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.
There is nothing run-of-the-mill about Idle-Hour Ranch. With more than 200 animals, including 40+ species, the Iddings family's exotic menagerie has grown quite a bit over the years. Guests to the ranch can meet one of its most beloved residents, Sam the giraffe, or catch glimpses of mountain lions and peacocks. Open to visitors on the weekend, various attractions include a mini farm market, a safari-themed corn maze, and face painting.
Nature lovers feed their scaly critter fascinations with the Kentucky Reptile Zoo's collection of more than 80 types of snakes, turtles, and other cold-blooded creatures. Various vipers, cobras, rattlesnakes, and an 18-foot reticulated python entrance snake-charmed visitors. Kids get a kick out of shell dwellers in the Turtle Tracks area, a habitat for both tortoises and aquatic turtles.
This year’s concert, The Great American Songbook: Opera Meets Big Band, highlights 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s hits, as well as popular American songs in the style of the Gilded Age, New Orleans jazz, and Broadway musicals. The Rick Brunetto Big Band, a 17-piece orchestra, will pump the playful tunes into the park's fresh air, where they'll float into eardrums and make friends with ossicles. Guided by master of ceremonies Cabot Rea, the opera program will feature renowned works of American composers and cereal commercial jingles performed by talented belters such as Mark Baker, Rebecca Keck, Craig Montgomery, and David Weaver. The zoo’s very own Jungle Jack Hanna will serve as honorary chair of the event, while ensuring any ruckus in the monkey cages is kept to a minimum.