Monday, June 27, 2016

Review of General Butler State Park

With the energy levels running high and the entertainment budget level low, Kentucky State Parks are the perfect solution for summer vacation. I told my three kids (ages 9, 8, and almost 5) to pack an “adventure bag” to include snacks, napkins, a water bottle, a glass jar for collecting whatever and something to keep them occupied in the car. Then we set off, along with our dog, in the minivan to General Butler State Resort Park.

From our home in Oldham County, we took the more scenic back route on highway 42. There was a roadside shop that had strawberries as well as a couple mom and pop diners along that route, but with the aforementioned dog in tow, we didn’t stop.

 photo 20160609_111749_zpsv1pousep.jpgThe entrance to the Park was very easy to find and we immediately saw signs for the paddle boat rentals and miniature golf. We wove our way upward all the way to the Observation Point. There is very limited parking at the top of the hill, but it’s worth the drive up. My kids were in awe of the view they had of the Ohio River and the city of Carrolton below – not to mention how impressed they were with the stone structure that made up the Observation Point.

 photo 20160609_113757_zps6c05sn8f.jpgFrom there we loaded back up in the van and headed down the hill to entrance of the Fossil Trail. A four and a half mile trail with little legs didn’t seem feasible but there was a shorter trail (.6 miles) that led to the Boy Scout trail (.25 miles) which was totally doable. We did have to cross a street at one point, but car traffic is very light. We wound our way down to the Butler-Turpin Home and the Butler Family Cemetery, and history always makes for a great teaching moment. I hadn’t realized that the trail was just a trail and not a loop so we trekked back up to our van after we walked around the house grounds a bit. The trail on the way back was steep and I had a couple complaints from my youngest, but we all made it back up without incident.

After we emptied our water bottles, we headed to one of the two play grounds on site and to use the facilities. For park bathrooms, they were completely acceptable and well received at that point. I also was so happy to see that the folks who designed the park did some planning and put the swings in the shade! There were also picnic tables in the shade and a pavilion by the restrooms.

We headed over to the lake next and found another trail that appeared to loop around it. Next time we go back, I’ll start with that one! Since we were there on weekday, the pedal boat rental was closed but the lake is open to non-motorized craft year round. There is another pavilion by the lake for large gatherings and more picnic tables as well.

We thought the mini golf looked fun, but couldn’t work it out as we had our dog with us. There was also a Hawaiian Ice stand so make sure you have cash!

 photo 20160609_134556_zps8csatghs.jpgFor the kids, the dog, and me, it was a perfect weekday adventure. The kids loved being able to take our dog, and he had a lot of fun too! The park itself is clean and has more to offer than the few things we took advantage of. General Butler Resort Park has an impressive lodge, which gives you access to their swimming pool, and an expansive campground. There are also tennis courts, a nine-hole golf course, fishing (with a license), bird watching, and the Butler-Turpin Museum (open on the weekends). It would definitely be worth an overnight stay to be able to check out the lodge or even a cabin as well as the pool and other trails we missed.

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Thursday, June 23, 2016

Review of Beech Bend Park

Beech Bend Park is an amusement park, water park, campground and race track located in Warren County, Kentucky, just outside the limits of the city of Bowling Green. We recently spent the day at the amusement park which is half amusement park, half water park. Beech Bend is smaller than its nearby competitors, so 10am-6pm was plenty of time for us. (Reminder: the park is in central time).

I recommend going to the gift shop first to get a $5 locker key ($10 deposit) for your swim/dry stuff before all of the lockers are taken. If weather permits, hit the water park first because it gets crowded and can run out of mats and inner tubes (which are free to use). You can't bring food or drink into the park, but you can go out to your car for lunch if you pack a cooler, and then come back into the park. On a typical day, the lines for the food are long and have amusement park prices. We got one $7 souvenir cup with $1 soda refills for all of us to share throughout the day which was a great value plus the souvenir.

What my family liked best:
Smaller scale park for an easier day with the kids.
Lots of kids rides.
Almost everything they had to do was in adult and kid size (ie big and small rollercoasters, big and small bumper cars, big and small water play areas, etc)
Snack food not too pricey (meals a little expensive)
Being able to go in and out of the locker all day without paying extra was convenient.
The parking, life jackets, sunscreen, tubes and mats are free.
My kids loved the magic show. It was a great break between rides.
Feeding the goats in the Petting Zoo for 25 cents a cup.
Felt very friendly and safe. We felt comfortable leaving our flip flops near a water ride to retrieve afterwards.
Lots of chairs, though most are not shaded.

