Kentucky derby museum

Though situated in the shadow of the iconic Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky., the Kentucky Derby Museum serves as much more than a complement to a day at the races. A destination in and of itself, the museum preserves the legends and artifacts of the Kentucky Derby — from stories about horses that beat all odds (literally) to the silks and saddles worn by the winners. The Derby museum has attracted more than two million visitors since it opened in April 1985.

Disaster seemed to strike the museum last August when a flood destroyed many first-floor exhibits, archives, storage rooms and offices. Rather than close its doors forever, the museum announced a major $6 million renovation due for completion April 18. The new design will focus on making the Kentucky Derby experience as fun and interactive as possible.

The first floor will surround visitors with a true sense of being a Derby “fan” with interactive themes about fashion and life in the infield. The second floor will provide a more in-depth history of the champion horses and the trainers, jockeys and owners. Although many of the permanent and temporary exhibits have yet to be announced, the ever-popular annual Derby Hat Exhibit showcases the best and most exotic hats worn at the Derby.

Upon reopening, the Derby Museum will once again offer a variety of tours for all ages. (Until then, the tours will start from Churchill Downs.)

The Derby Museum is just one of a multitude of great travel opportunities in Kentucky, from state parks to the Louisville Slugger Museum. Check out any number of fun things from our list below.

And don’t forget to make plans for the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games (Sept. 25-Oct. 10) at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington.

Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historic Park
2995 Lincoln Farm Road
Hodgenville, KY 42748
(270) 358-3137
Hours: 8 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. Labor Day through Memorial Day; 8 a.m. to 6:45 p.m. Memorial Day through Labor Day
Drive time:
2 hours, 30 minutes
Visitors can check out the first memorial to honor our 16th president. The park focuses on Lincoln’s humble beginnings with sites honoring his birthplace and boyhood home, which are approximately 10 miles apart. The Memorial Building is currently closed for renovation.

American Saddlebred
4083 Iron Works Parkway
Lexington, KY 40511
(859) 259–2746

9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily Memorial Day through Labor Day; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. September through May
Admission: $15 (age 13 and older), $14 seniors, $8 children 7–12, children 6 and under free
Drive time:
1 hour, 20 minutes
The museum boasts the most extensive collection of Saddlebred artifacts in the world.

Beech Bend Park
798 Beech Bend Road
Bowling Green, KY 42101
(270) 781-7634
10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday in June and July, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday, Splash Lagoon hours vary
$29.99 adults 54 inches and up, $25.99 children under 54 inches, $25.99 seniors, children 2 and under free
Drive time:
3 hours, 25 minutes
This privately-owned amusement park is off the beaten path and kind of a best-kept secret. It includes all rides and a water park for one reasonable price (not to mention free parking, sun screen and soft drinks).

Big Bone Lick State Park
3380 Beaver Road
Union, KY 41091
(859) 384-3522
Grounds open year round from daylight until dark
Drive time:
35 minutes
This National Natural Landmark has played a significant role in geology and paleontology with its salt springs and prehistoric bone beds. The campground is also open year round but with no water at the sites from Nov. 1 to March 31.

Buffalo Trace Distillery
113 Great Buffalo Trace
Frankfort, KY 40601
(502) 696-5926
9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. Tours start on the hour.
Drive time:
1 hour, 40 minutes
Learn all about the process of creating Kentucky straight Bourbon whiskey.

Churchill Downs/Kentucky Derby Museum
704 Central Ave.
Louisville, KY 40208
(502) 637-1111
Hours: Tours are conducted on the hour, weather permitting. Mondays through Saturdays 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.,11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays. The museum is closed Derby weekend, the first Friday and Saturday in May, and select other major race days.
Admission: $12 adults, $11 seniors, $8 children 13–18, $5 children 5-12, children under 5 free
Drive time: 1 hour, 45 minutes
Churchill Downs, of course, is home to “the greatest two minutes in sports” — the annual Kentucky Derby.

Claiborne Farm
703 Winchester Road
Paris, KY 40631
(859) 987-2330
By reservation
Free, gratuity accepted
Drive time:
1 hour, 40 minutes
Claiborne Farm, which has been in the Hancock family since its founding in the 1800s, is best known as the home of Secretariat, winner of the Triple Crown in 1973. The thoroughbred farm is a favorite of sheiks and other foreign visitors, including Queen Elizabeth II (who’s been here twice).

