My 50 by 50 quest to see all 50 US states by the time I turn 50 next September continues…last week I visited Kentucky and West Virginia, numbers 38 and 39 on my list.
And this time, I took my dog, Selma!
Selma and I had a great time – in fact, you can read her very own blog post about the trip.
We flew into Lexington, KY — a town that I found to be fun and eclectic. We stayed in the downtown historic neighborhood at Gratz Park Inn, a pet-friendly boutique hotel only a couple of blocks from Gratz Park. This small, picturesque urban park first established in 1781 is surrounded by historic Federal-style homes. Bright yellow and orange fall foliage was still pretty spectacular when we were there.
We were also within walking distance to the Mary Todd Lincoln house, which I received a private tour of. This was her childhood home where the First Lady grew up; but she also visited several times with Abraham Lincoln after their marriage, and the rooms on tour include the bedroom in which President Lincoln stayed. The wealth and lifestyle that Mary enjoyed was in stark contrast to Abraham’s poor upbringing; the log cabin in which he was born could fit into just one of the rooms in the Todd house.
Walking around the historic district was very enjoyable, with the gorgeous buildings (there are several other important homes open to the public, including the Henry Clay estate), boutique shops, and upscale restaurants. Lexington also has quite the craft beer scene; one evening, Selma and I checked out Blue Stallion Brewing for a tasty beer flight (disclaimer: Selma was allowed only water). This was much more my scene, as I’m not a bourbon kind of girl.
Of course, the other thing Kentucky is most famous for is horses. No trip to Lexington would be complete without seeing the Kentucky Horse Park, a working horse farm and educational theme park spread over 1,229 acres of Kentucky’s famous Bluegrass. There are two horse museums onsite, numerous stables and fields, restaurants, and numerous activities. In the summer there are trolley tours and other events.
The Horse Park is a real working equestrian center, and also one of the world’s best equine competition facilities; in fact, when I was there the finals of the US dressage competition were going on in the Alltech Arena. And the whole place is dog-friendly!
From Lexington, Selma and I drove about 45 minutes to our favorite experience of the trip, and one of the most unique things I’ve ever done. We stayed at Shaker Village, a 3,000-acre community that was once the home of one of the largest Shaker families in the US (nearly 500 members at peak), who called this place home from 1805 to the 1920s.
There are still 34 original Shaker structures left, which Shaker Village has restored as a place of discovery and recreation for guests — both day and overnight ones. Yes, you can stay there, as we did, in one of the actual historic Shaker buildings. Shaker Village is home to the country’s largest private collection of original 19th century buildings and is the largest National Historic Landmark in Kentucky.
It also operates as a nearly self-sustaining farm, using many of the same farming and living techniques that the Shakers did. Visitors can learn about Shaker life, visit the exhibits, do hands-on activities from weaving and painting to hiking and farm stuff. It’s dog and kid friendly, food is great, there are many artisans there….it was fascinating learning about the Shakers, and Selma had the time of her life. Check out her upcoming blog post for more — she was one happy dog at Shaker Village!
We also visited part of the Daniel Boone National Forest, taking a gorgeous driving tour and doing some light hiking as well. Selma enjoyed checking out the Natural Bridge over the Red River Gorge, with its magnificent vistas (which would be spectacular in the spring or earlier fall….by the time we were there much of the foliage had disappeared). There was also a bit harrowing drive through the incredibly narrow Nada Tunnel, a one-car (at best!) tunnel built in the early 1900s for use on the logging railroad. Check out my video, below, to see just how narrow this was!