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2016 Best in Kentucky

  • Red River Gorge Double Arch Best in KY
    On the National Register of Historic Places, Red River Gorge is a showplace of magnificent rock features, including Double Arch, shown, towering cliffs, and 29,000 acres of rugged forest landscape. Photo: John Snell
  • W.C. Handy Blues & Barbecue Festival Best in KY
    Artist Shemekia Copeland singing in Audubon Mill Park at the 2015 W.C. Handy Blues & Barbecue Festival in Henderson. Copeland’s album, Outskirts of Love, received a Grammy nomination for Best Blues Album. Photo: Henderson County Tourist Commission
  • Old Silo Golf Course Best in KY
    Old Silo Golf Course features lush bent grass tees, fairways, greens, and 84 white-sand bunkers. Photo: Mt. Sterling Tourism

Looking for adventure? Seek and you shall find. In Kentucky you’ll find the best of the best—in outdoor recreation, festivals, museums, 2016 BestKYcommunity theater, and more. Here are Kentucky Living readers’ picks for Best in Kentucky for 2016:

Red River Gorge's Double Arch. Photo: John Snell
Red River Gorge’s Double Arch. Photo: John Snell

OUTDOOR RECREATION SPOT
WINNER

Red River Gorge Geological Area/Daniel Boone National Forest/Gladie Visitor Center—near Stanton

Head to Gladie Visitor Center, talk with a forest ranger, see the exhibits, pick up a map, and prepare to be blown away by the cultural heritage and spectacular geology in Red River Gorge.

“Endless recreation opportunities await visitors,” says Cumberland District Ranger Jon Kazmierski. “Exploring trails, climbing rocks, photography, swimming, boating, camping, learning—there’s something for everyone and always more to do.”

SECOND PLACE
John James Audubon State Park—Henderson

THIRD PLACE
Land Between The Lakes National Recreation Area—Golden Pond

Zipline to Hell, one of six ziplines in Louisville Mega Cavern’s zipline course. Photo: Louisville Mega Cavern.
Zipline to Hell, one of six ziplines in Louisville Mega Cavern’s zipline course. Photo: Louisville Mega Cavern

BUCKET LIST ADVENTURE
WINNER, TIE

Ziplining at Louisville Mega Cavern—Louisville
If the Zipline to Hell doesn’t strike fear in your heart, you’re in the right place: the world’s only underground zipline course is made for extreme adventurists with six underground ziplines, including a dual-racing zip and two challenge bridges.

Ziplining at Red River Gorge Zipline in Red River Gorge Geological Area—Campton
Breathtaking views and heart-thumping thrills keep adrenaline junkies coming back for more. The last two lines of this five-line zip course go over the Cowan Fork Gorge, and are 2,000 and 1,000 feet long and 300 and 350 feet high. Cannonball to reach speeds up to 55 mph. Opening in 2016: a walking trail to follow along the zipliners.

SECOND PLACE
Mammoth Cave National Park—Mammoth Cave

THIRD PLACE
Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs—Louisville

Campfire at Kentucky Lake—the South’s Great Lake. Photo: KY Department of Travel & Tourism
Campfire at Kentucky Lake—the South’s Great Lake. Photo: KY Department of Travel & Tourism

FISHING SPOT
WINNER

Kentucky Lake—Murray
A relaxed atmosphere, natural beauty, and outdoor adventure: it’s no wonder Kentuckians love Kentucky Lake, the South’s Great Lake. Explore the 2,200-plus miles of shoreline by boat. Fish for that trophy bass or crappie. Lounge around a campfire overlooking the lake.

SECOND PLACE
Lake Barkley—Cadiz-Trigg County, Grand Rivers, Kuttawa, Livingston County

THIRD PLACE
Cave Run Lake—Morehead

Photo: Ale-8-One
Photo: Ale-8-One

“MADE IN KENTUCKY” ITEMS
WINNER

Ale-8-One—Winchester
Mmm. Ginger with just a hint of citrus puts Ale-8-One in a category all its own. And CEO Fielding Rogers, the fourth generation to run this family-owned company, still personally mixes up the secret formula. This year, Ale-8-One plans to expand its core distribution by 23 counties, which will include Elizabethtown, Bardstown, Bowling Green, Fort Knox, and Owensboro.

SECOND PLACE
Woodford Reserve bourbon—Versailles

THIRD PLACE
Maker’s Mark bourbon—Loretto

ANNUAL FESTIVAL (nonmusic)
WINNER

Mt. Sterling October Court Days—Mt. Sterling
When hundreds of vendor booths set up at Kentucky’s oldest festival—a four-day extravaganza nicknamed the “ultimate shopping experience”—plan to wear your comfiest shoes and be prepared to walk and eat, and walk and eat some more. This family-friendly event takes place in Mt. Sterling’s historic downtown.

