Geared for Fun!
Story by Lyda Kay Ferree, The Southern Lifestyles Lady. Photography courtesy of the Bowling Green Area Convention & Visitors Bureau.
As the third most populous town in Kentucky (after Louisville and Lexington), Bowling Green has roots dating back to its incorporation in 1798. Although Kentucky was considered neutral at the start of the Civil War, Confederate loyalists declared the city to be the state capital in 1861. That distinction didn’t last long as Bowling Green was taken over by the Union army in 1862.
Visitors may tour locales related to Bowling Green’s role in the War Between the States on the Civil War Discovery Trail. This itinerary includes caves where soldiers purportedly hid out, historical markers and homes, and Riverview at Hobson Grove Historic House Museum, a home with a foundation that originally was used as a fort.
Marissa Butler, the marketing director of the Bowling Green Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, a Tennessee friend and I raced around this attractive, vibrant city (Race is a good word considering much of the terminology used to describe area attractions has names associated with cars). We toured almost non-stop for two days in Bowling Green (pop: 60,000) and still had much more to see and do. A visit to Bowling Green can easily keep a visitor busy for several days. Marissa is so energetic and enthusiastic about her city. Her enthusiasm is contagious! This was my first trip to Bowling Green. In the past, I had driven by this city en route to Lexington or Louisville.
I stayed at a clean, comfortable, centrally located Hampton Inn in Bowling Green. According to Michael Nunn, General Manager of the Hampton Inn, the hotel stays busy with Corvette Museum and other visitors. The address of the Hampton Inn is 233 Three Springs Road. Phone: 270.842.4100. Website: bowlinggreenky.hamptoninn.com
Our first stop was lunch at Gerard’s 1907 Tavern in downtown Bowling Green. Located at 935 College Street in the historic Gerard Building adjacent to Fountain Square Park, this American gourmet restaurant has a casual yet refined space and it offers a simple but flavorful food experience. I ordered a GT Burger with the popular Kentucky Henry Bain sauce on it plus yummy sweet potato fries. Other choices on the lunch menu included a Philly steak sandwich, a flounder po’boy, fish and chips, and Wiener schnitzel plus soups and salads.
After lunch, our trio walked around Fountain Square Park, which recently had a facelift, and visited several of the shops around the square including downtown studios and galleries with locally crafted gifts and mixed media. Among the shops were Barbara Stewart Interiors with jewelry, gift items, fine home accessories and furnishings, artwork, invitations and gourmet food items and Candle Makers on the Square. The continued downtown facelift revitalization includes the addition of condominiums plus more shops and restaurants.
Next came what Bowling Green CVB calls a “windshield tour” (more automotive lingo) of the city. Among other topics we discussed the large Bosnian population in Bowling Green. We drove to the campus of Western Kentucky University (WKU), which is a lovely, attractively landscaped campus with over 20,000 students.
On the WKU campus is the fascinating Kentucky Museum, where visitors could spend hours viewing the exhibits including the Instruments of American Excellence Exhibit, Life During the Civil War Exhibit, A Tribute to Bowling Green’s Duncan Hines, a world-renowned Quilt Gallery, fine art from the 1400s, decorative arts from the 17th-20th century and rotating and traveling exhibits.
One of the most interesting exhibits was the Duncan Hines exhibit. Duncan Hines was a Bowling Green native who became a one-man Trip Advisor. In this exhibit visitors learn how he rose to prominence and about the food products that bear his name. (www.wku.edu/kentuckymuseum). Note: Duncan Hines is celebrated on an 82-mile loop beginning at Hines’ former home and office.
Next we made a quick stop at the Corsair Distillery located at 400 Main Ave. #110. This distillery, a stop on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour®, offers tours of the micro distillery plus tastings of the diverse full Corsair spirits line-up every Tuesday-Saturday until 4pm. (www.corsairdistillery.com)
It was a beautiful, sunny day, so my little group walked from the distillery to the nearby Kentucky Grand Hotel & Spa at the epicenter of downtown Bowling Green. The hotel features eight uniquely decorated hotel suites ranging in size from 900 to 1600 square feet. There are large living rooms in every suite with extraordinary views overlooking Circus Square Park. I toured one of two penthouse suites, the largest in the state of Kentucky.
