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Better in the Bluegrass: A Culinary Celebration

Food is celebrated just about everywhere here.

At bourbon bars in Louisville’s bustling urban center and festive tailgates at the University of Kentucky in Lexington. At barbecue and bluegrass festivals in the western part of the state and county fairs in the eastern Kentucky mountains. In traditional Appalachian recipes passed down through generations and German-influenced cuisine introduced by early settlers. And at fresh farm markets and stands all across the Bluegrass State.

Food is as much a part of Kentucky as are 11 secret herbs and spices that flavor the Colonel’s famous fried chicken. It’s the garnish on a state well-seasoned with the heritage of the people, places and spaces you’ll discover here.

Hungry to experience Kentucky’s diverse culinary culture? Visit www.BetterintheBluegrass.com.

SAVE THE GREAT OUTDOORS

Caves, coves, beaches, shorelines, mountains, woodlands. Kentucky State Parks are wonderlands of outdoor adventure. Nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts can easily work up an appetite hiking, biking, golfing, swimming, boating, birding, fishing, paddling and playing at any one of the 49 state parks throughout the state. 

Seventeen of the parks have restaurants – many of them overlooking lakes, and all of them serving up authentic dishes made with locally sourced products. Catfish, country ham, pinto beans, pimento cheese, corn cakes, buttermilk fried chicken and other food faves are all the more delicious because they came from a garden or farm in that same community.

Whether going underground to explore the subterranean world of Mammoth Cave, into the water at the twin gems of Kentucky Lake or Lake Barkley, or over land thundering across 250-plus acres of natural beauty by horseback at Whispering Woods Riding Stables, Kentucky has activities aplenty for anyone hungry for adventure.

And when you’ve crawled through your last tunnel, flipped your final underwater somersault or galloped into the homestretch, there is a place to satisfy your hankering for what Kentucky does best: crave-worthy cuisine. 

From the popular pizzas and sandwiches at Home Café in Bowling Green to the sit-down sumptuousness of Rodney’s on Broadway in Georgetown, Kentucky restaurants know how to satisfy both a sweet and savory tooth.

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FILL UP ON HISTORY

So many people, both those putting down roots and those passing through, have left their imprint on Kentucky’s soil and across the pages of its history. Three Kentucky sites on the U.S. Civil Rights Trail celebrate the men and women who stepped forward to reshape our nation’s future. 

Trace historic footsteps on the Louisville Downtown Civil Rights Trail, where markers at 11 stops tell the story of this significant movement throughout the city. Explore Whitney M. Young Jr.’s contributions to the movement inside the two-story home where this Civil Rights pioneer was born near Simpsonville. Visit Berea College’s Lincoln Hall, where students staged some of the earliest protests against segregation. Learn more about all three sites at www.kycivilrights.com

At Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill, the United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing (more commonly known as the Shakers) once sought to create utopia on this rolling land in Harrodsburg. Now a Discovery Destination, the historic landmark shares 3,000 acres of discovery in the spirit of the Kentucky Shakers – including dishes made with fruits, vegetables and herbs planted, tended to and harvested organically by village farmers.

Every stick of wood in the recently rebuilt Rabbit Hash General Store in Burlington, a town famous for its canine mayor, is reclaimed from circa-1800s buildings. So important is the heritage of this National Historic Landmark that, when the store was destroyed by fire in 2016, the decision was made to rebuild an exact replica of the 1831 original. Pick up some locally-made cheeses and Sweet Dillies (pickles made in Crestwood) to enjoy here at one of the store’s picnic tables perched alongside the Ohio River.

Historic Newport is filled with restored manses, distinctive shops and locally owned eateries marching beam-to-board along Monmouth Street toward the Ohio River. The city’s past is brought to life on the Newport Gangster Tour, one of American Legacy Tours’ most popular excursions and one led by guides in full-on gangster garb. Afterward, sit down for a plate of authentic Italian at Pompilio’s to enjoy the ambience of a place that has served everyone from mobsters to movie makers.

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CRAVE A LITTLE CULTURE

Narrating the story of the American whiskey industry with specific attention to bourbon is Bardstown’s Oscar Getz Museum of Whiskey History and its 5,000-piece permanent collection, which spans pre-Colonial to post-Prohibition years. See an 1859 bottle of Old Bourbon Whiskey, one of the oldest artifacts in the museum (and worth about $3,000!) then head to The Rickhouse and its 120-plus bourbon menu.

Stroll the streets of one of Louisville’s most distinguished neighborhoods on a 75-minute guided Historic Old Louisville Walking Tour to see a collection of architectural styles that will take your breath away. Afterward, head downtown to see more architecturally beautiful buildings, including legendary circa 1923 The Brown Hotel. In the 1920s, one of Kentucky’s most famous foods – the legendary Hot Brown – was born here, whipped up by Chef Fred Schmidt, who wanted to serve something glam to guests who came to the hotel to dance.

Can’t get enough of this turkey-on-toast dish bubbling in a cheese bath and topped by crisp bacon and juicy red tomato? Head to the charming Bell House Restaurant in Shelbyville and take a seat in one of the gallery-style dining rooms in this renovated 1902 building, whose front yard is embellished with the old fire bell that once topped the firehouse in the town square.

Head further back into the past at Mountain HomePlace, adjacent to Paintsville Lake State Park in Staffordsville. This living history museum recalls 1850s Appalachia through its farm buildings, including a double-pen cabin and a one-room schoolhouse made of hand-hewn logs, plus there are daily demonstrations like weaving and quilt-making. A visit here will surely ramp up your taste buds for the smoked meats at Prestonsburg’s family-friendly Pig In A Poke.

Start planning your Kentucky getaway today at www.KentuckyTourism.com!