Things to Do in Kentucky With Kids

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Where's the Fun? It's All Over the Place!

Kentucky is full of places your family can enjoy together. Here are just a few from different locations in the state—cities, towns and country.

Mammoth Cave National Park

Located northeast of Bowling Green and 10 miles west of Cave City via State Road 70, Mammoth Cave National Park is a natural wonder and national treasure occupying almost 53,000 acres, much of it providing refuge for a variety of birds and other wildlife. The Green River flows through the park for 25 miles, and there are over 80 miles of back-country trails. Mammoth Cave itself contains 400 miles of underground passages on five levels.

Families with kids can attend informal campfire programs and take part in nature walks led by park interpreters. There are also camping and picnicking facilities as well as 31 miles of fishing and canoeing waters on Green and Nolin Rivers.

Guided tours of the cave itself are provided, varying in difficulty. Dress appropriately, and wear shoes with good traction. Be aware that the cave is inhabited by many creatures who have adapted to the darkness and can probably see you better than you can see them. Youngsters age 5 and under are not permitted on some tours.

The Arboretum State Botanical Garden of Kentucky

Where would we be without the flora that sustains us, feeds us and protects us and our environment? The Arboretum State Botanical Garden of Kentucky (500 Alumni Dr., Lexington, KY) provides visitors with the opportunity to commune with the trees, plants and shrubs of Kentucky in a safe and pleasant environment. Go on your own self-guided tour or take a guided tour, including one of the horticultural display gardens. The arboretum requests that groups of 10 or more wanting to take a self-guided tour should call ahead to ensure availability. Brochures containing a map are available inside the visitor center.

Kids are naturally curious about nature and love to explore on their own. That's why the arboretum has provided a special Kentucky Children's Garden within its borders. Here, kids can have hands-on experience with the elements of gardening and enjoy learning-based play. They'll explore the butterfly garden, the Native American encampment, the fishing pond, model train display and more in their own special play/learning space.

Great American Dollhouse Museum

The Great American Dollhouse Museum (344 Swope Dr., Danville, KY) is not just a collection of playthings, it's also an intriguing approach to the social history of America. The Exhibition Hall contains three main spaces. The first is a history of the U.S. from Native American times to the modern era, with stop-offs at Colonial life, the Old West and the Southwest.

Next comes a miniature town circa 1910, complete with houses, businesses, factory and even a Shaker village. To make the picture more complete, a storyline provides details of the lives of the "citizens" of this little town.

The last section strays from social history into a fairy land of fantasy characters, including witches, trolls and elves. Perhaps your child can use her imagination to come up with her own storyline for this fantasy world and its inhabitants.

The Louisville Zoo

One of the most beloved zoos in the country, the Louisville Zoo (1100 Trevilian Way, Louisville, KY) is home to over 1,700 animals living in several environments spanning the zoo's 134 acres.

Anyone visiting the Louisville Zoo can observe the bond between zoo staff and the animals. Staff are clearly proud of events like the first appearance of Azizi, a yearling Hartmann's Mountain Zebra, who is visiting from the Virginia Zoological Park (the zoo cooperatively shares animals with other zoos). The zoo is also now home to Casey, a silverback gorilla who has moved here from the Audubon Zoo in New Orleans. Casey is a favorite and a valuable addition to the zoo's state-of-the-art gorilla forest.

Be sure to ask the staff questions, as they are quick to share information about the animals with zoo visitors and to explain the their differing personalities.

Sustainability is a core theme driving the Louisville Zoo‘s mission “to better the bond between people and our planet.” The zoo works actively with conservation groups on environmental issues. Check out the Louisville Zoo website for more information about the work of the zoo in this area.

Of course, kids love animals, and so a trip to the zoo is first of all a chance for children to meet them up close and personal. This is one of the most important aims of the Louisville Zoo—to develop the child's natural affinity with animals.

Kentucky Fudge Company

There is a very unusual place in the quaint little town of Harrodsburg, KY. It is partly an old-fashioned pharmacy—the kind that includes an old-fashioned soda fountain counter—and partly a luncheonette and bakery. It's also a place where musicians frequently gather to play bluegrass tunes in the dining area as the clientele devours grilled cheese sandwiches, peanut butter pie, meatloaf and other cuisine swiped from the menu of a 1930s diner, all of which can be washed down with a chocolate phosphate or root beer float.

All these elements combine to make the Kentucky Fudge Company (225 S. Main St., Harroldsburg KY) a place you'll want to visit again and again. Don't miss the polished wooden glass-fronted cabinets in the pharmacy area which display antique pharmaceutical equipment instead of actual pharmaceuticals. Any child with a scientific bent could spend hours trying to figure out what these strange instruments were intended to do.

This is the sort of place that used to be common in small towns: partly this, partly that, but most of all a place for folks to gather. In other words, Andy and Barney and Aunt Bee would feel right at home here, and so will your family.

Harrodsburg is a sweet town in any case, but The Kentucky Fudge Company just might be its sweetest spot.