Downstairs, on opposite sides of the lobby’s rich marble floor, is The Kentucky Grand Spa and The Derby Piano & Dessert Bar. I ordered a French 75 cocktail, and it was perfect! Appetizers are on the menu as well, but since a friend and I were about to have dinner I chose to savor my light elegant beverage. Be sure to see the huge lobby chandelier that once graced Grand Central Station in New York City. (kentuckygrand.com)
A short while later a friend and I had dinner at Montana Grille at 1740 Scottsville Road. What a busy restaurant it was on a Friday night on a WKU football weekend! The large restaurant was packed and the smells were divine! Really good food is served in a beautifully structured log building with a warm, open atmosphere. Entrees include Kentucky Bourbon Tenderloin Filet, Lost River Pan Fried Trout, Fire Roasted Rotisserie Chicken and more. I ordered a bacon-wrapped petite fillet, which was served with grilled asparagus, and my dinner partner ordered prime rib and pronounced it delicious. Montana Grille is open for dinner daily at 4 pm and it is open Sunday for lunch and dinner. Note: Bowling Green boasts about 450 restaurants! (www.montanagrille.com)
After a non-stop tour of Bowling Green on Friday, it was a challenge to rise very early on a beautiful, sunny Saturday morning to drive to Boyce Country Kitchen & Market/General Store about 20 minutes from the Hampton Inn or 10 miles outside the city. We had two sets of directions, so it was a bit of a challenge at first to find this former country grocery store turned eatery, but it was worth it. You’ll pass tobacco farms and fields of bluegrass along the way. This general store dates back to 1869.
What a great way to start the day! The smell of sausage biscuits was in the air and a variety of sweets was offered by The Pie Queen, who is known far and wide in Bowling Green for her homemade pies sold at IGA Grocery Store, among other local places. “Southern Living” magazine has featured Boyce’s as one of the best of its kind in the nation! Open Tuesday-Saturday at 6 am, closing hours vary. (Address: 10551 Woodburn Allen Springs Rd./Alvaton, KY 42122; www.burgerandpies.com)
Sipping coffee along the way, a friend and I drove to Riverview at Hobson Grove located at 1100 West Main Avenue. Our tour of this historic Italianate house was well worth it and one of my favorite attractions in Bowling Green. Riverview is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is an official site of the Civil War Discovery Trail. Guests at Riverview see painted ceilings and intricately decorated furniture illustrative of the Victorian need to decorate every space. Eileen F. Starr, the former director of Riverview, gave an excellent tour. She explained that Confederate and Union troops housed ammunition and did target practicing in the basement during the Civil War. Typical of many divided Kentucky families of the era, patriarch Atwood Hobson favored the Union while his wife’s family supported the Confederacy. Take time to tour the grounds with well-tended flower gardens of this historic home and events venue. (www.bgky.org/riverview)
My friend and I zipped quickly from downtown to the National Corvette Museum, a must-see attraction. This huge showroom pays tribute to the true American sports car, the Corvette, or ‘Vette for short. The museum has more than 80 cars on display, and you can learn about each one and see rare collections and memorabilia. The tour is self-guided and there is a gift shop. The museum also features an unusual exhibit dedicated to the Corvette Cave-In, a surprising phenomenon that occurred in 2014, when a giant sinkhole opened up under the museum, and eight of its prized ‘Vettes fell in. Luckily, no one was there when it happened. The museum filled most of the hole and replaced flooring, but the staff decided to turn the cave-in into a learning experience for visitors. Take time to watch the short video upon arrival, then tour the interactive exhibits, visit the Corvette Store, and enjoy the Corvette Café for a 50s style dining experience whose menu includes burgers, shakes, malts and Coke floats!
Every Corvette on the road today is made at the General Motors Corvette Assembly Plant across the street from the museum. Tours were suspended in June due to construction, but they are scheduled to begin again in January 2019.
The morning tours whetted our appetite for lunch at Lost River Pizza Co. located at 2440 Nashville Road, suites 106 and 107. We enjoyed our homemade award-winning pizza at this independent, upscale pizza restaurant, which has a huge selection of pizzas and a craft beer bar. Televisions are mounted at every angle. (www.lostriver.pizza)
Afternoon activities were abundant. The Historic Railpark & Train Museum, Downing Museum at the Baker Arboretum and Chaney’s Dairy Barn beckon. The railroad museum, located at 401 Kentucky Street, offers interactive exhibits, personally guided train tours, passenger cars, continuous movies showing in the widescreen railroad theatre, and you may view one of the area’s largest model railroad layouts. Great gift shop! (www.historicrailpark.com).
