Summary: Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky is not only home to the largest cave system in the world, but it also has a wealth of attractions for visitors to enjoy. From exploring nearby small towns and historic sites, to outdoor activities like hiking and canoeing, there is something for everyone at Mammoth Cave. Here are some of the top attractions near this natural wonder.
1. Small Town Charm
The town of Glasgow, just 20 minutes from the park, offers visitors a glimpse of small-town America. With historic buildings and quaint shops, it’s the perfect place to explore for an afternoon. Visitors can also check out the Plaza Theater, a restored 1930s movie palace that still shows films today. For history buffs, the South Central Kentucky Cultural Center offers exhibits on the area’s past, including a display on famous author and Glasgow native Elizabeth Madox Roberts.
Another nearby town worth visiting is Cave City. In addition to offering plenty of lodging options, restaurants, and souvenir shops, it is also home to a number of antique stores. Visitors can spend hours browsing through the treasures in these shops. Those interested in art should check out the Kentucky Down Under Adventure Zoo, which features a variety of Australian animals as well as an art gallery and sculpture garden.
For a truly unique experience, visitors should head to Horse Cave. This town got its name from a large, naturally occurring opening in the ground that early settlers used to shelter their horses. Today, the “horse cave” is a tourist attraction, offering tours and a glimpse of the town’s past.
2. Outdoor Adventures
In addition to exploring the cave system at Mammoth Cave National Park, visitors can also enjoy a variety of outdoor activities in the surrounding area. One popular option is canoeing or kayaking on the Green River. There are several outfitters in the area that offer equipment rentals and shuttle services. Those who prefer to stay on land can take advantage of the park’s extensive hiking trails. Guided hikes are also available.
For those who want a little more thrill, zip lining is a great option. Mammoth Cave Adventures offers zip line tours that take visitors high above the treetops for stunning views of the surrounding countryside. Another option for adventure seekers is the Kentucky Action Park, which features go-karts, bumper cars, and a ropes course.
If visitors are looking for a more laid-back outdoor experience, they should check out Diamond Caverns. Located just a few miles from Mammoth Cave National Park, this cave system offers tours that are less strenuous than those at Mammoth Cave. Above ground, they have picnic areas and mini golf.
3. Historical Sites
History buffs will find plenty to enjoy near Mammoth Cave National Park. Closest to the park is the Mammoth Cave Baptist Church, founded in 1842. The church is still in operation today, and visitors are welcome to attend Sunday services. Another nearby site worth visiting is the Historic Diamond Caverns Hotel, which was used as a hospital during the Civil War.
Just 30 minutes from the park is the Shaker Museum at South Union. This restored village offers a glimpse into the lives of the Shakers, a religious group that once had a large presence in southern Kentucky. Visitors can tour restored buildings, including a textile shop and a print shop, and learn about the unique beliefs and practices of the Shakers.
Finally, history enthusiasts should head to Bowling Green, about 45 minutes from the park. Here they can visit the National Corvette Museum, which celebrates the history of this iconic American sports car. Visitors can see a variety of Corvettes on display, and take a tour of the nearby GM Corvette Assembly Plant to see how these cars are made.
4. Food and Drink
After all that exploring, visitors will definitely be ready to eat. Fortunately, there are plenty of dining options near Mammoth Cave National Park. Caveside Grill within the park offers sandwiches and snacks. For a more upscale experience, visitors should head to the Historic Railpark and Train Museum in Bowling Green. Here they can dine in restored railcars while enjoying views of vintage trains on display.
For a taste of local flavor, visitors should check out Boyce General Store in Alvaton. This old-fashioned country store offers everything from sandwiches and homemade desserts to locally made jams and jellies. In addition, visitors can enjoy live music performances in the store’s outdoor seating area.
Those looking for a drink should head to Corsair Distillery in Bowling Green. This craft distillery offers tours and tastings, as well as a gift shop where visitors can purchase bottles and souvenirs. Another option is the Cave Valley Winery at Park Mammoth Resort, which features award-winning wines and beautiful views of the surrounding countryside.
Mammoth Cave National Park offers visitors a chance to explore the largest cave system in the world, but there’s so much more to see and do in the area. From small-town charm to outdoor adventures, and from historical sites to food and drink, there’s something for everyone here. Whether visitors are looking for a relaxing vacation or an action-packed adventure, they’re sure to find it here.