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Big Things Are on Display in Small Places all over Kentucky

Kentucky Theatre, Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Stephen Jesse Taylor.

Kentucky Theatre, Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Stephen Jesse Taylor.

Kentucky boasts a bounty of unique muse­ums in smaller com­mu­ni­ties through­out the state. From doll col­lec­tions to care­fully restored 19th cen­tury man­sions, these muse­ums offer insights into the his­tory and cul­ture of Kentucky. If you’re look­ing for a rea­son to get out and see some new places in the state, check out   some of these muse­ums that can pro­vide hours of enter­tain­ment and enlightenment.

Adsmore House & Gardens Historic House Museum
304 N. Jefferson St.
Princeton, KY 42445

Step back in time and visit Adsmore, a liv­ing house museum. Leave the present behind and enter into an era of top hats and fans, grapho­phones, laven­der scented sheets, ele­gant china and crys­tal, and but­ton shoes. Adsmore, metic­u­lously restored, reflects the lifestyle of the promi­nent Smith-Garrett fam­ily at the close of the “Golden Age.” Open Tuesday through Saturday 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Sunday 1:30–4 p.m. Admission, group and school rates avail­able on the web site.

Kentucky Gateway Museum Center
215 Sutton Street
Maysville, Kentucky  41056

The center’s minia­tures col­lec­tion is listed as one of the three finest pub­lic minia­ture exhibits in the U.S.  The col­lec­tion has been praised by all major minia­ture mag­a­zines in the U.S. and in Europe. Researchers from across the U.S. use the center’s research library. Admission infor­ma­tion is avail­able on the web site.  Open Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday from 1–4 p.m.  Closed for major holidays.

Bluegrass Railroad Museum
175 Beasley Road
Versailles KY 40383

All aboard! See what train travel was like when it was the pri­mary mode of trans­porta­tion for dis­tance in Kentucky.  Ride on coaches made in the 1920’s and 30’s dur­ing travel sea­son and visit the museum and gift shop to see a piece of his­tory.  The museum also serves as a depot for spe­cial train excur­sions includ­ing the Civil War Train Robbery, Singin’ on the Railroad, Murder Mystery train and hol­i­day hap­pen­ings.  Log on to the web site for list of events, dates and hop on to expe­ri­ence travel before cars and planes.  Open Saturday and Sunday noon to 4 p.m. mid-May through October. Train rides at 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Open selected week­days by prior arrange­ment. Charters and school field trips wel­come. Museum free with train ride, oth­er­wise dona­tion requested.

The Rosemary Clooney Museum
106 East Riverside Drive
Augusta, KY 41002

The museum is located in a his­toric 1835 house on Riverside Drive in Augusta, a charm­ing Ohio River ham­let.  This is the house the late actress and singer Rosemary Clooney called home for more than 20 years. It houses cos­tumes and other mem­o­ra­bilia from Clooney’s movies, includ­ing the favorite “White Christmas.” The house opened to the pub­lic in 2005 after restora­tion by its cur­rent own­ers, for­mer Kentucky Lt. Governor Steve Henry and his wife, for­mer Miss America (and Augusta native) Heather French Henry. Hours are Wednesday 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday 1– 5 p.m. Admission info avail­able on the web site.

McCreary County Museum
Stearns, Ky. 42647

Photographs, doc­u­ments and exhibits com­prise this small local his­tory museum that pro­vides a view to the lifestyle and cul­ture that grew with the coal indus­try.  Housed in the for­mer head­quar­ters of the Stearns Coal & Lumber Co. built in 1907, the museum includes coal min­ing and other arti­facts from Stearns’ long his­tory as a coal com­pany town. From May through October hours are Tuesday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. Hours for April and November are Thursday through Saturday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.  Admission prices are avail­able on the web site. There is an annual free Christmas Open House the sec­ond Saturday in December from noon to 5 p.m.

Kentucky Doll and Toy Museum
106 W. Main St.
Carlisle, KY 40311

Once the main­stay of child­hood, dolls and doll houses played with in times before com­puter games are a cen­tral attrac­tion in this unique museum.  More than 300 pieces which span the late 19th and 20th cen­turies are on dis­play here.  Dolls and toys from local col­lec­tors give a charm­ing glimpse into the his­tory of gen­er­a­tions past. The museum con­tains a large col­lec­tion of resource mate­ri­als for vis­i­tors to research their own trea­sures and has a cura­tor who looks for­ward to help­ing answer any ques­tions. Open Monday to Wednesday 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and by appoint­ment. Free.

Cynthiana-Harrison County Museum
124 S. Walnut St.
Cynthiana, Ky. 41031

One of Kentucky’s old­est coun­ties, Harrison County was the site of a set­tle­ment estab­lished in 1775 and of two Civil War bat­tles involv­ing Confederate raider John Hunt Morgan.  The com­mu­nity his­tor­i­cal museum offers insight into these events and more through dis­plays of edu­ca­tional, mil­i­tary, agri­cul­ture, indus­try, reli­gious, med­ical, mod­els, and many other sub­jects relat­ing to Cynthiana and the county. Open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday or by appoint­ment. Free.

Riverview at Hobson Grove
1100 W. Main Ave.
Bowling Green, Ky. 42101

This Italianate home of Atwood and Juliet van Meter Hobson was so named because of its prox­im­ity to the Barren River. Construction of the hill­top home began in the late 1850s but was tem­porar­ily halted by the Civil War. The par­tially com­pleted home became a muni­tions mag­a­zine while the Confederates held Bowling Green dur­ing the win­ter of 1861–62. Riverview was finally com­pleted in 1872. Today the home dis­plays life as it looked between 1860 and 1890 and is one of the finest exam­ples of Italianate archi­tec­ture in Kentucky.  Open Tuesday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Sunday 1–4 p.m. Special Victorian Holiday Tours are offered.  Admission info is on the web site.

American Cave Museum
119 East Main Street
Horse Cave, KY  42749

Described as a “lit­tle bit of the Smithsonian in rural Kentucky,” the American Cave Museum in Horse Cave is a state of the art facil­ity that has just expanded this year. It’s the only pri­vate museum in the U.S. ded­i­cated to caves and also houses dis­plays on related sub­jects such as min­ing and the 19th cen­tury slave trade. The museum is open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. You can also visit the Hidden River Cave for a bun­dled admis­sion charge, avail­able on the web site.

For more infor­ma­tion on the Kentucky Department of Travel, visit their Web site at

Photo by Stephen Jesse Taylor

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