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Exploring Kentucky | The Best of the West

Western Kentucky tour showcases the region’s top attractions

By Katherine Tandy Brown

Beech Bend Amusement Park in Bowling Green features 40 rides and a water park.

Springtime has finally burst forth  and it’s the perfect time to get yourself outdoors and revel in Mother Nature’s annual show. So pack up the family and go west…to western Kentucky, that is.

The western Kentucky cities of Bowling Green, Owensboro and Paducah have teamed up for tourism, and are ready to show off their finest attractions, eateries, events and overnight lodgings. Meeting planners, this includes you, for corporate retreat sites abound in the West.

Bowling Green

The state’s third largest city, Bowling Green is a planner’s delight. It’s hard to beat a convention center with golf adjacent, an underground reception in a cave, and friendly “behind the wheel in a speedy car” competition at the National Corvette Museum.

“One popular team-building option at the museum’s Motorsports Park features two team members in a golf cart,” says Beth Noffsinger, communications director for the Bowling Green Area Convention & Visitors Bureau. “The driver is blindfolded and his passenger has to talk him through a cones course.”

Lost River Cave is so dark you’ll think you’re blindfolded as you learn regional history and geology on the state’s only underground boat ride. Afterwards, strap on a helmet for a thrilling zip line adventure. At the 1925 L&N Depot and Historic Train Park, teams can maneuver out of an escape room in a caboose.

Opening in May, Olde Stone Country Club can host corporate retreats in a luxurious lodge with five-star dining, an outdoor pool and golf on a course designed by the legendary Arthur Hill and top rated by Golf Digest.

Corporate teams and families alike can hop on some 40 rides at Beech Bend Amusement Park & Splash Lagoon. Come August, the famous Beech Bend Dragstrip at Beech Bend Raceway Park will once again host the Tri-Five Nationals, which draws folks from across the nation to celebrate classic 1955-1957 Chevys in a car show and drag racing.

Be sure to take in Western Kentucky University’s Kentucky Museum exhibit on Bowling Green’s native son and favorite foodie, Duncan Hines.

When your tummy starts rumbling, head to 440 Main/Micki’s on Main Bar & Grill, with an upscale and a casual restaurant on downtown’s Fountain Square. Live music thrives on weekends at its outdoor patio.

At day’s end, put your tired feet up overnight at the Candle Loft, overlooking Fountain Square Park. This downtown bed-and-breakfast has a full suite with kitchen and complimentary breakfast at any of four nearby restaurants.


Known for bluegrass, bourbon and barbecue, Owensboro is morphing into an extraordinary destination.

The internationally renowned Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame and Museum celebrates the legacy of Bill Monroe, the Father of Bluegrass Music, and other Hall of Fame pickers. The annual ROMP Festival, June 26-29, highlights bluegrass musicians from around the world. This year’s headliners include Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder, Patti Loveless, and the Del McCoury Band.

The O.Z. Tyler Distillery, a recent addition to the official Kentucky Bourbon Trail, is located on a site that’s housed distilleries for 130 years. Its novel TerrePure process ages bourbon to four-year-old status in a year and a day. Really.

Known as the BBQ Capital of the World, Owensboro is one of the few places you’ll find mutton, which has to be slow-smoked to become tender. Since 1979, the city has hosted its International Bar-B-Q Festival the second week in May.

Three fabulous Owensboro eateries lure barbeque lovers from far and wide. The fourth-generation, family-owned Moonlite Bar-B-Q Inn goes through 10,000 pounds of mutton a week. Their dinner buffet is spectacular. Six generations have been smoking meat at Old Hickory Bar-B-Que, where you can take home award-winning sauce. And Ole South Bar-B-Q, known for its ribs, serves breakfast and dinner buffets.

The brand new Diamond Lake Resort has lakes, go-karts and a putt-putt course. Families and corporate groups can overnight in a hotel room, cabin and/or a tiny house.


Paducah has become a national model for its artist relocation program. You can ogle art all over the city and visit artists’ studios in its oldest residential neighborhood. This artsy town is home to the inspirational National Quilt Museum, where teambuilding groups can make their own quilt squares.

Voted the top attraction in Kentucky on TripAdvisor, the Wall-to-Wall Project tells Paducah’s history in 50 large murals on its working floodwall, which was built after the disastrous 1937 flood. At the River Discovery Center, learn about Kentucky’s strong river heritage; navigation, industry and environmental concerns; and the river as a local economic driver.

Try captaining at the center’s state-of-the-art boat simulator. Groups can meet in its upstairs Founders Room that overlooks the river.

Freight House chef Sara Bradley was recently named the runner-up on Top Chef, a reality competition television series that airs on Bravo. The menu of the farm-to-table restaurant changes with the seasons and walls sport local and national art. At the historic 1939 Coca-Cola plant – now known as the Coke Plant – you’ll find Mellow Mushroom Pizza, Pipers Tea & Coffee, and Dry Ground Brewing Co., so named because the Coke plant was built on dry ground guaranteed never to get flooded after the devastating 1937 event.

Fruit-of-the-vine connoisseurs will want to visit Kentucky’s largest and most-awarded winery, Purple Toad, the producer of 36 varieties.

Tuck in overnight at the 10-room, boutique 1857 Hotel on Market House Square downtown, just a relaxing stroll away from performing arts venues, restaurants and attractions.

Go West!

Bowling Green Area
Convention & Visitors Bureau
visitbgky.org   1-800-326-7465

Owensboro Daviess County
Convention & Visitors Bureau
visitowensboro.com   1-800-489-1131

Paducah Convention & Visitors Bureau paducah.travel
1-800-PADUCAH (723-8224)

Katherine Tandy Brown is a correspondent for The Lane Report. She can be reached at [email protected]


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  • Everyday Owensboro touches the world! says Mark Calitri. During last week’s Kentucky Travel Industry Associaiton spring conference Pure Michigan VP (#1 most recognized marketing campaign in United States) says Owensboro’s Brand USA video is his favorite. It tells a story that resonates with the viewer!
    “Pure Michigan is the model,” says Calitri. The Brand USA video featuring Owensboro creates a connection with viewers. As of May 2019, the video has over 4,000,000 views. That means that 4,000, 000 people have seen the Owensboro story and our message. With additional marketing resources the video has the potential to reach several more million this year alone.
    Visit Owensboro is continuing to build a destination that is attractive to visitors.