A Weekend in Kentucky, Of All Places

I have a big map of the United States on my wall with pins marking each of the places I have visited. One of the areas that was blank was Kentucky. So, I packed my bags and spent a few days in this chicken-loving state.


A Weekend in Kentucky, Of All Places

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by fallschirmhosen on July 6, 2005

Louisville and the surrounding area are small and quiet compared to my current home of New York City. By setting up your trip base in Louisville, you are 2 hours or less from Indianapolis, Cincinnati, and Cave City. Spend a few days in the area to do some real Americana sightseeing (Louisville Slugger Museum, Lincoln historic sites, Jim Beam factory), or get out and enjoy nature with a canoe trip or camping near the caves and Green River. If you want an adrenaline rush, head over to Six Flags in Louisville. Or, if you time it right, stop by Churchill Downs to catch one of the Triple Crown races. Lastly, if you're a professional burglar, drive over to nearby Fort Knox and try breaking into the government's gold reserves.${QuickSuggestions} Check out downtown Louisville. There is a Hard Rock Cafe among other popular establishments. Take a stroll along the river and watch old ferries pass by... or hop aboard one for a dinner or lunch cruise. Also, take note that the time zone changes between Louisville and Cave City. Cave City is on Central Time, Louisville on Eastern Time.${BestWay} Make sure you have a car. Driving is quick and easy here. The highways near the cities tend to be a little slow, but anywhere outside the city is fast. At Louisville's airport, there are plenty of car rental options.

Quality Inn & Suites

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by fallschirmhosen on July 6, 2005

Louisville, KY, has two highway belts surrounding the city, I-265 and I-264. Located just off the inner belt, I-264, at exit 16, is a Quality Inn & Suites. Situated in a suburban setting, the hotel is actually less than 7 miles to almost anything in Louisville. Nearby is the Louisville Zoo, Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom, Freedom Hall, and downtown Louisville. The hotel is surrounded by gas stations and restaurants. Rates for the hotel range from $50 to $100+ per night.

The hotel offers most services you expect with a cheap hotel, including cable TV, a cocktail lounge, computer hook-ups with high-speed Internet access (free) in some rooms, an exercise room, a heated pool, and continental breakfast.

The rooms are generally clean and sufficient in size. Our double bed almost felt small inside the room. The bathroom was well-stocked with clean towels, shampoo, and soap. We also had a phone that said “Holiday Inn” on it, though we were in a Quality Inn.

In the morning, the hotel has a complimentary continental breakfast in their restaurant/dining area. There is a variety of bagels, muffins, and cereal to eat, and orange juice, coffee, and tea to drink. If you’re not a big breakfast eater, this should be enough to eat.

I only have two complaints with the hotel. One is that our TV did not have a remote - it was missing. The second complaint I have was that it took over 30 minutes to check in. The actually check-in process was painful, but the room card/key did not work in my room. It took four non-working room keys before the front desk attendant decided to assign me a different room. Luckily, that room key worked.
Quality Inn and Suites
3255 Bardstown Rd.
Louisville, Kentucky, 40205
(502) 454-0451

Travelodge

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by fallschirmhosen on July 6, 2005

If you need a cheap place to spend a night and you don’t want to be too far from Cincinnati, OH, then check out the Travelodge in Florence, KY. For about $50, you can get a decent-sized hotel that is right off I-71/75 and only 10 minutes from downtown Cincinnati.

When it comes to the rooms, you get what you pay for. Being a $50+ per night hotel, don’t expect anything too fancy, but don’t expect a dump. The room was definitely clean, and the bathroom was clean, too. However, the walls did seem a bit thin, and you could hear anyone who walked past the room in the hallway. In addition, since our room was located next to the laundry room, there was a bit more noise than I would have wanted.

The hotel does offer a complimentary continental breakfast. I probably shouldn’t expect much from a free breakfast, but I was very disappointed with the selection. They only offered a few muffins and danishes, plus orange juice. Luckily, nearby are a variety of restaurants and convenience stores to go to if your mini muffin and watered-down orange juice are not enough.

