A man in Kentucky/ Sure is lucky/ If he’s seen the Bowling Green light/ Kentucky sunshine makes the heart unfold /It warms the body/ And I know it touches the soul.-Everly Brothers, “Bowling Green”
Rolling into Bowling Green in the late afternoon after a full day of driving, I can understand why the Everly Brothers said the Kentucky sunshine warms the body and touches the soul. The drive into southern Kentucky from western Tennessee was green and lush and reminded me a lot of home.
A Little About Bowling Green
We set up our campsite at the Bowling Green KOA just off the highway on Three Springs Road. KOA campgrounds generally boast all the amenities and this one definitely checks those boxes. It is the perfect base of operations to explore all the cool places in Bowling Green and the surrounding area. Mammoth Cave National Park is an easy 30 minute drive from the campground, so I dropped our camper and settled in for the next four days.
Bowling Green was founded by pioneers in 1798 and among other interesting historical events, was named the provisional capital of the Confederate Army during the Civil War. Bowling Green is also the exclusive home of Corvette production and has been since 1981. Bowling Green is every man’s vacation spot- whether you love nature, caves, civil war history or really cool cars- there is something here for you to enjoy.
Add to Bucket List: The National Corvette Museum
I didn’t get to explore the National Corvette Museum or hit up the NCM Motorsports Park, but they definitely make my bucket list for a return trip. I’m particularly interested in seeing the sinkhole exhibit in the National Corvette Museum that tells the story of the day a giant sinkhole opened up in the Skydome of the museum swallowing 8 rare Corvettes. If driving Corvettes is more your…ahem…speed, check out NCM Motorsports Park, where a professional driver will take you for a spin in one of the track’s Z06 Corvettes. There are also open track events, where you can take your own car for a few laps around the track- maybe one of these days we will bring the Shelby back this way and take her for a spin!
Things To Do in Bowling Green
Right next to our campground was a great park for sunset walks, the Aviation Heritage Park! The park is the brainchild of Brigadier General Dan Cherry and a group of friends who sought to honor military aviators from South-Central Kentucky with representative aircraft in the park. There are currently six fully restored, static aircraft displays in the park and the organization is working on the restoration of a Navy Sea King Helicopter for its seventh display. The sheer size of these aircraft as you wander about them on the trails inspires a great deal of awe.
If you are looking for awe inspiring views of the natural variety, Bowling Springs offers that as well. Nestled inside the urban landscape of Bowling Green is Lost River Cave which is touted as the only underground boat tour in Kentucky. Ripley’s Believe It or Not claims that Lost River is the shortest and deepest river in the world. The boat tour offers a great escape from the heat, but bring a jacket, because it stays a chilly 57 degrees year round in the cave- but it is a really cool way to explore the cave close up without having to do a lot of hiking. A beautiful butterfly habitat and short, easy hiking trails in the Lost River park area make Lost River a perfect destination for families or those who want to stick to a less strenuous caving adventure.
Mammoth Cave National Park
Just a short 30 minute drive down the road is the whole reason for this trip, Mammoth Cave National Park. Mammoth Cave is the longest cave system in the world and one of the oldest tourist attractions in the United States- and explorers haven’t even found the end of the Cave system yet!
There are several cave tours usually offered throughout the tourist season, but due to the current COVID pandemic, the only tour available is the self-guided extended historic tour. This is tour is considered moderately difficult, takes about 90 minutes to complete and covers a little over 2 miles. It is one of the shorter tours and you will get to see most of the sites of interest. This tour does include a good bit of stairs- about 160 in total. Pets are not allowed unless they are service animals and children must be accompanied by an adult.
If you are planning on taking a cave tour, make sure you make a reservation in advance. Space is limited and tours do sell out. You can reserve your spot on Mammoth Cave’s website.
There is plenty of hiking to be had in Mammoth Cave National Park. The first trail we took was the Mammoth Cave Railroad Trail. If you’re a flower chaser, this is the trail for you! This is a smooth gravel trail surrounded by a host of flora and fauna. The trail itself is just over a half mile and is perfect for bikers and a really great warm up before hitting the trails deeper in the park. The trailhead is right off the entrance to the park, next to the welcome sign.
The next trails we hit were the River Styx Spring Trail and Green River Bluffs. One of the first things I noticed is just how well maintained this park is by the rangers overseeing it. The River Styx Spring trail led us down a descending hill to the base of where the Green River runs. There are some beautiful views of the river from overlooks along the way. These two trails together create about a 2.5 mile trek out and back so make sure you bring a lot of water. The trails themselves are fairly well shaded, but, man, the Kentucky sun can sure get to you after a while.
I appreciated that nearly everyone we came across at Mammoth Cave had a mask and pulled it up as we passed each other if we were in tight quarters. Overall, I found Bowling Green in general to be very COVID conscious.
Good Eats in Bowling Green
As far as good eats, there was no shortage of deliciousness to be had. One of the first meals I had upon arrival in Bowling Green was at Double Dogs Chow House. This was the perfect place to wind down after a long haul on the road. Double Dogs takes care of not just their two legged customers, but their four legged ones as well and they made sure we both had enough to eat, were well hydrated and even hooked Luna up with a free dog bandana for her collection. I highly recommend their signature wings and onion rings. They even have a Double Dogs Diddly Lager that donates a portion of the sales towards local animal rescues and shelters.
If it’s your sweet tooth you are trying to soothe, you have to make a trip to Chaney’s Dairy Barn. Chaney’s is actually a working dairy farm and all their ice creams are handmade on site from milk and cream provided by their Jersey cows. Well behaved pets are welcome on the patio and it’s a great place to get a treat and chill out for a bit. They even have dairy free options if you are lactose intolerant like me! That said, I am told that the Kentucky Bourbon Crunch ice cream should not be missed.
Overall, Bowling Springs was a great mid-sized town with a lot to do and a little something for everyone. I will definitely be making a trip back in the future.