12 Top-Rated Things to Do in Bowling Green, Kentucky
Known for its caves, Corvettes, and Western Kentucky Hilltoppers, Bowling Green is a university town with deep cultural roots and many fun things to do. The historic neighborhoods, national museums, and underground adventures of Bowling Green offer many memorable experiences, but what makes tourists want to visit this southern Kentucky city again is the genuinely kind community. For a good look at the history that defines Bowling Green, a recommended first place to visit is downtown Fountain Square Park, where generations of community members have also enjoyed the aesthetic pleasure of the open space.
For regional history and sports car fans, the National Corvette Museum is an absolute must-see. Cavers and outdoor enthusiasts also have plenty to explore, including Lost River Cave, located beneath the city, as well as Mammoth Cave National Park, just over 30 miles northeast of downtown. More history can be explored at places like the Hobson Estate or the Historic Railpark and Train Museum, and southern Kentucky aviation is on full display at the Aviation Heritage Park. For some warm weather activity, Bowling Green Hot Rods baseball games are a fun family outing, and the many attractions at Beech Bend Park are ripe for all-day excursions. Plan your sightseeing adventures with our list of things to do in Bowling Green.
1. National Corvette Museum
Bowling Green has been the exclusive home of Corvette manufacturing since 1981, and the city displays this prestigious history at the National Corvette Museum. Known as America's sport car, Corvettes are famous across the world for their style, performance, and numerous big-screen cameos. Among many other things, the 115,000-square-foot museum displays more than 80 different Corvette models, including pristine antiques, unique concept-cars, and the latest prototypes.
Other popular attractions at the museum include thousands of photos, historical advertisements, and memorabilia on display. A Corvette Simulator allows patrons to get behind the virtual wheel, and between March and September, the museum hosts Corvette Rides for an experience in the passenger seat.
Located one mile away from the museum, the National Corvette Museum Motorsports Park provides many racetrack opportunities, including go-karts, laps in a personal vehicle, and high-performance driving instruction behind the wheel of a Corvette.
Address: 350 Corvette Drive, Bowling Green, Kentucky
Official site: http://www.corvettemuseum.org/
2. Western Kentucky University
With an elevated campus on the northside of Bowling Green, Western Kentucky University is home to the Hilltoppers and more than 20,000 students. Originally founded in 1906, Western Kentucky attracts students from across the world much in thanks to its beautiful campus and sterling catalogue of academic programs available. The collegiate culture is not just confined to campus though, and the many events and institutions of Western Kentucky are intertwined with the surrounding city.
A fun place to visit on campus for some regional history is the Kentucky Museum, which features six galleries of historical and cultural artifacts from across the state. Admission to the Kentucky Museum is free for students and faculty. Another collegiate attraction that brings together the city are Hilltoppers athletic events, including basketball at E.A Diddle Arena and football at L.T. Smith Stadium. West of campus, the Baker Arboretum covers 115 rolling acres and displays a wide range of trees and interpretive information for the public to enjoy.
Official site: https://www.wku.edu/
3. Lost River Cave
An interesting history resides under Bowling Green, and one of the best ways to see it for yourself is with a visit to Lost River Cave. As one of Kentucky's only underground boat tours, the non-profit Lost River Cave provides a unique experience riding the current of a subterranean river. The tour guide driving the boat does a great job relating the history of the cave and underground waterway, as well as the surrounding "blue pools" of the area. Once home to Civil War camps, underground nightclubs, and even garbage dumps, Lost River Cave now lends a vital understanding of the water systems that surround Bowling Green.
As well as taking a guided tour of Lost River Cave, visitors to this family-friendly facility can also enjoy a natural playground area, zipline tours, and surrounding nature trails. Lost River Cave also hosts junior naturalist programs, outdoor classrooms, and a Junior Tour Guide Program.
Address: 2818 Nashville Road, Bowling Green, Kentucky
Official site: https://lostrivercave.org/
4. Beech Bend Park
A central spot for summer fun, Beech Bend is an amusement park, raceway, and campground all rolled into one. The rides and attractions of the amusement park are well-known throughout the region and include upside-down rollercoasters, rotating joy rides, and an epic collection of waterslides at the Splash Lagoon Waterpark. The on-site Dragstrip at Beech Bend is also a popular spectator destination, especially during the Bluegrass Nationals that take place each May. The campground at Beech Bend has nearly 500 different campsites to choose from, with about half supporting full hook-up RVs.
Address: 798 Beech Bend Road, Bowling Green, Kentucky
Official site: https://www.beechbend.com/
5. Historic Railpark and Train Museum
Trains and railroad innovations helped build Bowling Green into what it is today, and the Historic Railpark and Train Museum gives testament to that past. Located at the historic Bowling Green Louisville and Nashville (L&N) Depot, the Historic Railpark contains a museum and restored railcars that visitors can climb aboard. Within the two-story museum, artifacts and memorabilia relate the fascinating history and importance of railroads throughout the region, with many interactive exhibits and displays. On the grounds outside, five different railcars have been completely restored, and visitors are encouraged to step aboard and see what travel was like during the early to mid-20th century.
Address: 401 Kentucky Street, Bowling Green, Kentucky
6. Fountain Square Park (Editor's Pick)
At the center of downtown and much of the city's history, Fountain Square Park is a pleasant plaza and community area to visit. Officially open to the public in 1872, the rich history surrounding the park is evident the moment you start touring the grounds. Civil War soldiers have occupied the space, as well as prohibitionists, and thousands of community members have enjoyed the nice weather on one of the benches lining the sidewalks.