Since I only spent one short night at this Travelodge, I can say that it was sufficient for my needs. It gives you a comfortable place to sleep at an affordable rate and is not far from Cincinnati, OH. My only complaint was that I was never able to open the door to my room with that key-card system.
Travelodge Florence
8075 Steilen Dr.
Florence, Kentucky, 41042
(859) 371-0277

Wigwam Village

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by fallschirmhosen on July 6, 2005

When taking a road trip, you can spend your nights in a hotel, or a motel, or a tent, or maybe a bed-and-breakfast. But did you ever consider staying in a teepee? I didn’t think it was possible until stumbling upon the website for the Wigwam Village in Cave City, KY. This bizarre place is something straight out of 1950s America.

Located on Route 31W, just north of the main drag of town, Wigwam Village is a set of 15 teepees situated in a half-circle. Each teepee is like a room of a motel. Rates for each room run around $60 to $75. Our teepee had one bed, which seemed to be plenty. Apparently there are teepees with two beds, though I can’t imagine how they fit in the teepee. There is a big teepee that has the rental office and souvenir store inside. The souvenirs inside are worth a look. I found a giant plastic pocketknife glued to a fake wood plaque, sort of like how people will mount fish to a plaque.

The teepees are not made of leather, nor do they have a dirt floor with a fire in the center, nor a leather flap for the door, nor is there a spot to hitch a horse outside. They are actually wood and stucco buildings with a real door, linoleum floor, a bathroom with shower, cable TV, and a parking spot for your car. Inside is a unique wooden bed, and then there are a million little appliances, such as a window air-conditioner set to -50 degrees F, an Ionic breeze (of all things), a coffeemaker, a lamp with no shade on it, and a TV on a movable TV stand. Our wigwam also had a spot on the floor that was "overwaxed." Stepping on this spot felt like you were ice skating. The windows on the teepee are also very small, maybe 1x1.

As for cleanliness, it could have been a bit cleaner. Some of the towels had dirt stains on them, and the shower stall felt a little grungy. This is by far not a five-star hotel. I think the owners are only concerned with getting curious people (like me) to spend a night there and not spending to much time making each wigwam clean and nice.

All in all, staying at Wigwam Village was fun (aside from the kid who tried coming in our teepee at 7am when he mistook our teepee for his). How many people can say they spent a night in a teepee with cable TV? If you’re looking for a unique place to stay, check out their website for more information ( www.wigwamvillage.com).
Wigwam Village
601 North Dixie Highway
Cave City, Kentucky, 42127
(270) 773-3381

Mario's Italian Restaurant

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by fallschirmhosen on July 6, 2005

Finding anything but chicken in Kentucky is a lot harder than you think, especially when you’re from New York City and used to having a million choices for food within a 10-block radius. So, when I found myself in Cave City, KY, and not wanting the local chicken dinner, I sought to find something exotic for the area. I was hoping to stumble upon Indian food, or perhaps Mediterranean. But the most exotic food I could find was Italian at Mario’s Italian Restaurant (aside from the fast-food Chinese place).

The restaurant is on the main level of a large home. Don’t expect anything glamorous, and leave your nice clothes at home. The tables looked like folding card tables, and the chairs were something out of a large banquet hall that can easily be stacked and stored. Tables are placed very close to one another, and our table was in what appeared to be a wide hallway between the two main dining areas. The walls are painted an annoying red color, which becomes even more annoying when your dining partner is also wearing red. And the silverware is wrapped in plastic on the table. Most everyone in there seemed to be locals enjoying a nice dinner out with their family.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect with Italian food from Kentucky. But, surprisingly, it was not bad. For starters, I ordered an Italian salad, and my dining partner ordered the house salad. For some reason, my salad was twice the size of hers. For the main dish, I ordered the gnocchi, which was well cooked. My only complaint was that the sauce was a bit oily. My dining partner ordered the spaghetti - once again, well cooked, but with oily sauce. We also ordered garlic bread, which was nothing special.

All of the food is moderately priced at about $9 to $15 per entrée. For a dinner for two, expect to pay about $30 or more, including drinks and appetizers. Service is generally good, so tip accordingly.

