Readers’ Choices—The Best Of Kentucky
The votes are in for the best of our great state. In March, we asked readers to send in their votes for 18 Kentucky “Best Ofs,” from fishing spot, to antiquing, to barbecue. There were a lot of great choices, and the results feature some old favorites and a few surprises. Here are your selections for The Best of Kentucky, along with some close second choices that deserved recognition
Marion County Country Ham Days, Lebanon
Some 50,000 visitors and more than 6,000 pounds of ham converge on Lebanon the last full weekend in September for three days of music, crafts, a flea market, car show, entertainment for all ages, and, of course, ham. The 36th annual festival takes place September 23-25. Phone (270) 692-9594, www.hamdays.com.
Cumberland Falls, Corbin
The 125-foot-wide, 60-foot-high curtain of river known as the Niagara of the South provides a spectacular focus for a beautiful, rock-strewn river gorge. And then there’s that unique moonbow you can see on clear nights under a full moon. Cumberland Falls State Resort Park, phone (800) 325-0063, http://parks.ky.gov/ resortparks/cf/index.htm
My Old Kentucky Home, Bardstown
This gorgeous, newly upgraded, 18-hole, par-70 course sits in the center of countless nearby tourist attractions. My Old Kentucky Home State Park “Kenny Rapier” Golf Course, phone (502) 349-6542, http://parks.ky.gov/golf/18hole/mk.
Lincoln Birthplace, Hodgenville
The building containing a replica of the cabin where Lincoln was born, the visitor center, and the 345-acre site offer a perfect spot to learn about and reflect on the life of the Civil War president. After visiting the birthplace, you can head up the road a few miles to Knob Creek to see where young Lincoln grew up. National Park Service Abraham Lincoln Birthplace, phone (270) 358-3137, www.nps.gov/abli.
With nearly 50 boat ramps and more than 4,000 marina slips, Lake Cumberland and its 50,000 acres of water offer cool outings for millions of boaters every year. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Resource Manager’s Office, Lake Cumberland, phone (606) 679-6337, www.lrn.usace.army.mil/ op/wol/rec.
Coming from the west in a close second place for best boating spot is Kentucky Lake. www.kentuckylake.com.
At Berea, you’ll find more than 16 antique shops and three antique malls among a wide sampling of more modern art and craft galleries. Berea Tourism Center, phone (800) 598-5263, www.berea.com.
Land Between The Lakes
Camping, hiking, wildlife, a planetarium, all kinds of nature programs and presentations, with loads of nearby attractions. You could hardly hope for more than this largest inland peninsula in the United States between Lake Barkley and Kentucky Lake. U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service Land Between The Lakes National Recreation Area, phone (270) 924-2000, www.lbl.org.
HORSE FARM TO VISIT
Kentucky Horse Park, Lexington
No place on Earth matches the horse experience of the 1,200-acre working horse farm with museums, theaters, nearly 50 breeds of horses, and regular and special events. Phone (800) 678-8813, www.kyhorsepark.com.
Calumet and Three Chimneys
With the Kentucky Horse Park in a class by itself, it’s worth mentioning two runner-up horse farms that also received several votes from readers: Calumet Farm, Lexington, phone (859) 254-4258, www.calumetfarm.com; and Three Chimneys, Midway, phone (859) 873-7053, www.threechimneys.com.
The Galt House, Louisville
Two 25-story buildings overlooking the Ohio River, and an easy walk (or horse carriage ride) to any of Louisville’s downtown attractions, help keep The Galt House a strong Kentucky attraction. It’s midway through a $50 million renovation that should continue its 170-year tradition as a Louisville cornerstone for Southern hospitality. Phone (800) 843-4258, www.galthouse.com.
Explorium of Lexington
Formerly known as the Lexington Children’s Museum, this center offers nine interactive exhibit areas focusing on topics like the human brain, bugs, dinosaurs, and bubbles. Stay in touch regularly for the traveling exhibits and regular workshops and other events. Phone (859) 258-3253, www.explorium.com.
Beech Bend Park, Bowling Green
Several readers voted Beech Bend Park second place as the best spot for kids, with its amusement park, water park, oval track and dragstrip, and campgrounds. Phone (270) 781-7634, www.beechbend.com.
Moonlite Bar-B-Q Inn, Owensboro
Family-owned Moonlite Bar-B-Q is well-known all around Kentucky for barbecue mutton and ribs, burgoo, and country ham. Kentucky Living readers say it’s the best. Phone (800) 322-8989, www.moonlite.com.
Mountain Arts Center, Prestonsburg
A slick, state-of-the-art concert hall and theater. A location on U.S. 23 Country Music Highway. Home to the Kentucky Opry. A full schedule of big-name performers and arts education sessions. No wonder readers rated the Mountain Arts Center as the top performing arts attraction. Phone (888) 622-2787, www.macarts.com.
The man who lived a Kentucky life and wrote about it in poems, novels, and short stories was the runaway readers’ choice for favorite Kentucky author. He’s remembered and documented in David Dick’s recent biography, Jesse Stuart, the Heritage. And you can find out more through the Jesse Stuart Foundation, in Ashland, phone (800) 504-0209, www.jsfbooks.com.
Kentucky Lake, western Kentucky
With 2,400 miles of shoreline, a reputation as the Crappie Capital of the World and other fish, including bass, catfish, bluegill, and sauger, it’s no wonder that Kentucky Lake in the western part of the state got the votes for top fishing spot. www.kentuckylake.com.
Cave Run Lake, Morehead
In the eastern part of the state, Cave Run Lake came in a close second as the most popular fishing spot. The 2001 catch of a 44.75-pound muskie cemented its reputation as the Muskie Capital of the South. Its 8,300 acres of water are also great for bass, crappie, catfish, and trout. www.caverun.org.
Natural Bridge and Red River Gorge, Slade
We took the liberty of combining a virtual tie between neighboring hiking areas near Slade in eastern Kentucky. Natural Bridge State Resort Park features its dramatic signature geological formation. The Red River Gorge in the Daniel Boone National Forest offers hundreds of miles of stunning sandstone cliffs. Natural Bridge State Resort Park, phone (800) 325-1710, Internet http://parks.ky.gov/resortparks/nb/index.htm. USDA Forest Service Daniel Boone National Forest, phone (859) 745-3100, www.fs.fed.us/r8/boone.
Patti’s 1880’s Restaurant
It could be the country store. It could be the miniature golf and playground. It could be the gardens. It could be the next-door spot, Miss Patti’s Iron Kettle Restaurant. It could be the location in the west Kentucky lake country. Or just maybe it’s the great service and incredible food that make Patti’s such a hit. Phone (888) 736-2515, www.kentuckylake.org/ links/pattis.htm.
Beaumont Inn, Harrodsburg
Readers chose the beautiful and historic Beaumont Inn as a close second for favorite non-franchise restaurant. Phone (800) 352-3992, www.beaumontinn.com.
Loyal locals, a secret sauce, burgers made fresh daily, and a more-than-50-year family-owned tradition combine to bring in the most votes for best hamburger in Kentucky, 107 West 4th Street, Tompkinsville.
Ale-8 One, Nonalcoholic
Maker’s Mark, Bourbon
Beverages topped the list of reader choices for favorite product: Ale-8-One, the unique-tasting soft drink made in Winchester, got the most reader votes for non-alcoholic beverage, phone (859) 744-3484, www.ale8one.com.
Maker’s Mark, made in Loretto, with its distinctive red-wax top finished strong as the readers’ favorite bourbon. Phone (270) 865-2099, www.makersmark.com.