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Weekend Wanderings

Noteworthy Newport

If you hear "Newport," you probably think
"aquarium." After all, the $40 million Newport Aquarium made quite a
splash when it opened a couple of years ago. No wonder: the facility uses state-of-the
art technology to display both fresh- and saltwater animals in some rather innovative
ways. Crystal-clear seamless tunnels, for instance, surround you with water and
sea life as you explore the 60 exhibit areas. Imagine being just inches away from
sharks as they swim above your head and below your feet.

If you judge by all the promotional hype, however,
you’d think the aquarium is all Newport has to offer. Not so! Historic homes and
riverside parks; colonial culture and politicos; eclectic eateries and bubbly
boutiques; gambling dens and gangsters are all part of Newport’s past and present.

The World Peace Bell, the largest free-swinging bell
in the world, is housed here. Built in France as a symbol of world peace and freedom,
the 66,000-pound bell measures 12 feet high and 12 feet in diameter. Brought to
Newport by ship, it first rang in the new year on December 31, 1999. Now you can
hear its resonant tone at the top of each hour.

Start your visit at the City of Newport offices on
Monmouth Street. Here you’ll find maps and guides to help you get around town.
The East Row Historic District Walking Tour guide offers snippets of history,
explains some of the architecture, and explores the town’s heritage. The second
largest historic district in the Commonwealth, East Row provides architecture
aficionados with styles from Italianate to Second Empire, Queen Anne to Bungalow,
Swiss Chalet to Colonial Revival.

A must-see building is the Campbell County Courthouse,
completed in 1884. It has a four-sided clock tower, French Second Empire towers,
Queen Anne swags on the belfry, and stained-glass windows.

Also check out Saint Paul’s Episcopal Church. Built
in 1871, the Gothic Revival building was constructed from native fieldstone quarried
in the county. Inside there’s a variety of unusual stained glass and intricately
carved accouterments. Saint Paul’s is most known, however, for having the only
unreinforced cut fieldstone steeple in the United States.

The York Street Historic District, while smaller than
East Row, contains a variety of interesting buildings and businesses. The York
Street International Café, for instance, showcases a variety of collections and
the original stained-glass sign from its life as a drugstore. A diverse lunch
and dinner menu is served up in an atmosphere reminiscent of European bistros.

Don’t leave town without eating at The Syndicate. The
former Glenn Schmidt’s Bowling Lanes has been transformed into a 1940s gambling
and dining house. Shiny antique autos, complete with running boards, flank the
entrance. Inside you’ll find hostesses in evening gowns, servers garbed like gangsters,
and décor evoking Newport’s gambling heyday. Any minute you expect a raid by the
Feds. And the food? Superb!

For more information, contact: City of Newport, 998
Monmouth Street, Newport, KY 41071, (859) 292-3666; or contact the Northern Kentucky
Convention & Visitors Bureau at (859) 261-4677 or on the Web at www.nkycvb.com.

Day Trips & Short
Stops

Marble parade

When Mayfield residents talk about the "strange
procession that never moves," they’re referring to the parade of marble
people and animals surrounding the tomb of Henry C. Wooldridge. It’s a stone
processional that’s stood there for more than 100 years.

Horse breeder and trainer Henry Wooldridge, in life
a rather whimsical and eccentric man, commissioned a sculptor to secretly craft
the lifelike figures of Italian marble. Wooldridge supplied paintings, photographs,
and detailed descriptions of his relatives, friends, former girlfriends, pets,
and winning thoroughbreds for this purpose. As each piece was finished, it was
crated and stored, with specific instructions to erect the figures near the
tomb following his burial in Maplewood Cemetery.

There are 18 of these life-sized figures, which include
people, dogs, horses, and other animals. Several friends and relatives, it’s
said, were scandalized by the display, and tried to block placement of the figures
after Wooldridge’s death in 1899. But most of his friends and family viewed
them as a sentimental gesture and a wonderful joke- quite in keeping with his
whimsical nature.

For directions to Maplewood Cemetery, contact: Mayfield
Visitor Center, 201 E. College, Mayfield, KY 42066, (270) 247-6101.

Outdoor Log

Wild side walks

The hiking and backpacking season kicks off this
month. No, there are no rules about this. But the weather kind of controls when
folks walk on the wild side. Come November, the heat and humidity have dissipated,
insect populations are down, and the foliage has thinned out enough for easy
viewing of nature’s panoramas.

No matter where you live in the Bluegrass State there
are great trails for dayhiking or longer treks, easy nature paths of only a
quarter mile to strenuous backpacking trails stretching many miles. Here are
just a few of them:

Waterfall Trail, Bad Branch State Nature Preserve.
Arguably the prettiest trail in the Commonwealth, the mile-long Waterfall Trail
parallels Bad Branch of the Poor Fork of the Cumberland River. You walk through
a tunnel of laurel and hemlock, gradually rising until reaching some cliffs.
The trail switchbacks through them, with the sound of the falls in your ears,
until you reach the cataract-a double fall of water plunging 60 feet to the
rocks below.

Contact: Kentucky State Nature Preserves Commission, 801 Schenkel Lane, Frankfort,
KY 40601, (502) 573-2886.

Backcountry Loop, John James Audubon State
Park. A total of 3.5 miles, the Backcountry Loop is a hilly walk through a climax
forest. Numerous ecosystems comprise this forest, including a cypress swamp
and a beaver pond.

Contact: John James Audubon State Park, P.O. Box
576, Henderson, KY 42420, (270) 826-2247.

River Styx Spring Trail, Mammoth Cave National
Park. We sometimes overlook the fact that there are 50,000 surface acres at
Mammoth Cave, with more than 70 miles of hiking trails. One of the less difficult,
the 1.4-mile River Styx trail, takes you from the sandstone-capped bluffs above
the Green River, to the river itself. The highlight is the cave-like opening
from which the underground River Styx springs. As you walk, you’ll experience
every geologic structure found in a karst formation and see the entrance to
Mammoth Cave itself.

Contact: Mammoth Cave National Park, Mammoth Cave,
KY 42259, (270) 758-2328.

Nature Trail, Metropolis Lake State Nature
Preserve. Few Kentuckians living outside their immediate locale realize that
there are natural lakes in the state. In the west, they were formed about the
same time as giant Reelfoot. And like Reelfoot, they are cypress lakes, with
bald and red cypress and tupelo as their primary tree species. The .72-mile
Nature Trail at Metropolis Lake lets you explore such an ecosystem. Interpretive
signs lead you through a mixed hardwood forest until you reach the lakeshore.
Other trees are found there, but the bald cypress are so dominant that you won’t
notice the others.

Contact: Kentucky State Nature Preserves Commission,
801 Schenkel Lane, Frankfort, KY 40601, (502) 573-2886.

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