SECOND PLACE
Glendale Crossing Festival—Glendale

THIRD PLACE
World Chicken Festival—London

In the back country of Mammoth Cave National Park, horse trails wind through rugged terrain. Photo: National Park Service
In the back country of Mammoth Cave National Park, horse trails wind through rugged terrain. Photo: National Park Service

HORSEBACK RIDING TRAIL
WINNER

Mammoth Cave National Park—Mammoth Cave
Bring your horse or contact one of the liveries that service the park to explore the 60 miles of trails designated for horse use. Located on the north side of Green River in the backcountry of Mammoth Cave National Park, the terrain is rugged, with hills and hollows, and covered by dense hardwood forest. There are trailheads with parking spaces designed for horse trailers, and the park’s Maple Springs Campground has sites for people camping with horses.

SECOND PLACE
Cumberland Falls State Resort Park—Corbin

THIRD PLACE
Wranglers Campground at Land Between The Lakes National Recreation Area—Golden Pond

Photo: Parkette Drive-In
Photo: Parkette Drive-In

DIVE/DINER/DRIVE-IN NONFRANCHISE
WINNER

Parkette Drive-In—Lexington
Sink your teeth into the Parkette’s Hot Brown Burger (the diner’s original recipe that was once featured on the Rachel Ray Show) that comes smothered in creamy Alfredo sauce and topped with sliced turkey breast, bacon, American cheese, and tomato, and it’s pretty much guaranteed that, like scores of hungry diners before you, you’ll be back for more. This, along with the hand-rolled and hand-dipped fried chicken and “The Parkette” Premium Poor Boy Burger, makes diners salivate; the great atmosphere, food and service, and the fair pricing keep them happy.

SECOND PLACE
Metzger’s Tavern—Henderson

THIRD PLACE
Root Beer Stand—Corbin

n Chrissy Cobb enjoys frozen yogurt from 2nd Street Treats. Photo: Nicci Sheridan
Chrissy Cobb enjoys frozen yogurt from 2nd Street Treats. Photo: Nicci Sheridan

ICE CREAM SHOP
WINNER

2nd Street Treats—Henderson
Apparently, Kentuckians all scream for frozen yogurt, and they get it from this self-serve frozen yogurt shop in downtown Henderson. Here, you choose your yogurt flavor and then head to the toppings station, where an eye-popping assortment of sweets and sauces are arrayed. The shop sells hot and cold beverages, too. In 2016, gelato and custard join the luscious lineup.

SECOND PLACE
Chaney’s Dairy Barn—Bowling Green

THIRD PLACE
Comfy Cow—Louisville

Cumberland Falls. Photo: Kentucky Department of Parks
Cumberland Falls. Photo: Kentucky Department of Parks

SELFIE LOCATION
WINNER

Cumberland Falls State Resort Park—Corbin
Who can resist snapping selfies at the awe-inspiring Niagara of the South? Not many. Guests flock to Lover’s Leap, the Upper Overlook, and the Lower Overlook at the 68-foot falls—the most picturesque backdrops for selfies—to capture themselves and their friends at one of Kentucky’s premier natural attractions.

SECOND PLACE
Natural Bridge State Resort Park—Slade

THIRD PLACE
Henderson Riverfront—Henderson

John James Audubon State Park Museum
The John James Audubon State Park Museum is a hidden treasure of Kentucky. Photo: Kentucky Department of Parks

MUSEUM
WINNER

John James Audubon State Park Museum—Henderson
Several must-see exhibits put this museum at the top of readers’ list. The Birds of America elephant folios—massive books featuring prints of birds drawn to life-size scale in their natural habitats—are beloved by Audubon and art aficionados. The life-size Audubon diorama is a fan favorite, bringing to life Audubon’s process of drawing his birds with a handmade grid. The recently unveiled Lucy Audubon Exhibit displays a newly acquired dress that belonged to Audubon’s wife.

SECOND PLACE
Wayne County Museum—Monticello

THIRD PLACE
Kentucky Science Center—Louisville

Tyler Ulis
UK’s Tyler Ulis splits the defense during an 88-67 victory over Eastern Kentucky in Rupp Arena on Dec. 9, 2015. Photo: Barry Westerman/UK Athletics

KENTUCKY ATHLETE (CURRENT)
WINNER

Tyler Ulis—University of Kentucky Basketball
As a freshman, this student-athlete was named to the All-SEC Freshman Team by the league’s coaches, and was the Bluegrass Sports Commission MVP of the annual Kentucky–Louisville game. Through the end of the 2016 regular season, Ulis averaged 16.6 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 7.4 assists per game in his sophomore year.

