In the 5th grade at Crestwood Elementary School our class went to My Old Kentucky Home State Park in Bardstown, Kentucky. We took a tour of the mansion, walked around the grounds, and went home after a picnic lunch under the pavilion. It was a fun day, mostly because we were out of school.
Decades later when someone would ask me if I had been to My Old Kentucky Home I would say “yes” because I, like many Kentuckians, believed it was something you do once, check off your Bluegrass bucket list, and look back fondly on forever.
I was wrong.
When our friends at the Kentucky State Parks Foundation connected us with the team at My Old Kentucky Home State Park to experience the ever-evolving excitement at the most well known home in the Commonwealth, I anticipated a nice day out of the city, but not to leave eager to return.
I was greeted by Park Manager Jeremy Riggs and Mansion Director Richard Blanton, who was also the most inspiring tour guide and historical entertainer I have ever met. They escorted me through the grounds, and shared proudly about the calendar of events happening throughout the year. Here are a few of my favorites that are on my must-do list for the coming year:
- The fall kicks off with “A House Divided,” historical tours focused on the influence of the Civil War on life at My Old Kentucky Home.
- October brings in the haunting experience “Weep No More” transforming the mansion into scenes of Victorian mourning. The “Shadows of Federal Hill” ghost tours share stories of those who lived and died on the grounds, and family friendly hayrides also run throughout the month leading up to Halloween.
- April and May celebrate our favorite season…DERBY! There’s also a giant Easter Egg Hunt that’s FREE for the community!
- Christmas is special at the mansion where you can experience the story of “A Christmas Carol” while moving room to room engaging with the characters in the famous Dickens tale.
This is just the tip of the ice burg for fun on Federal Hill!
They also have a top tier golf course, tent and hook up camping sites (with both water and electric available), and gorgeous facilities for special events like weddings, reunions, professional trainings, and more! The park is also just outside of downtown Bardstown where fantastic restaurants, shops and distilleries can be woven into your trip with ease. This balance of history, nature, and access to amenities makes My Old Kentucky Home the perfect weekend away!
You can even take in a show at their new amphitheater where both the traditional Stephen Foster Story and more shows, like Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, run throughout the year.
I adored my time exploring the grounds, listening to the chimes play the songs of Stephen Foster throughout the day, and imagining the hustle and bustle of the space when it was in its heyday.
My favorite experience of the day was the guided tour of the mansion, led by Richard in full period attire, concluding with a make your own mint julep class in the Visitor Center! We even picked our own mint from the mansion herb garden and learned to slap it to release the flavors.
I can’t wait to return to My Old Kentucky Home State Park for a long weekend soon and dive into their amazing Kentucky Proud gift shop…which I (mostly) resisted on this visit. To plan your trip check out www.visitmyoldkyhome.com & be sure to follow them on the socials @visitmyoldkyhome for the latest happenings! They’ll prove it’s not your 5th grade field trip anymore. While you’re there, tell Richard we said “hello” and ask him to sing a few bars of My Old Kentucky Home, Goodnight. It’s okay if you shed a tear.