Negative rumors I've heard:
  • "Lines for food, drink, and bathrooms can be extremely time consuming" - We went on an overcast week day at the end of summer and had NO lines at all for rides, food, or bathrooms at all. It was AWESOME!
  • "Water looks dirty" - we didn't see this AT ALL. The water looked, smelled, and felt very clean and chlorinated.
  • "Lifeguards are statues with whistles" - we thought the lifeguards were very attentive with the exception of one who was much more interested in women's bathing suits.
  • "The bathroom floors are disgusting" - Again, we went on a very light day, and the floors were totally fine. However, I would still recommend wearing water shoes or packing a pair of flip flops for the water side.
  • "The price is too high for such a small park" - I agree with this one. The fee goes by height (above or below 54") not adult vs child, and there is only a $2 difference. I wouldn't go without a Groupon, Valpak coupon, or other discount, but there are a ton of them out there.
  • "Everything is old" - There is a lot of older looking equipment, peeling paint, older bathrooms, etc. It also has some carnival type rides that feel older and a little shabby. But I felt like everything seemed safe, and there were a lot of newer looking rides (or paint jobs) too. Beech Bend has been adding new rides and attractions every year since 2005, but it's been around since 1898, what do you expect?
  • "All the rides are broken" - I saw 2 kiddie rides in the whole park that were closed. Seems common for any amusement park. "The workers are rude" - I felt like these workers were close to the friendliest workers on earth. Everyone was welcoming, accomidating, helpful, cheeerful, and friendly. Several of the older workers even told us some history of the park and rides that was very interesting (Did you know country singer Ronnie Milsap had ownership of the park at one time, and that one of the rides was Michael Jackson's favorite when it was at Neverland Ranch?)

All in all, we had a terrific day, in part because the park was not crowded, nor was it too hot out. My kids wanted to return the very next day and do it all over again. I think Beech Bend would be a great park to visit with a coupon/discount, especially with elementary school aged kids, or those who may prefer the smaller park with less walking. If you decide to do the campground as well, there is a $17 second day ticket which seems like a great weekend getaway, or you could add some of the race track activities with your stay (we got to see some of a Camaro fest at the race track which I thought was great!) We'll definitely return again next year and add it to our Bowling Green destination activities!

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Monday, June 20, 2016

Review of the Blackfish Bison Ranch Tours

 photo 20160528_095500_zpsxmt0ilbd.jpgBlackfish Bison Ranch is located east of Lexington on 242 acres in Winchester, Kentucky. The co-owner and manager, Brandeon Hampton, lives on the farm year-round and does pretty much everything for the buffalo herd from naming them, to vaccinating them, to driving them across the river to Memphis Meats in Indiana when that time comes.

Our tour spent about an hour in the log cabin listening and looking at all things buffalo. My kids were well educated and entertained. Brandeon talks about the buffalo, land, history, and the spiritual relationship between buffalo, man, and God. Did you know that buffalo have no top teeth, can out run the fastest thoroughbred, and can jump a 7 foot fence with ease? After the talk (which Brandeon said was unique depending on each group), we headed to the wagon.

 photo 20160528_095444_zpsvki4zhdp.jpg
Brandeon drives a beat up truck (beat up by buffalo of course!) that pulls the tour wagon. The wagon has rails on all four sides, and no bench or seats. My kids loved standing for the whole ride (Brandeon was able to put a chair on the wagon for one of our tour members that couldn't stand for the trip). Brandeon drives out into the field where the buffalo are lounging. They are used to the routine, so as soon as we pulled up, they came over for some treats.

 photo 20160528_111036_zps3bo6naqz.jpgBrandeon says the buffalo control the tour - they may stay at the wagon for 15 minutes or an hour. Every tour is unique. They lumber up and gently reach their noses in between the rails, and expect you to push a treat into their mouths. If you don't, they will start to lick you to get it. It can get very slimy. Don't wear good clothes and shoes - there's no washroom out there. All visitors must stay in the wagon, but Brandeon sat or stood on the truck, as well as standing down on the ground to feed and talk about the bulls, heifers, and calves.
 photo 20160528_112040_zpsjtyp6otb.jpg

The day we arrived, a baby calf had been born hours before we got there. Brandeon drove the wagon over toward the mom and her new calf. Since it was a different tour route than the buffaloes were used to seeing, they all came along too to see what we were up to. The baby walked very closely to her mom with her wobbly walk, but was still easily viewed from about 100 feet away.

 photo 20160528_113443_zps5a9dsgyh.jpgThe tours at Blackfish Bison Ranch are all different. Our group was mainly adults, with only my two kids, so we didn't do the tomahawk throwing, hay lassoing, or feather ceremony mentioned in the description. Our tour spent a ton of time feeding the buffalo and viewing the new baby.

