Visit Bowling Green, Kentucky
It’s been said that life is not meant to be spent traveling backwards. That any and all memories from the past should remain there in order to keep moving forward. But throughout life, I have discovered that sometimes it is necessary to look into the past to appreciate how far you’ve come. This was the reason I decided to visit Bowling Green, Kentucky — my old college stomping grounds.
Growing up in Northwest Kentucky, leaving my small hometown to go to college — let alone travel the world — was never something that crossed my mind.
After high school, I envisioned myself going to college across the river from my parents house at a small, private Catholic university with less than 2,000 students.
Here, I could be close to my family and all that had become familiar to me. I was content with this choice, until I made a weekend visit to the city of Bowling Green, Kentucky in May 2003.
About Bowling Green, Kentucky
Located in southern Kentucky, Bowling Green is home to nearly 70,000 permanent residents. This fact makes it the third most populated city in the Bluegrass State.
Providing an average of 265 days of sunshine a year, it’s easy to see why thousands of others decide to make “The Park City” their home.
I know because I was one of them.
Fifteen years ago, I first stepped foot on the campus of Western Kentucky University (WKU) as a 17-year-old freshman. This time, I returned as a 32-year-old travel writer who had been living in one of the nation’s top cities while exploring the cultures of 15 countries.
I had changed a great deal, but I realized that much about Bowling Green had changed, too.
With the help of the Bowling Green Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, I checked into my king suite at Townplace Suites by Marriott.
After unpacking and enjoying a quick cup of tea, I made my way to my favorite part of town: Fountain Square Park.
Once filled with dingy dive bars (many of which I shamelessly frequented on “Thirsty Thursdays”) and vacant store fronts, the town’s infamous square had transformed into a bustling city center.
Each corner boasted locally owned and operated boutiques. Some of the state’s most innovative restaurants and cafes had found their homes on the streets I once walked to class.
I walked past the City Hall where I used to have weekly meetings with the mayor and city council for the college newspaper. Not far from here. I would rediscover the best of what this quintessential southern town had to offer — home cooked grub.
Where to Eat
At the centre of Bowling Green’s microbrew and pub grub scene sits the White Squirrel Brewery. For those wondering, it’s named after the infamous white squirrels that roam the campus of WKU nearby.
Serving up an impressive list of brewed-in-house beer and southern grub, it’s quickly become one of the town’s most popular hot spots. Here, beer is made in very small batches each day and switched out regularly, which allows patrons to taste different brews. The below menu items were personal favorites:
At the heart of the downtown scene is a community gathering spot known as Steamer Southern Seafood Kitchen.
What was almost lost to an electrical fire in February 2018 has made a legendary come back of epic proportions. To this day, Steamer serves Bowling Green the freshest seafood and most decadent handmade pies and desserts.
With an emphasis on giving back to the community, a portion of Steamer’s proceeds go to local charities to help schools, shelters, firefighters, and military veterans.
Not only does the food make for a one-of-a-kind dining experience, (the restaurant was featured on HGTV!) the staff make the visit unforgettable. The below menu items were personal favourites:
One of Bowling Green’s newest hot spots for southern comfort food, this sophisticated bar and restaurant boasts swoon-worthy interiors. (The bar also features 125 different kinds of bourbon).
Part of a $5 million restoration project of downtown, it’s the brainchild of Chef-owner Josh Poling. The restaurant seats up to 200 people with both in and outdoor seating.
Here, unique dishes such as Pickled Deviled Eggs and Green Chile Mac & Cheese can be found on the menu. Local ingredients are sourced whenever possible, but don’t expect every dish on the menu to be there during a visit. Items are rotated out often to ensure an enjoyable experience for all diners.
Reservations are recommended for lunch and dinner due to high demand. Guests can also book the Chef’s Table Experience for up to 8 people, with a direct view of the kitchen. For more info, visit www.hickoryandoakbg.com.
WHAT TO SEE AND DO
A short 45-minute drive down I-65 will lead one to the Music City of Nashville, Tennessee.
To the north is Kentucky’s largest city, Louisville.
While the close proximity of Bowling Green to some of the most sought after destinations in the nation is a bonus, one doesn’t have to travel far to experience adventure and luxury.
Below are just a few of the many activities offered to locals and tourists alike who visit Bowling Green, Kentucky:
Locals know and visitors discover that they don’t have to travel far from Bowling Green to catch a glimpse of what life is like “down under”.
All it takes is a trip down Scottsville Road to Lost River Cave — home to the only underground boat tour in the entire state.
Our tour guide, Chad, met us in the Lost River gift shop with ponchos and flashlights in-hand. Too after, we climbed into a golf cart out back that would take us down to the cave entrance.
On any regular day, visitors to the cave take leisurely strolls down a lush valley lined with oak trees past the famous “blue hole”. But not this day.
