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Here are your 2019 ‘Best In Kentucky’ Winners

Photo: Brian Bohannon
Photo: Brian Bohannon
Photo: Brian Bohannon
Photo: Brian Bohannon
Photo: Brian Bohannon
Photo: Brian Bohannon
Photo: Brian Bohannon
Photo: Brian Bohannon
Photo: Brian Bohannon
Photo: Brian Bohannon
Photo: Brian Bohannon
Photo: Brian Bohannon
Photo: Brian Bohannon
Photo: Brian Bohannon
Photo: Brian Bohannon
Photo: Brian Bohannon
Photo: Brian Bohannon
Photo: Brian Bohannon
Photo: Brian Bohannon
Photo: Brian Bohannon
Photo: Brian Bohannon
Photo: Brian Bohannon
Photo: Brian Bohannon
Photo: Brian Bohannon
Photo: Brian Bohannon
Photo: Brian Bohannon
Winners of the 2019 Best in Kentucky Awards, as selected by readers of Kentucky Living magazine, are pictured with emcee Heather French Henry following Kentucky Living’s awards show at the Kentucky State Fair on Thursday, Aug. 22, 2019, in Louisville. Photo: Brian Bohannon
Photo: Brian Bohannon
Photo: Brian Bohannon

LONG WEEKEND GETAWAY

WINNER

Lake Cumberland—Somerset-Pulaski County, Russell County, Burnside, Monticello-Wayne County and Clinton County

Here are all the comforts of home, on the water: A gleaming houseboat with equipped kitchen, covered sundeck and even a hot tub for relaxing under a star-studded Kentucky sky and a slide for splashing down into the crystal-clear waters of Lake Cumberland. It boosts the ordinary vacay to extraordinary, the kind that makes lots of smiles and memories.

SECOND PLACE

Cumberland Falls at Cumberland Falls State Resort Park, Corbin

THIRD PLACE

Land Between The Lakes National Recreation Area, Golden Pond

DAY TRIP

WINNER

Mammoth Cave National Park, Mammoth Cave

Nearly a dozen cave tours with intriguing names like “Domes and Dripstones,” “River Styx” and “Gothic Avenue.” Free Heritage Walks and natural history Porch Talks. Biking, hiking and horseback riding. Boating, canoeing and kayaking. Camping, fishing and swimming. It’s takes a king-size place to offer all these activities and more. Lucky for us, Mammoth Cave National Park is in Kentucky’s backyard.

SECOND PLACE

Cumberland Falls at Cumberland Falls State Resort Park, Corbin

THIRD PLACE

Red River Gorge Geological Area, Stanton

KID-FRIENDLY ATTRACTION

WINNER

Louisville Zoo

Ride a camel. Feed a lorikeet. Beat the heat at a nautically themed splash park. Follow the swinging red-tailed monkeys in the new African primate exhibit, Colobus Crossing, and head to a small Himalayan village in Nepal to see the new snow leopard habitat and play at the Cub House.

Marking 50 years in 2019, the Louisville Zoo is a fun place for family outings that also provides a peek into the worlds of animals we share the planet with—rare antelopes of Africa, wallabies of Australia, jaguars of South America and so many more.

SECOND PLACE

Kentucky Down Under Adventure Zoo, Horse Cave

THIRD PLACE

Newport Aquarium

FARM TOURIST ATTRACTION

WINNER

Chaney’s Dairy Barn and Restaurant, Bowling Green

Chow down on a Porker, Dairy-Aire or Spicy Bird sandwich before or after a self-guided tour of the robotic milker at Chaney’s Dairy Barn and Restaurant. The robotic milker stays busy 24 hours a day, milking the farm’s Jersey cows so visitors always have a chance to see it in action.

The playground is a kid magnet, with a tower with slides, swings, Ten Spin and ginormous inflatable Jumbo Jumping Pillow. Fun family events include the Ice Cream & a Moovie outdoor summer movie series, Miss Glimmer Appreciation Day in June (featuring a free scoop of ice cream), a corn maze for fall and Breakfast with Santa in December.

SECOND PLACE

Dennison’s Roadside Market, Horse Cave

THIRD PLACE

Hinton’s Orchard & Farm Market, Hodgenville

HISTORIC SITE

WINNER

My Old Kentucky Home, Bardstown

My Old Kentucky Home is one of the most iconic 19th century homes in America. Named for the abolitionist-inspired ballad, My Old Kentucky Home, Good-Night!, written by America’s first composer, Stephen Collins Foster—known as “The Father of American music”—the Federal-style mansion was commissioned by John Rowan Sr. and completed in 1818, the centerpiece of a 1,300-acre plantation.

The mansion-museum stays busy through the year with programs like A House Divided (September  1-30), which explores its connection to the American Civil War, and the popular Weep No More, Bizarre Victorian Mourning & Funerary Customs (October 1-31). 