SECOND PLACE
Alex Poythress—University of Kentucky Basketball
THIRD PLACE
Marcus Lee—University of Kentucky Basketball

Land Between The Lakes Canoe Trip
The Lakes National Recreation Area of 170,000-plus acres of forests, wetlands, and open lands is one of Kentucky’s favorite outdoor recreation areas.
Photo: LBL Staff Photo

VACATION GETAWAY
WINNER

Land Between The Lakes National Recreation Area—Golden Pond
Camping, fishing, horseback riding, wildlife viewing, and environmental education—there are activities for all ages and interests at Land Between The Lakes, plus 300 miles of natural shoreline along Lake Barkley and Kentucky Lake with lake access and 500 miles of trails.

SECOND PLACE
Cumberland Falls State Resort Park—Corbin

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

Kentucky Kingdom
Number one for family fun! – Kentucky Kingdom
Photo: Kentucky Kingdom

AMUSEMENT/WATER PARK
WINNER

Kentucky Kingdom—Louisville
This park’s more than 60 rides and attractions include five world-class roller coasters and dozens of thrill rides and classic favorites, including Lightning Run, a steel coaster with a heart-pounding, nearly perpendicular drop. King Louie’s Playland beckons little ones for rides that can be enjoyed with their parents, and Hurricane Bay’s wave pools and waterslides draw visitors of all ages on warm summer days. New for 2016: Storm Chaser, the first coaster in America to feature a barrel roll drop from a 10-story lift hill at a 79-degree angle.

SECOND PLACE
Beech Bend Park & Splash Lagoon—Bowling Green

THIRD PLACE
SomerSplash Waterpark—Somerset

Old Silo Golf Course
Old Silo Golf Course features lush bent grass tees, fairways, greens, and 84 white-sand bunkers. Photo: Mt. Sterling Tourism

GOLF COURSE
WINNER

Old Silo Golf Course—Mt. Sterling
This Graham Marsh signature 18-hole, par 72 championship golf course, designed to accommodate all skill levels, has four sets of tees, a practice facility, and a full-service clubhouse with a restaurant serving a Kentucky-themed, made-from-scratch menu. Known for its beauty, Somerset Creek meanders through it and dramatic views provide the backdrop.

SECOND PLACE, TIE
Doe Valley Golf Club—Brandenburg
StoneCrest Golf Course—Prestonsburg

THIRD PLACE
Eagle Trace Golf Course—Morehead

W.C. Handy Blues & Barbecue Festival
Artist Shemekia Copeland singing in Audubon Mill Park at the 2015 W.C. Handy Blues & Barbecue Festival in Henderson. Copeland’s album, Outskirts of Love, received a Grammy nomination for Best Blues Album. Photo: Henderson County Tourist Commission

MUSIC FESTIVAL
WINNER

W.C. Handy Blues & Barbecue Festival—Henderson
Bring a blanket and kick back at this festival known worldwide for great music, fantastic food, and an unforgettable riverside venue.
“Come for Zydeco Night with Chubby Carrier, get hot sauce poured in your mouth, or have a bowl full of red beans and rice followed by bread pudding for dessert,” says Steve Gold, festival chairman, who notes that the friendliness, cleanliness, and energy of the festival keep visitors coming back. “And it’s free, so that doesn’t hurt!”

SECOND PLACE
Master Musicians Festival—Somerset

THIRD PLACE
Poppy Mountain Festival—Morehead

Hardin County Playhouse
Past productions at the award-winning Hardin County Playhouse have included A Christmas Carol, Steel Magnolias, and Alice in Wonderland.
Photo: Bo Cecil/Hardin County Playhouse

COMMUNITY THEATER
WINNER

Hardin County Playhouse—Elizabethtown
Inclusive, entertaining, and quality productions characterize this community theater. Dedication, too, as community theater is unpaid and truly a labor of love. Patrons appreciate the wide variety of entertainment at Hardin County Playhouse as well as the relaxed feeling of home. On the playbill: Of Mice and Men, April 15–24; Monty Python’s Spamalot, June 10–19; and Bye Bye Birdie in August.

