By John Egan
Splurging on expensive long-distance vacations came to a screeching halt for many Kentucky residents several years ago, as fuel prices rose and news of economic turmoil garnered headlines. As a result, like others throughout the country, Kentuckians are increasingly sticking close to home when they need a break. Fortunately, with a whopping seven contiguous states, Kentucky is well situated to provide residents with a diverse array of nearby ‘foreign’ vacation options. In fact, an interesting mix of adventures awaits in all directions.
Tennessee: Honky tonk travels
While the Nashville of the 21st century is a bona fide world-class metropolitan destination (with a modern downtown, multiple professional sports teams and thriving businesses), the country music legacy that made the city famous remains its biggest draw for tourists. Visit the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, catch a show at the Grand Ole Opry, and tour legendary Ryman Auditorium, once known as the “Carnegie Hall of the South.”
West Virginia: Outdoor adventures abound
West Virginia’s New River Gorge boats a multitude of outdoor adventures just two hours from the eastern border of Kentucky. The New River Gorge bridge was once the largest arch bridge in the world. Although it no longer holds that honor, West Virginians still celebrate it as if it did. Breathtaking views can be captured from the top. The area also offers ample opportunities for hiking, whitewater rafting, kayaking, rock climbing and more.
Virginia: A cultural oasis
Blacksburg, Va.’s, location, nestled between the Blue Ridge and Allegheny mountains, makes it seem as if it should be isolated from civilization. However, Blacksburg is a vibrant college town that is well worth the four-hour drive from parts of Kentucky. Home to Virginia Tech, the town offers visitors a rare opportunity for sophisticated dining, shopping and cultural events in an otherwise very rural part of the state.
Missouri: Sports, sports and more sports
Sports fans can satisfy their competitive appetite in a variety of professional athletic venues in St. Louis. The St. Louis Cardinals, one of the oldest Major League Baseball franchises, call Busch stadium home. In addition, the Edward Jones Dome hosts the St. Louis Rams’ NFL rivals when they come to town. Lesser known, but no less loved by residents, the St. Louis Blues have made their mark in the National Hockey League for over four decades.
Illinois: Nature at its best
On the other side of the Ohio River, the dividing line between Kentucky and Illinois, sits the Shawnee National Forest. Like most national forests, recreational opportunities abound here. Fishing, horseback riding, boating and rock climbing are just a few of the options. However, the breathtaking rock formations are really the star of the show at the Shawnee National Forest. Dubbed the “Garden of the Gods,” the park’s natural sandstone sculptures mixed with the lush vegetation will leave you feeling equally at peace and in awe.
Indiana: Blazing a New Trail
Residents of the Louisville area can reach Indiana’s state capital in just around two hours. One of the most exciting new features in Indianapolis is the development of the Indianapolis Cultural Trail. With completion estimated for the end of 2012, this innovative project seeks to provide pedestrian and bike pathways to connect every significant artistic, cultural, heritage, and entertainment venue in the city. Not only does the Indianapolis Cultural Trail promote sustainability and discourage dependence on energy-consuming modes of transportation, it also makes one of the country’s most exciting downtown areas easily accessible to visitors of all ages.
Ohio: Where history lives
Architecture enthusiasts don’t have to travel far to find what many regard as the largest concentration of Italianate structures in the United States. Cincinnati, located just across the Ohio River on Kentucky’s northern-most border, is home to a unique neighborhood called Over-the-Rhine, one of the country’s largest urban historic districts. Although most of the Italianate architecture here dates back the 19th century, modern restoration and redevelopment efforts have revitalized the area to make it a charming and exciting place to visit.
John Egan is managing editor of Insurance Quotes, an insurance website that provides online services to consumers seeking Auto Insurance knowledge and savings on their car insurance policies.
(Photos provided by John Egan via Wikimedia Commons)