Located at Blue Grass Airport, the Aviation Museum of Kentucky pays tribute to the Commonwealth’s rich history of aviation with its impressive squadron of rare and restored aircraft, aviation memorabilia, interactive educational displays, and active aviation restoration shop. Inside the museum, a flock of steel birds suspended on wires hangs from the hangar’s expansive ceiling. A replica of Matthew Sellers’ 1908 quadraplane—the first aircraft built and flown in Kentucky—headlines the museum collection, extending its majestic wings to shake the hands of awestruck visitors. Other exceptional designs include a Skyhawk once flown by the Navy’s Blue Angels, an F-14 Tomcat jet-fighter as seen in the film Top Gun, and a high-bypass turbofan used to propel modern jumbo jets.
Guided tours and interactive exhibits delve into the science and history of flight, while the Kentucky Aviation Hall of Fame honors the lives of those who have soared among the clouds, whether in planes or wrapped around the waist of Michael Jordan. Young ones, meanwhile, can learn more about the variety of aviation careers and set their sights on following the tailwinds of famous pilots and designers.
Through informative lectures and thought-provoking exhibits, Lexington History Museum assists all age groups in interpreting and internalizing the city's storied past. A family membership grants you and your kin unlimited access to the exhibits, including Play Date With History, an interactive display inviting children and overanxious history majors to dally around with toys, such as tree branches and miniature tea sets, that Abraham Lincoln's children might have played with in the 1800s. Track the history of key plunking with the Antique Typewriters exhibit, which offers a glimpse into the word processor's lifespan, from its heyday in 1872 to the Great Typewriter Rebellion of 2002. Members also receive The Bluegrass History, a quarterly publication, unlimited free ketchup packets from the place down the street, The Vidette newsletter, and a 10% discount on any additional merchandise.
Real-life attractions permeate the museum’s nine discovery zones, where youngsters enclose themselves in giant bubbles, groom life-sized horses in a stable, and use their hands and feet to play virtual pianos or pop virtual balloons projected onto the floor. Whereas older children can build their own adobe wall in the Homes Around the World area, kids aged 3 and younger can watch wild birds from an observation window or don woodland-creature costumes in the Wonder Woods.
Along with its hands-on exhibits, the nonprofit museum stimulates youngsters with a slew of outreach programs. It keeps the art studio stocked with supplies that kids can use to unleash their creativity and invites more than 100 artists younger than 18 to exhibit and sell their work in the annual Museum Go Round. The museum’s summer camps and weekend programs cover kid-friendly subjects that range from performing drama to breaking down the tax code clause by clause.
The Great American Dollhouse Museum houses hundreds of miniature buildings and citizens in a newly renovated 6,000-square-foot historical building, with high arched ceilings and an immense skylight. Curator Lori Kagan-Moore's vision for the museum is that each piece and scene be as authentic as possible. The exhibit begins with a timeline of U.S. history rendered in miniatures and moves to a village set in the early 1900s. The mini-land features a Shaker settlement, gypsy caravan, orphanage, and more, filled with characters wearing period-accurate clothing and interacting with period-accurate cell phones. The dollhouses are kind enough to leave their backs open so museum-goers can peek at the décor, dolls, and salivating grizzly bears. The museum concludes with a fantasy forest, complete with fairies, centaurs, and dragons.
The McDowell House Museum began its life as the home of Dr. Ephraim McDowell. While he lived on its premises, during the nation’s early days, Dr. McDowell pioneered the ovariotomy, a medical treatment unheard of in 19th-century clinics. On Christmas morning in 1809, he surgically removed a 22-pound tumor from the ovary of Jane Todd Crawford—the first procedure of its type ever successfully performed.
Today, Dr. McDowell’s house stands as a monument to his medical mind and the people that it saved. On tours through the museum—which is furnished in turn-of-the-century antiques and early medical equipment—guides explain the doctor's lifesaving procedures while strolling through the home’s restored Georgian interior. Guests can wander through Dr. McDowell’s medical office, search for old-fashioned remedies in his apothecary shop next door, and recuperate from their exertions in the formal gardens. The apothecary shop contains more than 200 pieces of antique medical equipment including a leech jar, early American mortars and pestles, and fossilized tongue depressors. The house and its grounds also overlook Constitution Square State Park, which contains the first post office west of the Alleghenies along with replicas of an early jailhouse and courthouse.
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.