Mario’s is located at the outskirts of town. The parking lot is small and narrow, so be careful if you have a big truck. At the cash register, they have souvenir hats. I wish I’d bought one. All in all, if you don’t want chicken when in Cave City, check this place out.
Mario's Italian Restaurant
403 Mammoth Cave Street
Louisville, Kentucky, 42127
(270) 773-5407

Jerry's Restaurant

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by fallschirmhosen on July 6, 2005

After canoeing seven miles in the Green River near Cave City, KY, I had a craving for diner food. Luckily, Cave City has Jerry’s, an old diner with a decent menu. Look for the giant sign (possibly visible from I-65 nearby). Inside, you’ll find a mix of locals and tourists. There is a hotel directly next to the restaurant. And the locals all seemed to have just come from their Sunday religious services.

The menu offers a variety of breakfast foods, sandwiches, and some pasta dishes. Also, because it is a diner, you can order breakfast at any time. We ordered sandwiches, a typical cold sandwich and a fish filet sandwich. Both were prepared well and came with fries (which were very good). The prices are very typical for the area. Most dishes are under $10, and some breakfasts are below $5.

Service at Jerry’s is generally good. Unlike New York, there is both a smoking and nonsmoking section to eat in. It was almost weird seeing people smoking in a restaurant (and also seeing Mello Yello on the drink menu). The nonsmoking section was in the back of the restaurant. At times, it seemed like the waitress was never there, so it might be tough to get your check or ask for a drink refill. When you pay your bill, you must bring it to the register.

If you’re craving diner food in Cave City, I recommend visiting Jerry’s.
Jerry's Restaurant
805 Mammoth Cave St.
Louisville, Kentucky, 42127
(270) 773-2169

Louisville Slugger Museum

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by fallschirmhosen on July 6, 2005

Being a minor league batboy as a teenager, which means I have an absurdly large collection of broken baseball bats from players, I was very excited to see the place where many of my bats were created. Situated in the western part of downtown Louisville, near the river, is the Louisville Slugger Museum. The museum itself is actually in the working factory. The building is an old, typical factory loft. Normally, such a building would blend in with the surrounding buildings. But this place has a humongous replica bat at the entrance. If you miss it, you might need to make an appointment with your optometrist.

You can visit the museum for free, which includes several rooms with displays that talk about the history of the bats and the technology behind them. I had the most fun with the life-sized mannequins of players. Also, there is a batting cage to test your hitting skills. For $1, you can get 10 pitches from a machine, though I think the cage is intended for kids since the maximum speed of the pitches was only 40mph.

For $8, however, you can get a behind-the-scenes tour of the actual factory floor where the bats are made today. My first impression when walking through the factory was, “Wow, this is it?” It seems small, very small. During the tour, you basically learn how the wood is transformed from a regular piece of wood into an aerodynamic piece of wood used by little leaguers and professionals alike. Unsurprisingly, the bats today are all made by machines, and they take 30 seconds to carve. The factory has a handful of employees who monitor the production and help with the production of bat details (i.e. name carving, coloring of wood, etc.).

At the end of the tour, everyone is given a miniature replica bat approximately 15 inches long. Of course, within 2 minutes of receiving such a souvenir, you will probably see kids hitting each other with them.

This is an interesting place to visit if you are a fan of baseball. The time it takes to tour the whole museum is not long; a couple hours inside is sufficient. And, if you’re a super-fan, you can order a real bat with your name on it. I controlled myself and left with only my souvenir bat from the tour.
Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory
800 West Main Street
Louisville, Kentucky, 40202
( 502) 588-7228

Great American Ballpark

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by fallschirmhosen on July 6, 2005

On the shore of the Ohio River, across from Kentucky, you will find Cincinnati, Ohio. When driving into the city from Kentucky, one of the first things you will see are their sports stadiums, first their new football stadium, and then Great American Ball Park. This is the new home of the Cincinnati Reds baseball team. Many teams are building stadiums that replicate older, original baseballs stadiums. But this ballpark is quite the opposite. It is a modern stadium built to look new and futuristic. It holds over 42,000 people and feels very spacious. Walking in the corridors below the seats does not feel cramped. And, in many sports, you can view the game from the corridors, meaning you can leave your seat and still watch the game.

Tickets range from $5 to $200. I paid $12 for my ticket. You can purchase tickets online (for a fee) or you can call the Reds (for a fee, also). I think the only place to buy tickets without facing an additional fee is at the stadium ticket office. I sat in section 519 and had the front row. I highly recommend calling the Reds and requesting a front-row seat in the upper level. Not only are the tickets cheap, but you are guaranteed a good view. Most seats in the stadium offer good views, though.

