Keyword Exclusive - More of Kentucky to see in 2009
Supplement to “What’s New in Travel & Tourism 2009”
Add a bit more heaven to an already heavenly place and visit these additional new and expanded tourism venues:
Circus Square Park
Kentucky keeps adding to its treasure trove of things to see and do. Bowling Green has a new downtown destination with Circus Square Park (www.downtownbg.org). Opened last June, it covers one city block and is anchored by a fountain plaza complete with a concert lawn and space for a farmers’ market. It is named Circus Square because deeds and maps from the late 1800s recorded the space as the “Circus Lot.” The project is the cornerstone of Bowling Green’s proposed Downtown Redevelopment District that includes the Southern Kentucky Performing Arts Center and a new Minor League baseball stadium for the Bowling Green Hot Rods. The Tampa Bay Rays Class A-affiliate begins playing on its new field April 17.
Beech Bend Amusement Park
Also in the Bowling Green area, the 368-acre Beech Bend Amusement Park (www.beechbend.com) is adding a pirate ship to its lineup of thrill rides and old-fashioned amusements, including a majestic new carousel with custom horses. The newest attraction comes to the historic park direct from Neverland Ranch—that’s right, from Michael Jackson’s former 2,500-acre California playground.
Elizabethtown’s State Theater
Sixty-seven years ago, Elizabethtown’s State Theater was the hub of social life. A movie house when it opened in 1942, it would close 40 years later after showing its final film, ET. This May, the Historic State Theater (www.historicstatetheater.org) will be ready for its close-up when it reopens its doors as a multiuse facility that includes a 3,700-square-foot gallery, the 120-seat black-box style Plum Alley Theater for live performing arts—music, dance, drama, comedy—and the resurrection of the majestic showplace the State Theater was in its heyday with seating for 650-plus for events including movies, concerts, and festivals.
Pinnacle Knob Fire Tower
The historic Pinnacle Knob Fire Tower, (606) 528-4121, built in 1937 on land within the Cumberland Falls State Resort Park, has opened for viewing and a guided hike. “The fire tower is one of the last with a live-in cabin,” park naturalist Steve Gilbert says. “It was built by the U.S. Forest Service utilizing Civilian Conservation Corps help.” The tower’s cabin and catwalk are only accessible by a one and a half mile hike, parts of which are strenuous. Visitors will want to call ahead for the free tower tours, currently scheduled on these dates: 1 p.m. on April 25 and 10 a.m. on May 23. According to park naturalist Bret Smitley, the tower will be open several days a week through the summer months as staffing allows, and anyone who wishes to go on a tour can meet in the great room of the Dupont Lodge. Groups may call and schedule tours also. Dates will be added as staffing increases.
Arabian Horse Galleries
In January of 2010, the new Arabian Horse Galleries will open at the Kentucky Horse Park (www.kyhorsepark.com) in Lexington. A 9,000-square-foot addition to the International Museum of the Horse, an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, will contain significant art and artifacts from the collections of the Arabian Horse Trust and the Arabian Horse Owners Foundation. The galleries will also feature state-of-the-art exhibits and interactive exhibits developed by Gerard Hilferty and Associates, one of America’s premier exhibit design firms. The new galleries are funded totally by the Purebred Arabian Trust and the Arabian horse community.
Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory
They are about to hit one out of the park at the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory (www.sluggermuseum.com). Its recent renovation to enhance the interactive exhibits at the museum encourages visitors to “Hold A Piece of History” (hold Louisville Slugger bats used by baseball greats like Mickey Mantle, David Ortiz, Rod Carew, and Jim Thome); treasure hunt their way through the memorabilia in “Grandpa Bud’s Attic”; explore a new and more prominent exhibit for the Louisville Slugger bat Babe Ruth notched for every home run he hit with it and a more in-depth look at the incredible story behind it; and check out a piece of baseball history never displayed before: the Louisville Slugger bat used by Joe DiMaggio during his 56 consecutive game hitting streak in 1941.
MORE LINCOLN HOOPLA
Finally, what would a story about Kentucky’s new, expanded, and spiffed-up attractions be, in the midst of the two-year-long Lincoln hoopla, without a mention (or three) of one of the state’s own Lincoln historic sites?
The replica Lincoln Boyhood Home at Knobs Creek recently got a spit shine, historic in nature, with preservation work that included cabin restoration. Future plans include furnishing it and restoring the Lincoln Tavern as an interpretive and education center.
Visitors to the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historic Site in Hodgenville (www.nps.gov/abli) may view the symbolic cabin and will also be treated to a new 12-minute, high-definition film at the Visitors Center: Abraham Lincoln: The Kentucky Years, produced by KET with funding assistance through the Kentucky Historical Society and the Kentucky Bicentennial Commission, explores the early life of Lincoln in Kentucky and includes footage from both the Birthplace and the Knob Creek Farm sites.
Sandy Brue, chief of interpretation and resource management at the site, says the new film is enriched with input from noted historians discussing life on the Kentucky frontier that influenced Lincoln during the first seven years of his life. “The inclusion of the Knob Creek site, the first place Lincoln remembered living, where he and his sister first attended school, where a third child was born and died, and where young Abraham lived in the midst of slavery, provides a broader picture of Kentucky’s lifelong influence upon our 16th president,” she says.
The most late-breaking Lincoln-related news is the acquisition by the Kentucky Historical Society (www.history.ky.gov) of several significant Lincoln artifacts, including a pair of Mary Todd Lincoln’s earrings, a January 1863 letter written and signed by President Lincoln to Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton discussing the parole of two Kentuckians, a collection of pre-Civil War wills and manumissions from Kentucky, and two letters written in 1864 by an Ohio soldier discussing life at Camp Nelson.
The pieces will go into a display case in Kentucky’s signature bicentennial exhibition, “Beyond the Log Cabin: Kentucky’s Abraham Lincoln,” at the Thomas D. Clark Center for Kentucky History in Frankfort through June 2009, then on to the Speed Art Museum in Louisville from June 28, 2009–September 6, 2009. “These artifacts will enable us to tell a more complete story of Abraham Lincoln and his lifelong relationship with Kentucky,” says KHS Assistant Director Marilyn Zoidis.
To read the Kentucky Living April 2009 feature that goes along with this supplement, go to What's New in Travel & Tourism 2009.