SECOND PLACE

Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill, Harrodsburg

THIRD PLACE

Mammoth Cave National Park, Mammoth Cave

WINERY (NON-FRANCHISE)

WINNER

Purple Toad Winery, Paducah

From a former golf driving range planted with 2,500 vines in 1998 to Kentucky’s largest winery today, the Purple Toad pairs modern winemaking techniques with Old World know-how to produce its high-quality wines. Forty-three different wines are typically available, including best-sellers Black & Bruised and Strawberry Lemonade—the perfect refresher for summer’s heat.

SECOND PLACE

Farmer & Frenchman Winery, Henderson

THIRD PLACE

Talon Winery & Vineyards, Lexington and Shelbyville

DISTILLERY

WINNER

Maker’s Mark Distillery, Loretto

“My grandparents, Bill and Margie Samuels, simply wanted to make a whisky they would enjoy sharing with their friends,” says Rob Samuels, eighth generation distiller and chief distillery officer. “As a result, Maker’s Mark helped change the way people thought about bourbon.”

Never bitter or sharp, Maker’s Mark is made with soft red winter wheat for a one-of-a-kind, full-flavored bourbon that’s easy to drink.

SECOND PLACE

Buffalo Trace, Frankfort

THIRD PLACE

Woodford Reserve Distillery, Versailles

CRAFT BEER

WINNER

Country Boy Brewing, Georgetown, Lexington

“We are a place where all are welcome to come and enjoy some of the best beer that Kentucky has to offer,” says Daniel “DH” Harrison, who owns Country Boy Brewing with Nathan Coppage, Jeff Beagle and Evan Coppage.

Indeed, Country Boy has created a special experience in a taproom that has a life and energy all its own.

“People want more than just a beer or dinner,” says Harrison. “They want to drink in the culture.” And that means sipping core faves, including Cougar Bait, Shotgun Wedding, Halfway Home and Cliff Jumper, while enjoying a gorgeous view from the taproom patio.

SECOND PLACE

Henderson Brewing Co.

THIRD PLACE

West Sixth Brewing, Lexington

PIZZA

WINNER

Hometown Pizza

With 18 locations throughout the central part of the state, this Kentucky pizza chain that originated in La Grange is a family-oriented restaurant offering a vast number of pizza options, from traditional to gourmet, gluten-free to specialty. The Hometown Favorite is topped with pepperoni, ham, pork topping, Italian sausage, mushrooms, onions, green peppers and black olives. Mmm.

The restaurant freshly shreds its mozzarella daily and sources the best locally grown produce. In addition to pizza, the menu includes appetizers, salads, sandwiches and wraps, pasta entrées and one very sweet treat, a pizza dessert made with cream cheese, seasoned fruit and streusel.

SECOND PLACE

Miguel’s Pizza, Slade

THIRD PLACE

Rockhouse on the River, Henderson

BARBECUE

WINNER

Red State BBQ, Lexington

Here is the quintessential roadside barbecue joint, a Kentucky Proud member where the brisket, ribs, chicken, pork and sausage are still smoked low and slow and all of the sides are made fresh daily.

“Visitors enjoy the fun and unique atmosphere,” says owner David Carroll. “But of course the food and service is what is most important—and that’s why we have so many who will drive a couple of hours just to eat some barbecue and hang out.”

SECOND PLACE

Arrowhead BBQ, Hodgenville

THIRD PLACE

J&B Barbecue & Catering, Henderson

HAMBURGER

WINNER

Dovie’s, Tompkinsville

A Tompkinsville landmark for eight decades, Dovie’s is known for its burgers—soft, secret-recipe pieces of heaven fried in a soybean oil bath. The burgers are made just like they were back when Stanford Moore opened this mom-and-pop restaurant for his sister, Dovie. 

People come from miles and miles away to step back in time, order their Dovie burger at the antique counter—complete with the original barstools—and wash it down with a glass-bottled soft drink or a tall glass of ice-cold milk.

SECOND PLACE

Laha’s Red Castle, Hodgenville

THIRD PLACE

Metzger’s Tavern, Henderson

DOWN-HOME RESTAURANT

WINNER

The Lighthouse Restaurant, Sulphur Well

Roll up your sleeves and tuck into an all-you-can-eat, family-style meal in a restaurant with a down-home feel. Located on a country road about 15 minutes from Edmonton, the restaurant is a stroll across the street from Metcalfe County’s historic Sulphur Well Park. 

Diners tell owners Tammy and Rodney Deckard that coming to The Lighthouse Restaurant is like sitting down at grandma’s supper table. Catfish, fried chicken, Penn’s County Ham and more are served with sides including coleslaw, fried apples, country green beans, creamy stewed potatoes and red-eye gravy and biscuits. Desserts include pies that are always homemade and always delicious.

