I am so behind on our travel logs! Here’s the situation. If I don’t abbreviate these babies, they’re never going to get up, and our adventures will be completely lost to the wind. So without further adieu, here’s the story of our month in south central Kentucky over the summer.
We stayed in Somerset, KY from July 1-August 5, 2017.
Why We Were in Somerset, KY
Our four eldest kids lived in Somerset, KY for a couple of years. We were last there in 2015 to celebrate the high school graduation of our eldest, Darius. Our close family friends, the Wrights, still live there. Since our older kiddos are growing up so quickly and will all be adults before we know it, we want to nurture their relationship with the Wright kids. They’ve been friends since they were tiny, and we want to encourage them to be friends for life.
Somerset, KY is a small town, population 11,000, at the eastern terminus of the scenic Cumberland Parkway. It’s an hour and a half due south of Lexington, two and a half hours southeast of Louisville, just west of Daniel Boone National Forest, and about 45 minutes north of the Tennessee border.
TBH: if our sweet friends didn’t live in Somerset, we would probably never go there.
Having said that, our month in the area went quickly, and we found some fun things to do.
Things to Do in the Somerset, KY Area
While it may not be Schlitterbahn, SomerSplash is a legit waterpark. We got season passes for the whole family and went a couple of times every week. We could do the lazy river with Caspian, and there’s also a baby pool. Beyond that, there are slides (tubes and no tubes), a water playground with a ginormous bucket of water that dumps on a timer, and a big wave pool.
1030 KY-2227, Somerset, KY – Website
Big South Fork Scenic Railway
I want to ride trains more. One Saturday during our stay, we took a trip on the Big South Fork Scenic Railway. There are two departure times on Saturday: 11 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.
The three-hour round trip is 30-45 minutes each way. The remainder of the three hours is spent at the Blue Heron stop in Big South Fork National Recreation Area, right along Big South Fork River. We had lunch at a concession stand that serves things like BBQ sandwiches, pizza, hot dogs, pretzels, and slushies (before Eric’s diabetes diagnosis!). Very simple and cheap. Hot dogs were $2 each and the BBQ sandwich was $4.
We had plenty of time to eat and wander. We enjoyed crossing the bridge, learning about the tipple, and seeing the ghost structures. Podiums at the ghost structures had recorded narration. One of the coolest things about our visit was that we met another family with five children that had started full-time RVing two weeks earlier.
Pro tip: on the train, I recommend sitting on the left side of the locomotive, going both ways. The train cars were recently remodeled with beautiful pine wood. While the front car is open with no windows and long benches for seats, the other cars are more enclosed with typical seat rows. In the latter, there’s a nice breeze with all of the windows open. The cushioned seat backs actually change directions (to face the front of the train or the back), so don’t worry about that when you’re choosing a seat.
The train is loud between the whistle and brakes–both seem to be located near the front of the train. Eric commented on what life must’ve been like when people crossed the entire country on a slow-moving train!
This was a fun half-day adventure for us. If you’ve ever taken a train ride through the most beautiful parts of our country, you may be underwhelmed. Choose accordingly!
66 Henderson St, Stearns, KY – Website
Book & CD Hut
For those of you who enjoy role-playing games, Book & CD Hut has a surprisingly active and vibrant community. Eric, Javen, and Silas love playing Pathfinder, which is a role-playing game based on the original Dungeons & Dragons. They participated in an all-weekend role-playing event, and there’s also a weekly calendar of events to choose from.
370 US-27 # 12, Somerset, KY – Facebook
Day Trip to Berea
Kolan Wright told us about Berea, which was the town that originally attracted his family to the area. With a population under 14,000, Berea is known as “The Folk Arts and Crafts Capital of Kentucky.” It’s easy to fall in love with this place.
- We started at the Boone Trace marker, reading online about how the area came to be explored and settled.