International BlueGrass Music Museum
117 Daviess St.
Owensboro, KY 42303
(270) 926-7891
Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (CST) Tuesday through Saturday, 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. (CST) Sunday
Admission: $5 adults, $2 students, children under 6 free
Drive time: 3 hours, 40 minutes
The museum honors the bluegrass tradition forged by Bill Monroe and is the only museum in the world dedicated to the history and preservation of bluegrass music.

Jim Beam’s American Outpost
526 Happy Hollow Road
Clermont, KY 40110
(502) 543-9877
Hours: Mondays through Saturdays 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Sundays 1 to 4 p.m. (no tastings on Sundays).
Admission: Free
Drive time: 2 hours
The Visitors Center offers an abbreviated look at the Bourbon-making process through exhibits that trace the 200-year history of the distilling family. All tours are self-guided. Free tastings are offered in a stately mansion once occupied by Jim Beam’s son.

Keeneland Race Course
4201 Versailles Road
Lexington, KY 40510
(859) 254-3412
Hours: Gates open in racing months Wednesdays through Saturdays at 11 a.m., with post time at 1:15 p.m.
Admission: $5, children 12 and under free
Drive time: 1 hour, 30 minutes
Keeneland is a combination thoroughbred race course and sales location. Opened in 1936, the course is a National Historic Landmark. Races are held this year from April 2-23 and Oct. 8-30, while sales are held five times a year: Horses of all ages in January, 2-year-olds in April, yearlings in July and September, and breeding stock in November.

Kentucky Horse Park
4089 Iron Works Parkway
Lexington, KY 40511
(859) 233-4303
Hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. March through October.
Admission: $16, $8 children 7-12,  ages 6 and under free.
Drive time: 1 hour, 20 minutes
This 1,200-acre working horse farm is surrounded by 30 miles of white plank fencing and features nearly 50 different breeds. Held on the eve of the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games (the world’s largest equestrian event), the park’s annual BreyerFest is a family-friendly model horse collectors festival and fair featuring auctions, crafts and equine entertainment.

Kentucky Thoroughbred Center
3380 Paris Pike
Lexington, KY 40511
(859) 293-1853
Hours: Tours are offered at 9 a.m. Monday through Saturday.
Admission: $10, $5 ages 12 and younger.
Drive time: 1 hour, 25 minutes
This thoroughbred training facility features guided tours of the 1,000-plus stalls, paddocks and grass gallops. The behind-the-scenes tour is billed as “A Day in the Life of a Thoroughbred in Training.”

Lake Cumberland State Resort Park
5465 State Park Road
Jamestown, KY 42629
(270) 343-3111
Hours: Camping at state park available March 14 to Nov. 29
Admission: Free
Drive time: 3 hours, 50 minutes
Located in Clinton, Laurel, McCreary, Pulaski, Russell and Wayne counties in Kentucky, Lake Cumberland is the largest lake by volume in the U.S. east of the Mississippi River. The area boasts three state parks, a national forest and Civil War historic sties, as well as plenty of recreational and resort locations. It is largely considered the country’s number-one houseboat destination.

Louisville Science Center
272 W. Main St.
Louisville, KY 40202
(502) 561-6100
Hours: Sunday through Thursday 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Friday and Saturday 9:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Admission: $18, $14 ages 2-12; prices include admission to special exhibitions as well as permanent exhibits.
Drive time: 1 hour, 40 minutes
The Science Center features hands-on, interactive science exhibits for all ages. The exhibits range from life and health to earth sciences, and the museum also frequently is home to temporary exhibitions.

Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory
800 W. Main St.
Louisville, KY 40202
(877) 775-8443
Hours: Monday through Saturday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday noon to 5 p.m.
Admission: $10, $9 seniors, $5 children 6-12. No bat production on Sundays.
Drive time: 1 hour, 40 minutes
The museum pays homage to the Louisville Slugger bat, the official bat of Major League Baseball. A pitching cannon lets you experience what it’s like to catch a
90 mph fastball, and you can view the sticks swung by the greats of the game: Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Hank Aaron and others.