After the tour, you may also have the chance to sample the pure, grass-fed buffalo meat, however our tour was the first weekend of the season, so none of the buffalo meat had been harvested yet (usually meat selling starts in June). Call for their schedule of meat sales throughout the year, as well as special events (the first weekend in November will be a big celebration for National Bison Day in 2016).

You need to make reservations for a tour, and times are limited depending on the time of year (859-808-1285). I suggest asking if they have buffalo meat available to sample and buy, as well as how many will be on the tour, and what type of tour yours will focus on (kids versus adults). Also, in 2016, it cost $9 per person and they only excepted cash which Brandeon only asks for at the end of the tour.

It was a great value, very educational, entertaining, an amazing experience. There are a lot of things to see and do around Winchester (Beech Spring Farm Market, Lower Howard's Creek Nature Preserve, the Civil War Fort at Boonesville, and the Ale-8-One bottling plant to name a few), but I would recommend going to Blackfish first, before it gets too hot). Wear sunscreen, bring a camera, and prepare to get a slimy. We can't wait to go back!

By guest contributor,
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Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Free Summer Concerts in Downtown Richmond

 photo richmond concerts_zpsysuhtpxi.jpgFamilies love music and when it's outdoor and relaxed, it makes for a great evening.  In Downtown Richmond, enjoy a concert every third Thursday evening.   Head to the courthouse and browse local vendors. They will also have a farmer's market and kids activities thanks to the Madison County Library.  And, don't worry - parking is plentiful and free. Sounds like you better look at your calendar and get a date set soon.

Click here to see the entire line-up, the concerts run through October!


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Monday, June 13, 2016

Airheads 30th Birthday Bash!

 photo airheads_zpslkeswknj.pngDid you know that Airheads is headquartered in Kentucky? SWEET! Literally!

Everyone is invited to their 30th Birthday Bash on June 18th at Smale Park from 11am-4pm. Airheads is throwing the ultimate birthday party to celebrate the past 30 years and the wonderful community who’ve helped make it all possible.

This event will be filled with food, live music from notable artists, fun activities for all ages and of course candy!

Click here to RSVP on Facebook and tell your friends!

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Thursday, June 9, 2016

Win Tickets to Kentucky Renaissance Festival

 photo ky ren festival 2016_zpse8bqxx3o.jpgEnter to win a family 4-pack (2 adults, 2 children) of tickets to the Kentucky Renaissance Festival!

There will be two winners!

To enter: Email and put "Kentucky Ren Festival" in the subject. One entry per email address.

You must be 18 or older to enter and by entering, you agree to these terms. Submit your email entry by Monday 6/13/16 at noon.

Winners will be selected at random and emailed by end of day 6/13/16. 

Winner's tickets will be mailed.

Check out their Facebook page because they have special events each weekend, you don't want to miss out!
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Wednesday, June 8, 2016

FREE Discovery Festival by Kentucky Science Center

 photo ky science summit_zpsjmt9mklo.jpgThe Kentucky Science Center is hitting the road and heading all of he state to share the love of learning!  And, it's FREE!

Discovery Festivals

Discover resources and careers in Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math (S.T.E.A.M.) at a day of fun hands-on activities, science demonstrations, nature walks, and special presentations from community partners in each region.Completely FREE and open to the public!!!

Coming to Natural Bridge on June 18th from 10am to 2pm, they will bring fun for the entire family, kids of all ages.  
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Monday, June 6, 2016

Moonlight Canoe Trip in Dawson Springs, Kentucky

Photo from event website
Photo from event website
Doesn't Moonlight Canoeing sound amazing? Good thing we are in Kentucky because there are always cool activities like this throughout the state.

At Pennyrile Forest State Resort Park in Western, KY (between Paducah & Bowling Green) on June 18th, July 16th and August 20th (times vary, see website), you can take a unique canoe trip.  They will use the almost full moon to guide the trip and explore what creatures are on the lake a night!

Here are the details:
  • Trips will last about 2 hours.
  • Bring water, bug spray, and flashlight. 
  • $25/canoe. 
  • Everyone must be 10+ years of age. 
  • Register at least one week before the canoe trip. 
  • Six canoes are available. 
  • Groups may schedule their own personal trip on other dates close to the full moon.  
  • For registration: Email or call (800) 325-1711
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