Our trip to Kentucky was epic! We actually planned Kentucky around the derby…and the derby did not disappoint. Little did we know how much fun we would have in the rest of the state. We paddled the Ohio, slowly traversed downstairs in Mammoth cave and had our own adventures in Jellystone.
Our first stop in Kentucky was Whitley City. The first day in the state, we went to church and met some really nice people. After hearing about our trip, there were multiple recommendations we should go see Cumberland Falls or the Little Niagra as it is called. We wanted to get on the road but with all of the suggestions, we knew we didn’t want to miss it.
There is good reason Cumberland Falls is nicknamed “The little Niagra.” The descriptions given to us made my mind imagine massive falls slightly smaller than the original Niagra. We were excited to see what Cumberland Falls had in store for us.
On our way to see the falls, we saw a kids mining for treasures and Blakely and Saylor couldn’t stay away from the water. Tessa wasn’t with us because she had fallen asleep on the drive. So the two girls that were with me jumped up on the platform and grabbed their sifters.
We could have purchased mining dirt at the mine but I figured they would have enough fun just playing in the water. Fortunately for Blakely, there was a girl her age with her family mining next to her. They offered some dirt to Blakely. Blakely’s mouth grinned from ear to ear! She was so excited and really appreciative of that little girls’ kindness.
A purple stone, a pink stone, and a few other gems were found in her prospecting.
With treasures in hand, it was now time to go see the falls. The falls were beautiful! Seeing the calm river before the drop is quite deceiving. I looked over the edge, the power and force of the water was breath-taking as it smashed into the river below. Cumberland Falls seemed to be about 1/4 of the size of the actual Niagra but shaped just like it.
Apparently, you can see moonbows here at Cumberland Falls. Moonbows are a rare occurrence in the world. There are only five locations in the world where they are seen. This happens when the full moon is at a certain height and the combination of full moon and water create a rainbow at night.
A full moon was happening the night we passed through but we were pretty tired of traveling and wanted to have one place to stay for a couple of nights so we continued down the road. Seeing a moonbow is now on my bucket list.
Anyone up for a pic-a-nic? Our family had so much fun staying at Jellystone-Mammoth Cave! In all seriousness, this was our first visit ever to any Jellystone.
Jellystone-Mammoth Cave really has it all. You can bring your RV, tent or rent out a cabin. For activities, they have everything from two pools, a jump pad, character showings, an activity center to miniature golf. Nothing is boring here!
Celebrating Tessa’s birthday was even more fun at Jellystone. Yogi Bear paid us a visit and brought Tessa a s’mores kit, a shirt to color and a little Cindy Bear stuffed animal. Tessa was as high as the sky! How fun to have Yogi come to visit on her birthday!
Tessa’s birthday is a whole other story in itself so jump on over here to read about her birthday at Jellystone!
Mammoth Cave National Park is fantastic. When I first heard of it, I thought it would be a lot like Yellowstone or Zion National Park where we could go in and tour ourselves. Due to the complexity of caves and cave systems, the park service has set up tours. Nobody can go down to the caves without scheduling a tour. Deciding which tour we wanted to do that would be pleasant for our five, four, and one year old was a difficult decision. We finally decided that Domes and Dripstones would be great for the girls and allow us to see the caves.
This tour was picked because there weren’t as many stairs for the littles. I will never forget the first part of the tour. We started our descent down the shafts and the stairs were getting narrower and narrower. Saylor was holding my hand, walking beside me until there was a point we had to walk down single file. The stairs were steep enough I did not want to bend over and hold her hand from above. Turning around and me going backward, holding Saylor’s hand was my best option.
I actually got a little nervous and started to get butterflies in my stomach the farther we went down. I didn’t think I was claustrophobic. Was I nervous for me or for the kids? Blakely and Tessa were champs and had no issues going down the stairs. We just kept going down and down.
A ranger led us down the cave and another ranger followed behind. The stops where the group could gather and listen to the ranger talk about the cave system and the history was fun to listen to. Our first stop he allowed us to experience total darkness and total silence.
Experiencing total darkness and total silence was really trippy. Going through the remainder of the cave was just as eye-opening. The narrow passageways in places where we had shimmy by or duck under made the tour more fun. The little girls had no problem as they were cave size!
When the tour started wrapping up, I was really happy to get out of the caves even though I didn’t have any issues. There is just something about being above ground in the known.
We couldn’t do a national park without at least trying to get our junior ranger badges! So we did, even while we ate some ice cream for Tessa’s birthday! Blakely enjoyed the workbooks more than Tessa but we all learned a lot about caves!
I want to go back to Mammoth Cave and do the whole system or at least the Grand Avenue tour!
We originally came to Louisville specifically for the Kentucky Derby! We not only found the derby but a lot more. Paddle-boarding down the Ohio River, touring the Louisville Slugger factory, eating some Kentucky KFC, and trying on more derby hats at the visitors center was all a lot of fun.
Endless Summer Paddle showed us a great time while we were in town. They had boards, life-jackets and a place to paddle. All we had to do was show up, which is really nice when we usually have to round all our gear up, find a place to paddle and then get everything to that place.
A short paddle along the Ohio River was perfect for the girls. We saw all four bridges that cross from Kentucky to Indiana, saw barges being pushed up the river and even heard a steamboat!
Mimi was an amazing guide and I got curious as to what other trips they provide with their company. She organizes groups to go on a weekly paddle. You can bring your own board or rent one from Endless Summer. They do yoga, which I think would be really fun to try on a paddle-board. Then classes are offered anywhere from beginner, getting into the sport to developing a technique to do multi-day paddling and sport racing.
Going to the Derby was phenomenal! Half of the fun was getting ready to go. The best part about it? We were able to go as a family.
The derby was one of the only events we planned our trip around and I am really glad we did! In all reality, I am not sure why I wanted to go to the derby. I had never been to a horse race previously or watched the derby online. Watching the movie, My Fair Lady, was the only horse experience I had before 2018.
We took all of our girls. Blakely, five, Tessa, four, and Saylor, 22 months. We all loved the horse races and getting dressed up. Check out our full experience on our blog.
Kentucky has many things to do as a family. Be it stopping at Jellystone, exploring caves, paddling the waters of the Ohio, checking out the Louisville Slugger Museum or going to Church Hill Downs, your family can have a great time.
What has been your most memorable experience in Kentucky?