A lost cave, a delicious sandwich shop and unique historic home are just a few of the special places that call Bowling Green, Kentucky home. We ventured to this southern town to get a taste of these one-of-a-kind activities.
The first stop was to Lost River Cave, providing an experience unlike any other. The Lost River tour begins at Blue Hole No. 4, the largest of its kind on the property. Here, you learn the fascinating and tragic tale of a man, his wagon and three mules who all fell into the river in the 1800s and were never seen again, earning it the designation of a “bottomless man-eating pit.”
Throughout the Civil War, the spot was used as a resting area for Confederate soldiers – three of whom suffered the same fate as the mule driver when they decided to test the legend for themselves, each of them diving into the hole and never returning to the surface.
Fast forward to the future where students at Western Kentucky University discovered that an underground river feeds into the blue hole at 90 gallons per second, coming to the conclusion that it was the powerful current that dragged these men down, making them unable to come back up. As an above ground observer, you would never know looking at the blue hole’s calm surface that it packs a deadly punch underneath its soft exterior – along with an old wagon wheel recently discovered by students from the university via live camera feed.
While the blue hole itself is full of intriguing history, Lost River Cave has just an enticing past. Dating back to 1792 to a man named Mr. Shanks who originally owned the property, Lost River has seen quite a transformation over the years. Surprisingly enough, the late 1920s and early ‘30s saw it as an underground nightclub, making it the first of its kind in the country and one of the first night clubs to have air conditioning. Its cool atmosphere (literally and figuratively) made it an attractive spot for dance-goers with legends like Ella Fitzgerald and the NBC Orchestra rumored to have performed there.
But the real treat is the boat tour inside the cave, with guests gliding along the water as the tour guide explains the cave system and what makes Lost River unique. Just one element that speaks to this fact is the tale of bandit Jesse James and how he and his gang used Lost River as a safe haven after robbing a nearby bank. After kidnapping a doctor in the middle of the night to dig out a bullet hole one of the gang members endured, word got out about James’ whereabouts. But while the police waited three days outside the cave for Jesse and his men to surrender, it turns out they had already made their escape – but how they did so is unknown to this day. With one fascinating tale after another, coupled with the unique experience of underground boating, Lost River Cave is a must stop on a visit to Bowling Green.
Our underground adventure worked up an appetite, so we made our way to the highly recommended Home Café & Marketplace just seconds from Lost River. Its expansive menu boasting several local items should have been a strong indication that we were in for something good, but little did we know just how good a treat we were in for. While struggling to choose between the signature grilled pimento cheese and the Havana Nights sandwich, I ultimately went with the latter – and it did not disappoint. The local Kentucky ham and pulled pork, mixed with mango barbecue, fried onions, Swiss cheese and pickles may seem like a questionable combination, but was truly the best sandwich I’ve ever consumed. The tangy mango barbecue paired smashingly with the pulled pork, while the onions added a savory touch. Plus, the homemade white cheddar mac n’ cheese was the perfect side dish with its flawless flavor. With so many locally sourced items on the menu, it was a shame we couldn’t try them all, but it only warrants another trip back to this local favorite.
After a hearty lunch, we ventured to Riverview at Hobson Grove, a gorgeous historic home in the heart of Bowling Green. Our chipper tour guide told us all about the history of this Italianate style home dating back to 1850. The exterior is easy on the eyes with its solid brick and gorgeous arched windows with a stunning black trim. After falling into despair, the town restored it to its former glory, bringing it back to life as a representation of the Victorian period in south central Kentucky.
A step into the Hobson house is a step back in time, with its original wooden staircase and decorative China still in place. One particularly interesting piece can be found in the living room where the gorgeously painted ceilings, original to the home, display the various flowers grown in the family’s garden. Upstairs, Victorian era clothing can be seen hanging in the various bedrooms, along with a vintage sewing machine, replica bathtub from the time period (so small that it looked like it was for a baby) and much more. Though weathered over the years, you’d never know it looking at the glory the home stands in today, complete with a beautiful winding staircase that makes its way up to the fourth floor and makes for a fascinating vision when looking up at it.
With history abound and plenty of character to match, Bowling Green is the perfect day trip for anyone looking for a unique way to spend the day.