Family Travel: Exploring The Region

By Laurie Evans

One of the great things about Lexington is that we are just a one-sippy-cup-drive away from all sorts of interesting attractions.

We’ve got Cincinnati and Louisville only 75 miles away, plus dozens of state parks featuring fascinating caves to explore, beautiful lakes and rivers to splash in, and mountains and valleys to drive, bike or hike through.

Head east, west, north or south, and you’ll find a full day’s worth of fun for your family. Check out our guide to fun in the region with links to all of your favorite destinations plus information on hidden gems you may have overlooked.

Well-Known Attractions
• Cincinnati Zoo  /
• Cincinnati Museum Center (Three museums and IMAX theatre)  /  
• The Newport Aquarium  /

Hidden Gems
Krohn Conservatory in Eden Park – Step inside and you’ll think you’ve been transported to another world full of plants your kids have probably never seen. Go before July 15 and you can see the “On the Wings of Harmony” Butterfly Show, and walk through a room filled with thousands of live butterflies. Open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Admission $4 kids, $6 adults.  /

Jungle Jim’s International Market – How about taking a day trip to a grocery store? Called a “theme park of food,” this grocery store in Fairfield, Ohio features animatronic jungle creatures, a waterfall, a 1,000-gallon sea food tank, Candy Land and a rock band made up of General Mills cereal mascots.  /

Coney Island – This is a smaller, less expensive amusement park that includes a giant pool with four big slides and all of your favorite classic amusement park rides such as a Ferris wheel, bumper boats on Lake Como and Dodgem cars.  /


Well-Known Attractions
• Louisville Zoo /
• Louisville Science Center /
• Louisville Slugger Museum /

Hidden Gems
Louisville Mega Cavern – Did you ever wonder what’s under the Louisville Zoo? A 100-acre limestone cavern, that’s what! It’s a giant man-made cavern that you can tour in an SUV-pulled tram while you learn about the history of the limestone mine and its current use as a recycling facility. There is also an indoor zip line, and at Christmas you can tour “Lights Under Louisville” in your own car.  /

Waterfront Park – One of the best free options in Louisville is Waterfront Park, right on the Kentucky River. Features include an Adventure Playground, a replica of the Belle of Louisville and a waterpark complete with water cannons, fish sculptures and other toys. The waterpark is open May-September, 11 a.m.-8 p.m.

The Fun Farm – Just 15 minutes from Louisville in Southern Indiana, The Fun Farm offers seven paintball fields, outdoor laser tag and a 21-hole disc golf course, and a corn maze in the fall.  /


Well-Known Attractions
•    Carter Caves
•    Cumberland Falls

Hidden Gems
Jenny Wiley State Resort – Did you know that you can see high quality live theater in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky? The Jenny Wiley State Resort has a beautiful outdoor theatre that plays host to half a dozen plays each year, many of them family friendly. This summer’s selections include “The Marvelous Wonderettes,” “Grease” and “Honk!” plus “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” and “A Christmas Carol” this fall and winter.  /

Kentucky Splash Water Park – Just down I-75 in Williamsburg, Ky, this park includes an 18,000 square- foot wave pool, a drift river, a kiddy activity pool, a triple slide complex, a double slide tower, a go-kart track, a championship miniature golf course, an arcade, a batting cage and a driving range. And the best part? Admission is just $10! You can take the whole family for the cost of a single ticket to the larger water parks. /


Well-Known Attractions
• Mammoth Caves /
• Dinosaur World / worldcave_city_kentucky/
• Kentucky Down Under /

Hidden Gems
Lost River Cave – This park in the middle of Bowling Green is a cool oasis during hot summer travel. The park features 3 miles of hiking tours with stops at several scenic “blue holes,” a boat tour through the Lost River Cave, mining for gems in the Lost River Mining sluice, and a butterfly habitat. Entrance to the park is free, boat tours are $11-16.  /

Wigwam Village #2 – Imagine going to sleep at night in a real teepee! Each room in this unique motel built in 1937 in Cave City sleeps 2-4 people and rents for $55-$70 per night. Each room features the original furnishing, private bathrooms but no TVs or phones. /

Diamond Caverns – This guided tour includes information on the history of cave tours in Kentucky and teaches kids the importance of preserving our natural wonders and the critters that live in them. /