The Quilt Capital of the World charms visitors with a winning blend of cultural panache, stunning scenery, historical attractions and friendly Southern hospitality. Paducah’s crafting heritage infuses the entire town with a homey yet unexpectedly vibrant energy, inspiring not just quilters, but all sorts of creative types who groove to their own distinctive beats. Add in great restaurants, a walkable riverfront downtown, an emerging craft beer scene, and you’ve got all the makings of a memorable getaway. Set aside a few days to fully explore this designated UNESCO Creative City and see what kinds of surprising adventures await. Here are a just few suggestions on what you’ll want to see and do during your visit.
The National Quilt Museum is the epicenter of Paducah’s thriving fiber arts community. Ditch any old-fashioned stereotypes you might be harboring about the hobby; the exhibits at this colorful, contemporary facility firmly establish quilting as a highly respected fine art form practiced and appreciated by a diverse range of enthusiasts. Three exhibition galleries accommodate an impressive collection of permanent and temporary pieces, and an ongoing lineup of workshops and events encourages guests to give quilting a try.
Freight House owner Sara Bradley snagged the runner-up spot in season 16 of Bravo’s "Top Chef" series, wowing judges with her Kentucky cooking style. Paducah visitors can sample some of the chef’s renowned farm-to-table cuisine at her rustic-chic eatery, situated in a renovated railroad storage compound. Menus change with the seasons to focus on locally-sourced ingredients at their peak flavors, but loyal customers insist that Bradley keep her shrimp and grits, Kentucky Silver Carp, and spicy beer cheese all year long. Wash down your dinner with a little bourbon from the dizzying bar selection, served neat, with ice, or in a cocktail.
Appropriately positioned where the Ohio and Tennessee rivers converge in Paducah, the River Discovery Center reveals an enlightening and informative glimpse into the importance of our nation’s waterways. Guests of all ages can learn about rain tables, river bottoms, locks and dams, aquatic habitats (with live animals), and much more. A boat simulator even lets visitors test their skills to see if they’ve got what it takes to captain a vessel. The center also hosts an annual Dragon Boat festival in September to raise funds for its educational programming.
Get an Al Fresco History Lesson
Celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2020, Paducah’s enchanting Dafford “Wall to Wall” mural series tells the tale of this river city, panel by intriguing panel. Go on a leisurely walk along the three-block floodwall day or night and take in more than 50 murals defining Paducah culture and history. Panels cover everything from the city's Lewis and Clark days, Native American roots, and Civil War heritage to the Great Flood of 1937, the Civil Rights movement, and the town’s role in atomic energy production.
Grab a Cup of Coffee in a Former Coca-Cola Plant
Local Paducah residents were thrilled when ambitious young entrepreneurs Ed and Meagan Musselman embarked upon a massive renovation of the town’s Art Deco Coca-Cola Plant in 2014, complete with reestablishing the landmark’s signature neon-lit dome. Since then, the mixed-use site has attracted an appealing collection of businesses including Dry Ground Brewing Company, True North Yoga, Pipers Tea and Coffee and Mellow Mushroom Pizza for customers to frequent.
Explore Paducah's Oldest Neighborhood
Lined with handsome residential homes-turned-live/work spaces, the Lower Town Arts District exudes a creative vibe with deep roots in the local community. Plan to spend a morning or afternoon just strolling around the neighborhood to admire the Victorian-era architecture, pop in and out of adorable boutiques and galleries, and read all about the area on the historical markers. Grab lunch prepared by the budding culinary talent at Kitchens Café on the Paducah School of Art and Design campus; follow it up with a caffeine chaser from Etcetera Coffeehouse.
Indulge Your Creative Side at a Local Maker's Studio
Feeling inspired by Paducah’s imaginative energy? Stop into a local maker's studio to create your own one-of-a-kind masterpiece. MAKE, Ephemera, and Smudge host expert-led classes and workshops that cover all manner of media; or, drop in to browse the artsy product inventories and see what kind of projects might be happening on any given day.
Stretch Your Legs on the Greenway Trail
For a fresh-air adventure (and a little exercise), Paducah’s recently expanded Greenway Trail now stretches five miles, connecting the Stuart Nelson and Bob Noble municipal parks along the riverfront and through the heart of downtown. Walk it at your own preferred pace, or rent a bike downtown at Hooper’s Outdoor Center outfitter.
Catch a Live Performance
Paducah's creativity reaches well beyond the visual, culinary, and fiber arts and into the performing arts arena. There’s always something going on in the local theatre scene, whether your tastes run toward smaller venues like the Market House Theatre or large-scale touring productions and big-name performers at the world-class Carson Center. The Clemens Fine Arts Center seeks to promote artistic expression and generate discussion through a schedule of thought-provoking presentations. Or, catch some live music in a more intimate setting at one of Paducah’s local taverns, wineries, or breweries.
Immerse yourself in Manhattan loft luxury without the New York City price tag. Within easy walking distance to downtown attractions, shops, and restaurants, the 1857 Hotel makes its home in an industrial brick building that dates back to the 19th century. Boutique accommodations showcase trendy touches like exposed brick walls, airy beamed ceilings, and modern showers, while the hallways do double-duty as a gallery space displaying works for sale by regional artists. Downstairs, sip a craft cocktail while enjoying some live music in the sunny communal bar area.