Baseball and Bourbon in Louisville
The Louisville Convention and Visitors Bureau recently began publishing a 56-page family reunion planning kit and started offering workshops on how to plan a memorable reunion. It was a wise move, as Louisville family reunions keep guests entertained throughout.
The Louisville Slugger Museum has something to offer baseball fans of all ages. It’s easy to find—it’s the only building in Louisville with a 120-foot baseball bat outside. Inside, see the bat where Babe Ruth once carved notches for every home run he hit or go on the factory tour and see how Louisville’s most famous product is made. If you give enough advance notice that your group is coming, the museum will customize the tour to highlight your hometown team or create customized bats to commemorate your reunion. When you leave, you can follow the mile-long Walk of Fame featuring bronze plaques commemorating the game’s greatest sluggers along with bronze casts of the Louisville Sluggers they used.
Louisville is the home of the world-famous Kentucky Derby, which means anyone with even a passing interest in sports will want to check out Churchill Downs, site of “the two most exciting minutes in sports.” Take in some horse racing action or stop by the Derby Museum, located on the premises, and see artifacts from Derby history dating back to 1875. Consider going on a Sunday in the spring when there are special activities for children at the races.
Nearly all (roughly 95%) of the world’s bourbon is made in Kentucky, and most of that is in the region around Louisville. Older members of your group who want to get out of the city a bit can follow the Kentucky Bourbon Trail and visit the area’s bourbon distilleries. Or they can stay in the city and follow the Urban Bourbon Trail, stopping at bars across Louisville to sample this distinctively American spirit.
Another option away from the city is a quick trip to the Jefferson Memorial Forest, the nation’s largest municipal urban forest. Hiking, camping, fishing and horseback riding are all available to help people in your group blow off some steam just 15 minutes outside of downtown.
A bit further afield is Holiday World and Splashin’ Safari, located about an hour away in Indiana and named best water park in the country by TripAdvisor. Smaller children can enjoy merry-go-rounds and bumper cars while the adventurous among you can dare to go on rides such as Mammoth, the world’s longest water coaster. Mammoth offers boats that fit up to six people, so your family can brave it together.
Lexington: Horses and Henry Clay
Lexington bills itself as “The Horse Capital of the World.” The big race may happen in Louisville, but the horses spend most of their lives in the scenic pastures around Lexington.
The best way to absorb some of the equine heritage of the area is the Kentucky Horse Park, which spans 1,200 acres and is devoted to all things horses. Pay your respects to the greatest of all race horses at the Man o’ War memorial, visit the International Museum of the Horse or go on a tour of the park (how else?) on horseback. If your group calls in advance, you can receive discounted tickets.
Another popular option is to go on a horse farm tour. Lexington family reunions can book spots on a regular guided tour, organize a customized tour or even attempt to call up a horse farm in the region and organize a private tour for your group.
If you’re tired of horses, try a visit to Ashland, the 19th century estate of Kentucky Senator Henry Clay. Tour the Victorian-style mansion and wander the grounds among the ash trees that give the estate its name. There are also artifacts on display from the life of “The Great Compromiser.” Special arrangements can be made for large groups.
Those looking for something more modern can visit the Aviation Museum of Kentucky. Try your hand at piloting an aircraft in the flight simulator or get up close to famous aircraft such as the A-4 jet plan flown by the Navy’s Blue Angels or the 1908 biplane that was the first to fly over Kentucky.
German Heritage in Covington
Another one of the great family reunion locations in Kentucky is Covington. Located in the north of the state and within the Cincinnati metropolitan area, it is an excellent way to balance the desires of those who want an exciting urban location with those who want a more traditional Kentucky experience.
Start out with a walk around MainStrasse Village in Convington, a 19th century German neighborhood that has been designated a National Historic Site. Wander among the historic buildings or enjoy the restaurants, shopping and live music. There’s even a good chance you and your family will be there during one of the numerous street festivals.
A day at the ballpark can be a great way to bring your family together. The Cincinnati Reds are just across the river and offer discounts on tickets for groups of 25 or more. Or for something totally different, the area recently gained a professional women’s flat track roller derby club, the Black N Bluegrass Rollergirls, which also markets to groups.
Another option is to book a group tour with Ride the Ducks Newport, which allows your family to go on a tour of Greater Cincinnati by land and by water in a converted World War II amphibious vehicle. As a bonus, everyone on the tour is issued a noisemaker that makes duck calls to ensure guests “quack along with the crew and the music.”
If you’re looking for museums, you can find something that caters to virtually any taste in the area around Covington. The National Museum of the Air Force has hundreds of airplanes from all eras of American aviation, from a biplane flown by the Wright brothers to the world’s only museum display of a B-2 stealth bomber. The Creation Museum presents the Biblical story of creation through advanced animatronics. There’s even the world’s only museum (the Vent Haven Museum) devoted strictly to ventriloquism!
Eastern Kentucky Nature Retreats
Kentucky claims to have the country’s best state parks. Plan your reunion in Eastern Kentucky and you’ll see why.
A towering sandstone arch formed from millions of years of erosion lends its name to Natural Bridge State Park. Unique features of this park include weekly traditional square dancing on Hoedown Island and an 18-hole mini-golf course. Cabins and campgrounds in the area provide good options for lodging. A short distance away is Red River Gorge National Geological Area, with its 60 miles of hiking trails and excellent rock climbing. Both are encapsulated in the vast Daniel Boone National Forest, which covers some 700,000 acres.
Follow the path of Kentucky’s first pioneers at Cumberland Gap National Historical Park. Hike or drive up to the scenic Pinnacle Overlook or see earthwork fortifications that survived the fierce fighting this area saw during the Civil War. A highlight is Gap Cave, where visitors can see bats, stalagmites and a rock wall where Union soldiers scribbled their names while taking refuge in the cave.
Country music fans will have to take a trip down the Country Music Highway, a 144-mile roadway that meanders through the hometowns of some of country music’s biggest stars as well as some of the region’s best scenery. Adults will appreciate the route for its connection to stars such as Patty Loveless and Keith Whitley, while children might find the fact that Miley Cyrus is from the area slightly more interesting. In Paintsville, along the route, the US 23 Country Music Highway Museum recently opened with exhibits dedicated to the area’s talents.