May 23, 2007

Summer Fun Guide: Destinations

Dinosaur World 711 Mammoth Cave Road, Cave City, Ky., (270) 773-4345   This attraction consists of a large wooded area in which someone has placed dinosaur statues of various sizes. And that’s it. They don’t talk. They don’t move. They don’t light up or explode. Lasers don’t project futuristic light shows on their abdomens. And you can’t ride them. There is an admirable, old-fashioned simplicity to such an attraction, and, in this modern age where video games and the Internet dull attention spans, there should be more places like Dinosaur World. For some of us, just gawking at a fiberglass allosaur is vacation enough. —Jeffrey Scott Holland   Boonesborough Beach Fort Boonesborough State Park, 4375 Boonesborough Road, Winchester, Ky., (859) 527-3131   A beach? In Madison County, Ky.? Well … define “beach.” Back in the day, Boonesborough Beach was one of the great wacky tourist attractions, with sand and trees from Florida imported each year to keep the banks of the Kentucky River looking tropical -— so goes the urban legend. Nowadays, this slice of roadside Americana is not quite what it once was (especially with the addition of a cheesy modern waterslide), but it still has enough retro glory to make it well worth the trek. (This writer, a former resident of Madison County, has many fond memories of Boonesborough Beach, but unfortunately they are all unprintable here.) —Jeffrey Scott Holland   Renfro Valley U.S. 25, Renfro Valley, Ky., (800) 765-7464   Much smaller, homier and closer to the spirit of the real thing than Nashville’s bloated Opryland, Renfro Valley is a classic country music tourist trap nestled in the mountains of Rockcastle County. Sure, there’s the usual glitz — like stores hawking taffy and T-shirts — but there’s also a fine record store and a barn dance where name acts like Ray Price, Loretta Lynn and Merle Haggard often perform. The town also features authentic old structures like a country schoolhouse and old-timey church. (On more than one occasion, this writer has commandeered the pulpit and preached surrealist sermons for confused tourists). —Jeffrey Scott Holland   Hillbilly Christmas in July Downtown Pikeville, Ky., (606) 432-5504   Frequently appalled at the political correctness that dictates that we, as Kentuckians, shouldn’t refer to ourselves as hillbillies anymore? Fortunately, these folks in Pikeville don’t give a hoot for such concerns, and proudly host “Hillbilly Days” and “Hillbilly Christmas in July.” In these two annual events, the public gets to commingle with Shriners, bikers and men and women wearing exaggerated hillbilly costumes that would make the cast of “Li’l Abner” look positively cosmopolitan. Put on your straw hat, blacken out a tooth and come join the parade. —Jeffrey Scott Holland   Pisgah U.S. 60 (aka Versailles Road), near Versailles, Ky.   This is a very small spot on the map between Versailles and Lexington, and yet there’s a lot of Kentuckiana of note here. Happy Chandler is buried at the local Pisgah cemetery. William Shatner’s horse farm is nearby. And one of this writer’s favorite donut places in the entire universe — Doughdaddy’s — is right next door. (Shatner donut-run sightings are rampant, not surprisingly.) But most people are drawn here by the famous castle overlooking Versailles Road. Known for years as “The Martin Castle,” it sat abandoned for decades and was long the subject of myth and speculation regarding its purpose and its reclusive creator, who died a few years back. Although temporarily set back by a fire, the new owner is renovating it and hopefully soon we’ll be able to do more than just peer at it through the majestic front gates and wonder. And hey, if you find yourselves underwhelmed by all this excitement, don’t forget Keeneland racetrack is just minutes away. —Jeffrey Scott Holland