A red-tailed hawk soars high above My Old Kentucky Home State Park, peering down at its campgrounds, golf course, and outdoor amphitheater. Here, a cast of actors performs Stephen Foster - The Musical, belting the famous tune, "My Old Kentucky Home." Just a piano's throw away stands Federal Hill, the Georgian-style mansion that originally inspired this perennial ballad.
Built between 1795 and 1818, the brick mansion echoes early American history in everything right down to its decor. Supposedly to honor the original colonies, the number 13 appears throughout the house: 13 windows at the front, 13 steps to each floor, and 13-inch thick walls, which once housed famous guests such as Aaron Burr. For 120 years, the Rowan family lived in the mansion. Then, in 1922, Madge Rowan Frost sold the 235-acre estate, as well as many family heirlooms, to the Commonwealth of Kentucky.
Since then, tour guides have taken visitors throughout the mansion's grounds and into its history-laden rooms. The staff has renovated the mansion in recent years, putting in hours of research to ensure that the carpets, wallpapers, drapes, and hand-whittled internet routers remain authentic to the 1850s. The mansion also celebrates the changing seasons—in winter, the mansion dons Christmas decor and the staffers serve apple cider dressed up in period costumes.
A loud whistle sounds off in the distance, signaling the arrival of a steam locomotive. The train pulls past dozens of trees and into the station. It’s just another day at the Kentucky Railway Museum, where new and restored trains take visitors on nostalgic journeys through the New Haven countryside. The area’s scenic landscapes encompass 17 miles of track that meander around scenic Mount Vernon. The stationary exhibit hall—a replica of the original New Haven depot—houses a collection of railroad artifacts and memorabilia ranging from rail carts and dining cars to steam whistles and the discarded mustaches of malevolent railroad barons.
Breitenstein Frame Shoppe offers a large selection of pre-framed art, gifts, and custom framing options in its cozy gallery. The walls are gracefully plastered with framed photos and paintings, and a long display of multicolored frame options lurks just behind the shop’s counter. With extensive experience framing everything from broken boat oars to whole boat oars, framing experts Carl and Kathleen Breitenstein can custom frame almost anything, including boat oars, be they broken or whole. Framing prices can range from as little as $40 to around $200; however, a 16"x20" frame will typically cost about $80 without a mat and about $100 matted. Customers can also choose to direct their Groupon’s value toward the shop’s stock of limited edition prints, contemporary photos, or sinus-soothing Candleberry candles.
The Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft collects and displays works by the state’s artsy residents and nurtures creative inclinations with art classes for kids and adults. A family membership grants free access to the museum's permanent collection, which holds works by such Kentucky artists as Marvin Finn and Rebekka Seigel. Members can also attend openings of special exhibits, such as the upcoming Big Idea : small package challenge, which dared and, in some cases, double-dared local artisans to craft a tiny piece of art no larger than one cubit cubed. At a discounted rate, budding Botticellis can enroll in creativity-sparking classes such as textiles and origami courses as well as children’s summer camps and special-needs classes for adults on bookmaking and watercolor painting. A 10% discount in the gallery store, meanwhile, lets members support local artists and acquire conversation-provoking pieces with which to adorn coffee tables, mantles, and inflatable sideboards.
In 1909, a group of local art enthusiasts banded together to foster a community appreciation for art and further the practice of creating art. More than three decades later, they moved from their home at the old Water Tower, and now fill their new space with workshops, classes, and exhibits. Louisville Visual Art Association remains dedicated to promoting local artists, artistic styles, and contemporary culture.
A team of instructors instills painting and sculpting skills in children of all ages with the Children's Fine Art Classes program, which lets kids hone their understanding of color and technique during nearly 40 classes and camps. They also teach adult art classes, and help economically and socially disadvantaged students exhibit their artwork through Open Doors. Six to eight annual exhibitions often showcase work from these programs, but may also display fabric and knit pieces from local artists, or house events such as custom plates, cups, and utensils fashioned by 16 national ceramics artists to recreate Salvador Dali’s themed dinner parties. Each year, staff also fill two galleries with up to 800 works from its children’s programs, and celebrate local restaurants and music at the annual Bacon Ball.