Mammoth Cave National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and International Biosphere Reserve located in south-central Kentucky, recently made headlines for adding 6 miles to the world’s largest cave system. world, which is now 426 miles explored.
A 25-minute drive away in tiny Horse Cave, Kentucky, another cave is noteworthy, as it’s one of the few caves in the world located directly under a city. Hidden River Cave (www.hiddenrivercave.com) is not only the largest private cave in Kentucky, it extends beneath downtown Horse Cave, a National Historic District, with an entrance located directly on Main Street.
TO PLAY: Hidden River Cave is also home to the world’s longest underground suspension bridge, swinging high above the rushing river below. Completion of the bridge in 2020 allowed guided tours to reach the Sunset Dome, which has been inaccessible to the public for 76 years. At 150 feet wide, 200 feet long, and 100 feet high, more or less, it’s one of the largest freestanding cave domes in the United States, a sight to behold in glowing shades of red, yellow and orange. Before descending the more than 200 steps into the cavern (and yes, you’ll have to climb them back up on the way out), visitors can read about the cave’s history at the American Cave Museum’s free admission. Home of the American Cave Conservation Association, the museum offers self-guided tours of exhibits on karst geology, a landscape characterized by sinkholes, flowing streams, caves and springs, and cave archeology.
STAY: For a small town (population: 2,400), Horse Cave offers a surprisingly delicious range of accommodation, including vacation rentals in country cabins, waterside campsites and glamping options. At Horse Cave KOA Holiday (www.kygetaway.com/horse-cave-koa-holiday), climb into the treetops for cozy nights in a tree house. Crawl into a Conestoga wagon or slip into a custom-built teepee, each beautifully furnished and fully equipped, from the Keurig coffee maker and refrigerator to the private patio and fire pit.
Clean, comfortable and conveniently located overlooking gently rolling hills and pastures, the campground also offers cabins and RV sites, beautiful new bathhouse, fishing pond, inflatable cushion, playground and a seasonal swimming pool.
TO EAT: Besides its cave and Conestoga wagons, Horse Cave surprises with horse-drawn buggies seen hitched up downtown and weaving along rural roads. The city has a large Amish population and a thriving Amish business landscape. In fact, Amish craftsmen built the treehouses and teepees at Horse Cave KOA Holiday and one of Horse Cave’s most attractive restaurants, Farmwald’s Restaurant and Bakery (www.farmwalds.com), is owned by Amish .
This rambling building with country store setting is a foodie destination at its finest, with freshly baked donuts, melt-in-your-mouth fried breads and pies, and cooked-to-order lunch deli meats like grilled rib eye and build-your-own deli sandwiches, chicken baskets and fish dinners.
A gift shop spans half the building, offering everything from local honey and jarred condiments to wooden toys and woven baskets to interior decor and accessories spilling out of the shelves and adding charm to a nearby seating area. of the fireplace. Most items are handcrafted by the local Amish community.
TREAT: Horse Cave offers two different animal encounter experiences that pair perfectly for a fun family outing. At Dutch Country Safari Park (https://dutchcountrysafar ipark.com), cross or board the hay wagon and travel a dirt road through the Kentucky backcountry wilderness to see Watusi, buffalo of water, camels, llamas, wildebeest, ostriches and other animals. Feeding animals is part of the fun, and these well-trained beasts will snoop around the cart to eat with outstretched hands or straight from the bowl.
Visitors to Australia’s Horse Cave outback at the Kentucky Down Under Adventure Zoo (www.kentucky downunder.com) discover they are in one of the few places in the country where it is okay to feed and pet kangaroos, take selfies and even nap with them. .
“We’re the only place in Kentucky where you can get up close to Bigfoot (kangaroos are macropods, which means they have big feet),” park spokesman Brian Dale said. “And we almost always have a batch of new joeys in and out of the pocket in the Outback.”
The interactive experiences are the big draw here: feeding the parrots and lorikeets; extraction of fossils and precious stones at the lock; explore the scenic Mammoth Onyx Cave; and watch animal shows featuring a dingo, porcupine, serval kitten, woma python or another of the zoo’s most beloved and intriguing residents. Explore the Outback on foot or on wheels, with a four- or six-passenger golf cart rental.
Read: Visit www.kyget away.com to plan your adventure in Horse Cave, Ky.
FARM BEANS WITH AMISH RELISH AND HOECAKES
Farm Bean Ingredients
2 cups dried pinto beans
2 whole garlic cloves
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons of salt
8 cups of water
Rinse the beans in a colander. Put the freshly rinsed dried beans in a large bowl, cover with cold water and let soak overnight in the fridge. Drain the soaking water and rinse the beans. Place in a large pot. Add the water, garlic, bay leaves and salt to the beans. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat to low and cook until the beans are tender, 2 to 3 hours. Stir frequently and add water as needed to achieve the desired soup texture, i.e. well-cooked beans with a bean-rich broth.
Serve in bowls with a garnish of Amish corn relish and freshly fried hoe cake (see recipe below).
Hoe Cake Ingredients
1 cup self-rising cornmeal
1 farm-fresh egg
¾ cup buttermilk (more or less depending on preferred consistency)
Vegetable oil for frying
Mix all the ingredients, except the oil, to create the paste. Add vegetable oil to skillet and place on stovetop over medium-high heat. Drop spoonfuls of batter into the pan to create a desired size cake. Fry hoecakes until bubbles appear on top and edges are cooked. Flip each cake and cook the other side until golden brown. Repeat with the rest of the dough. As each cake is removed from the pan, place it on paper towel to absorb any excess oil.
Travel and lifestyle author and editor Kathy Witt thinks you should never make it to the end of your to-do list; there is simply too much to see and do in the world. Contact her at KathyWitt24@gmail.com, @KathyWitt.