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Kentucky: Above Ground and Below

Kentucky has long been known as the Bluegrass State; however, is bluegrass actually blue? The reference to bluegrass is due to the blue-purple buds of the grass that lend a bluish tint, giving it an appearance of azure, especially when the sun shines upon it. Ironically, this beautiful, thin-bladed grass is actually not native to Kentucky; Spanish immigrants brought these seeds, which are of the Latin name/variety known as Poa Pratensis, of this delicate but durable grass to the newly settled Americas in mixtures with other grasses. Add that to a chorus of "The Sun Shines Bright on My Old Kentucky Home," and you have a tableau aesthetically appealing to almost everyone. Alas, "bluegrass" is but one of the myriad reasons to come visit the quasi-southern state of Kentucky. There is an age-old mantra that states, "Come see the beautiful horses and fast women."

Should you mention fast horses and horse racing to almost any American, and ask them to equate those words to any state in this union, bets are in that they would say "Kentucky!" Churchill Downs is home to the omnipotent annual Kentucky Derby. You can find Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky, just south of Indiana on the Ohio River. The pinnacle of horse racing happens at the Kentucky Derby the first week of every May. While you're at Churchill Downs, pick your favorite racehorse(s) and possibly place a bet or two. Sit back and sip your Mint Julep cocktail in a collectible Kentucky Derby glass and check out the tradition of audacious and almost ostentatious Derby hats worn by many of the women attending the favorite outdoor event.

Although Kentucky may be one of the greatest purveyors of "green" (and even blue) when it comes to grasses and horticulture, there is more to see than what lies above the ground. Although the state abounds with choice historical sites and landmarks, you may choose to travel expeditious I-65 approximately 80 miles to the southwest of Louisville and walk off those Mint Juleps while touring Mammoth Cave. Mammoth Cave National Park is an apt moniker for the massive system of large chambers and subterranean passageways underground. Above ground attractions at the park include hiking areas around the Green and Nolin rivers and the sinkholes of Cedar Sink. There are other caves in the area -- namely the 100+-year-old Lost River Cave in Bowling Green -- but Mammoth is the larger cavern wherein stalagmites, and stalactites abound. Should you find yourself in a group that is not so much into touring caves, or for those persons who have claustrophobia, travel instead to Bowling Green where fast-car fans can visit the home of the Chevrolet Corvette. Although their popular plant tours are currently on hiatus, the full-service museum is open for tourists. There is a new track wherein you can drive a brand new Corvette yourself, or challenge your family or friends to a race of the small go-karts around a curvy track.

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