Usually, the first thought to mind when you mention Kentucky is the Derby. Or, in the case of Guatemala, Kentucky Fried Chicken? But, once the Derby has passed, to an extent, Kentucky slips back into oblivion. Occasionally throughout the year the state comes back on the nation’s radar with it’s college sports. But, don’t overlook Kentucky throughout the rest of the year. There are so many other things to do in Kentucky when it’s not Derby season.
Visit the Bourbon Trail
The Bourbon Trail is made up by the nine historic distilleries in Kentucky: Bulliet, Four Roses, Heaven Hill, Jim Beam, Town Branch, Wild Turkey, Woodford Reserve and Evan Williams. The bourbon culture began in Kentucky in the 1700s and has been strong ever since. Remember: All bourbons are whiskey, but not all whiskeys are bourbon. You can visit all of the distilleries or just a few, but plan ahead. On the Makers Mark’s tour dip your own bottle into the iconic red wax. Woodford Reserve’s tour takes you back in time, where you’ve stepped back to a gentrified farm as you walk through the distilling process.
Attend a Sporting Event
Kentucky is famous for it’s basketball from it’s two main universities: Louisville and Kentucky. Kentucky has been a historic powerhouse, dating back to the 1940s. Louisville has had spontaneous years of ruling the courts and, recently, has become a regular name in basketball. While not known as a football state, Louisville has become a force to be reckoned with in recent years in football. This year they are being tossed around as potential contenders for the Championship game and well has having a Heisman trophy contender as their quarterback. You won’t regret attending one of Louisville’s basketball or football games. Basketball games at Kentucky are steeped in tradition and are always fun to attend. Make sure you plan ahead to secure tickets.
Eat a Hot Brown
Eating a Hot Brown is an iconic activity even when in Kentucky when it’s not Derby season. The Hot Brown was made famous by the Brown Hotel in 1926. The hotel chef created this dish after the hotel’s dinner dances gained popularity. The dish was served as an alternative to ham and eggs as a late night meal after dancing. The open faced sandwich is a mix of turkey, bacon, and mornay sauce on top of texas toast. Experience the opulence of the hotel with a Hot Brown in one of their oversized chairs or in it’s ornate lobby bar.
Kentucky boasts the world’s largest cave system, Mammoth Cave. There are over 400 miles of known pathways in the cave. Touring the cave ranks as another great activity to do in Kentucky when it’s not Derby season. Several tours are offered of the cave system, ranging in levels of difficulty from one to six hours long. Guests are able to see the massive rotunda room and experience fat and tall man’s misery, shimming through passages both narrow and short. You can also explore some of the lesser ‘developed’ areas, which involve getting muddy and doing some crawling, but worth it for seeing areas of the cave rarely visited. The Visitor Center is located 1.5 hours from Louisville and 2 hours from Lexington.
Visit the Seelbach Hotel
The Seelbach was Louisville’s first grand hotel that brought European grandeur to Kentucky. The hotel opened in 1905 and is now a registered historic landmark. F. Scott Fitzgerald often frequented the hotel in 1918. He is rumored to have written “The Great Gatsby” on cocktail napkins in the Old Seelbach bar. Fitzgerald also set Tom and Daisy’s wedding at the Seelbach. The hotel also has a storied history with gangsters. Al Capone often visited the hotel and used secret passageways to escape police. Whether staying a night, or popping in for cocktails in the famed bar, make sure to check out this historic hotel.
Louisville is home to several museums that showcase different aspects of the state. Museums such as the Louisville Slugger Museum, the Muhammad Ali Center and the Derby Museum are some of the most visited museums. Louisville Slugger, the official bat of major league baseball, was swung by greats such a Babe Ruth. Tours take you through their bat making process.
The Muhammed Ali Center is a multicultural center with programs dedicated to adults and children. Additionally, the Center is home of to a museum dedicated to the life of ‘The World’s Greatest’. Just because you’re in Kentucky when it’s not Derby season doesn’t mean you can’t brush up on your history of the event. The Derby Museum walks guests through the lives of Derby winning horses, the history of the race, culture (the tradition of hats) and all things Derby.
Lake Cumberland is the largest manmade reservoir east of the Mississippi River. The lake call the south of Kentucky home, not far from the Tennessee border. Lake Cumberland has developed a strong boat and water activity culture around the lake. If in Kentucky when it’s not Derby season, grab some friends and head to Lake Cumberland for the weekend. You can rent cabins within the state park ($70-$100) or get a hotel outside the park. Marinas dot all around the lake and offer rentals of house boats (Lake Cumberland is the house boat capital of the world!), ski boats and jet skis.
Don’t overlook Kentucky when it’s not Derby season. Across the state there are countless activities that showcase the state’s history and culture. Consider some of these examples of the tons of activities when you’re in Kentucky next time.
What are you’re favorite activities when visiting Kentucky? Have you ever been to Kentucky when it’s not Derby season?