Tourism in Kentucky is serious business, with many
economic rewards for us all. But it’s also about friendly Kentuckians entertaining
visitors in the Bluegrass State. This year the Kentucky Department of Travel kicks
off a new program aimed at residents and their visitors. So gear up to criss-cross
the state with our lists of tourism destinations and new attractions.
Kentucky tourism officials are targeting a new kind
of tourist this year. In years past, most of the state’s advertising budget
has been spent in places within a four-hour drive to Kentucky. That’s where
the tourists have traditionally come from, and as Kentucky Department of Travel
Commissioner Bob Stewart says, "You fish where the fish are."
"Fishing," for tourists anyway, is serious
business. Each of the 19.9 million visitors to Kentucky in 2000 spent approximately
$200-225 per day. Add up those $200 days, and you arrive at a tidy sum. Tourism
is the third largest industry in Kentucky, pumping $8.8 billion into Kentucky’s
economy in 2000 while providing 163,000 jobs. Thus, the more tourists, the more
revenue, the more jobs. You get the idea.
This year, the fishing will continue, but the folks
in the Department of Travel plan to fish in a different lake, one closer to
home. In fact, you and I-all Kentuckians-are the big catch this year, along
with our families and friends. Here why:
* 42 percent of out-of-state tourists are in Kentucky
to visit a
friend or family member.
* 90+ percent of travel to Kentucky is for leisure
rather than work.
* 90+ percent of leisure travelers to Kentucky come
* One of the first things tourists say about Kentucky
is that the people are friendly.
"Our mission has always been to try to attract
out-of-state dollars into the state," Stewart says. "That is why our
advertising has gone pretty much out of the state. When we saw that 42 percent
of tourists are here to visit family and friends, that was kind of an ah-hah
"We also got some research that Kentuckians
were hospitable but not necessarily up to speed on all the fascinating and interesting
things there are to do and see in Kentucky. We thought, gee, here is an interesting
combination of facts. What can we do?"
That’s where the Kentucky Host Program comes in.
In the fall of 1999, Stewart presented this information
to advertising agencies interested in competing for the state’s annual advertising
contract. Doe-Anderson Advertising and Public Relations came back with a brainstorm
that kicked off February 15, officially called the Kentucky Host Program.
It might be called the buddy system. The idea is
to help Kentuckians bring more family and friends into the state. Incentives
and information make it easier and more fun.
For example, the Kentucky Tourism Council, an association
of tourism businesses and related groups, printed a Travel Values Book with
$1,500 worth of discounts at all sorts of Kentucky places and events. It is
available free at all the welcome centers or by calling (800) 225-8747. Kroger
food stores even got involved by giving away a Host Kit containing the value
book and a month-by-month calendar of events.
It will be awhile before Stewart knows whether the
Kentucky Host Program is a success, but the program meshes well with the other
research on tourism in Kentucky. For example, the Department of Travel’s research
shows that people come to Kentucky for a short getaway (3-4 days) rather than
an entire week. They love to swim and boat and particularly love our natural
resources and state parks. The word has gotten out about Kentucky crafts as
The campaign also bodes well with national trends
showing that this year people will be staying closer to home and spending more
time with family and friends. It even helped Stewart win State Tourism Director
of the Year, a prestigious honor from the National Council of State Tourism
Directors based on "obvious and measurable improvement of a state’s travel
and tourism profile while under the current director’s leadership."
For those who want to join Stewart as a part of the
Kentucky Host Program, the commissioner has some suggestions.
"Know what is in your community first of all,"
he says. "Go and experience it for yourself first. I shudder to think of
how many people who live in Frankfort, for example, who haven’t been to the
Kentucky History Center.
"Be helpful when people need directions or information.
Take the time to answer their questions. It just blows people’s mind that you
would take the time to help them, especially if they are from the northeast
or an urban area. It’s really fun to be hospitable and pays rewards that aren’t
necessarily paid in dollars and cents.
"If you see litter on your street, pick it up.
Keep things looking clean.
"Take at least one trip a year to a part of
Kentucky that you have never been before. If you live in eastern Kentucky, go
to western Kentucky, and vice versa.