SECOND PLACE

The Dixie Café & Quick Stop, Keene

THIRD PLACE

Hometown Roots, Henderson

SWEET SPOT

WINNER

The Sweet Shoppe and Dessert Café, Hodgenville

Nirvana for the sweet tooth: The Sweet Shoppe and Dessert Café in Hodgenville has 28 flavors of its own secret-recipe homemade fudge: cookies and cream, key lime, chewy praline, raspberry-chocolate swirl, chocolate caramel sea salt and more—all whipped up in double boiler kettles.

Sixteen flavors of Velvet and Bluebell ice cream are served in the shop’s hand-dipped milk shakes, banana splits and sundaes. Trays full of cookies, turtles, gourmet apples, lemon bars, fudge-dipped strawberries and lots of other yummies also can be enjoyed with a view of downtown Hodgenville’s Abraham Lincoln statue on the side.

SECOND PLACE

Crank & Boom Ice Cream Lounge, Lexington

THIRD PLACE

Chaney’s Dairy Barn, Bowling Green

KENTUCKY MUSICIAN/BAND

WINNER

Chris Stapleton, Nashville, Tennessee

Country music sensation Chris Stapleton, nominated for multiple Academy of Country Music awards in 2019, is currently on the road on a sold-out All-American Road Show. The tour includes a stop at Louisville’s KFC Yum! Center on November 2.

SECOND PLACE

The Kentucky Headhunters, Edmonton

THIRD PLACE

Tyler Childers, Nashville, Tennessee

MUSEUM

WINNER

National Corvette Museum,
Bowling Green

Visitors love that they can learn the history of the iconic Corvette—first introduced in 1953 in New York as a “dream car”—at the National Corvette Museum. The experience is blown off the charts when they slip behind the wheel of one of these snazzy sports cars—whether it is an interactive racing simulator or a C7 Stingray on the racetrack at the nearby NCM Motorsports Park.

SECOND PLACE

Audubon Museum and Nature Center at the John James Audubon State Park, Henderson

THIRD PLACE

The Lincoln Museum, Hodgenville

EVENT or FESTIVAL

WINNER

W.C. Handy Blues & Barbecue Festival, Henderson

It’s free. It’s fun. And it fetes the “Father of the Blues”—W.C. Handy, who spent some 10 years in Henderson. The W.C. Handy Blues & Barbecue Festival, one of the country’s longest-running free music festivals, remembers the composer, musician and music publisher who was at the forefront of popularizing blues music with hits like Memphis Blues and St. Louis Blues.

The annual festival brings outstanding blues musicians and succulent slow-cooked barbecue together in one beautiful setting—Audubon Mill Park—for four days in June.

SECOND PLACE

Monroe County Watermelon Festival, Tompkinsville

THIRD PLACE

Lincoln Days Celebration, Hodgenville 

PLACE FOR LIVE MUSIC

WINNER

Renfro Valley Entertainment Center, Mt. Vernon

It’s not surprising, in a place known as Kentucky’s Country Music Capital, that Renfro Valley Entertainment Center is all about the music: classic country, Southern gospel, mountain bluegrass.

Marking 80 years of headlining entertainment in 2019, this is a venue that values its commitment to offer a variety of shows appealing to all ages in its two theaters. With a staff noted for its Southern hospitality, Renfro Valley hops from April through December in its vast valley complex that also includes RV parks and shopping village.

SECOND PLACE — TIE

The Louisville Palace


Rib Lickers Smoke Shack, Glasgow

GOLF COURSE

WINNER

Bright Leaf Golf Resort, Harrodsburg

Golfing groups agree with the slogan that Bright Leaf Golf Resort is “The Place to Be Since ’63.” The resort caters to groups who like to grill, play cornhole, listen to music, swim or play the lighted nine-hole, par 3 course after a long day on the challenging 18-hole golf course. Packages include lodging, green fees, cart fees and meals.

Overseeing operations is Helen King, daughter of Bright Leaf visionaries and builders, C.R. “Buck” and Virginia “Waddy” Blankenship.

“She works here every day—even now at 91 years of age,” says granddaughter Tia Taylor. “Helen is the owner and ‘mom’ of her business, which employs four generations of the family.”

SECOND PLACE

Valhalla Golf Club, Louisville

THIRD PLACE

Dale Hollow Lake Golf Course at Dale Hollow Lake State Resort Park, Burkesville

PLACE FOR ADVENTURE

WINNER

Red River Gorge Geological Area, Stanton

Thousands of hikers, wildlife lovers, photographers, picnickers, rock climbers, rappelers and other outdoor enthusiasts are irresistibly drawn every year to Red River Gorge, where adventure and camping opportunities abound.

