Hundreds of miles of wooded and scenic trails are at your fingertips, or toes, at Kentucky’s more than two dozen certified Trail Towns. Think of them as gateways to the very best of the great outdoors while keeping you connected with in-town entertainment and attractions, restaurants and lodging options. Here are a few:
A former stagecoach stop, Park City lists Mammoth Cave National Park and Diamond Cavern as its can’t-miss assets. Enjoy caving, cycling and paddling the Green River, but that’s not all. Park City is working on attaining its Dark Sky Certification, meaning it’s a perfect spot for viewing the night sky.
Morgantown, a historic river town on the banks of the Green River, is known for its active Butler County Arts Guild and annual Catfish Festival that celebrates all things Green River, with great paddling front and center.
Kentucky’s largest Trail Town and self-proclaimed first Urban Trail Town, Elizabethtown is home to one of the oldest local conservation organizations in the state; the abundance of hiking and biking opportunities shows Elizabethtown Greenspace’s decades-long commitment to creating and preserving trails. Pair trails with popping into the many local restaurants and shops and it’s one superb adventure-themed getaway.
Exceptional trail experiences, including mountain biking, horseback riding and paddling on both Green River and Green River Lake, are Campbellsville‘s claim to fame. That, plus a historic downtown with a lively mix of locally owned restaurants and outdoor stores.
Jammin’ on the Porch at the Thomas House, Horse Cave
For more than a decade, music has been raising the roof in downtown Horse Cave, a National Historic Register of Historic Places Commercial District. The location may have changes over the years, but it’s a down-home Kentucky music gathering that has recently returned to its roots at the historic Thomas House next to Hidden River Cave.
“Jammin’ on the Porch is an authentic slice or rural Kentucky music that is entertaining and free,” says Sandra Wilson, executive director at Horse Cave/Hart County Tourism. “It features locals of all kinds of musical abilities who meet weekly to play bluegrass, country and old-time music on acoustical instruments for themselves and for anyone who wants to listen.”
Lakeland Jamboree, Cadiz
The three words that best capture the essence of this small venue in Cadiz’s historic downtown are family, nostalgia and entertaining. On Friday and Saturday nights, the Lakeland Jamboree fills the seats with family and friends, and the rafters with the sounds of live traditional gospel and classic country music.
“It’s like a singalong with your family, where you might find everyone having a potluck together,” Jamie Lewis of Cadiz-Trigg County Tourism says of the alcohol- and smoke-free venue. “It’s a place where everybody knows your name.”
Shepherdsville Country Music Show
It’s all about family at Bullitt County’s longest running live country music show, and has been for more than 45 years.
“It’s a family gathering for the community,” says Pat Portman, who has produced the show for more than 20 years. “Regulars have their own seats. People traveling through the state on their way to vacation stop here and come back every year.”
The show features 35 to 40 songs—rock ’n’ roll oldies, classic country, Southern gospel—and is different each week. The talent, all local entertainers, is known to be extraordinary.
“If you close your eyes, you’ll feel like you’re hearing Patsy Cline and George Jones,” says Betty Hardin, who owns the venue with her husband, Howard. “You’ll feel welcome and will want to come back.”
The Amp at Dant Crossing, Gethsemane
World class. State of the art. One of a kind. The new 2,000-seat amphitheater on the Dant Crossing campus, near New Haven, is all of these things—and family-friendly. It’s a place where every seat feels like the best seat in the house because of the outstanding sound quality and gorgeous countryside views.
It is also entertainment under the stars, Monk’s Road spirits in hand, with Log Still Distillery Tasting Room and bed-and-breakfast lodging mere steps away. There are food trucks on concert nights, woodsy walking trails and fishing lake, and a working train depot is expected later this year. In other words, a full-on vacation destination in the midst of Kentucky Bourbon Country.