Known for its caves and corvettes, the vibrant university city of Bowling Green can be found in the south center of Kentucky. While many use it as a base for exploring the state’s incredible Caves and Lakes region, it also has a number of interesting historic sites, museums and sports events to enjoy.
After Louisville and Lexington, it is the most populous city in the Bluegrass State with a myriad of bustling bars and local businesses dotting its downtown. You can also come across pretty parks and attractive historic buildings both here and on the college’s sprawling campus.
While visiting the superb National Corvette Museum is undoubtedly one of the standout things to do in Bowling Green, some enormous and awe-inspiring caves can also be visited in the region.
12. Riverview at Hobson Grove
One of the city’s prettiest properties, Riverview at Hobson Grove overlooks the Barren River on the northern outskirts of town. Now preserved as a historic house museum, the magnificent mansion is surrounded by gorgeous grounds and gardens.
Completed in 1972 after work was interrupted by the Civil War, it exhibits some exquisite Italianate architecture. While elegant arched windows, deep eaves and a charming cupola decorate its exterior, the rooms and parlors within are just as refined.
On guided tours, you’ll be able to see its fabulous furnishings, painted ceilings and other ornamental flourishes. All the authentic artifacts help present what life was like for the wealthy during Victorian times. After having seen the house, make sure to stroll around the estate’s extensive grounds which are immaculately groomed and maintained.
11. Kentucky Museum
If you want to learn more about the state’s rich history and heritage, then the outstanding Kentucky Museum is simply a must. Part of the Western Kentucky University campus, it contains all kinds of amazing artifacts, exhibits and artworks.
Housed within its grand historical building, you can find displays and dioramas on the slave trade and Civil War, early pioneers, politicians and prehistoric Kentuckians. Its galleries feature innumerable items and archaeological findings with costumes and weapons, photos and furniture.
Since opening in 1939, it has been a firm favorite with families and students for its interesting and educational look at the Bluegrass State’s past. Once outside, guests can explore the Felts Log Cabin which is full of old textiles and tools and see a superb statue of Lincoln sitting on a bench.
10. Bowling Green Ballpark
Just north of the university campus and Kentucky Museum, you can find the brilliant Bowling Green Ballpark. At the intimate venue, visitors can watch the city’s Hot Rods play an action-packed game in the MLB’s South Atlantic League.
Now the High-A affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays, the local minor league team has been playing at the small stadium since it opened in 2009. Despite holding only a few thousand spectators, it boasts state-of-the-art facilities with an LED scoreboard, executive suites and a party deck being on offer.
From its seats and standing areas, fans can enjoy perfect views over the pristine pitch and the players batting before them. Besides roaring the Bowling Green Hot Rods onto victory, you can also stop at its concession stands and grab a quick bite to eat during lulls in play.
9. Western Kentucky University
One of the most beautiful college campuses in the country, Western Kentucky University is perched atop a hill overlooking the Barren River valley. Sprawling across a massive part of the northside of town, it has countless pretty historic buildings and lovely green grounds for you to explore.
One of the state’s top educational institutes, it was established in 1906 and dozens of colleges, halls and administrative buildings have sprung up over the years. Aside from seeing the various statues and landmarks that dot the campus, you can also take a tour around the terrific Kentucky Museum.
Many locals and out-of-towners also head here to watch one of the university’s sports teams play at its numerous arenas. Particularly popular are games involving its basketball and football teams.
8. Mammoth Cave National Park
As it lies just forty-five minutes’ drive northeast of the city, you’ll definitely want to visit Mammoth Cave National Park when in town. An incredible place, it remarkably protects the longest known cave system in the world.
Nestled away within Kentucky’s Caves and Lakes region, the cavernous caves stretch a staggering 400 miles in total. On unforgettable underground tours, you’ll pass through ginormous caverns and precipitous chasms with striking formations, domes and landscapes on show.
Thought to have been discovered some 5,000 years ago or more, the stunning site was turned into a national park in 1941. In addition to its breathtaking below-ground riches, you can hike, bike, kayak and canoe around the trails and rivers that snake their way about its verdant forests.
7. Beech Bend Park
Back on the northeastern outskirts of town are the exhilarating rides, rollercoasters and waterslides of the fun and family-friendly Beech Bend Park. One of the state’s top tourist attractions, it has lots of exciting activities and relaxing recreation opportunities for people to enjoy.