Designated a Geological Area within Daniel Boone National Forest, this National Natural Landmark and National Archaeological District on the National Register of Historic Places is known for its spectacular overlooks, streams and unique geological features such as natural sandstone arches.

SECOND PLACE

Mammoth Cave National Park, Mammoth Cave

THIRD PLACE

Natural Bridge State Resort Park, Slade

CAMPING SPOT

WINNER

Red River Gorge Geological Area, Stanton

Regardless of camping style (tent, cabin, backcountry, group, RV park), visitors find their refuge at Red River Gorge, with everything from tent, horse and boat-in camping to more remote areas for those seeking the solitude of the forest primeval.

Gorge campers enter a wilderness of breathtaking scenery marked by cliffs, stone arches, waterfalls, lakes and ponds where they can drop a line and spot wildlife, including elk, eagles, peregrine falcons and black bear.

SECOND PLACE

Green River Lake at Green River Lake State Park, Campbellsville

THIRD PLACE

Land Between The Lakes National Recreation Area, Golden Pond

HOUSEBOATING LAKE

WINNER

Lake Cumberland—Somerset-Pulaski County, Russell County, Burnside, Monticello-Wayne County and Clinton County

It’s hard to resist the call of pristine waters, miles of shoreline, cascading waterfalls and hushed coves tucked in out-of-the-way places. So don’t. When the “Houseboat Capital of the World” beckons, plan a vacation in a custom houseboat on Lake Cumberland. 

Choose from among the largest fleet of rental houseboats in one location, including two of the largest rental houseboats in the United States. No matter the size, interests, ages or budget of your party, there is a houseboat with your name on it.

SECOND PLACE

Kentucky Lake, Marshall County and Calloway County

THIRD PLACE

Dale Hollow Lake at Dale Hollow Lake State Resort Park, Burkesville

PUBLIC HUNTING/FISHING AREA

WINNER

Land Between The Lakes National Recreation Area, Golden Pond

METADATA-START

The waters of Land Between The Lakes can be fished year-round, with crappie, largemouth bass and a variety of sunfish in the spring; white bass, catfish, sauger and largemouth and smallmouth in the summer; crappie, catfish and largemouth and smallmouth in the fall; and crappie, smallmouth bass and catfish in the winter. And fishers, take note: fishing success is rated mostly good throughout the year.

SECOND PLACE

Lake Cumberland—Somerset-Pulaski County, Russell County, Burnside, Monticello-Wayne County and Clinton County

THIRD PLACE

Barren River Lake at Barren River Lake State Resort Park, Lucas

MADE IN KENTUCKY PRODUCT

WINNER

Maker’s Mark Bourbon, Loretto

There’s an old joke at Maker’s Mark: “If we could make it any faster, we wouldn’t.” From the old letterpress used to hand-cut labels to the way the distillery insists on hand-rotating barrels and hand-dipping bottles, Maker’s Mark is still doing things just like it did when it began production in 1954.

Still, there’s always something new and exciting going on at this little distillery in Loretto, from the unique culinary experiences at Star Hill Provisions to in-depth specialty tours to annual events like the Handcraft Festival and Holiday Open House. Of course, the chance to hand-dip a bottle in Maker’s signature red wax is reason enough for many visitors to make the trip.

SECOND PLACE

Kenny’s Farmhouse Cheese, Austin

THIRD PLACE

The Sweet Shoppe and Dessert Café fudge, Hodgenville

ARTS & CRAFTS FAIR

WINNER

Berea Craft Festival

Destination: The Pinnacles in Berea, a forest with hiking trails and hidden caves, scenic overlooks and scented wildflowers. Each year for three fabulous festival days, stunning art, delicious food, wandering musicians, dancers and artisans converge at the Indian Fort Theater at The Pinnacles.

What an opportunity to enjoy folk, jazz and mountain music, a variety of foodstuffs and browsing for handcrafted, one-of-a-kind treasures—pottery, jewelry, dolls, baskets, paintings, woodcrafts and more.

SECOND PLACE

St. James Court Art Show, Louisville

THIRD PLACE

Henderson Lions Club Arts and Crafts Fair

FARMERS MARKET

WINNER

Lexington Farmers Market

With its dozens and dozens of booths, heaping tables of colorful produce, baskets of fresh-cut flowers, piles of artisan and beer cheeses, gaggle of growers and crowds of shoppers, the Lexington Farmers Market feels more like a festival than a Farm and Garden Market Cooperative.

But for more than 40 years, this year-round market has brought the goods—everything from meat to mulch, baked goods to beer and wine—and the dynamic atmosphere to downtown Lexington. 

“Visitors love that they get to talk to farmers, support the local economy, see friends and eat delicious products from right here in Kentucky,” says market manager Josh England.

SECOND PLACE

Henderson Farmers Market

THIRD PLACE

Hardin County Farmers’ Market

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