My family was just out of town for a weekend excursion that took us through Interstate 65, south of Louisville. Almost as surprising as the number of disarmingly creepy "My Old Kentucky Home-esque" rest stops that dot the highway (your state tax dollars at work, people) was the sheer abundance of great family stuff that was just a stone's throw from the diesel fumes of 65.
So throw the cooler in your car, turn up some good music and tell the kids to stop fighting and get their seat belts on. Shoot straight on down Interstate 65 to find a variety of fun and inexpensive family mayhem.
Start with a little arboreal action at Berheim Forest. Here you can hike the nature trails, visit the garden pavilion, stroll past the three lakes or a number of other activities. There's also an education center that on any given day offers a ton of activities for kids as well as many volunteers who lead nature walks from the visitor center.
After taking in some fresh air, it's time for a little history lesson. Catch a glimpse into America's past by visiting Abraham Lincoln's Birthplace. Right now the birthplace memorial building is closed for restoration, but the rest of the park is still open- including a lot of cool kids activities. Children can join a "Junior Ranger Program" and learn more about Honest Abe, or build their own log cabin with Lincoln Logs. I took many a school field trips here when I was a kid and absolutely loved it. But then again, I was a huge nerd with an afro who read far too much, so perhaps I'm not the best gage for what normal kids like...but really, who can resist Lincoln Logs?
Does Lincoln's log cabin leave you longing for something a little more...Paleolithic? Well, then try Dinosaur World located just up the interstate from Mammoth Cave. Now, I've never been here, so I can't exactly vouch for this place, but it does look fantastically and Jurassically cheesy. Dinosaur World touts a collection of over 150 life-size dinosaurs,along with a playground, fossil dig, movie cave and of course, a gift shop. Sure Dinosaur World may elicit a couple of eyerolls from jaded adults, but it looks like the kind of campy place that wide-eyed children will adore.
Kangaroos in Kentucky? Outside of the Louisville Zoo, who would have thought of such a thing? At Kentucky Down Under, you can make the 9,500 mile trip to Australia...right in your own backyard! Nestled in the Horse Cave Region off 65, owners Bill and Judy will treat your family to an Aussie experience complete with didgeridoo playing, Lorikeet feeding,and walkabouts...Crocodile Dundee not included.
You can't possibly make a road trip down I-65 South without visiting some of Kentucky's famous caves. I recommend getting your bearings with the American Cave Museum. Described by The Nature Conservancy Magazine as "a little bit of Smithsonian in rural Kentucky," this museum gives a fascinating and in depth look at caves. Part history, part science, the museum centers all of its exhibits on Kentucky's rich abundance of caves. After the museum, you might as well head on over to Mammoth Cave and take a tour, especially if you've never been. With over 367 miles of underground caverns, it really is spectacular. If your family is looking for a cave system a little less "mammoth," I totally recommend Diamond Caverns. It's located right next to Mammoth Cave,a lot smaller and has cool underground lighting that highlights the cave's interesting geological features.
After all that spelunking through caves, your family is going to need some R&R. Roll on down to Barren River Lake State Resort Park. When I was a kid, my Grandpa used to take me fishing there, and I have fond memories of boating, swimming in the lake and hanging out on the beach. It's the closest thing that Louisville has to a beach, so it tends to be crowded in the summer, but the more the merrier, right? If you decide to stay the night, be sure to make reservations for camping, the lodge or cottages (which are super cute!).
Feel the need for speed? Then your family needs to motor on down to Bowling Green for the National Corvette Museum. I'm not much of a car person, so I had no idea Corvettes were even made in Kentucky, but apparently the cars are popular enough to build a giant yellow museum for its loving and devout fans. One cool feature of the museum is that they allow their guest to reserve a block of 15 minute time to try out a Corvette simulator. But, alas little Corvette fans...you must be 16 years old to do this. Kids have free reign over the museum though.
Our last stop on our Kentucky road trip down 65 is to the Shaker Museum at South Union. When I was a kid, I had a strange fascination with the Shakers after a class field trip to Shakertown primarily because of two reasons 1) They danced really weird and 2) They didn't have sex (again I was a weird kid who read far too much). Now as an adult I am far more interested in their furniture. But in all honesty, this is a beautiful museum that weaves the story of a settlement that lived throughout Kentucky for over 150 years. And yes...they danced funny.
So that wraps up my agenda for my I-65 road trip, Kentucky style. Is there anything else you can add to my list? Any attractions from my list you recommend or would stay away from? Feel free to share your own ideas of I-65 road trip fun!
Photo: flickr: SeeMidTN (aka: Brent)