Maker’s Mark
3350 Burks Spring Road
Loretto, KY 40037
(270) 865-2099
Hours: Tours conducted Mondays through Saturdays on the half hour, from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Sunday tours conducted at 1:30, 2:30 and 3:30 p.m. (No liquor sales on Sunday.)
Admission: Free
Drive time: 2 hours, 50 minutes
The distillery is located on scenic 850-acre grounds framed by magnolias and sugar maples. In the gift gallery, you can buy a small bottle (if you’re 21 or older) and plunk it in the “dipping booth,” creating a customized red wax sealed bottle that you can sign and date.

Mammoth Cave
National Park
1 Mammoth Cave Parkway
Mammoth Cave, KY 42259
(270) 758-2180
Hours: Spring visitor’s center open 8 a.m. to 6:15 p.m. (CST) daily, tour times vary
Admission: Free. Fees vary for cave tours, camping and selected picnic shelter reservations.
Drive time: 3 hours, 15 minutes
There are a variety of cave tours in what is known to be the longest cave system in the world (more than 367 miles).

Muhammed Ali Center
1 Muhammed Ali Plaza
144 N. Sixth St.
Louisville, KY 40202
(502) 584-9254
Hours: Tuesday through Saturday 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Admission: $9, $8 seniors, $5 students and military, $4 children 6-12, children under 5 free
Drive time: 1 hour, 40 minutes
The Ali Center serves to continue on Muhammad Ali’s legacy and work with educational programming, a unique visitor experience and global initiatives.

National Corvette Museum
350 Corvette Drive
Bowling Green, KY 42101
(270) 781-7973
Hours: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily (CST)
Admission: $10, $5 children 6 to 16
Drive time: 3 hours, 20 minutes
The only museum celebrating America’s sports car. The displays continuously change as Corvette owners lend their vehicles for exhibition.

The National Quilt Museum
215 Jefferson St.
Paducah, KY 42001
(270) 442-8856
Hours: Year-round Monday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (CST), Sundays between April 1 and Oct. 31 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Admission: $8, $6 seniors and students, children under 12 free
Drive time: 5 hours
Home to three colorful galleries that display more than 150 quilts at a time, the museum is open year-round with exhibits changing regularly.

Natural Bridge State Resort Park
2135 Natural Bridge Road
Slade, KY 40376
(606) 663-2214
Hours: Year-round, camping sites closed mid-November through mid-March
Admission: Free.
Drive time: 2 hours, 15 minutes
It took millions of years for the natural sandstone arch to form for which the park was named. Visitors can now enjoy the natural splendor tucked away in a cottage or lodge with magnificent mountain views.

Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill
3501 Lexington Road
Harrodsburg, KY 40330
(859) 734-5411
Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.
Admission: $15 ages 13 and above, $5 children 6-12
Drive time: 2 hours
Discover America’s largest restored Shaker community, a 3,000-acre National Historic Landmark that once housed members of the religious society.

Three Chimneys Farm
1981 Old Frankfort Pike
Versailles, KY 40383
(859) 873-7053
Hours: Tours are offered Tuesday through Saturday at 1 p.m. and include the stallion complex, breeding shed and mare receiving barn.
Admission: $10
Drive time: 1 hour, 35 minutes
Famous residents include the late Seattle Slew, Smarty Jones and the 2001 “Horse of the Year,” Point Given.

Woodford Reserve
7855 McCracken Pike
Versailles, KY 40383
(859) 879-1812
Hours: Tuesdays through Saturdays 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sundays 12:30 to 5 p.m. Tours conducted Tuesdays through Saturdays at 10 a.m., 11 a.m., 1 p.m., 2 p.m. and 3 p.m.
Admission: $5 (includes a tasting and souvenir shot glass)
No Sunday liquor sales.
Drive time: 1 hour, 45 minutes
Brown-Forman (owners of Jack Daniel’s in Tennessee) re-opened this 19th-century distillery a decade ago; the $14-million complex is a National Historic Landmark. The 78-acre site includes all aspects of Bourbon production.

Wild Turkey Distillery
1525 Tyrone Road
Lawrenceburg, KY 40342
(502) 839-2182
Hours: Mondays through Saturdays for tours at 9 a.m., 10:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m.
Admission: Free. Wild Turkey sold by the bottle, but no tastings
Drive time: 2 hours
Begin with the Visitors Center, located in a former worker’s house, then take one of the four one-hour distillery tours. In the summer months, the tour might not include the fermentation room (Wild Turkey shuts down production in the hottest months of the year).