We live in a digital era, but that doesn’t mean we have to forget nostalgic Kentucky places. We have a virtual treasure trove of attractions to visit that remind us all of simpler times, regardless of era. From historical sites to vintage candy and malt shops, there is always something there to remind us. All we have to do is look and embrace the sweet nostalgia.
12. Country Music and coal mining
To many, growing up in rural Kentucky country music and coal mining were a part of life. Some families got away from it in recent decades, but the roots are still there. The Kentucky Coal Museum, including the Loretta Lynn Exhibit are located on 231 Main Street in Benham. I grew up hearing Loretta Lynn, and most are familiar with the movie, "Coal Miner's Daughter." However, the movie didn't give justice to the hard work miners put in with little reward back in that day.
11. Veteran memorabilia
Someone in the family likely fought for our country, and you might have even heard WWII stories as a child. Visiting one of our renowned museums could stir some proud memories of a Grandparent or other relative. There are several places that specialize in our fighting forces and those who supported them. One unique institution is the Women’s Civil War Museum in Bardstown. However, the Kentucky Military History Museum in Frankfort, the Frazier History Museum in Louisville, Lloyd Tilghman House and Civil War Museum in Paducah, Perryville Visitors Center and Museum, and the General George Patton Museum in Fort Knox all have stories to tell.
10. Classic car shows
Vintage car shows can really take us back. We get to see an often unseen collection of vehicles, including those like our Great Grandparents drove. You don’t have to be a big motor enthusiast to enjoy a car show, as they often come to places everyone can enjoy. Two examples are the annual last weekend in May car show at Mike Linning’s in Louisville, or the Cruisin' the Heartland Festival in Elizabethtown, but plenty of others can be found
9. Shakespeare in Central Park
For more than five decades, these renowned plays have been performed in Louisville’s Central Park. If you were a Shakespeare fan, you will find 56th annual series from June 1st to August 7th to be quite entertaining. Most of us read at least a portion of the books, but if you happen to have participated in a play, even more so.
8. A matinee or a drive in
Check out a matinee at the local theater or go to the drive in. We all know seeing a movie can be expensive, but the matinee is usually around 1/3 the normal price, minus snacks. The drive in can be extra fun because you can bring your own treats for the show. Split some popcorn and enjoy an hour and a half watching the big screen.
7. Fireworks and a parade
Parades and fireworks can really transport us back in time. The Kentucky Derby festival starts off with a colorful bang. It begins the last week in April with the world’s largest firework show, Thunder Over Louisville. That is followed up with the Pegasus Parade, a beautiful hot air balloon glow, a historic steamboat race and more. Derby week is one week long festival renowned around the world. Some might even deem it the Bluegrass Mardi Gras.
6. Historic towns
Kentucky has no shortage of historic towns. Washington has buildings dating back to the 1700s, and Fort Harrod, the early 1700s. Bardstown, Flemingsburg, Frankfort, Owensboro and Lagrange all have older architecture that our Grandparents or parents likely saw under a different front. The nostalgia and the creations of our ancestors are also passed down to us to appreciate.
5. Toy Museum, Antique Malls or Shops
The Kentucky Doll and Toy Museum on 106 W Main in Carlisle is a great place to view vintage toys, if you don’t want to replace something lost. Unfortunately, some of the treasures of our families become lost over the years. Antique shops and malls are a great place to find collectable dolls, furniture, jewelry, clothing, hats and more. You might find a tiny treasure that’s twin once sat on your Great Grandmother’s vanity.
4. Real candy shops
There is no better way to enjoy fresh candy than the source. Witts End Candy Emporium in Bellevue or Muth’s in Louisville could both be considered the candy stores of yesteryear. Witt’s provides vintage favorites like Moon Pies and Pixie Stix. Muth’s takes us to the days of handmade candies, created with love and plenty of sugar. The Modjeska’s are a favorite.
3. Woodland strolls
No matter where you grew up in the Bluegrass State, there were likely woodlands via a park or forested land. The woods in Kentucky seem to emanate serenity for many. It is said the plentiful forest was what drew Daniel Boone here to begin with. Just to name a few, Red River Gorge, Jefferson National Forest, Kentucky Horse Park, Mammoth Cave National Park, and Cherokee Park are all wonderful places to go take a woodland stroll.
2. Waterfront walks
If you grew up in a lake or river town, at some point you likely strolled along the waterfront. There is something about the water that has a Zen like effect on most people. There are some beautiful places to go for a relaxing waterfront stroll, such as Kentucky Lake, Louisville Waterfront Park and Big Four Pedestrian Bridge, or the renowned Cumberland Falls.
1. Ice cream or a malt
I use to love going for ice cream as a child, and still do. My husband occasionally bribes me with the enticing goodness of Homemade Ice Cream and Pie Kitchen in Louisville. There are some fantastic vintage ice cream places to visit, such as; L&R Soda Bar in Elkton, Bertie’s in Brownsville, Freezer Fresh in W Liberty, the Big Dipper in Owensboro, and Science Hill Dairy Mart in Pulaski. A few of these have been around since the 1950s.
Since we all grew up differently, nostalgic Kentucky places for one may not be the same for another. Our memories are vast and can be compiled of anything from Barbie dolls to hay rides at the family church. What places in the Bluegrass State stir up nostalgic memories for you?