Like most baseball teams today, the stadium offers a variety of food to choose from. Of course, you can find your traditional hot dog and beer. However, Great American Ball Park also offers a selection of burgers, Tex-Mex wraps, nachos, pizza, and other junk food that makes you fat. I did not notice any vegetarian options. Prices for these foods are about average for any sports arena. Expect to spend over $20 for a meal and drink for two people.

There are many options for parking. Downtown parking garages and parking lots are literally a couple blocks away. Cincinnati is not a threatening or scary city, so I felt comfortable parking my car in a quiet garage. Average cost for game-day parking is $10, though I did see someone holding a sign for $6 parking.

To learn more about the stadium and team, look into a ballpark tour. Tours are operated Monday to Saturday. Check their website for specific times and other details. Also, for day games, bring sunscreen. And for night games, bring a sweater or light jacket.
Great American Ball Park
100 Joe Nuxhall Way
Cincinnati, OH, 45202
(513) 381-7337

Lincoln Boyhood Home at Knob Creek

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by fallschirmhosen on July 6, 2005

Along Route 31E in the rural area between Bardstown and Hodgenville, you will come across an amazing piece of history: Abraham Lincoln’s boyhood home. On the site is a cabin (the boyhood home), a larger building (formally a dance hall and now being converted into a museum), Knob Creek, and a large field that once belonged to the Lincoln’s. Though not a large site, it is the perfect place to learn a bit of history and have a picnic lunch.

The main feature of this site is the old cabin. Currently, it is off-limits due to restoration work being done and can only be viewed from outside the fence surrounding it. It should also be noted that the cabin, though old, decrepit, and looking like it is from Lincoln’s era, is not the actual childhood home of Lincoln. The land was bought by another family at the turn of the 20th century, who then built the replica cabin based on descriptions by people who had seen the original.

Just beyond the cabin, along a small patch of woods, you can find Knob Creek. Legend says that Lincoln nearly drowned in this creek but was rescued by a friend. On my visit to the site, the creek was very low (think 3 inches deep), which made it hard for me to think someone could drown in it.

A visit to this historic site would not be complete without a visit to Lincoln’s birthplace, approximately 10 minutes farther south on Route 31E. Also, if you are approaching the boyhood home driving south on Route 31E, pay close attention to the historic markers on the right side of the road. A couple miles north of the boyhood home you can find a plaque marking the site of Abraham Lincoln’s childhood school. Route 31E itself is a historic road, one of the earliest roads in the region that connected Louisville with Nashville.
Lincoln Boyhood Home at Knob Creek
U.S. Highway 31E
Louisville, Kentucky

Abraham Lincoln Birthplace

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by fallschirmhosen on July 6, 2005

Seeing the birthplace of American presidents is not something I have ever been interested in. But, for Abraham Lincoln, seeing his birthplace just seemed fascinating. South of Hodgenville, KY, on Route 31E, is the site of Lincoln’s birth. Though not a large site, the grounds do have a visitor center that houses some old artifacts from the Lincoln land, nature trails that lead to the memorial site and surrounding land, and the actual marble and granite memorial building built around 1910.

Inside the memorial building, you will find the birthplace cabin. It is actually quite an odd-looking thing to come across. From the outside, you see a grand, magnificent building that was built to evoke a sense of power and strength. But then you step inside and see this old, dirty, rickety cabin that looks like it is about to fall apart at any moment. I found it quite funny.

Also inside the memorial is a park ranger. The first thing we learned from him is, like the childhood home of Lincoln, this cabin is not the actual birthplace cabin that the Lincolns owned. Apparently, when the memorial was built, the historians believed the cabin being put inside this memorial was the actual Lincoln cabin. But recently, with the help of modern technology, samples of the wood were taken that showed the wood was too young to be the Lincolns’ cabin. Oh well. It just makes this memorial seem a bit more humorous with the fact that they built a giant memorial to house a cabin that did not even belong to the Lincolns.

Despite that, the cabin gives you a sense of the quality of life for people back then. It almost seems like that such a life existed thousands of years ago. But, in fact, it was less than 200 years ago.

If you’re lucky enough to have the park ranger we had, you will not learn a lot about Lincoln, but instead you’ll learn about the cost of rent in Kentucky, the best kind of bourbon to drink in Kentucky, and how everyone in Kentucky carries a knife. That’s what happens when he finds out you’re a tourist from New York City.

