“Heaven must be a Kentucky of a place.”
So said a frontier preacher back in the day—and who are we to deny his claim? Kentucky is a little bit of heaven on earth, as anyone who has traveled across its dynamic, ever-changing landscape will attest. That declaration is given a multimedia showcase at the new KentuckyShow!, a love letter to the state and its visual, cultural, and historical treasures—not to mention its people, proclivities, and peculiarities.
Playing at The Kentucky Center in Louisville, KentuckyShow! is a spirited multisensory romp through the Commonwealth with opening narration by one of the state’s most famous daughters, Ashley Judd. Louisville producer/director Donna Lawrence whittled down 75 hours of film and 125 hours of interviews to 32 minutes, creating a vibrant picture postcard that draws from the stories of hundreds of people and places. Kentuckians will leave the show with their heads held high; outsiders will be impressed with all that Kentucky is and has to offer.
KentuckyShow! is just one among many new, improved, and expanded attractions jostling for attention—and ready to give visitors that taste of heaven.
All quackin’ aboard
Ride the Ducks has set sail in northern Kentucky just steps away from Newport on the Levee. Climb aboard customized amphibious vehicles crafted from models used during World War II and depart from Newport Aquarium to traverse the Ohio River and then run aground for sightseeing on the streets near downtown Cincinnati and Newport.
The narrated 40-minute experience—including about 25 minutes spent on the mighty Ohio River—shows off the Great American Ballpark, Paul Brown Stadium, the Roebling Suspension Bridge (a National Historic Landmark known locally as the Humming Bridge), the World Peace Bell (the largest free-swinging bell in the world and weighing in at 66,000 pounds), plus Newport Aquarium, Covington’s Historic Riverside Drive, and more.
One of a dozen or so cities offering Ride the Ducks, this shorter-than-usual Ducks tour caters specifically to families.
“While rides in other cities may last an hour to two hours, our experience lasts just an hour with the actual ride portion lasting about 40 minutes,” says Newport operations manager Kevin Smith. He wants to keep the tour on the move and the prices down.
The Duck rolls through the streets, music blaring, with the captain talking trash about the area’s role in film, song, and sports. Not only that, guests become part of the spectacle with the Ducks’ famous Wacky Quacker, a free souvenir—and guaranteed attention getter.
New historic venues
The Woody Winfree Fire-Transportation Museum is located in the 1920s-era city fire station on Ninth Street in Hopkinsville—on the same site as the original 1905 fire station that burned to the ground in 1924. Inside is the prized collection of the museum’s namesake, including the city’s first fire truck, plus several historically significant fire trucks, automobiles, wagons, and buggies. The building’s original 22-foot brass pole recalls its early days, as do benches from Hopkinsville’s railroad station and historic photos from the fire department. There are 100-plus years of fire call records, from the Pearless Fire Company’s first handwritten entry in notebook tablets in 1892, all the way to 1963-1999, when typewritten records and printed forms were kept.
LaVena Turner, a volunteer at the museum, has been perusing these old fire call records, saved when local fireman Jerry Allison told the county historian, her husband William Turner, that the records were about to be tossed. The two men saved the records and William Turner had them bound. The records, in all their evocative detail, are now on display in the museum.
“The records are also wonderful to be able to pinpoint businesses that are no longer in Hopkinsville,” says Turner, “everything from the corner drugstore to the Hotel Latham, which was a very important business here.”
Also in Hopkinsville is Lone Oak, a private home located in one of the city’s oldest and most unique residences—and one of just two local documented examples of a Greek Revival Temple Form house. Charming with a mix of period furnishings, private collections, and family antiques, Lone Oak—originally owned by Joseph B. Crockett, who would later become Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court—is open for touring at this time by appointment only.
“Some of the furniture dates to the period of the house (1835) and even earlier, with original windows, doors, fireplace surrounds, and staircase,” says its owner, James Coursey, who plans for the home to eventually be Hopkinsville’s first house museum. “Lone Oak has been accurately restored to preserve the feeling of the second quarter of the 19th century when Andrew Jackson was president of the United States.”
In Bardstown, the historic Tom Moore Distillery opened last year, home of the super-premium brand bourbon 1792 Ridgemont Reserve and a Bardstown landmark originally founded by its namesakes in 1879. Taking its place as a stop on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail—along with founding members Jim Beam, Buffalo Trace, Four Roses, Heaven Hill, Maker’s Mark, Wild Turkey, and Woodford Reserve—the distillery will showcase its bourbon-making process on two-hour tours taking visitors through the bourbon process from distilling to aging, then barrel filling to bottling.