- Right across the street, Berea College Visitor Center and Shoppe is full of handicrafts made by Berea College students. No student pays for tuition at Berea College. It’s known as “the best education money can’t buy.” But students give back by working in various ways for the school, including by making these beautiful crafts sold in the gift shop. There are also demonstrations from time to time.
- Seven minutes away, Kentucky Artisan Center was the highlight of our short day trip. We got Silas his first journal, to chronicle his freshman year of high school, and were generally delighted by the creative and colors of all the crafts. Seriously, don’t miss this.
- Rather out of order, we made our way to the Berea Welcome Center. Imagine our surprise when we heard charming folk tunes wafting into the air and stumbled upon a room full of dulcimer players. I think we were the only tourists in the small welcome center at the time, so the musicians were playing for no one in particular. We were told they’ve part of a local group who get together from time to time.
There are tons of beautiful and unique local shops in Berea, so you can wander at will and find treasures at every turn. I would’ve loved to have spent more time here. We didn’t end up eating in town. But if we had, I would’ve wanted to try Noodle Nirvana, which looks delicious and is highly rated online.
Day Trip to Lexington
We took a couple of day trips to Lexington during our stay in Somerset. We’ve enjoyed visiting in the past and definitely recommend it. Two of our discoveries this time around were Parkette Drive In, which has been featured on “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” and “Rachael Ray Show,” and Farm Market. The tamales at Farm Market are better than any you’ve ever tasted. They were out of almost every type when we arrived in the afternoon, so we “settled” on the vegetarian options.
Things to Eat in Somerset, KY
Somerset has mostly chain restaurants, and the few local places are iffy. Our go-to is Speedy Tacos, and we were happy to see they’re expanding their location since we were there in 2015.
Where We Stayed in Somerset, KY
We stayed at Lake Cumberland RV Park again–the same place we stayed in 2015. It has full hookups and was $450 for the month. There is an indoor pool, but it was quite cold even in the summertime. Other than that, there are no amenities.
We liked our site in 2015 because we had a large lawn and looked out on a grassy area. But this time we were sandwiched into a narrow site. I also forgot to mention that everyone parks on grass, with no gravel or concrete. So when it rains, everything is a mess.
It may not sound very nice to you, and maybe it’s not. But it’s served its purpose for us, and we’ll probably stay again next time we’re in the area.
What Else Was Going on With RV Wanderlust
We continued to have the RV issues we were contending with in Cave City. Our jacks were still broken, so we went the whole stay without jacks. And our front AC unit continued to work unreliably. We tried to find a technician in the Somerset area, but no one seemed to want our business badly enough to return calls or give us good information. So we decided not to chance it.
Eric was diagnosed with diabetes on July 31.
On the positive side:
- We did our semi-annual clean-out of Meriwether’s basement. This is something we try to do every six months. We find things to donate every time, as we continue to narrow down what possessions we really need.
- Eric and I celebrated our six-year wedding anniversary on July 29!
- We had a wonderful time with Javen and Silas.
- Darius was able to take a few days of leave from his unit to come for a visit.
- Arianna surprised her Daddy, so we had two days with all five of our kids together. Best two days ever.
I grew up near that area (actually across the border in Tennessee), but I had never seen the wonderful things you pointed out. I guess I never stopped and smelled the roses. I love the picture of all five kids. Everyone seems to be happy and y’all make a good looking bunch.
We enjoyed our visit and our discoveries. Berea was definitely a highlight.
Not a single mention of one of the most beautiful things to see and enjoy in that area! Lake Cumberland, created in the early 1950’s by damming a portion of the Cumberland River. Taking a boat from Somerset [Burnside] to the Wolf Creek Dam near Jamestown. If it was in your budget, renting a houseboat [essentially an RV on the water] and cruising from where you were to the dam and back, staying in coves overnight along the way, would have been quite an adventure, and very enjoyable. Not inexpensive, but VERY enjoyable.
Yes, our RV park is right by the lake and we took jet skis out on our last visit. We considered a boat ride, but decided against this time. Caspian was seven months old and I wasn’t sure what he would think. Next time.