Much of downtown Bowling Green can be easily accessed from the central location of the park, and the iconic marquee of the Capitol Arts Center can be seen across the street. Interpretive information at the park describes the history behind the space, and the central fountain itself is a work of art that deserves a pause to appreciate.
Address: 445 East Main Avenue, Bowling Green, Kentucky
7. Mammoth Cave National Park
Just over 30 miles northeast of Bowling Green, Mammoth Cave National Park truly lives up to its name. With more than 400 miles of this underground karst landscape mapped and explored, leaving possibly thousands of miles uncharted, Mammoth Cave is one of the largest cave systems in the country. The only way to see the underground world at Mammoth Cave is on a ranger-led, guided cave tour. Tours range from accessible subterranean introductions all the way to six-hour "Wild Cave" tours, which have you squeezing through small passageways. Cave tours are offered almost every day of the year with advance reservations available and recommended.
8. Bowling Green Hot Rods
Home to the Bowling Green Hot Rods, an affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays, this minor league baseball stadium hosts more than 70 home games between April and October. With incredibly affordable ticket prices, plus other entertaining attractions, such as post-game fireworks, play areas, and mascot appearances, baseball games in Bowling Green provide a great family outing. Nearly every home game has a unique appeal that's added to the nine innings of play, including free admission for specialized professions and costume events like "2000s Night." Baseball camps are also available for aspiring athletes between the ages of six and thirteen.
Address: 300 East Eighth Avenue, Bowling Green, Kentucky
Official site: https://www.milb.com/bowling-green
9. Riverview at Hobson Grove
Also referred to as the Hobson Estate, this historic mansion and grounds is located north of downtown and provides an authentic look at 19th-century culture. Of Italianate design, this mansion now on the National Register of Historic Places was built between the late 1850s and 1872, with construction halted during the Civil War. Tours of the historic home have been taking place for nearly 50 years now, and much of the Victorian design and furnishings of the interior have remained the same for more than twice as long. The estate also hosts several events and programs, including special candlelight tours.
Address: 1100 West Main Avenue, Bowling Green, Kentucky
Official site: http://www2.bgky.org/riverview/
10. Capitol Arts Center
Located downtown and with a marquee that can be easily seen from Fountain Square Park, Capitol Arts Center is an entertainment venue operated by the Southern Kentucky Performing Arts Center. Well over a century-old, the Capitol Arts Center has a long history, beginning as a vaudeville house in the 1890s. Eventually receiving a complete renovation in 1977, Capitol Arts Center is now a major hub of theater and entertainment in the city. Hosting a wide variety of shows and engagements including touring music acts, acclaimed film series and civic events, the historic theatre also hosts Capitol Movie Night every Friday.
Address: 416 East Main Avenue, Bowling Green, Kentucky
Official site: http://www.theskypac.com/capitol-arts-center/
11. Aviation Heritage Park
On the south side of the city, abutting the popular Basil Griffin Park, this open-air aviation museum features decommissioned and restored military aircraft on display. Five aircrafts can be seen on the circular plaza of the park, including fighter jets, supersonic trainers, and a Phantom II that was shot down during the Vietnam War. Plaques next to the aircrafts describe the history of each plane and how it ties into southern Kentucky aviation. Inside the hanger at Aviation Heritage Park, new additions are restored and readied for display.
Address: 1825 Three Springs Road, Bowling Green, Kentucky
Official site: http://new.aviationheritagepark.com/
12. Basil Griffin Park
Near the Aviation Heritage Museum, on the south side of the city, Basil Griffin Park is a 111-acre natural space with a 33-acre lake. Popular recreational outlets at the park include fishing, non-motorized boating, and feeding the many resident ducks and geese. The Paradise Playground on-site is a popular place for young children to explore, and organized leagues and intramural sports often take place at the park's athletic complex. Picnic shelters at the park make for a great place to enjoy some lunch or an afternoon snack. An 18-hole disc golf course is also available for those who enjoy throwing frisbees.
Address: Smallhouse Road, Bowling Green, Kentucky
Where to Stay in Bowling Green, Kentucky for Sightseeing
While a handful of upscale hotels are located in the city center near the Western Kentucky University campus, the best collection of budget and mid-range hotels can be found on the southeast side of town.
- Luxury and Mid-Range Hotels: Known as the best kept secret in the area, The Kentucky Grand Hotel and Spa is the most luxurious hotel in Bowling Green. Located in the heart of the city, this four-star boutique hotel features eight unique suites with decadent furnishings and an in-house spa catering to all levels of pampering. In the downtown district nearby, Hyatt Place Bowling Green is another high-rated hotel with beautiful common areas and spacious rooms. Guests at Hyatt Place are known to enjoy the downtown location, indoor pool, and free breakfast in the morning. Visitors traveling to Bowling Green specifically for the National Corvette Museum often enjoy the accommodations of The Hotel SYNC nearby, which features spacious suites, modern décor, and great rates for a "home-away-from-home" feeling.
- Budget Hotels: A good number of budget hotels can be found in Bowling Green, particularly southeast of the city. While some trade comfort for value, places like the Red Roof Inn Bowling Green, south of town, feature great rates and superior service. Alongside clean and comfortable rooms, Red Roof Inn is well known for its hot breakfast options and attentive staff. Near the Red Roof Inn, the Baymont by Wyndham Bowling Green provides even more space with an affordable rate, including suites equipped with a kitchenette, a work desk, and comfortable furnishings. Close to the center of the city, the locally owned Cardinal Motel has a great overnight rate and in-room amenities, including refrigerators, air-conditioning, and flat-screen TVs.