Day Trippers - Indiana and Kentucky
Forty-eight hours and two states. It’s a fun challenge anywhere in the U.S. But pair up Indiana and Kentucky, and it’s one of the most unique adventures anywhere, folding high speed driving, slow-speed paddling through underground caverns, and at-your-own-speed sampling of legendary liquors.
GoApe is fortunate enough to call both states home. In Indiana, our Treetop Adventure Course in Eagle Creek State Park puts us high in the trees with beautiful views of Eagle Creek Reservoir.
But ours are far from the only adventures worth having.
Given a weekend to spend in Indiana and Kentucky, here’s how we’d make the most of it.
First day, morning -- drive the legendary Brickyard!
We’re nature lovers. But even we recognize that you can’t plan a trip to Indiana and not do the thing it’s best known for. And Indiana is best known for speed.
Indianapolis Motor Speedway is the closest thing American racing has to a cathedral. Home to the Indy 500, it’s one of the world’s most legendary racecourses. All the historical greats of racing, from open-wheel to NASCAR, have spent time and rubber there.
You can, too.
Miles Ahead Performance Driving School is the place to do it. Their teachers are all experience professional racers, and the commitment they ask of you can be small. We only have a few hours to spare if we’re going to fill our weekend with adventures, so we’d book the hypercross experience. In just one hour, it gives you lessons and four laps of the course in a supped-up John Cooper Works Mini Cooper that’s easy for beginners to push to its limits.
Then it’s back to nature.
First day, afternoon -- float through Bluespring Caverns
The greatest natural wonders of southern Indiana and northern Kentucky, of course, are the cave systems. Limestone bedrock has been carved by coursing water over millions of years to produce some of the world’s most spectacular underground realms. Just 80 miles south of Indianapolis, you’ll find them.
Bluespring Caverns is one of our favorites, because you don’t walk through it. You travel through it in a glass-bottomed boat. With blind cave fish swimming beneath you and bats hanging above you, you’ll have the only source of light in an enveloping darkness, as guides lead you through an ecosystem like no other.
From April through October, guided boat tours are available. There’s also an overnight experience in the camp for groups, but you’ll probably want to find warm accommodations for the night, because come morning, we’re off to a deeper adventure.
Day two, morning – hike Mammoth Cave
A little over two hours south in Kentucky sits the world’s largest cave system.
Mammoth Cave National Park comprises more than 52,000 acres above ground and more than 400 miles of cave below…that we know of. The system is so large, there are still unmapped caverns here.
The landscape is so spectacular that it’s been named a World Heritage Site by the United Nations.
The easiest way in is a two-hour hike led by National Park Service guides. They’ll lead you through massive underground caverns and smaller passageways, pointing out fossils and historical artifacts along the way.
The tours are well-equipped with battery-powered lighting, but twice a day, the lights are shut off and tours lit only by hand-carried paraffin wax lamps are offered.
Day two, afternoon – travel the Bourbon Trail
From Mammoth Cave, you’ll head Northeast toward Elizabethtown, and toward a cultural artifact every bit as legendary and significant.
We speak, of course, of bourbon.
Few cultural products have as much history as this. But bourbon is such a vital part of the Kentucky experience that there are laws regulating its production, and counterfeiting bourbon is a federal crime.
So many visitors come to see its birthplace that bourbon producers have cooperated to make a curated experience of it. The Bourbon Trail will lead you on a tour of up to 11 distilleries, each offering guided tours and tasting sessions. You can even download a passport the distillers will stamp as you visit.
See as little or as much of it as you’d like. Visitors travel the trail in cars, on bikes, and even on horseback. If you’re starting at the Elizabethtown end, you’ll probably want to start at the Jim Beam Distillery in Clermont.
And you’ll end your weekend wherever, along the trail, you feel ready to rest.