The Baker Arboretum has an extensive collection of conifers, Asian maples, redbuds, and dogwoods along with numerous other beautiful plants nestled among lovely fountains and garden sculptures from around the world. Nestled among the manicured landscape sits The Downing Museum, showcasing works by internationally renowned artist and Horse Cave, Kentucky native, Joe Downing, as well as works by visiting artists. Admission is free. (www.wku.edu/bakerarboretum and www.wku.edu/downingmuseum).
A great mid-afternoon visit to Chaney’s Dairy Barn, which opened in 2003 at 9191 Nashville Road in Bowling Green, is fun for individuals and families. There are self-guided robotic milker farm tours and a barnyard playground. Treat yourself to homemade ice cream, lunch or dinner. Tip: Try their Moo Pie (chocolate chip cookie baked in an 8” skillet and topped with a scoop of ice cream or one of 32 ice cream flavors including Bourbon Crunch, sundaes and milkshakes! A gift shops sells Lodge cookware, Kentucky foods and more. (www.chaneysdairybarn.com)
Time to return to the hotel to watch a football game, then dinner at White Squirrel Brewery located at 871 Broadway Avenue. Bowling Green’s first craft brewery is also the perfect spot for delicious pub grub and live music. I had an unusual appetizer—a crisp pork belly with jalapeno garnish followed by a Hot Jam Burger with homemade strawberry jam, fresh jalapenos and a cream cheese and goat cheese mix served on an English muffin. (www.whitesquirrelgbrewery.com)
Mammoth Cave National Park is only about 25 miles from Bowling Green and there is a cave tour in town. Lost River Cave offers Kentucky’s only underground boat tour. I departed Bowling Green early Sunday morning knowing that I had just scratched the surface of all there is to see and do in this fun, interesting city. Bowling Green has a big-city flair with just the right touch of small town charm.
What to Know
Bowling Green Area Convention & Visitors Bureau
352 Three Springs Rd, Bowling Green, KY 42104
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Pick up a “0 to 60 Things to Do in Bowling Green” brochure at the CVB and inquire about the Free Visitors Guide and the Bowling Green App. For more information visit www.visitbgky.com/app
Calendar of Events
March 3: Shadowland by Pilobolus, Southern KY Performing Arts Center, 7:30pm
March 8-11: Public Theatre of KY Mainstage: Talking With, The Phoenix Theatre, Th-Sat 7:30pm, Sun. 3pm
March 10: No Limits! Monster Trucks Gone Wild, L.D. Brown Ag Expo Center, 2 shows 2pm & 7pm
March 10: Gene Watson, Southern KY Performing Arts Center, 7:30pm
March 26: Orchestra Kentucky Bolero!, Southern KY Performing Arts Center, 7:30pm
April 5-6: Bowling Green Hot Rods baseball opening weekend, vs Dayton Dragons, Bowling Green Ballpark, 6:35pm
April 7: The Steel Woods, The Warehouse at Mt. Victor, 7pm
April 12: Author Lois Lowry, Sloan Convention Center, 6-8pm
April 13-14: Challengerfest 9, Beech Bend Raceway
April 20-22: Holley EFI Outlaw Street Car Reunion V, Beech Bend Raceway
April 20-21: 20th Annual SOKY Book Fest, Knicely Conference Center
April 21: The Great Inflatable Race, Phil Moore Park, 9am-12pm
April 26-28: Michelin NCM Bash, National Corvette Museum
April 27: The Symphony at WKU, Van Meter Hall, 7:30pm
May 3-6: “Nunset Boulevard,” The Phoenix Theatre, Th-Sat 7:30pm, Sun. 3pm
May 17: Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella, Southern KY Performing Arts Center, 7:30pm
May 17-20: 17th Annual NMCA Bluegrass Nationals, Beech Bend Raceway
May 19: Orchestra Kentucky presents Bach and Bacharach, 7:30pm