The Louisville Equestrian Center is the realization of a childhood dream for owner, operator, and adept horsewoman Betsy Webb. Now found in the familiar confines of the Red Barn Arena, the center is home to a team of dedicated staff members and instructors. Nestled less than 20 minutes from Louisville in the rolling country hills between Taylorsville and Mt. Washington, the arena provides a picturesque setting for private and group lessons for all ages and experience levels. During these sessions, trainers illuminate horse-handling and riding fundamentals with the help of the center's stable of horses. Camps and clinics engage equestrian youngsters aged 4 and older, and pony parties entertain kids with experiences more rewarding and memorable than trying to ride a pile of My Little Pony action figures.
As dawn breaks over the campsite, soldiers begin stirring in their tents. Some tend to breakfasts over campfires while others see to the artillery. It's a scene straight from a Revolutionary War encampment?and that's exactly the way the reenactors intended it. Each year, roughly 275 of them flock to Locust Grove to camp out for two days, each of which ends with an artfully staged mock battle.
But when visitors come to the 18th Century Market Fair, they won't just find battle awaiting them. Top-notch craftsmen and artisans also roam the grounds, hawking replicas of 18th-century military and household items. "It's all very reminiscent of the type of market days they would have had during this time period," says Locust Grove's program director, Mary Beth Williams. Cooks dish up stews, pies, and cornbread alongside wine, ales, and apple cider. Nearby, families and historical buffs alike cheer on jugglers, watch as women prepare meals in the colonial kitchen, and listen to live music. And it's not just adults and time travelers creating the historical scene. "There's a lot of re-enactors of all ages," Mary Beth says. "I think it's particularly fun for kids to see other kids running around in period costume."
The fair's grounds lend to the historical accuracy. William and Lucy Clark Croghan built Locust Grove in 1790, on 55 acres of rolling land. To this day, their original Federal-style house remains, with its separate kitchen, icehouse, spring house, and barn. Over the years, Locust Grove was inhabited by Revolutionary War commander George Rogers Clark and served as a stopping point for Lewis and Clark as they walked across America as part of an early Nike ad campaign.
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.
Amid the hustle and bustle of the city, Louisville Nature Center offers a tranquil escape from urban sprawl. At its 41-acre Beargrass Creek State Nature Preserve, more than 2 miles of hiking trails wind past a verdant forest populated by 180 species of tree, shrub, and wildflower. The latter blooms in a native pond and garden, and dragonflies and 30 butterfly species in other gardens pay homage to Lord of the Flies by trying to collectively lift a conch. More creatures soar skyward inside one of Louisville's only bird blinds, where visitors can watch 150 species of resident and migratory birds fluttering about.
After exploring on their own, guests can relax on one the picnic tables or beneath the covered gazebo before joining in on special events such as owl hikes. Youngsters, meanwhile, can discover more nature factoids at summer camps, educational programs, or birthday parties, which include guided hikes and live animal presentations.
Along 1,000 feet of an indoor raceway, up to eight Sodi competition karts snake around bends and blaze through straightaways at speeds of up to 40 miles per hour. Instead of creating a typical tiny, circular path, the designers of Bluegrass Indoor Karting are proud to present a track that celebrates speed and skill. Their karts protect drivers from bumps and rolls with a three-point safety harness, bumper system, and no diving policy. They also design karts specifically for kids, which share the same specs as the adult karts but only max out at a speed of 25 miles per hour. From the 2,000-square-foot viewing area, guests can watch their friends chase down checkered flags, and the facility's 5,000 square feet of conference rooms accommodate youth birthdays and corporate events.
On the First Friday of every month, the Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft invites the community to peruse its wares for free. The museum, along with many of its neighbors on Louisville's Museum Row, participates in the First Friday Trolley Hop, a tour of the vibrant local art scene. It's one of many ways the museum team opens their 27,000 square feet of rotating art exhibits, which highlight styles from American folk art to taxidermy. The displays emphasize the importance of materials and process, rather than focusing exclusively on the final product. This philosophy extends to the museum's art workshops, in which kids make finger puppets, bracelets, and even mini-greenhouses well suited for pet hamsters who've always dreamed of gardening.