Touring the Cave
The rain was so heavy that it prevented us from the stroll, but not from learning about Lost River’s rich and storied history.
Through the massive cave entrance we made our way down a short 15-step staircase and a brief ramp that led to a steel-grated vessel. We ducked head-to-knee for the first 30 seconds of the tour as the cave’s famous Wishing Rock glided inches away from us overhead.
Opening up into a cathedral-like cavern, flowing waterfalls and spectacular views of rock formations, were before our eyes. (We slid our fingers across the cave’s cool, smooth limestone, but don’t worry — its allowed!)
We learned the very rock above us could once be found at the bottom of the ocean millions of years ago near what is now Jamaica.
A total tour time of 20 minutes, we made our way back out and to the gift shop to warm up and browse the local handmade jewellery and food items.
Our tour guide, Chad, explains the importance of the rock formations in Lost River Cave.
To book a tour in advance (recommended), tickets start at $5.95 for children and up to $20 for adults. Zip-lines for children and adults are also available for a separate fee. Book at https://lostrivercave.org/cave-tours/.
For hundreds of years, the powerful health benefits of Himalayan salt caves and salt-therapy had only been enjoyed by those in Europe. This was only until a few years ago when cities across the U.S. began to adopt the same natural, drug-free healing remedies. also known as “halo-therapy”.
Bowling Green became one of these cities in 2016 with the establishment of the holistic wellness centre, Be Happy Yoga & Salt Cave.
Located on Nashville Road, Be Happy is the brainchild of certified yoga-instructor Susan Polk and her husband Doug.
About the Salt Caves
The cave features six tons of Himalayan pharmaceutical-grade salt. The salt is infused with dry aerosol using a specialised halogenerator to help alleviate symptoms of asthma, allergies, depression, and other common health issues.
Be Happy incorporates colour therapy into each session through fibre optic lighting to bring a truly calming and relaxing effect on the body and mind.
Visitors can also enjoy guided deep relaxation, meditation, therapeutic massages or yoga sessions in or outside of the cave. Affordable group packages that include cave time and yoga classes in their cushioned yoga room are also available.
To book an individual ($25) or group ($175 for up to 10 people) cave session at Be Happy Yoga & Salt Cave, view their full services offered page at behappybg.com.
Editors Note: Be Happy offers an on-site store where guests can purchase an array of pure Himalayan-salt gifts. These include salt-therapy air inhalers that are recommended for those suffering from chronic asthma and other respiratory diseases.
At the very heart of Kentucky’s rich farming heritage, one will find Chaney’s Dairy Barn.
A Bowling Green staple since 1940, it’s history dates back to 1888. During this time, the Chaney family saw a vision for a legacy that would last generations.
Most known for it’s big red barn and world-famous Jersey cows, Chaney’s has consistently surpassed the market challenges. In fact, it’s one of only 500 diary farms left in the U.S.
Farm-Made Ice Cream
With an eye on the rising price of milk, Carl and Debrah Chaney set off in search of new profits. Their goal was to maintain the farm’s legacy and the humane treatment of its prized cows.
They discovered that a new business model was growing in popularity in the sweetest way possible: farm-made made ice cream.
Without hesitation, the idea to open a dairy barn was born. Since the first scoop was served in 2003, the Chaney’s haven’t looked back — and the entire nation has taken notice.
USA Today deemed Chaney’s the “#1 Ice Cream in Kentucky” as 13,000 tourists came through its doors in 2017. They likely came to try popular flavours such as “Wow Now Brownie Cow,” “Bourbon Crunch,” and “Big Red Rumble”.
In addition to ice cream, Chaney’s also serves sandwiches, hearty soups, pies, and many other Kentucky-proud food items.
For an extra special treat, order their “Chaco” (giant ice cream taco). Make sure you order three giant scoops of Big Red’s Rumble, Peanut Butter Fudge Swirl, and Cow Tracks.
If you visit Bowling Green, find out more information about Chaney’s Dairy Barn at http://www.chaneysdairybarn.com.
Book Your Trip
As I packed up my suitcases to check out of my hotel, I took one last drive through America’s most beautiful campus’s.
I walked past the student publication building where I discovered my love for writing.
I walked past Southwest Hall where I met my best friend.
And lastly, I walked up the hill to say a quick “hello” to the statue of Henry Hardin Cherry.
It was here that I realised that there is a crossroad between “big city” living and small-town charm. In the middle of it all, one will find Kentucky (and the very best of it in Bowling Green).
A town once described as “not too small and just big enough” I realised isn’t perfection, but it’s pretty darn close.
For more information on how to visit Bowling Green, Kentucky, visit www.visitbgky.com. This article was created in sponsored partnership with The Bowling Green Tourism Board.
Editor’s Note: In addition to the establishments mentioned above, there are other activities and dining options appropriate for visitors of all ages.
Other recommended favorites if you visit Bowling Green: