See what’s new at attractions across Kentucky.
Accessibility tour opens in Mammoth Cave
In 2016, Mammoth Cave National Park opened an accessible cave tour through some of the most unusual areas in the world’s longest cave. During the two-hour experience, guests take an elevator 267 feet below ground where they can follow an accessible half-mile path to the Snowball Room as well as portions of the Grand Avenue Tour. Refreshments and accessible restrooms are available in the Snowball Room, which is named after the pale, rounded rock formations that cover the ceiling.
In July, the park also began construction on a paved half-mile path to Echo River Spring, with plans to expand the Green River crossing parking lot at the Echo River Spring trailhead, adding an accessible picnic area and accessible bathrooms. The park aims to complete the project by 2018.
Stingray Hideaway opens at Newport Aquarium
Last spring, Newport Aquarium opened a new tropical exhibit called Stingray Hideaway where guests can interact with two-dozen stingrays and other colorful fish up close. Inside a 40-foot-high atrium, the highlight of the attraction is a 17,000-gallon touch pool where children and adult guests can stroke the silky wings of three distinct species of stingrays as they glide past. Visitors can also venture into a 30-foot-long underwater tunnel to see the playful creatures swim overhead; the tunnel has a special viewing tube that pops up inside the pool. This development is the aquarium’s most ambitious expansion since the shark bridge opened in 2015.
Two Outdoor Adventure Opportunities come to Eastern Kentucky
In June 2016, Treetop Adventure opened at Levi Jackson State Park near London, offering outdoor enthusiasts two and a half hours of aerial treetop thrills. Participants can choose from five different obstacle courses that are color-coded according to difficulty. The tree platforms are connected by a variety of zip lines, wooden plank bridges and cables, each presenting its own challenge as guests make their way across. Visitors of all skill levels are welcome.
Nestled amid the mountains of Kentucky and Virginia, Breaks Interstate Park opened a new set of climbing routes last year, with plans to integrate more in the future. Between 50 and 75 routes are now available along the park’s stunning sandstone cliffs.
Horse Country Experience Launches
A local nonprofit called Horse Country Inc. launched in 2016 to represent over 35 of the state’s most distinguished horse farms, veterinary clinics and other equine destinations. To visit one or several of these sites, groups can hop on the Horse Country website and schedule an exclusive behind-the-scenes tour with the touch of a button. Horse-racing fans have never encountered a better opportunity to dive into the heart of horse country and meet some of the track’s greatest champions face to face. Many of these tours take groups through the stables, the breeding shed and other key areas of the farm while a guide discusses the history of the property. The experience typically lasts an hour and requires a moderate amount of standing and walking.
Bill Monroe Museum Breaks Ground
Not many musicians can claim that a whole genre of music is named after their band. This past spring, the city of Rosine broke ground for the upcoming Bill Monroe Museum, in honor of Grammy Award-winning musician Bill Monroe, also known as the Father of Bluegrass. Monroe founded the original bluegrass band during the 1930s, called the Blue Grass Boys, after his home state of Kentucky.
During his 58-year performance career, Monroe helped define the eclectic genre he described as “blues and jazz” with “a high lonesome sound,” developing the classic five-piece ensemble of guitar, banjo, bass, fiddle and mandolin. He was later inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, becoming one of only five artists to be recognized in all three.