Bowling Green, Kentucky, is underrated as a family vacation destination. Located a one- hour drive north of Nashville and less than a two-hour drive south of Louisville, the rolling green hills of Kentucky’s Cave Country make for a memorable, quick getaway or a stop on a longer road trip. Here are six fun ways to explore the area.
The only national park in Kentucky is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This is the world's longest known cave system, with more than 400 miles explored. First discovered two centuries ago, Mammoth Cave has offered guided tours for 100 years. To enter the cave itself you should pre-purchase entry for a scheduled tour, as tickets often sell out. There’s no fee to enter the Mammoth Cave National Park and activities on the surface (nature walks and hikes) are free of charge. (Mammoth Cave Pkwy., Mammoth Cave; 270-758-2180)
Zip and Rappel
With Hidden River Cave's Zip and Rappel Challenge, you can zip line 70 feet above the ground at 30 mph across the cave entrance and rappel 75 feet down its limestone face. This adventure is thrilling but not terrifying and mildly challenging Minimum age: 8. Maximum weight: 275 lobs. (119 E Main St., Horse Cave; 270-786-1466)
Get Car Envy
The National Corvette Museum showcases 80 models of the beloved sports car, from the very first, built in 1953, to concept cars never commercially produced. In addition to admiring the Corvettes, you can sit inside one for a photo opp or even take a drive at the Motorsports Park for an additional fee. Complete your pilgrimage to sports car Mecca with a tour of the Corvette Assembly Plant to watch the step-by-step process of piecing together the Chevy classic. (350 Corvette Dr., Bowling Green; 270-781-7973)
Scream for Homemade Ice Cream
Chaney’s Dairy Barn is renowned for making the best homemade ice cream in the state of Kentucky. In the summer, Chaney’s drops a screen over the side of their barn and hosts “Ice Cream and a Moooovie” nights. Bring your kids for the ice cream, but be sure to check out the bucolic setting of this fifth-generation family farm run by the Chaneys for over 125 years. You can take your kids on a tour to show them where milk comes from. (9191 Nashville Rd., Bowling Green; 270-843-5567)
Float Down the Green River
Big Buffalo Crossing offers canoe, kayak, and float trips down the Green River, letting you drift past bridges, springs, and even into Mammoth Cave National Park. (100 River Rd., Munfordville; 270-774-7883).
Visit an Amusement Park Perfect for Little Ones
Nestled in an elbow of the Barren River is Beech Bend Park, a quaint family-run entertainment complex that includes an amusement park, water park, and drag strip. The small amusement park is perfect for families with younger children. Notable rides include a Sea Dragon swinging ship ride originally located at Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch in California, and the Kentucky Rumbler wooden roller coaster that reaches speeds near 50 mph. Admission also grants access to the Splash Lagoon Water Park and the Beech Bend Raceway, one of America’s oldest, continually operating drag strips. Races take place every weekend between March and November. (798 Beech Bend Rd., Bowling Green; 270-781-7634)