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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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