Since in 1898, the amusement park has entertained both young and old alike with its carnival games, coasters and giant Ferris wheel. Over the years, a water park has also been added, as has a dragstrip around which you can watch all kinds of cool cars race.
On top of splashing about in its pools and water park, you can play a round of mini-golf, race about go-kart tracks or bowl and go on bumper cars. What’s more, the park also has a shady and peaceful campsite where guests can camp amidst its lush woodlands.
6. Chaney’s Dairy Barn
If you want to sample some of the state’s delicious local produce, look no further than the charming Chaney’s Dairy Barn. Lying along one side of the road to the nearby Franklin, it has mouthwatering homemade ice cream, sandwiches and burgers to try.
At the friendly, family-run farm, visitors can take interesting tours around its pastures and see how its irresistible ice cream is produced. For generations now, the Chaneys have been milking their herd of Jersey cows and making tasty cheese, yogurt and, of course, ice cream.
Aside from sitting at its cozy cafe and munching on burgers or sipping on soups and sundaes, you can shop for souvenirs in its gift store. The farm also has a great playground where young ones can clamber about and play.
5. Aviation Heritage Park
Home to loads of impressive artifacts, exhibits and aircraft, Aviation Heritage Park can be found on the south side of the city. Tucked away in the corner of Basil Griffin Park, it has five well-preserved planes and two helicopters for you to wander around outside.
Its glinting fighter jets and camouflaged choppers are accompanied by informative plaques that document their history, make and service. Its smallish collection honors South Central Kentucky’s significant role in the history of flight and some of the state’s most celebrated aviators.
A must for aviation enthusiasts, it boasts not just a UH-1 Huey and Phantom 550 that saw action in the Vietnam War but a sleek NASA T-38 Talon from the fifties too.
4. Fountain Square
Since back in 1798, the fabulous Fountain Square has been the focal point of both life and trade in town. While it is no longer lined by old log cabins, countless bars and businesses lend it a lively yet laidback atmosphere.
Although the city’s courthouse, jail and market house were once clustered around the square, it was only turned into a landscaped park in 1872. Many of its original features such as its present cast-iron fountain and statues of the four seasons are still set in the exact same spot.
While the small park is a pleasant and peaceful place to spend some time, an array of happening art galleries, restaurants and shops border it on all sides. Some hip nightlife spots and a performing arts theater also line the square.
3. Historic RailPark & Train Museum
Another fascinating place to visit in Bowling Green is the Historic RailPark & Train Museum which lies just a short walk northeast of downtown. Housed within the city’s original train depot, visitors can find a wealth of artifacts, exhibits and old engine parts with several locomotives and cabooses also dotted about.
Once part of the Louisville & Nashville Railroad, the Colonial Revival-style station was completed in 1925. Left abandoned for many years as train transport diminished, its waiting room, grounds and tracks were eventually transformed into a museum in the early 2000s.
Nowadays, plenty of models and memorabilia coat its two storeys with exhibits also looking at the origins and evolution of America’s railways. Outside are a number of well-preserved vintage trains to explore with the oldest car on show dating to 1911.
2. Lost River Cave
One of the most magical and memorable things to do in town is take an epic underground boat tour through the Lost River Cave. The only excursion of its kind in Kentucky, the largish limestone cave complex can be found on the southwestern edge of the city.
While floating peacefully along the subterranean river, knowledgeable guides regale you with facts and folklore surrounding the cave. As well as once having been an ancient Native American hunting ground, it was used as a campground by both sides during the Civil War. The infamous outlaw Jesse James also hid in the cave which was temporarily turned into a nightclub in the 1930s.
After having taken in its striking scenery and rock formations, you can always hike, bike or zipline about the lovely landscapes that lie above ground.
1. National Corvette Museum
Bowling Green’s top tourist attraction, however, has to be the excellent National Corvette Museum. Regardless of whether you like cars or not, its collection of classic corvettes and convertibles is sure to impress with its sleek and stylish designs.
Instantly recognizable due to its bright yellow, cone-shaped Skydome, its sparkling showrooms and adjoining track lie just northeast of town. Since 1995, its extensive exhibits and artifacts have told the story of ‘America’s Sports Car’ which has been produced in the city for just over four decades.
Aside from snapping photos of its more than eighty amazing models and mint classics, visitors can even take one for a spin around its racetrack. Shooting about in a shiny corvette perfectly highlights why it is so synonymous with freedom and adventure.