Spring Break is upon us! Spizzie is a little sad that everyone keeps talking about going to the beach and we definitely won’t be going there! I did manage to get a week off from work, so I am trying to plan a few “staycation” trips. Whether it is just the two of us or some other family members decide to tag along, I think we deserve a little fun. With the suggestions from a few friends, I came up with a list of places to visit in Kentucky and Tennessee (and one honorable mention* in Virginia). The criteria were: Had to be interesting (at least to me and Spizzie), had to be within two hours of our home, and had to be budget-friendly!
- Cumberland Falls. Sometimes called the “Niagara of the South,” Cumberland Falls is the only place in the Western Hemisphere where you can witness a Moonbow. A rainbow at night, how cool is that?!? Unfortunately, it’s only during the full moon and that won’t be during spring break. Still, my daughter has never been and I think she’ll love it. There are lots of hiking trails, a lodge with a gift shop, and plenty of sights to keep everyone occupied. There are also guided rafting trips and horseback trail rides offered in the summer. We may have to go back for that!
- Levi Jackson Wilderness Road State Park. Although we’ve already been here, it is a nice place for a short hike, a picnic, and a visit to the duck pond! They do have one of the largest collections of mill stones in the US and a small museum that is open during the summer months. There is also a great BBQ place on one of the park entrance roads (Ole Whitley BBQ). Their food is great and they give discounts to military and first responders. Gotta love that!
- Chained Rock at Pine Mountain State Resort Park. This is part of my old stomping grounds, so I have a lot of fond memories here. Chained Rock was actually a publicity stunt that was borne out of local folklore. It’s actually quite interesting and the view is beautiful. I’m a little afraid of heights though and have never gotten too close to the edge! There is a lodge, lots of hiking trails, mini golf, and a pool in the summer months. There is also a great golf course…or so my guys tell me. I will take their word for it though, because I’m just not about the golf!!
- The Coal House in Middlesboro. This is actually a house made of coal. The Chamber of Commerce is located there, so I’m not sure if there is anything located inside or just a good photo op. Still, it is one of those rare things to see! There is also a small coal mining exhibit set up close by and there is a small downtown area with shops and restaurants.
- Cumberland Gap National Historic Park/Pinnacle Overlook. Cumberland Gap is one of those gorgeous places that you just want to keep going back to! You can see Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia from the Pinnacle Overlook and there are plenty of trails to keep you busy. The Visitor Center has a museum, an auditorium with films about the Gap, and a shop with book sales. They also feature crafters from the Cumberland Crafts Guild. There is a tour of Gap Cave (we knew it as Cudjo’s Caverns growing up) and Hensley’s Settlement, but those don’t start until later in the spring. I was a little disappointed that they weren’t doing tours of Hensley’s Settlement (it’s on top of the mountain). It used to be accessible by 4-wheel drive in Kentucky, but I’ve heard that road is only passable by horse or ATV. My sister assures me we can hike to it from Virginia, but it’s a 13 mile hike. Ummm…no!
- Cumberland Gap, TN. This is definitely “small town” America! There are a few historical things to see, plus lots of little restaurants and shops. It’s an easy place to while away an afternoon or just relax for a few minutes.
- Abraham Lincoln Library and Museum. Located on the campus of Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, TN, this museum contains artifacts and information that pertain to Abraham Lincoln. (Somehow you knew that, right?!?) If you like history one little bit, there are some really cool things to be seen here. They do have different programs throughout the year, as well as featured exhibits. Here’s something I didn’t even know until recently: Colonel Harlan Sanders (of Kentucky Fried Chicken fame) put up $500,000 of the money that was needed to build the library/museum in the 1970’s.
- Kentucky Horse Park. While the admission isn’t cheap ($18 per person), I think it’s probably worth it if you are at all interested in horses. I’ve only been around Christmas time, but there are events year round. According to the website, there is a horse-drawn trolley tour included with admission and you can take a trail ride for an extra fee.
- Old Friends Thoroughbred Retirement Farm. In case you don’t know, Spizzie is a horse nut. She is seriously considering being an equine veterinarian, so Old Friends has been on our “to do” list for a while now. It is a working farm, so you have to make reservations for a tour. Oh, and wear appropriate footwear!!
- White Hall. A historic home once belonging to Cassius Marcellus Clay–who was a newspaper publisher, an emancipationist, and a friend to Abraham Lincoln. There is a mansion, as well as some outbuildings, to tour. It is a great stop for anyone interested in history!
*For an added adventure: Wilderness Road State Park in Virginia. Although it’s in Virginia, this park is actually only about 10 miles from the Cumberland Gap. With trails for hiking, biking, and horseback riding, plenty of outdoor activity space, and historical programs, there appears to be plenty to do!
That’s about it. I’m not certain we’ll get to all of these things this week, as we are also committed to helping some family members work on some things and to finishing Spizzie’s Community Service Project for her Civics class, but this is a good place to start. Even if we don’t get to all of these over Spring Break, we have some interesting new things to add to our Summer Bucket List!!