In the middle of a field in Kentucky, a child pets a sitting kangaroo, as an exotic snake slithers in the hands of its charmer. Although this may seem possible only in a dream, this interactive nature and animal park was assembled by an Australian physical therapist and a local scientist. The venture began when Bill Austin took up management of Kentucky Caverns, which his grandfather had purchased in the 1920s, and he and his wife, Judy, decided to bring in some of her native culture and wildlife. Today, they welcome park visitors to hand-feed colorful lorikeets and inquisitive budgies inside two walk-in aviaries, or venture underground to take guided tours of the active caverns’ ever-changing stalagmites and stalactites and meet the local Batmen.Trained interpreters and handlers showcase Australian snakes and lizards in daily programs, and other staffers lead guests on up-close encounters to pet kangaroos, koalas, and emus. At Camp Corroboree, interpreters demonstrate aboriginal tools and instruments, explain their history and culture, and invite visitors to follow their lead in playing music or drinking milk through a traditional didgeridoo. When not guiding tours, many park staffers lead educational children's programs on topics such as Australian history, animal anatomy, and food-chain webs. Through a special outreach program, they also bring their animal demonstrations, storytelling skills, and trained animal storytellers to events outside the park. The park's onsite gift shop allows visitors to peruse apparel, didgeridoos, and boomerangs, or watch fudge-makers craft sweet confections.
While the Titanic won the title of the largest ship of its day, it’s still helping to break records 100 years after its fatal voyage. That’s because Creepy Ridge’s trifecta of haunted attractions includes a replica of the ship's cabin, and it’s currently being verified as the world’s largest hay wagon by the Guinness Book of World Records. You'll start your terrifying journey inside the ship, encountering the ghosts of many of the vessel's lost souls before docking and checking in to the Death Row Haunted Motel. There, you'll come face-to-face with other horrors, such as tiny toiletries that replenish themselves every time you leave. Should you survive long enough to check out, magic shows from Allen the Astonisher await to awe and inspire every half hour, and a nearby concession booth serves up hot dishes and drinks such as funnel cakes, hot chocolate, and cookies.
Proceeds from the night’s attractions go to help the Arc of Northern Kentucky’s mission to help provide opportunities to special-needs children.
With its rustic architecture and soft, rolling hills of vines, Chrisman Mill Vineyards brings a little taste of Tuscany to the Bluegrass State. Amidst hand-painted murals of Tuscan landscapes, guests in the tasting room pair ciccetti, or Italian tapas, with sips of local wine made from the best Kentucky grapes. The laid-back environment encourages visitors to savor the small pleasures in life, as do the staff, who entertain with amusing anecdotes and enlightening descriptions of how each wine is made. At the winery in Hamburg Pavilion, guests can also browse Kentucky-made goods as well as more than a thousand winery gift items, including customized gift baskets.
While Daniel Boone busied himself gallivanting about the wilderness in search of the perfect hat, his brother led a much more peaceful life. Squire Boone surrounded himself with caverns filled with waterfalls and stalagmites and a tranquil pioneer village. Now named for him, Squire Boon Caverns and Village not only accommodates tours deep within its caves, but high above its forested floor through Squire Boone Caverns Zipline Course.
Designed for ages seven and older, each 90- to 120-minute treetop trip begins on the ground for a brief training session and equipment fitting. Once snugly secured in full body harnesses and adequately disguised as squirrels, participants embark on journeys that climb up to five stories above terra firma. Tours traverse a swinging suspension bridge and glide on six ziplines over the caverns and village, as well as acres of neighboring forests and ravines.
Nearly three decade ago, New Orleans transplant Sharon Potter became so enamored with her new hometown of Kentucky that she raised 1.2 million dollars to assemble and present her own 4,000-image slideshow, KentuckyShow!, which celebrated the state’s unique beauty, culture, and history. In 2003 Potter was approached by the Louisville Convention and Visitors Bureau about the possibility of updating the visual spectacle and rose to the challenge with the help of seasoned producer Donna Lawrence and graphic designer Julius Friedman. The updated 32-minute documentary now amazes audiences with new high-definition images of the Bluegrass State, as well as narration by Hollywood starlet Ashley Judd and director’s commentary by Kentucky’s state bird, the northern cardinal.
Today, local and out-of-state visitors—enjoying jaw-dropping views of Kentucky’s gorgeous landscape and meeting some of the commonwealth’s most memorable characters from past and present—come to the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts to feast their eyes on KentuckyShow!. Renée S. Gordon of the Philadelphia Sun referred to the majestic video tour as “an outstanding overview of the state’s multicultural history.”
A boer goat stares at you. A donkey stares at the goat. And a baby tennessee walking horse reads its first Dr. Seuss book. No matter where you point your eyes, you’ll be treated to sights of charming animals at Jane’s Saddlebag’s petting zoo. It’s one of many delightful fixtures at the rural getaway—a hands-on historical education experience at a restored saddlebag home, which sprawls across more than 35 acres near Big Bone Lick State Park. A historic smokehouse adjacent to the home offers insight to the days before refrigeration, when Kentucky farmers would preserve their cured meat by hanging it above a smoldering fire. And behind the saddlebag home lies a replica of a 1700s flatboat, a low-cost form of transportation used by settlers to take one-way trips down the Ohio River and achieve ankle tans.
From April to October, these rustic outposts bathe in the sound waves of live music, and the cook-in-residence slakes the hunger built up from exploring both the refreshing nature of the grounds and the historical splendor it offers. When it’s in season, the cook uses freshly grown vegetables and puts flames to a new york strip steak until it’s almost as tender as the mashed potatoes with which it’s served. There’s even a wine and gift shop, where regional wines—some from Kentucky—vie with antiques and gift baskets for the attention of gift givers.
On a normal day, the 2,600-acre Otter Creek Outdoor Recreation Area accommodates typical outdoorsy activities, such as mountain biking or disc golf. But from dusk until 1 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights in September and October this peaceful riverfront park is overtaken by Nightmare Forest's cavalcade of famous movie monsters. Scares emerge from every direction at the drive-in, where horror film icons, such as Jason from Friday the 13th series and Leatherface from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, depart the silver screen to petrify visitors in person. Further fear presides over a trail swarmed with hungry zombies and a corn maze where spirits lurk behind every twist and turn. One night each season, Nightmare Forest ramps up the terror with its flashlight tour, where only flashlights or mutant glow worms illumine the pitch-black attractions still teeming with freakish ghouls.
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