9 Places to Experience Kentucky’s Unbridled Spirit
There is no shortage of student-friendly destinations in Kentucky that allow students to make memories while they learn about American innovation and history. From caving to baseball, there is something for everyone in the Bluegrass State.
Located in Louisville, Churchill Downs is one of the most famous horse racing venues in the world and the home of the iconic Kentucky Derby. With general admission tickets under $5, a horse race provides a thrilling experience and a look into a sport that’s nearly as old as the United States. Students can stroll through the Kentucky Derby Museum to learn about derby traditions and historic races involving well-known horses such as Secretariat and American Pharaoh. Enhanced tour packages include entrance to the paddocks to watch the saddling process, trackside seating and the chance to present an engraved trophy to the winning team in the Winner’s Circle.
Kentucky Horse Park
Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington offers students the chance to meet horses up-close, including thoroughbred legends in the Hall of Champions, stocky draft horses and other interesting breeds at the Breeds Barn Show. History’s great horses are immortalized through statues and memorials located throughout the park. Students can discover the bond between horses and humans firsthand by engaging in a horseback riding tour of the grounds. The price of admission includes access to several museums and a blacksmith shop. Indulge in a Kentucky sundown after-hours tour that includes dinner, encounters with the horses and a private tour of the grounds.
International Museum of the Horse
A Smithsonian affiliate, the International Museum of the Horse boasts one of the most extensive and educational collections dedicated to horses and their significance to human history. It is located on the grounds of Kentucky Horse Park and offers permanent exhibits and interactive experiences to educate students about the relationship between horses and humans all over the world. The exhibits also include a chance to look at a collection of art, sculptures, iconic trophies and elaborate tack.
The Great Outdoors
Mammoth Cave National Park
Mammoth Cave National Park in south central Kentucky is the world’s longest known cave system, with over 400 miles explored and more to find. Ranger-led activities and programs change with seasons, and special events like wildflower walks, preservation workshops and the traditional Cave Sing are open to students throughout the year. The park offers tours of the caves and recreational activities above ground.
Cumberland Gap National Historic Park
Located in Daniel Boone Country, Cumberland Gap National Historic Park stretches across 24,000 acres in southern Kentucky into Tennessee and Virginia. The park was once known as the last great gateway to the west, and it’s now home to more than 150 species of birds and other wildlife. Ranger-led hikes are offered daily with varying levels of difficulty from easy strolls to strenuous backcountry treks. With tours of the famous Gap Cave and Hensley settlement, this park is a paradise for hikers and historians alike.
Louisville’s newly renovated amusement park Kentucky Kingdom is the perfect place for students to have a little fun. The park offers roller coasters, water slides and other thrill rides. There are daily music performances and live shows as well as special events and group competitions. Groups are welcome and offered discounted admission fees and catered lunches.
Connect with History
Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory
The Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory is a must-see destination for student tours. Group tours are tailored to focus on each group’s favorite baseball team and era and can include a personalized bat for every student. Larger tour packages include a cruise on the Belle of Louisville or a chance to play ball at Louisville Slugger Field. Students can see bats being produced and learn about the process through a bat-making demonstration. The museum allows students to marvel at the World’s Biggest Bat and climb inside the giant glove sculpture. They can visit the Grand Slam Gallery to lay their hands on the bats used by baseball legends including Mickey Mantle, Cal Ripken and David Ortiz. Babe Ruth’s record-setting Louisville Slugger is on display for students to count the notches made in the wood to represent each home run hit with the bat.
Opened in 1928, Louisville Palace is one of the last surviving historic theaters in downtown Louisville. Students can see performances ranging from comedy and magic to classical symphony and punk rock music. The space is known for its elaborate architecture and interior design. It has stood as a legendary landmark of entertainment and culture for generations of Louisville residents and visitors. The theater is the perfect place to host an event or enjoy a night on the town.
The Stephen Foster Story
The Stephen Foster Story is the musical story of the life and legacy of America’s first great composer. The performance takes place in a beautiful outdoor amphitheater at My Old Kentucky Home State Park. Students will love the elaborate costumes and familiar songs including “Oh! Susanna,” “Beautiful Dreamer” and “Camptown Races.” The unforgettable musical event offers backstage tours and late-night performances under the stars for student groups.
By Sara Stokes