Kentucky keeps giving groups new reasons to return.
In addition to its horse farms, bourbon distilleries and other marquee attractions, the state also is home to many other destinations that continue to expand and innovate. From new tours at Mammoth cave to a new racetrack in Ashland and a new way to tour Bowling Green, here are some cutting-edge developments giving groups reasons to return.
New Tour at Mammoth Cave
With 426 miles of caves underneath western Kentucky, Mammoth Cave is the longest known cave system in the world. Mammoth Cave National Park is the only national park in Kentucky, making it a must-visit attraction. A new tour of the caves will be offered beginning in fall of 2023 or summer of 2024. This four-hour tour explores the cave’s geology, taking guests through slot canyons, tall canyons and tunnels within the caves. In addition, visitors will see stalactites, stalagmites and underground water features. While this tour isn’t for the faint of heart, it’s a nice addition for active groups looking for a challenge, as well as cave and nature enthusiasts.
Japanese Garden Addition to Waterfront Botanical Gardens
Louisville’s Waterfront Botanical Gardens are an oasis on the banks of the Ohio River. The 23-acre botanical garden was once the site of a landfill before becoming a beautifully landscaped, free public attraction. In 2022, there was a groundbreaking ceremony for its newest addition: a $22 million, two-acre Japanese garden. The garden will include traditional Japanese features such as a bonsai garden, Zen garden and a teahouse, as well as an arched bridge, pond and waterfall. The tranquil setting will include flora native to Southeast Asia. The garden is in its initial phases of construction and is expected to be completed in 2024.
Sandy’s Racing and Gaming
Quarter horse racing is coming to Boyd County, in the far eastern reaches of the state. In late 2022, there was a groundbreaking ceremony for a $55 million, 74,000-square-foot horse racing facility on 177 acres surrounded by the Appalachian Mountains. The track, which will be called Sandy’s Racing and Gaming, is set to be the first in the state dedicated to quarter horse racing. It’s expected to include sports betting, a gaming facility with 700-plus slot-like machines, live music, and of course, plenty of bourbon. The track is expected to open for the spring racing season in 2024.
Dinsmore Homestead Added to National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom
In 2022, the National Park Service added 16 new sites to the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom. One of the sites added was the Dinsmore Homestead, a historic family home and farm built in 1842. Today, the house and 30 acres of the original property in Boone County are part of a museum preserving the history of the Dinsmore family and all who lived on the farm, including enslaved individuals. Visitors to the museum can take guided tours to see the house and grounds, including the vintage furniture, the outbuildings and the family graveyard. Groups can learn what life was like during the 19th century, as well as the site’s significance in the resistance to slavery.
Newport History Walk App
It may be surprising to learn that Newport was the original “Sin City” before Vegas, known as a gambling hotspot and organized crime hub for decades. Visitors can learn more about its fascinating past with a newly released walking tour app. The app, launched by Northern Kentucky University, is designed to teach visitors some of the most important elements of its history in a less traditional, more interactive way. It’s a self-guided tour that anyone with a smartphone can enjoy. At each of the sites included in the six-stop walking tour, visitors can listen to a podcast about the history behind it. Stops on the tour include the Southgate Street School, the Newport Flood Wall and former Newport Barracks on the city’s riverfront.
Trolley Tours Offered in Bowling Green
Trolley tours are an entertaining way for groups to get acquainted with new cities, and now they’re being offered in Bowling Green. After its inaugural run in late 2022, the Bowling Green Trolley began offering tours consistently this spring. The historic tours take groups on a 90-minute ride through the city and include local attractions like the Corvette Museum, Fountain Square Park and Western Kentucky University. The tours are narrated by a guide and acquaint passengers with the town’s history, including its role in the Civil War and the rise of some of its major industries. Tours reservations are available for Fridays and Saturdays, but groups can also arrange private charters.