Couple looking out over Lake Cumberland in Jamestown, Kentucky (photo courtesy of Lake Cumberland)
Travel | Long Weekends

4 Kentucky Favorites to Visit This Spring

From booking a stay along the shore of Lake Cumberland to exploring the Kentucky Derby’s long legacy, a trip to the Bluegrass State offers food, fun, history and more.

Lake Cumberland

Lake Cumberland’s more than 65,000 surface acres weave like a dragon’s tail through the hills of southern Kentucky, stretching all the way to Daniel Boone National Forest in the east and branching off into countless inlets that have made the body of water a major vacation destination. With so much shoreline, privacy isn’t hard to find.

“Once you get out there, I hope you like your family and friends,” jokes Stephen Eastin, resort park manager at Lake Cumberland State Park. “You make your own little community out there.”

Marinas dot the lake, and the region has the most houseboat rentals in the United States. The state park property occupies 3,000 acres on a peninsula in Jamestown, about 5 miles from U.S. Route 127. There, visitors can rent one of 63 rooms in the lodge, tuck into a cozy cabin or pitch a tent at one of the 64 primitive campsites on the property. There are also 11 full-hookup sites available to campers, as well as an indoor pool and hot tub.

Tennis courts, a disc-golf course, hiking trails and a soon-to-open archery course provide off-the-water fun, while the nearby Lake Cumberland State Dock rents all manner of watercraft for paddling, fishing and floating.

When it’s time to eat, travelers can book a table at the Rowena Landing Restaurant, the lodge’s 200-seat dining room, built with a wall of windows that offers expansive views of Lake Cumberland.

“You can see for 3 miles straight out,” Eastin says. 5465 State Park Rd., Jamestown, Kentucky 42629, 270/343-3111,


People exploring an exhibit at Louisville’s Kentucky Derby Museum (photo courtesy of Kentucky Derby Museum)
Kentucky Derby Museum

Located on the property of Churchill Downs, the Kentucky Derby Museum brings the famous horse race to life no matter how far the calendar is from early May. Upon entry, two floors of exhibits and artifacts greet guests, helping to tell the story of how the Derby — first run in 1875 — endured and evolved over the years.

“The Derby grew up with the state of Kentucky. The Derby grew up with the city of Louisville,” says Jessica Whitehead, the museum’s curator of collections.

In 2020, Whitehead curated a limited-run exhibit about women in horse racing, which coincided with the 50th anniversary of jockey Diane Crump’s ride in the 1970 Kentucky Derby.

The museum’s permanent exhibition on Black horsemen has expanded greatly in recent years to reflect the significant role that Black jockeys and trainers have in the history of the Derby. 

“Fifteen of the first 28 Kentucky Derbies were won by black jockeys,” says Whitehead. “From the get-go, Black horsemen were part of this story.”

Immersive video exhibits help re-create the energy of Kentucky Derby race day, while displays at the museum’s entrance provide an overview of the event’s history, priming visitors for more in-depth exhibits and lessons to come as they explore the museum.

“We like to expand the minds of our visitors beyond just what you see on an NBC broadcast,” Whitehead says. “How [the Derby] has affected our neighborhoods, our city, our state economically, culturally … it’s touching more than just the richest of the rich. It’s touching everyone.” 704 Central Ave., Louisville, Kentucky 40208, 502/637-1111,


Appetizer and drink at James B. Beam Distilling Co.’s The Kitchen Table restaurant (photo courtesy of James B. Beam Distilling Co.)
James B. Beam Distilling Co. 

Bourbon lovers and the bourbon curious are likely already familiar with the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, a network of distilleries and factory tours that showcase the state’s prized spirit. The James B. Beam Distilling Co., born over 200 years ago as a solution to an excess corn crop, is a can’t-miss stop on the list.

The standard 90-minute tour starts with an introduction to the distilling process, ushering participants from fermentation to the barrel. Premium tours cater to bourbon enthusiasts with tastings, food pairings and cocktail classes, as well as exclusive Behind the Beam sessions with master distillers.

The range of gustatory experiences doesn’t end with the James B. Beam family of spirits, though. The Kitchen Table — an on-site restaurant inspired by family dinners master distillers Fred and Freddie Noe have enjoyed — opened in 2021. The menu’s duck poppers offer a Creole-seasoned twist on a similar dish originally made with venison, while the burgoo is a stew rich with beef, pork and chicken.

“It might not actually be the dish Freddie had at his hunting camp, but it has become this collaboration,” explains executive chef Brian Landry. “It’s intended to be modernized versions of family favorites and classics.”

One such family favorite is pizza. Landry uses the same vigilantly protected yeast strain that creates the unique flavor of the James B. Beam spirits for the crust, although securing the yeast was an exercise in building trust.

“It’s 90 years running of making sure they continue to propagate this yeast,” says Landry, “and to just hand it over to someone they’re just starting to get to know comes with a few caveats.” 568 Happy Hollow Rd., Clermont, Kentucky 40110, 502/543-9877,


Family looking at car at the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky (photo courtesy of National Corvette Museum)
National Corvette Museum

The typical new-car experience has nothing on what’s going on at the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green. Many who have purchased a new Corvette make the pilgrimage to the home of the Bowling Green Assembly Plant to pick it up.

“The first thing you notice when you come into the museum is you’re surrounded by brand new Corvettes,” says Brian Baker, director of education and collections. “Everybody’s in a pretty good mood!”

But a visit to the National Corvette Museum, which is located on the campus of the last Chevrolet factory to make the iconic car, is also for those of us who only daydream about cruising home in one. Museum exhibits share the story of the car’s inception and how it has changed over the years by highlighting historic artifacts and replicas of famous models.

The museum also covers key players who have shaped the look of the Corvette. (Ohioan Bill Mitchell created the Stingray, while a group of women known as the Damsels of Design revamped the cars to include glove compartments and retractable seatbelts.)

There is a hands-on exhibit about the process of designing Corvettes that uses software that allows museum visitors to create their dream ride. There is even a 3.15-mile course on-site where drivers can buy time behind the wheel of a Corvette Stingray Z51. For those who want to take it a little slower, there’s also a go-kart track.

“It’s a living museum,” explains Baker. “It’s not a look back.” 350 Corvette Dr., Bowling Green, Kentucky 42101, 270/781-7973,