In Covington, in this year of Abraham Lincoln, stop by the Young Lincoln Statue, a life-size bronze statue of the 16th president holding ax and book and standing outside the Kenton County Public Library. Changing and energetic exhibitions fill the five galleries at the recently renovated Carnegie Visual & Performing Arts Center in Covington.
Nearby, in MainStrasse Village, visit the Carroll Chimes Bell Tower, a 100-foot traditional German Gothic glockenspiel whose 43-bell carillon executes hourly mini-concerts and Pied Piper of Hamelin re-enactments.
Ashanti textiles and Haitian wood carvings make up some of the exhibits at the Museum of Anthropology at Northern Kentucky University.
Yesteryear America may be seen at Rabbit Hash General Store, a working general store since 1831 in a historic town perched on the banks of the Ohio River.
After a full day of free tours of the Capitol, many museums, and memorials, you’ll want to head to downtown Frankfort to window shop West Broadway: Capital Cellars (free Thursday and Friday night wine tastings); DeSpain Studio and Gallery; Irish Sea Celtic Shop; and Completely Kentucky, Poor Richard’s Books (a delightful cubby with thousands of books owned by former Poet Laureate of Kentucky Richard Taylor) and, in between, the Coffeetree Café (you may want to open your wallet here).
Louisville has culture and heritage to spare—and it’s all free: the Speed Art Museum, Kentucky’s oldest and largest art museum, has 12,000 pieces of art in its permanent collection, from ancient Egyptian to contemporary art, to oooh and ahh over.
Also in Louisville, at the American Printing House for the Blind & Callahan Museum, you can take a self-guided tour to learn the history of education of blind students and write your name in Braille.
The Yeiser Art Center in Paducah presents changing exhibits of contemporary art by regional and national artists and a permanent collection with American, European, African, and Asian art, including work by such artists as Henri Matisse, Mary Cassatt, Salvador Dali, and Francisco Goya, among others.
The Paducah Railroad Museum shows off lanterns, signals, train dispatching controls, maps, and other memorabilia. Paducah’s Wall to Wall Murals narrate the story of this river town’s history, as does its Chief Paduke Statue.
Play in the fountains overlooking the Ohio River at Henderson’s scenic riverfront.
Toss temperance to the wind with a distillery tour (or two or six): follow for free the Bourbon Trail to six of seven historic distilleries (only one charges a fee) and learn about Kentucky’s liquid gold.
And of course, the mother lode of freebies is found in Kentucky’s state park system. There is no admission charge to enter any of Kentucky’s 17 state resort parks or 35 regular state parks, which include 24 recreation parks and 11 historic parks, such as Constitution Square State Historic Site in Danville and the Jefferson Davis State Historic Site in Fairview. Enjoy the miles of hiking trails, scenic spots for picnicking, and endless opportunities for birding in Kentucky’s parks. (NOTE: There is an admission charge for museums and historic buildings within the Kentucky parks system.)
For more information
Kentucky Bourbon Trail
Kentucky State Parks
Louisville Convention & Visitors Bureau
Northern Kentucky Convention & Visitors Bureau
Return to the June 2008 TRAVEL column “Free Family Fun” that goes along with this supplement.