There's a lot to do in Kentucky! Writer Cheri Sicard shares some of the fun things to do in South Eastern Kentucky!
Kentucky has a lot to offer budget conscious travelers, regardless of their travel tastes -- from a huge range of outdoor activities -- first class hunting and fishing, miles of scenic hiking trails and unparalleled boating opportunities, from luxury houseboat vacations to white water rafting and canoeing, to water skiing and tubing.
In fact, Kentucky has more water than any state in the union except Alaska. History buffs will enjoy visiting important Civil War sites and historic buildings and museums that preserve the past. And who doesn't enjoy the old down home pleasures of authentic mountain music, crafts and country cooking?
The following article is but a brief overview of some of the best South Eastern Kentucky attractions and bargains we found, but it is only the tip of the iceberg -- there is so much more to see and do. Check out these suggestions, but do consult the Southern and Eastern Kentucky Tourism Development Association (SEKTDA), then design your own Kentucky trip based on your interests and needs. Contact them by calling toll-free (877) TOUR-SEKY or visit their web site at www.tourseky.com. This web site is a fabulous single point referral for all questions about lodging, dining, attractions, activities and events in South Eastern Kentucky.
Kentucky state resort parks
Kentucky has a phenomenal state park system, offering first class camping and RV facilities, along with on-site hotels and lodges that make perfect home bases while you explore the surrounding territories. Many of the state parks offer amenities that compete with privately owned resorts.
One of our favorites was Lake Cumberland State Resort Park. RV sites with hookups start at just $16 (as of this writing). Primitive campsites for tents or RVs start at $10, with discounts applying for Kentucky seniors or disabled persons. There's also the Lure Lodge, with its breathtaking lake views (rooms start at just $45 a night in off season, but the best room in peak season will only set you back a mere $79.95).
Lake Cumberland Park also offers charming one and two bedroom cottages and chalet style hillside cottages that can accommodate large families -- perfect for budget conscious reunions.
If none of that appeals, how about staying on the water in a luxury houseboat? Rentals are available at the park.
Amenities offered at Lake Cumberland State Resort Park include pools, a golf course and mini-golf course, horseback riding, well maintained nature trails for hiking, picnic areas, playgrounds, dining and shopping facilities and docking facilities for fun on the lake (great fishing!). A variety of rental boats are available, if you didn't bring your own.
Lake Cumberland State Resort Park is located at 5465 State Park Road in Jamestown, KY. Call (270) 343-3111 for more information or (800) 325-1709 for reservations only.
Of course, Kentucky has lots of other state parks -- 49 in all -- many with comparable facilities and prices to Lake Cumberland. For information on all that the Kentucky State Park system has to offer, visit www.state.ky.us/agencies/parks/parkhome.htm. This web site offers last minute lodging bargains, and great package deals.
Ten, (count them), 10 BBQ restaurants call the small Kentucky county of Monroe home. But don't get hungry early in the week, they are nearly all closed Monday through Wednesday. Nonetheless, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday are more than enough time for locals and tourists alike to chow down on plenty of Kentucky BBQ.
One of the best is Frances BBQ, located in the tiny town of Hestand. In a county of only 12,000 people, Frances BBQ owner David Arms claims to go through 11,000 pounds of sliced shoulder steak during his typical four-day work week. (For more details about Frances BBQ, click here).
A not to be missed stop for lunch -- or dinner or breakfast for that matter as they're open 24 hours a day -- is Brenda's in the historic town of Greensburg. But don't look for a sign that says Brenda's. You won't even find a sign calling the tiny diner by its former owner's name, Adolphus Ennis. Instead, the sign out front advertises the place's claim to fame -- lyrics from the Grammy award winning song Dumas Walker by the Kentucky Headhunters that sing the praises of the house special -- a Slaw Burger, Fries and a bottle of Ski (a regional southern soda pop). The entire meal costs just $2.25 and it's delicious!
Kentucky Headhunter guitarist Richard Young explained the group changed the name of the place in the song to Dumas Walker's (a real-life local legendary character who passed away a few years back) because it was easier to rhyme than Adolphus Ennis. Nothing at the restaurant has changed much in the 50 plus years it has been in existence. Stop in anytime for a Slawburger and a side order of nostalgia. Brenda's is located at 113 Public Square in Greensburg.
One of our favorite fishing home bases is the Grider Hill Dock and Indian Creek Lodge in Albany. Offering charming lakeside lodge rooms, suite apartments and efficiency cottages by the day or week, the rates are astoundingly low (starting at $38.00 per night, and $228.00 per week as of this writing). You can also rent houseboats from this full-service resort and marina, and the food at the restaurant was some of the best we had on the entire trip. For more information or reservations, visit 606-387-5501 or visit www.griderhilldock.com.
History and heritage
Important civil war sites and battlefields dot the state. Particularly fascinating is the Camp Nelson Heritage Park, just south of Nicholasville, site of the third largest recruiting and training depot for African-Americans during the Civil War.
More than 10,000 black soldiers joined the Union Army here in exchange for their freedom. Visitors can hike the interpretive trails that wind through the 408 acre property, see reconstructed Civil War forts, visit the meticulously restored "White House" -- the camp's former headquarters and pay their respects to thousands of America's military heroes at the adjacent Camp Nelson National Cemetery. For more information about visiting, click to www.campnelson.org.
Play me some mountain music
A variety of country music shows go on each week in Renfro Valley, in addition to lots of top name concerts and great special events like the annual the Fiddler's Festival and Appalachian Harvest Festival. Renfro Valley's restored historic village is home to gift and music shops, and be sure to stop in for great country dining , including fried chicken and ham, served family style at the Lodge Restaurant.
Like most attractions we found in the state, a day with Sheltowee Outfitters represents a great travel bargain -- a full day of canoeing including canoe, paddles, life jackets, drop off and pick up will only set you back $20 (as of this writing). I honestly don't know how they do it.
If you prefer things a bit more adventurous, check out Sheltowee's variety of whitewater rafting trips -- they have one for every skill level from absolute beginners, the intense adventure of the Russell Fork Gorge -- with drops up to 230 feet per mile!
One of the best bargains Sheltowee offers is the Rainbow Mist Tour ride at Cumberland Falls (photo of the falls at the top of this page) -- second largest falls in North America by water volume (Niagara is first).
This soft adventure trip is also amazingly time efficient, taking a mere 30 minutes to complete and costing only $6 for adults and $3 for children (minimum weight of 30 pounds required). You haven't experienced these magnificent falls that span a 125-foot wide curtain until you've felt their cool mist drenching your body and you've seen the view looking up from the bottom of their 70-foot drop. This soft adventure (your able guide does most, if not all, of the paddling) is available weekends from mid-June through Labor Day, weather and water levels permitting.
Another great family bargain (for those seven and up) is the Blue Heron Mine Tube trip. The one-and-a-half- to two-hour trips cover about a mile of river, including some Class I and II rapids, and begins and ends at the Blue Heron Mine interpretive area, giving you a chance to also explore some of Kentucky's mining history.
For more information on any of these water adventures call Rick or his daughter Dania at Sheltowee Trace Outfitters at (800) 541-RAFT or visit www.ky-rafting.com.
In the nearby area