SECOND PLACE
Henderson Community Theatre—Henderson

THIRD PLACE
Pine Knob Theatre—Caneyville

CAR SHOW CRUISE-IN
WINNER

Cruisin’ the Heartland—Elizabethtown
Elizabethtown prides itself on the small-town feel of its downtown and loves to welcome over 15,000 visitors to this two-day event, recognized as one of the top cruise-ins in the country by Chevy Classics magazine.
“Cruisers stick around town for several days and folks bring their chairs and families just to sit and watch all of the excitement,” says Sarah Vaughn, events coordinator for City of Elizabethtown.

SECOND PLACE
NCM Michelin Bash—Bowling Green

THIRD PLACE
Carl Casper’s Custom Car Show—Louisville

Talon Winery & Vineyards
Talon Winery & Vineyards sits on 300 acres of Kentucky farmland with a 5-acre vineyard. Photo: Talon Winery Lexington

WINERY
WINNER

Talon Winery & Vineyards—Lexington
Lots of events throughout the year, a relaxed setting, and award-winning wines—sounds like a recipe for success, and it is for this Lexington landmark with a tasting room tucked in a historic 1790s-era farmhouse. Landscaped grounds, covered porches, and open-air pavilion create a charming backdrop for sipping Sweet Evening Breeze, Coyote Red, and Southern Rose, the winery’s top three wines. For 2016, new wines will be added to the menu and a vineyard will be planted at Talon’s Shelbyville location. The Shelbyville location also features a gift shop full of Kentucky Proud gifts and is located just off of I-64.

SECOND PLACE
Ruby Moon—Henderson

THIRD PLACE
Elk Creek Vineyards—Owenton

Jericho Woods
Jericho Woods band members: Dustin Spencer, Josh Mitcham, Paul Priest, and Jory Hutchens. Photo: Stella Mitcham

KENTUCKY MUSICAL GROUP (CURRENT)
WINNER

Jericho Woods—Webster

Music Row’s Robert K. Oermann describes this band’s style as “clear, liquid country-rock…smoothly played and sung.”
Representing Kentucky wherever they go has always been important to the band members. “We feel a responsibility to make sure our heritage lives on through our music,” says Josh Mitcham, lead vocalist and guitarist.
Adds bass player Paul Priest, “What an honor to be chosen as one of Kentucky’s favorite bands. Josh and I are both Kentucky Colonels and all the guys are lifelong Kentuckians. We think the best things come from the Commonwealth—the food, drink, culture, and natural beauty of this state is second to none.”

SECOND PLACE
Kentucky Headhunters—Edmonton

THIRD PLACE
Kings Highway—Henderson

Waverly Hills Sanatorium
Waverly Hills Sanatorium is considered to be one of the most haunted places in America.
Photo: Waverly Hills Sanatorium

HAUNTED TOUR/WALK
WINNER

Waverly Hills Sanatorium—Louisville
The spine-tingling fear of the unknown is what keeps thrill-seekers coming to this 1926 hospital that once nursed tuberculosis patients. Its history, mystery, and good old Kentucky hospitality round out its appeal, according to Tina Mattingly, who owns the sanatorium with her husband, Charles.

SECOND PLACE
Hardin County Playhouse Ghost Walk—Elizabethtown

THIRD PLACE
Depot Community Room Spooks and Legends Tour—Henderson
[x_feature_headline type=”left” level=”h3″ looks_like=”h3″ icon=”trophy”]Hall of Fame[/x_feature_headline]
Reserved for venues that land in the first-place slot in the same category for three consecutive years, the Hall of Fame welcomes three “bests” for 2016: The golf course at General Burnside Island State Park is known for excellent playing conditions coupled with spectacular views of Lake Cumberland, which itself is recognized as an outstanding fishing spot. Somernites Cruise consistently earns nods as the largest monthly classic car event in Kentucky—and one that is free.

Boating Lake or RiverLake Cumberland—Somerset-Pulaski County, Russell County, Burnside, Monticello-Wayne County and Albany-Clinton County

Historical Landmark/MuseumAbraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park—Hodgenville

Nonfranchise RestaurantThe Whistle Stop Restaurant—Glendale

Nonfranchise BarbecueMoonlite Bar-B-Q Inn—Owensboro

Extreme Adventure/Sport LocationRed River Gorge Geological Area/Daniel Boone National Forest/Gladie Visitor Center—near Stanton

Scenic ViewCumberland Falls State Resort Park—Corbin

Iconic Kentucky LandmarkChurchill Downs—Louisville

Civil War SitePerryville Battlefield State Historic Site—Perryville

Golf CourseGeneral Burnside Island State Park—Burnside

Car Show Cruise-inSomernites Cruise—Somerset

Fishing SpotLake Cumberland—Somerset-Pulaski County, Russell County, Burnside, Monticello-Wayne County and Albany-Clinton County

Kathy Witt from April 2016 Issue

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