Also on the grounds is the Sinking Spring, which gave the name to the farmland the Lincolns owned. After walking down the memorial steps, immediately on the right is a short path down some stairs to the spring. Legend says that this is probably the spring in which Lincoln took his first sips of water.

Although both this site and Lincoln’s boyhood home site are typical American tourist attractions, it is actually quite interesting to know that you have visited the spot where one of America’s greatest leaders once lived. Both sites only require an hour or town of total visitation time, but it is well worth the time.
Abraham Lincoln Birthplace
2995 Lincoln Farm Rd.
Louisville, Kentucky

Green River Canoeing

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by fallschirmhosen on July 6, 2005

Located just outside the entrance to Mammoth Cave is a canoe and kayak rental company. For a minimum of $45, and maximum of $100, you can rent a canoe for half a day or up to two days, respectively. The cost includes everything you need for the trip: a canoe (obviously), oar(s), life preserver(s), and a shuttle to and from the river.

After deciding which trip to take, the rental company will then fit you for a life preserver and oar. Next, he’ll explain to you where he will drop you off and where he will pick you up. Once that is taken care of, they drive you to the drop-off point and say, "See you in a few hours."

Once you are in the water, you realize the Green River has no current whatsoever. So, in order to make it from the drop-off point to the pick-up point, you need to do all the rowing to get there. Being a 7-mile trip, and because I had never canoed that far before on a river with no current, I wasted no time canoeing. Along the way, there are one or two small caves along the shore that you can pedal to. Other canoeists are rare along the route. We saw maybe five other people along the 7+ mile route. There were several groups that appeared to have camped overnight along the river. In general, though, the trip is very quiet and peaceful. It gave me a chance to see the remote wilderness of Kentucky while doing something I had never done before while also doing something athletic for a change. We completed the 7+ mile trip in under 3 hours. Since we arrived at the pick-up point early, we ended up slowly drifting for 30 minutes instead of waiting on shore.

If you do the half-day trip, the rental company will meet you at the Green River Ferry pick-up point. Other trips will have different pick-up points. At that point, they help you load the canoe back onto their canoe trailer, and then they drive you back to the rental office (and your car). It was interesting to talk to the lady driving us back. After she learned we were from New York, she exclaimed how she was so glad the only stress she had in her life was to make sure the canoeists she rents to get out of the water safely, and that she was glad she didn’t have to deal with the stress of New York.

If you’re looking for something a bit different to do in Cave City, try canoeing. You don’t just have to canoe… take a break while canoeing and go for a swim, or go fishing. Mammoth Cave Canoe & Kayak accepts all major credit cards. For more information, visit www.mammothcavecanoe-k.com.
Mammoth Cave Canoe & Kayak
1240 Old Mammoth Cave Rd.
Louisville, Kentucky, 42127
(877) 592-2663

Abbey of Gethsemani

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by fallschirmhosen on July 6, 2005

Located about 4 miles from the historic Route 31E, in remote Kentucky, lies the Abbey of Gethsemani. Established in 1848, the abbey was the first on American soil. It was founded by a colony of 40 Trappists who left the Abbey of Melleray in Nantes, France. The monks undertook the work of clearing their lands, and little by little arose the giant buildings that form the present abbey.

Outsiders are welcome to take retreats at the abbey for several days or more. There is a strict schedule and rules to follow, but for those who are into that sort of thing, it is a good experience. For all others, there is a limited amount of what you can or cannot do there. Having a picnic in the surrounding fields, hiking, or attending one of the many daily prayer/chanting sessions are possibilities. Head to the visitor center gift shop, where you can buy various monk cheeses, chocolate, and other crafts from monks around the world. There, ask for a map of the trails from the store attendant. There are miles of trails to choose from that meander around the grounds and woods nearby. When exploring these trails, you’ll find various religious artifacts and places to rest.

Though not a common tourist attraction, this abbey is an interesting place for those curious about the life of monks. It’s a place in America that has probably not changed much since it was founded in the 1800s. Of all the places I visited in Kentucky, the abbey felt the most remote. For more information, visit www.monks.org.
Abbey of Gethsemani
3642 Monks Rd.
Louisville, Kentucky, 40051
(502) 549-3117

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