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Displaying items by tag: Mammoth Cave National Park

Louisville is the sporting equivalent of Alcatraz; it’s impossible to escape the fact that Muhammad Ali and the Kentucky Derby will forever be associated with any sentence written about the city. Rightly so, because Louisville’s fame is largely predicated upon these two unique phenomena.  Located on North Sixth Street, the Muhammad Ali Center is a compelling tribute to one of sport’s immortals. The center is not a monument to hubris housed in rooms designed to inspire worship at the nimble feet of St Ali, nor is it a gallery that simply paints a portrait. Multimedia presentations, interactive exhibitions and educational programs give the visitor a panoramic view of the man, his deeds, his words and his values, and although it occupies just two stories, it is an inspiring experience on many levels.

Churchill Downs, the home of the Kentucky Derby, is the other name synonymous with Louisville. Every year, on the first Sunday in May, thousands of people from around the world visit the track, drawn by the love of horses, the thrill of the race, the hammer of hooves, rainbow silks, fabulous food, mint juleps in the southern sun and the colour and buzz of the crowds. The Derby is not a race; it’s a festival that permeates all the senses.

Louisville Slugger MuseumAlthough these two shine brightest, other names are inescapably linked to the city, among them Colonel Harland Sanders, the Louisville Slugger and Johnny Depp. All are big and highly visible, yet the most dominant physical presence is undoubtedly the enormous baseball bat that leans against the facade of the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory on West Main Street. Although you can’t see it from space, it’s big enough to launch a shuttle, and as the official bat of Major League Baseball, it symbolizes not only the city but also the enduring popularity of the country’s national game.

However, there are lesser known attractions in and around Louisville that give the city an enviable flair and create enduring memories. Some, like the Belle of Louisville, the paddle steamer that takes visitors on excursions along the Ohio River, are large and reminiscent of more relaxed times, while others are smaller without being lesser. One of these is the Kentucky Museum of Art and Kentucky Museum Of Art And Craft, at 715 West Main Street. Showcasing the work and diverse talents of more than 200 artists, the museum displays folk art, glassware, furniture, fashion, jewelery and paintings. The range mirrors the creative flair of the state and individual items are available at reasonable prices. Similarly, the Louisville Glassworks, at 815 West Market Street, is a unique facility that allows visitors to not only see beautiful glass products but also to make their own. Again, all work displayed is available for purchase. Both venues should not be missed.

Lynn%27s Paradise Cafe %282%29After experiencing the city’s artistry and nourishing the spirit, attention should be given to the body. Lynn’s Paradise Cafe, a joyous explosion of color and quirky decor at 984 Barret Avenue, is just the place. From the multi-colored daisies outside to the trees and teabag chandelier inside, the Rainbow Cafe is like a monkey on water skis; unexpected, unforgettable and utterly absorbing. Every primary, secondary and tertiary color is used somewhere in the place, and the interior is a combination of a Salvador Dali vision after a heavy night on the Sangria and the Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club album cover; eclectic, eccentric and richly tactile. And if the decor doesn’t cause your mouth to drop open, the food will, with huge plates of Southern delights cooked to perfection and served with a smile.

21C Museum Hotel RoomAfter enjoying the city’s attractions, a comfortable rest is essential. The best place to find it is the 21C Museum Hotel at 700 West Main Street. Opened in 2006 by modern art collectors and philanthropists Laura Lee Brown and Steve Wilson, this stylish fusion of art and contemporary luxury has been voted number 1 Hotel in the U.S. and number 6 in the world in the 2009 and 2010 Condé Nast Traveler Reader's Choice Awards. Surprisingly, the cost of a room is relatively inexpensive and its ranking is well deserved. Apart from the superb collection of art in the rooms and downstairs gallery, the hotel’s signature feature is its restaurant, Proof on Main. Local and exotic dishes are creatively prepared and served with impeccable attention to detail. To miss the 21C is to miss out on one of Louisville’s treasures.

Other treasures to be found only a short drive from the city are Kentucky’s state parks. If you have a few days to spare, they are areas rich in scenery, and accommodation is available in each one. A little over two hours away from Louisville is Cumberland Falls State Resort Park. The river is pristine and the falls are spectacular, cascading over rocks and exploding into a glistening spray. The rumbling water echoes down the valley, and through the trees, birds call, clear as bells. For the fortunate few who are there a few nights before or after a full moon, with a cloudless sky and clear visibility, there is an excellent chance to see the world famous moonbow as the light catches the diamond bright spray. Accommodation to suit all types of travelers is available within the park, and the Du Pont Lodge is perfect for those wanting a touch of luxury after a day’s hiking or sightseeing.

Lake Cumberland 2About an hour’s drive from Cumberland Falls is Lake Cumberland, a man-made aquatic playground over 100 miles long and 1.5 miles wide. It is ranked 9th in the United States and was formed in 1950 when the Wolf Creek Dam finally enclosed the reservoir. If, like Ratty in Wind in the Willows, you like messing about in boats, then Lake Cumberland is messing about at its best. Groups and families have a choice of activities; overnight houseboat rental, fishing, water skiing, rafting, camping and hiking. For those wanting a little more luxury, Lure Lodge is a 63-room complex overlooking the lake. The rooms are comfortable and include cable television and internet access. Cottages suitable for family groups can also be rented for short or extended stays. Another feature of this picturesque resort park is the Wolf Creek National Fish Hatchery. Guided tours are available to show the work carried out and visitors can also exchange pleasantries with the hatchery’s resident skunk, Squirt. Contrary to his name, Squirt doesn’t, so the impression he leaves is aesthetic, not aromatic.

Away from water and buried deep beneath the hilly country of south central Kentucky are the caves that make the Mammoth Cave National Park such a unique experience. With more than 300 miles of explored caves, it is the world’s longest recorded cave system. Spectacular heights and gloomy depths cast eerie shadows along the guide path, and the area’s history is illuminated by rangers who lead groups into this fascinating world. Facilities available include camp sites, cottages and the Mammoth Cave Hotel.

Between these three natural attractions are many more worth visiting; the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, the Corvette factory in Bowling Green and of course the popular Kentucky Bourbon Trail that includes distilleries such as Heaven Hill and Jim Beam. 

There is, however, one attraction that outshines all the others – the people. Real Southern hospitality can be found in hotels, restaurants, shops, streets, gas stations, buses; anywhere that people live or work or relax. Every hello implies an offer of assistance and the smiles here are genuine.

©Mark McKirdy

Useful Websites:

The generous and knowledgeable people in the Kentucky Tourism Office will happily assist in planning a memorable visit:

Muhammad Ali Center:

Louisville Slugger Museum:

Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft:

Lynn’s Paradise Cafe:

21C Museum Hotel:

Cumberland Falls State Resort Park:

Lake Cumberland:

Wolf Creek National Fish Hatchery:

Mammoth Cave National Park:


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