"Put a new twist on travel. Decide you are going
to do a bed and breakfast tour of Kentucky or try to get to all 49 state parks
in Kentucky, not just the resorts but the shrines."
In short, Stewart hopes that we "fish"
in a lot of different waters in Kentucky this year, taking our family and friends
along as well.
"Kentuckians are proud of their state,"
Stewart says. "They’re proud and they’re friendly. They just don’t have
the information. Now we are going to give them the information and the financial
incentives to make them want to go and do it."
Virtually every Kentuckian knows about attractions
such as My Old Kentucky Home and the Kentucky Horse Park, but there are many
other fun and fascinating finds throughout the state. Here are five areas, among
many, and their various tourism offerings that Commissioner Bob Stewart recommends:
Maysville: Exhibits at the Mason County Museum,
located in an 1876 building, re-create the story of this pioneer gateway. There
is also a vast genealogy library (with records going back to the 1700s in Mason
County) and art gallery, (606) 564-5865. A Walking Tour of Maysville features
48 National Register buildings and Rosemary Clooney’s childhood home, (606)
564-9419. The Underground Railroad Museum highlights the area’s important role
as an escape route for thousands of slaves, (606) 564-6986.
Augusta: The film site for the movies Huck Finn
and Centennial, this town has many antique shops, folk art shops,
and quaint bed and breakfasts. The Visitor Center, 116 Main, (606) 756-2183,
has a complete list. A favorite: The 1796 Beehive Tavern, (606) 756-2202.
Old Washington: The 1790s Old Washington Village,
now on the National Register, was an outpost for pioneers traveling the Buffalo
Trace. For guided tours of Old Washington, call (606) 759-7411. You’ll also
want to see the Harriet Beecher Stowe Slavery to Freedom Museum, (606) 759-4860.
It was while staying in this house in 1833 that Miss Beecher witnessed a slave
auction that she would later describe in her famous book, Uncle Tom’s Cabin.
Lots to do in this river town. Named for the
famous painter, John James Audubon State Park is known for its great horned
owl and woodpecker species, (270) 826-2247. The park’s museum has an extensive
collection of original Audubon art and Audubon’s personal artifacts. Also, there
is an observation area to look at the birds, (270) 827-1893. Kentucky’s largest
Great Blue Heron rookery is at Sloughs Wildlife Management Area on the Ohio
River. The area also attracts Canada geese, various ducks, a pair of eagles,
hawks, and shorebirds, (270) 827-2673. There are five observation points located
along Highway 268. Pick up a map at the Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife
Resources area office, located 6-1/2 miles from Geneva on Highway 268. Thoroughbreds
race from mid-summer to fall at Ellis Park, which features year-round intertrack
wagering, (800) 333-8110. The Henderson Fine Arts Center has professional performances
and changing art exhibits, (270) 830-5324.
This charming community of restaurants and shops
includes Patti’s 1880s Settlement with home-style cooking, woodland mini-golf,
an animal park, and shops, (888) 736-2515. Watch barges go through the huge
lock nearby at the Lake Barkley Dam & Visitor Center on U.S. 62. Also see
the Cumberland River steamboat-era exhibits, (270) 362-4236.
Big South Fork National River and Recreational
This 125,000-acre area stretches into neighboring
Tennessee. The Big South Fork of the Cumberland River is rated one of the best
whitewater rivers in the U.S. (Classes I-IV). Sheltowee Trace Outfitters has
guided "funyak" and raft trips as well as unguided canoe and tube
trips, (800) 541-7238. The Big South Fork Scenic Railway takes you to the restored
1802 Barthell Mining Camp. The 11-mile trip aboard open-air cars follows the
original coal train route. Call (888) 550-5748 or (800) GO-ALONG for information
on the Big South Fork Railway train ride. The depot for the trip is in Stearns,
which is now a National Historic District. Yahoo Falls near Whitley City has
a beautiful waterfall dropping 113 feet. Beaver Creek Wilderness, north of Whitley
City, contains numerous rock houses once used by Native Americans for shelter.
