fit. Overall, a great day was had by my family, and the kids have been asking when can we go back. It takes about an hour to get to the Horse Park. http://www.kyhorsepark.com/
Our Most Recent:
Three: Natural Bridge State Kentucky
All of our girls are getting older now. No one needs a diaper change or a stroller anymore, so we have decided that it is time to try some hiking. First stop Natural Bridge. Natural Bridge was formed after many millennia of weathering created a 78 foot long “bridge”. There are several trails that lead to the bridge, the easiest being the Original Trail. The trail is not difficult and the view is AMAZING! It was a great place to introduce our girls to hiking, and the added benefit is that my husband and I are getting back into shape. I had my most steps ever this day.
When we were finished with the hike we jumped into the pool that is right at the end of the trail. I mean it! You walk down a few steps and go right to get to the parking lot or go left to get to the swimming pool. The public pool cost $5 for adult and $3 for kids. It felt sooooo good to cool off in the water! There is a bath house, so you can shower before you head home. I will let you know that the showers only had cold water. After swimming we headed up to the lodge to eat at the buffet however, when my 8 year old saw frog legs written on the marquee she refused to eat there. If this happens, don’t worry we found a McDonalds 2 exits up the road. This park is not far off the exit, but it could not have taken us farther away from our daily grind. Nothing but blue skies, trees and mountains to be seen for what seems like forever. http://parks.ky.gov/parks/resortparks/natural-bridge/
We have also taken trips to Mammoth Cave, Cumberland Falls, the Original Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant in Corbin and Laurel Lake. My dad has a boat that we use for lake trips, and you can rent pontoon boats from just about any marina in Kentucky.
If you have been on the fence about taking a Kentucky day trip, I hope I have shown you how easy and inexpensive it can be. For the price of a tank of gas and a picnic lunch you and the family will have a one of a kind experience in a one of a kind state. Truly, the sun shines bright on My Old Kentucky Home, another great place to take a day trip.
Check out these web sites to find the perfect trip for you: Kentucky State Parks and Kentucky Tourism. You can request a vacation package from Kentucky Tourism. They sent a book and this huge map. We hung it up on the wall and are marking all the places that we visit with a red dot.
Boone County Public Library has seven different road trip kits available for checkout. Some of the kit locations would make great day trips. The kits include things like brochures, maps, guidebooks and to make the drive go faster, audiobooks, CDs and travel games. I highly recommend the kits, they make your trip planning easy! Click on one of the kits below and read more about it in our catalog. You can easily put it on hold and choose to pick it up at your closest library branch. Road trip kits can be checked out for three weeks.
Happy day-tripping everyone. Get out there and start your own Kentucky Grand Tour!
Michelle Hoffman is the mother of 4 girls and has been married to her husband for 20 years. She has worked in the Scheben Youth Services department for eight years.