Museums of northern Kentucky
Our Commonwealth is filled with museums
of all kinds, from county historical museums with hidden treasures to brand
new state-of-the-art museums using the latest in sophisticated display technology.
No region of the state has as diverse a
collection of museums as northern Kentucky. The area’s museums range from the
simplicity of the Dinsmore Homestead to the sophistication of the Newport Aquarium;
from the eclectic collection of the Behringer-Crawford Museum to the specialization
of the Vent Haven Museum of Ventriloquism.
Perhaps the best way to enjoy the region’s
museums is to start out from a central location. There are enough hotels, motels,
and bed and breakfasts to meet everybody’s needs and pocketbook, including some
rather specialized lodging. The Drawbridge Estate, in Ft. Mitchell, for instance,
simulates a real castle, complete with a moat. The 1815 Carneal House, in Covington,
is a B&B said to be haunted by the spirit of a young girl who committed
suicide there during an elegant ball in 1825. Or check out the unusual but popular
Wildwood Inn in Florence, which offers a range of accommodations including the
African Village with private huts and a Cave Suite with its own waterfall.
The crown jewel of northern Kentucky museums
is the Newport Aquarium, which features more than 11,000 marine creatures in
16 separate theme areas, all in a million gallons of water.
The Aquarium, by the way, is the cornerstone
of the new Newport on the Levee-a complex of shops, restaurants, theaters, and
live entertainment venues such as the Shadowbox Cabaret.
Fort Mitchell offers the Vent Haven Museum of Ventriloquism, housing the world’s
largest collection of ventriloquist dolls. Included among the museum’s 500 "vent"
figures from 20 countries are Charley McCarthy and Mortimer Snerd, Edgar Bergen’s
famous sidekicks. The museum is open to the public May 1-September 30, by appointment
only. To arrange a tour call (859) 341-0461.
The Dinsmore Homestead, in Burlington, is
a rather special house museum. Rather than celebrating the rich and famous,
as is so often the case, it tells the story of an average family that settled
in northern Kentucky around 1739. All furnishings in the 1842 house are original
to the house.
Not far from Dinsmore is Rabbit Hash, a
small, typical riverfront town. You can still shop at the Rabbit Hash General
Store, which has operated since 1831. The town is being restored as a living
museum, with a working blacksmith shop, barns, and other buildings.
A couple of miles from Rabbit Hash is Big
Bone Lick State Park, where you can see a diorama of the prehistoric beasts
that came to the salt marsh that used to be here. Tour the museum with displays
of fossil-vertebrate archeological discoveries and the human history of the
The idea of restoring an entire village
as a museum may sound a bit strange. But there are actually several in the northern
Kentucky region. Just a few miles south of Maysville is Old Washington, a late-1700s
village founded by Simon Kenton. Restored buildings there represent every architectural
style of the times, from log cabins to multi-storied brick Federalist mansions.
Old Washington, in fact, is said to have more original pioneer structures than
In Covington is MainStrasse Village, a restored
German village with cobbled streets and brick storefronts painted in lively
color combinations. Restaurants and specialty shops line both sides of the MainStrasse
While at MainStrasse, be sure and check
out the 100-foot-tall Carroll Chimes Tower, a 43-bell carillon that sounds every
hour. Animated wooden figures act out the tale of The Pied Piper of Hamelin
as the bells ring.
Also in Covington is the Behringer-Crawford
Museum of Natural History, which houses a diverse collection illustrating northern
Kentucky’s natural and cultural heritage. Exhibits include exploration of local
paleontology, archeology, wildlife, local history, folk art, and fine art.
For more information about these and other
regional museums, contact: Northern Kentucky C&VB, 50 East RiverCenter Boulevard,
Suite 100, Covington, KY 41011, (800) 447-8489, or go online at www.nkycvb.com.
Day Trips & Short Stops
Grinding out history
Here’s a bit of trivia for your next cocktail
party: what do you call a collection of millstones? Oddly enough, it’s called
a library. And the largest millstone library in the country is found at Levi
Jackson-Wilderness Road State Park. There are 99 stones in the collection, salvaged
from defunct mills throughout Appalachia. Many of them line the paths leading
to McHargue’s Mill, a working gristmill that dates back to about 1817.
Levi Jackson-Wilderness Road State Park
is, in fact, a treasure trove of early pioneer artifacts, history, and lore.
The Wilderness Road and Boone’s Trace both run through the park, for instance.
Both these roads carried thousands of settlers into the Bluegrass region.
More history can be seen at the park’s Mountain
Life Museum, where seven log buildings re-create a mid-19th-century mountain
settlement. Costumed guides are available to offer insights into the life and
times of Laurel County pioneers, with artifacts displayed in each of the buildings.
Just outside the park boundary, on KY 229,
is the Freeman Cemetery. The Freemans were among the earliest settlers in Laurel
County, and, in fact, started the Wilderness Road Inn in 1804. Lying alongside
the Wilderness Road, Freeman Cemetery contains the remains of Revolutionary
War veterans, among others. The park is named for Freeman descendants. Levi
Jackson, the first judge in Laurel County, was the son of Reuben Jackson and
Rebecca Freeman Jackson, whose people had claimed land using Revolutionary War
land patents. Levi Jackson’s children donated the land for the park in 1937.
For more information, contact: Levi Jackson-Wilderness
Road State Park, 998 Levi Jackson Mill Road, London, KY 40744, (606) 878-8000.
Looking for largemouth
May is the
time for largemouth bass in the Commonwealth. The bucketmouths will run from
a pre-spawn through spawn and post-spawn conditions this month, providing anglers
with a good shot at catching actively feeding fish just about anytime they go
Given today’s level of fishing pressure,
it’s hard to describe any large impoundment as being overlooked. But 8,200-acre
Green River Lake comes close. Given its proximity to Dale Hollow and Cumberland
lakes, many anglers ignore Green River.
Green River Lake is 25 miles long, with
almost 150 miles of shoreline in Taylor and Adair counties. Shaped like a wishbone,
the average depth is only about 25 feet. The lake boasts three marinas and five
other launch ramps. The lake offers an incredible diversity of fishing. Game
species found there include largemouth and smallmouth bass, walleye, crappie,
bluegill, catfish, white bass, and muskie. Indeed, the muskie fishery, especially
in the early spring, rivals that found on Cave Run Lake.
The largemouth bass fishery is officially
rated "good" on Green River. But creel censuses seem to belie this.
Sure, there are numerous 10-16-inch fish. But the bass population is stable,
and many fish more than 20 inches long are caught every year. Largemouth are
the third most harvested fish here, right behind crappie and bluegill.
Best bets, this time of year, are to fish
the creeks and shallow coves. Soft plastics are the preferred baits, especially
lizards, which are either Texas- or Carolina-rigged. Tube baits also work well.
Preferred color, for most anglers, is watermelon green.
If the soft plastics aren’t working for
you, try throwing a small crankbait. Something with red in it usually works.
Be sure to stay up to date on special regulations,
which change from time to time. According to the 2002 Kentucky Sport Fishing
& Boating Guide, only crappie have a special size restriction. Statewide
regulations for bass (12" minimum size) apply at Green River Lake.
For more information, contact: Kentucky
Department of Fish & Wildlife Resources, #1 Game Farm Road, Frankfort, KY
40601, (800) 858-1549, or go online at www.kdfwr.state.ky.us.