Make the most of a brief visit to this UNESCO creative city.
Spacious overnight accommodations at Fox Briar Inn earn our top honor, 21 Plus Salute!
By Hope S. Philbrick
We spent just 18-1/2 hours in Paducah, Kentucky—eight of them asleep.
Though a longer visit to this historic riverfront town is in order, if your road trip from Point A to Point B passes through Paducah, heed our advice to make the most of an overnight layover.
With its recent designation as a “Creative City of Crafts & Folk Art” by the United Nations Educational, Scientific & Cultural Organization, it’s essential to include art venues in any Paducah itinerary, however quick the stop.
Welcome to Paducah!
Pull into the big, free parking lot at the corner of Broadway and the riverfront (the water is the confluence of the Ohio and Tennessee Rivers) in historic downtown and opt for a spot in the shade of a tree, if you can snag one. Stroll across the street into the Visitor’s Bureau to pick up brochures, recommendations, maps, or just say howdy to the kind folks behind the desk.
Then make haste: There’s a lot to see and do!
Walk a few doors down to the Yeiser Art Center, where the mission is “to further the development and appreciation of the visual arts within our own local community and throughout the region by providing educational opportunities and activities that help nurture the creative spirit in all of us.” The Center hosts seven different exhibitions a year featuring works by regional and international artists, including “Fantastic Fibers” each spring, and boasts an artsy gift shop with many Kentucky-crafted goods.
Walk past the parking lot to the…
…National Quilt Museum, the must-see fiber arts showcase with more than 500 works in its permanent collection. “The goal of the middle gallery is to share today’s quilting story,” says Frank Bennett, chief executive officer. “It’s not just grandmothers making quilts for beds. Today’s quilters are fine artists working with fiber as their medium.” Current exhibits include “Distortion” (works from the largest quilt contest in the world, curated in Europe; on display through June 24, 2014), “New Quilts from an Old Favorite” (winners of the museum-hosted international contest that challenged quilters to incorporate the Carolina Lily design element into their quilt, on display through June 10) and “The Gilded Lily” (a sister show to “New Quilts from an Old Favorite,” this exhibit features vintage Carolina Lily quilts from the 1800s and early 1900s, on display through June 10—note that vintage quilts are on display an average of twice each year, since the museum’s focus is contemporary). Miniature quilts hang in a nook near the gallery entrance. “There’s something for everyone,” says Bennett. “What most impresses me is there’s so much precision to quilting—so much goes into a quilt before even making anything.” Exhibits change often; plan to stop at this national museum every time you drive through Paducah; it’s the world’s largest and most prestigious museum devoted to quilts and fiber art.
Walk back to Broadway and treat yourself to a frozen snack at The Ice Cream Factory at Riverplace where old-fashioned, premium ice cream is made on site. Options include classics like chocolate and vanilla as well as seasonal favorites like Paducah Patchwork that’s chock full of fruit and nuts.
Order just one scoop so you can finish it before walking around the corner to the…
…River Discovery Center, dedicated to “preserving the heritage of our rivers” and housed in Paducah’s oldest standing building (circa 1843). Connect with the inland waterways without getting wet and gain insights into America’s river systems, local history, as well as river-influenced art, music and cultures. Among the interactive displays, don’t miss the chance to pilot a boat using the same high-tech simulator as riverboat captains—the realism is impressive; after four minutes you’ll feel as relaxed as if you’d taken an actual boat ride. Climb upstairs to see the Founders Room that’s filled with antiques and overlooks the confluence of the Ohio and Tennessee Rivers.
Walk down Broadway to Maiden Alley to…
Check into Fox Briar Inn at Riverplace “where hospitality is a way of life.” (Ring the bell, the door is kept locked.) Friendly folks will check you in and escort you upstairs. Period details blend with modern conveniences in this impeccably restored historic lodging treasure, where your guest suite is bigger than many apartments. Each suite is individually decorated and luxurious river-view suites are available. Unlike the “guest” vibe common to most hotels, this place quickly feels like home in a genuine way—for starters, you’ll get a key to the front door.
- No pets
- Ideal location on the historic block of Broadway in downtown Paducah
- Full-size kitchens
- TVs and DVD players
- Laundry facilities
- Free local phone service
- Check in from 3 to 5 p.m.; check-out by 11 a.m.
- Two of the suites can accommodate four guests
- Some suites have whirlpool or clawfoot tubs
- Rates from $145/night
- Odds of Encountering Children: ZERO! The Fox Briar Inn earns our top honors with its stated policy: “We do not accommodate children, as many of our guests have planned for a quiet getaway.” 21 Plus Salute!
Walk to dinner at any one of the dozen restaurants nearby, many housed in historic 19th Century buildings featuring cuisine prepared with innovative artistic flair. Various culinary styles are represented, including a German bakery and deli, authentic Italian and Mexican, and local favorites like Western Kentucky barbecue.
Head back to Fox Briar Inn whenever you’re ready to call it a night.
Check out of the hotel, load up your car and walk down South 2nd Street to Kirchhoff’s Bakery & Deli, a fifth-generation German establishment, and neighboring Etc2 coffee shop. Get your morning fuel and linger at a table indoors or out, time permitting, or get your order to go.
Depart Paducah. Remember to buckle up, honor speed limits and never text while driving.
@21plusTravel Tip: Unless you like the idea of crossing a structure rated as “functionally obsolete,” if you’re driving to Illinois avoid the Brookport Bridge. Cross the Ohio River via I- 24. It’s likely that your GPS will route you to the Brookport Bridge (it may be a few miles closer, depending on your ultimate destination), so ask the kind folks at the Visitor’s Bureau how to avoid it if you’re concerned and unfamiliar with the area.
Paducah won the Great American Main Street award from the National Trust for Historic Preservation in 2010; in 2011 the same organization named it one of a dozen Distinctive Destinations.
– Photo Credits: gallery courtesy National Quilt Museum; simulator courtesy River Discovery Center; remainder © HSP Media LLC
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