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.
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.
WhiteMoon Winery's 14 acres are owned by Alex Ackermann, who is also the head grower. She produces a variety of dry, semisweet, and sweet wines from grapes grown on her Marion County estate, as well as at local vineyards throughout Kentucky. Tastings offer visitors a chance to sample the wines, while events such as Art Night engage the community in non-grape fun.
Though some say 13 is the unluckiest number, on Halloween, the number 1 might be even worse. As in, no one should enter 13 Fears all by their lonesome. Rife with the tormented souls of the dead and nearly dead, the enclave terrorizes each guest with every step they take.
Mike Hatzell is no stranger to agriculture—or wine, for that matter. As a young man, he tilled the soil of his aunt and uncles farm during the summer months, and years later when he served in France, he developed a love for wine. When he and his wife, Karen, were married more than 50 years ago, he planted the idea in her mind: one day, they would own and operate their own winery.
Back in 2007, that dream eventually came to fruition with the inception of Brooks Hill Winery. Joined by winemakers Butch Meyer and Mike Miller, the operation was in full force in just a year, and they have continued to expand and diversify their selection of wines. A number of them can be sampled at their on-site tasting room, which, despite the sound of it, is not a room that drinks wine.