Besides its historic pedigree (part of the distillery dates back to 1879 and some of the artifacts date to 1945 when part of the distillery was rebuilt after a fire), Tom Moore is home of the world’s largest bourbon barrel.
“It’s not full of bourbon, but it is the largest,” notes Pam Gover, bourbon marketing specialist of Sazerac/Tom Moore Distillery. “It also showcases the Tom Moore Spring, which dates back to 1879 and was his water source.”
In Bowling Green, one museum is bursting at the seams and another has recently redesigned its main gallery to accommodate a new exhibit. Just in time for its 15th anniversary, the National Corvette Museum is adding 47,000 square feet to its existing footprint to offer a more hands-on experience. Corvette Boulevard will be an old-fashioned main street with storefronts, including a Library and Archives, a store (Corvette Store), a diner (Corvette Café), and a marquee (the Conference Center).
Corvette Boulevard will have room to park up to 12 new Corvettes on the street to await their new owners. The Conference Center will accommodate 400 for dinners and 30 cars for display, and the Corvette Café will offer a menu of fresh soups and sandwiches. The unveiling of the new space is scheduled to take place during Labor Day weekend when nearly 10,000 Corvettes from across the country are expected to roar into Bowling Green.
The Kentucky Library & Museum at Western Kentucky University has a new Civil War exhibit called “A Star in Each Flag: Conflict in Kentucky” that, for the first time in the region, tells the story of south-central Kentucky’s role. Featuring a simulated campsite, a slave cabin, a community post office, period artifacts including John Hunt Morgan’s saddle, Civil War flags, weapons, and the 2-1/2 by 4-inch carte de visite photographs, or card portraits, the exhibit examines the major issues of the war, with each section narrowing its focus to the local perspective.
“This exhibit has so many personal elements,” says Marissa Butler, public relations director at the Bowling Green Area Convention & Visitors Bureau. “There are journals of soldiers and so many photos of south-central Kentucky people. You can see the pain in their eyes.” There is also a Warren County Slave Registry, a bitter and tangible record of the slave-trading market.
The exhibit sets the mood by sharing an interesting bit of trivia: this is the only period in American history when there were two presidents both from Kentucky—and even a First Lady from the state. It also shares the impact other Kentuckians, including Henry Clay, had on the outcome of the war.
A Victorian photo studio lets visitors dress up in period costumes and have their pictures made, just like in the “olden days.”
THE NEW, THE EXPANDED, THE IMPROVED
Be sure and call or check Web sites for updated times and days for visiting
The Kentucky Center
501 W. Main Street, Louisville
Runs on the hour, 10-5 p.m., Tuesday-Saturday, and 12-5 p.m. on Sunday. Admission: $7 per person.
National Corvette Museum
350 Corvette Drive, Bowling Green
(800) 53VETTE or (270) 781-7973
You can also visit the Bowling Green Assembly Plant to see the Corvettes being made. Call (270) 745-8419 or go online to www.bowlinggreenassembly for tour information. Public tours are offered at 9 a.m., 11:30 a.m., and 1:15 p.m., Central Time, Monday-Friday. (Children must be 7 years of age or older.) Admission: $5. Call ahead to be sure that tours are running on any given day.
Ride the Ducks
One Aquarium Way, Newport
Quacks through town beginning this month. Admission: $15 adults; $11 ages 2-12, and under 2 free. Hours are Monday-Friday afternoons at 12, 1:30, 3, and 4:30 p.m.; Saturday-Sunday at 11 a.m. and in the afternoon at 12, 1:30, 2:30, 3:30, 5, and 6 p.m. Times and ticket availability are subject to ticket sellout.
317 E. 16th Street, Hopkinsville
(270) 707-7026 or (270) 719-9462
Admission: free. Hours: by appointment only, contact owner James Coursey to arrange private tour.
The Woody Winfree Fire-Transportation Museum
310 E. 9th Street, Hopkinsville
Admission: $5 (includes both this museum and the Pennyroyal Area Museum). Hours: 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Monday-Friday, and 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday.
Tom Moore Distillery
300 Barton Road, Bardstown
Tours offered on weekdays at 9:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Reservations required at least a day in advance. Participants must be at least 21 years old.
A Star in Each Flag: Conflict in Kentucky Exhibit
Kentucky Library & Museum
Western Kentucky University
1906 College Heights Blvd., Bowling Green
Gallery hours, Central Time: 9 a.m.-4 p.m., Monday-Saturday, and 1-4 p.m. on Sunday.
KEYWORD EXCLUSIVE: MORE OF KENTUCKY TO SEE IN 2009
Find a treasure trove of additional new and expanded tourism venues across Kentucky in 2009. Go to travel kentucky.