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Kentucky’s Biggest, Smallest, Tallest

Sensational superlatives across the Bluegrass

At 510 feet long, 51 feet high and 85 feet wide, the Williamstown behemoth called Ark Encounter is the biggest boat in Kentucky; at the other end of the scale, with the smallest in population, is our smallest county: Robertson. (Smallest geographically? Either Robertson or Gallatin, depending on the source. Both measure 100 square miles roughly with less than 1 square mile at issue.) Giants on the loose in Kentucky? “Forest Giants in a Giant Forest”—three gigantic recycled wood sculptures that are the largest of their kind in the state—have overtaken Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest.

 And the world’s longest underground suspension (swinging) bridge, at Hidden River Cave, has opened up cave passageways not seen by the public since 1943.

More than a random collection of record setters, these are singularly sensational superlatives that add depth and dimension, wow and wonder to the Bluegrass State.

Celebrating a century of service, Beaumont Inn has earned a James Beard Foundation America’s Classic Award. Photo: Harrodsburg/Mercer County Tourist Commission

Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill is a landmark destination that shares 3,000 acres of discovery in the spirit of the Kentucky Shakers. Photo: Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill

The Ark Encounter is three exhibits in one: the massive Ark structure itself, the incredible craftsmanship and the beautifully fabricated exhibits. Photo: Ark Encounter

New at Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest is the “Forest Giants in a Giant Forest” exhibit, larger-than-life sculptures created from recycled wood and on display for three years. Photo: Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest

Big appetite? Feast your eyes on the biggest burgoo kettle in Kentucky, squatting outside Owensboro’s Moonlite Bar-B-Q Inn restaurant. And chomp your teeth down on the largest country ham and biscuit, cooked onsite at Cadiz’s annual Trigg County Country Ham Festival, held in October.

Stretch out on the biggest rental houseboat in the country aboard the supersized Independence Series 1100 at the State Dock—which also offers the largest fleet of rental houseboats in the nation—at Lake Cumberland State Resort Park. Tour the longest aging warehouse of its design in the world at Castle & Key Distillery’s Warehouse B near Frankfort; it can store as many as 35,000 barrels of the good stuff.

The “Biggest Fork in the Road” was assembled by the Franklin-Simpson High School welding class, with teacher Jeremy Loveall overseeing construction. Photo: Simpson County Tourism Commission

Before he discovered bourbon in 1789, Rev. Elijah Craig opened a classical academy in 1788; we know it as Georgetown College, the oldest Baptist college west of the Allegheny Mountains. Georgetown College is home to numerous antebellum buildings and three art galleries. Photo: Georgetown/Scott County Tourism

Cynthiana has the world’s largest known Walking Dead mural and, with its secret fairy doors measuring a wee 4 inches hidden around downtown, may well have the smallest, too. And in spite of its miniature figures and furnishings numbering in the hundreds of thousands, Danville’s Great American Dollhouse Museum is our smallest U.S. cultural heritage museum.

Screw your courage to the sticking place for a leap off the tallest bungee jumping platform bridge in North America at Young’s High Bridge, looming 240 feet above the Kentucky River in Anderson County. Owned by Vertigo Bungee, the bridge is adjacent to Wild Turkey Distillery, should you need a little something to calm your nerves afterward.

Zoom around on a tram tour of Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky, America’s first and the world’s largest Toyota manufacturing facility. Photo: Georgetown/Scott County Tourism

It would take quite the group to heft the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory Louisville Slugger Baseball Bat, weighing in at a hefty 68,000 pounds—making it the world’s largest baseball bat. Photo: Louisville Tourism

Hanging upside-down on the exterior of Caufield’s Novelty in downtown Louisville is a 24-foot tall, 16-foot wide vampire bat—the largest (and creepiest) anywhere.

Cave or building? According to the Metro Louisville Government and the State of Kentucky, the Louisville Mega Cavern is a building—the largest in the state, with its own building code and, should the need arise, room for 16,000 boats or 50,000 people.  Photo: Louisville Tourism

Hanging in Newport’s World Peace Bell Center is the world’s largest free-swinging bell. And at 24 feet wide by 67 feet high, the largest hand-blown church stained-glass window on Earth hangs in Covington’s Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption. Photo: Tim Webb

Turning to Bluegrass buried treasure, have you walked over the grave of the Peabody Sinclair—the reigning largest coal shovel? Who knows; it’s entombed somewhere in Muhlenberg County. Or queued up with Colonel Henry G. Wooldridge and family at the largest non-moving cemetery procession? That’s the Wooldridge Monuments at Mayfield’s Maplewood Cemetery.  Photo: Mayfield Graves County Tourism Commission

Aging beautifully is Kentucky’s oldest outdoor summer stock theater: Danville’s inimitable Pioneer Playhouse, celebrating 70 this year. Photo: Destination Danville

See the oldest post office west of the Appalachians and site of Kentucky’s oldest capital at Danville’s Constitution Square Historic Site. Photo: Destination Danville

Among the highest-rated tourism destinations on TripAdvisor, the National Quilt Museum has three galleries of extraordinary quilt and fiber art rotated seven to eight times a year. Photo: Paducah Convention & Visitors Bureau

And Kentucky’s EST hit parade continues: oldest country store in operation run by the same family: Penn’s Store in Gravel Switch; largest warm-water fish hatchery: Morehead’s Minor E. Clark Fish Hatchery; highest zip line: Harlan County’s Black Mountain Thunder Zipline; largest collection of, excuse our French, hellebores, at Yew Dell Botanical Gardens in Oldham County. So large that the gardens celebrate with an annual sale—this year on March 30—of what they call “bomb-proof, deer-proof, bloom-all-winter Helle-things.”

Experience Kentucky

Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park
2995 Lincoln Farm Road, Hodgenville, (270) 358-3137

Ark Encounter
1 Ark Encounter Drive, Williamstown, (855) 284-3275

Ashland—The Henry Clay Estate
120 Sycamore Road, Lexington, Ky., (859) 266-8581 

Blue Raven Restaurant & Pub
211 Main St., Pikeville, (606) 509-2583

Bottle and Bond Kitchen and Bar, Bardstown
1500 Parkway Drive, Bardstown, (502) 252-6331 

Carter Caves State Resort Park
344 Caveland Drive, Olive Hill, (606) 286-4411, 

Chaney’s Dairy Barn
9191 Nashville Road, Bowling Green, (270) 843-5567

Dawkins Line Rail Trail
State Route 825, Swamp Branch, (502) 564-2172 

Explorium of Lexington
440 W. Short St., Lexington, (859) 258-3253

Lake Cumberland
855 Boat Dock Road, Somerset (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers visitor center), (606) 679-6337

Lux Row Distillers
3050 E. John Rowan Blvd., Bardstown, (502) 337-7420

MB Roland Distillery
137 Barkers Mill Road, Pembroke, (270) 640-7744 

The Museum at Perryville Battlefield State Historic Site
1825 Battlefield Road, Perryville, (859) 332-8631

Newport Aquarium
One Aquarium Way, (800) 406-3474

Owensboro Museum of Science and History
122 E. 2ndSt., Owensboro, (270) 687-2732 

Pizza Lupo
1540 Frankfort Ave., Louisville, (502) 409-8440

Tousey House Tavern
5963 N. Jefferson St., Burlington, (859) 586-9900

Wall to Wall Murals
Paducah, (800) 723-8224

Wiseguy Lounge
603 Main St., Covington, (859) 916-5209 

Yew Dell Botanical Gardens
6220 Old LaGrange Road, Crestwood, (502) 241-4788

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