Mammoth Cave National Park, in western Kentucky, claims to be the longest cave system in the world. Access to the caves is by guided tour only. A variety of different tours are offered, with varying degrees of difficulty, and they change with the seasons, so it is wise to contact the park prior to a visit. Many cave tours are strenuous and require climbing numerous stairs. Reservations may be made in advance (probably a good idea during the summer months). There are also many above-ground activities for those spending more than a single day in the area.
If the visit to the caves occurs during May, a great side trip is to travel north to Churchill Downs, in Louisville, Kentucky, the home of the Kentucky Derby, perhaps the premier horse race in the United States. Derby Day is the first Saturday in May, each year, and pits the leading three-year-old thoroughbreds against one another. It is the first of three races which comprise the “Triple Crown”, horse-racing’s greatest achievement. A museum on the grounds is dedicated to the history of the race and celebrates its greatest contestants.
Another possible excursion lies east of the park. The Kentucky Horse Park, in Lexington, Kentucky, is devoted to the history of man’s relationship with the horse. A Parade of Breeds takes place in the show ring and acquaints visitors with the many breeds of horses employed by people and their distinguishing characteristics. The International Museum of the Horse has fascinating exhibits about every aspect of this long-lasting relationship. There is also a short orientation film. One of the all-time most famous thoroughbreds is buried on the grounds and is commemorated with a huge statue, the Man o’ War Memorial. The countryside around Lexington is particularly pleasant to drive through because of the picturesque horse farms which dot the landscape.