Hike a series of day-hiking trails with many scenic overlooks and a picnic area,
(606) 679- 2010 for the Forest Service.
Benham: The Kentucky Coal Mining Museum, which
tells the story of a typical coal mining community, is in the original commissary
building. Also go down in a mock mine and see a bat house, (606) 848-1530. The
old community school is now the Benham School House Inn, with a charming restaurant
and 30 rooms, (800) 231-0627.
Cumberland: Near the Kentucky/Virginia border is
Kingdom Come State Park with scenic vistas second to none. Raven’s Rock is a
huge stone soaring 290 feet into the air at a 45-degree angle. You’ll also find
crafts, mini-golf, primitive camping, and fishing, (606) 589-2479. More crafts
can be found at the Southeast Community College’s Appalachian Cultural &
Fine Arts Center, (606) 589-2145, and the Poor Fork Arts & Crafts, (606)
Lynch: At one time this was the largest coal camp
in the world, with 1,000 structures for 10,000 people of 38 nationalities. The
Portal 31 Walking Tour includes many original structures, including a lamp house
with exhibits, (606) 848-1530.
Kentucky Events & Tourism Info
Try these two comprehensive resources for information
that is available at no cost to help you become a more informed host.
Kentucky Living’s Events
Go to Kentucky Living’s Web site at www.KentuckyLiving.com
for an extensive calendar of events for the coming year. You can even submit
an event to our calendar by following a few simple steps. (Click on "Kentucky
Events," choose "Submit an Event," and follow the prompts.) If
you need directions, you can also access the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet’s
Official Highway Map download page. Also look for the "Events" column
printed each month in Kentucky Living magazine.
Kentucky Department of Tourism
Call (800) 225-8747 for a free Great Getaway
Guide from the Kentucky Department of Tourism. It includes detailed information
about thousands of Kentucky places and events, maps, and a calendar of events.
You can also go online at www.kentuckytourism.com
for online reservations and more information.
Newport on the Levee
Located on the edge of the Ohio River in Newport
(adjacent to the aquarium), this "urban entertainment center" features
an eclectic mix of entertainment, restaurants, and specialty shops. It also
includes an IMAX Theatre and the Shadowbox Cabaret, a 250-seat, live showroom
that offers theater, sketch comedy, and rock music. Call (877) 203-3879 for
more information and a complete list of retail shops and restaurants. You can
also use this number to make reservations at many of the restaurants and the
theaters. More information is available online at www.newportonthelevee.com.
This $40 million facility in Newport uses state-of-the-art
technology to display 11,000 fresh and saltwater animals, including a fabulous
collection of sharks. The aquarium is open 365 days a year from 10 a.m. to 6
p.m. Admission is $9.95 for children 3-12, $15.95 for adults, and $13.95 for
seniors 65 and older. Children 2 and under are free. For more information and
directions call (859) 491-3467, or go online at www.newportaquarium.com.
Paramount Art Center
Now open after a major renovation, this historic
theater in Ashland was originally built by Paramount Movies and can house a
production of any size, including Broadway productions. Call (606) 324-3175
for information on upcoming shows and directions. The box office hours are 9
a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday-Friday, and tickets can also be purchased through Ticketmaster
by calling (304) 523-5757.
Just opened in November at 815 West Market Street
in downtown Louisville, it includes demonstrations by working artists, guided
tours through the flameworking, stained glass/architectural glass art, and glass
blowing studios as well as two galleries, gift shop, and offers numerous classes.
Tours are available Monday-Saturday. Times vary by season. Admission is $6 for
adults, $5 for seniors, $3 for students, and $7.50 for a three-hour pass. Call
(502) 584-4510 for more information, or go online to www.louisvilleglassworks.com.
Lost River Cave & Valley
Ripley’s Believe It or Not lists this
Kentucky attraction in Bowling Green as having the shortest, deepest river in
the world. It also has one of the largest natural cave openings east of the
Mississippi and a butterfly garden. Open all year (weather permitting) from
9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Boat tours are $8.50 for adults, $5 for children 6-12,
and free for children 5 and under. Call (270) 793-1023 for more information,
or for group tours call (270) 393-0077.