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.
Two 18-hole courses form a verdant wreath around the Bardstown Country Club grounds, inviting clubbers of all stripes to drive, pitch, and putt their way across the Kentucky countryside. The Maywood Course—the club’s signature fairway chain—begins with a traditional, parkland layout before transforming into a Scottish links-inspired design on the back nine, replete with thickets of heather, subtle contours, and flagsticks bemoaning English imperialism. The ingenuity of course designer David Pfaff is on full display at the 16th hole, a 210-yard par 3 where tee shots plummet 70 feet before coming to rest on a green flanked by a pond and a stately stone wall. To prepare for rounds at the Maywood Course or its 18-hole sidekick, the Woodlawn Springs Golf Course, clubbers can pelt balls into the horizon at the grass-tee driving range or feed 9-irons a protein-rich meal at the club’s bar and grill.
When Tommy and Debbie McIntyre moved into the family farm in 1987, they casually started making wine from wild berries on their land. But as the years went by, their love for winemaking grew and the amount of wild berries declined. So the pair decided to fill their farm with blueberry and blackberry vines so they could make their fruit wines in earnest. Today, they specialize in blueberry and blackberry wines, made from handpicked, sun-ripened fruits in a choice of dry or sweet vintages. To complement these, the McIntyres also offer a select number of wines made from other fruits, such as strawberries and elderberries. Customers who want to see how the wine is made up close can come for a tour or tasting, or simply pick berries for a family-friendly outing.
A loud whistle sounds off in the distance, signaling the arrival of a diesel 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 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.
Jennifer Hurst leads Hatha Yoga Flow and Warm Yoga Flow classes within her independent yoga studio, focusing on breath work and the release of bodily tension. At Mommy & Me classes, she often brings her own two children to stretch alongside entire families. Hurst's devotion to cheerful teaching also leads her to host complimentary sessions on the lawn outside of Spalding Hall, where students perfecting their tree poses can look to actual trees for inspiration.
• For $23, you get two tickets to The Stephen Foster Story (a $46 value). Performances are held on select dates Tuesday–Sunday at 8:30 p.m., with Saturday matinees at 2 p.m., from June 11 to August 13. • For $23, you get two tickets to The Wizard of Oz (a $46 value). Performances run on Thursday and Saturday nights at 8:30 p.m. from July 7 to August 6.