“Go All In” in Lake Cumberland & Somerset
Most folks come to Somerset and Pulaski County because the sparkling waters of Lake Cumberland are known as the “Houseboat Capital of the World.” But the fourth-best recreational lake in the country, according to USA Today’s 10Best.com, is also a place where friends and family can fish, play and find cozy anchorages under sunny (or starry!) skies.
Others come to visit “The Capital of Lake Cumberland” because this part of South-Central Kentucky is a vibrant, hospitable center of arts, crafts, culture and shopping, with thriving restaurants and abundant live music in a revitalized downtown.
Summertime is Fun Time
In the summer, dip in the area’s magnificent cooling waters of Lake Cumberland or plan a visit to SomerSplash, a 30-acre water park with slides, a wave pool and adjoining skateboard park. Somerset’s annual Master Musicians Festival – an annual mid-July event since 1994 – draws crowds from all over the country to hear an eclectic list of legendary rootsy artists like Odetta, Pinetop Perkins, Vassar Clemens, Richie Havens, the legendary Willie Nelson, Counting Crows and Dwight Yoakam – right alongside regional performers who share Kentucky’s rich musical roots.
If you happen to be visiting on the fourth Saturday of the month (not only in summer, but April-October) the Somernites Cruise car show downtown offers fun-filled weekends devoted to vintage cars, live music and the sort of community spirit that hearkens back to an earlier time. With a Rock and Roll Block Party on Friday and then the car show/cruise on Saturday, it’s easy to see how the event has earned Somerset the title of “Car Cruise Capital of Kentucky.”
But this area is also spectacular in the fall – when the area’s hills, gorges and plateaus are ablaze with color – and during the still, cold winter months when the forested landscape, its wildlife and sharp-edged contours can be seen in snow-covered clarity.
No matter what direction you’re coming from, every route offers scenic views. The main north-south route, U.S. 27, runs from Ohio through Lexington then down to Tennessee. Travelers along I-65 will find that east on the Louis B. Nunn Parkway offers quick passage to Somerset. And to the east, Kentucky Highway 80 – which connects to London, I-75 and beyond – spans the gorgeous Daniel Boone National Forest.
Head outdoors to revel in sweet autumn breezes as you spend a day apple picking at Haney’s Appledale Farm. The sprawling family-owned orchard, a Pulaski County tradition since 1870, grows 25-plus varieties of apples, along with peaches, pears, nectarines and more. With a market selling homemade pies, ciders, jams, sorghum, salsas and other tasty delights – not to mention a cafe dishing out lunch and donuts – this is a delicious experience that can’t be missed.
Year-round, catch a show at The Virginia theater, called “The Shining Star of Somerset” for both its dazzling marquee lights and stellar live music and performing arts events. Originally opened as a cinema in 1922, The Virginia played an important part in the town’s rich history and culture. Newly restored, it carries on that role as a performance venue that offers a robust lineup ranging from theatrical acts and magicians to DJs, rock groups and, of course, bluegrass bands.
Stay More, Play More
There are lots of ways to get around these parts – by kayak, boat, bike, foot and car. But there are plenty of places to settle into as well.
Just a few minutes from Somerset on the shore of Lake Cumberland, Lee’s Ford Resort Marina offers rustic cottages and casual-upscale dining at the The Harbor Restaurant & Tavern (featured in Southern Living), where you can feast on ribs, pork chops and blackened grouper while gazing at the lake. Boaters won’t miss out either, since the restaurant delivers to marina slips and cabins. (How cool is that?)
If it’s a campsite you crave, you’ll find lakeside spaces for RVs at Shoreline RV Park, Waitsboro Recreation Area, Lake Cumberland RV Park, Pulaski County Park and others. There are nearly a hundred sites with utility hookups, showers and full amenities at General Burnside Island State Park, home to one of the state’s most beautiful golf courses. There are also primitive campsites at Bee Rock, east of Somerset on Rockcastle River, the take-out point for audacious paddlers who’ve tackled the frothy waters upstream.
And all around the region you’ll find a mix of amenities and locations that will satisfy every taste. Somerset itself is blessed with an abundance of locally-owned and national hotels and motels at price points that give visitors plenty of choices. There are more than 100 short-term rentals available as well.
Visit historical sites like Mill Springs Battlefield Museum/Visitor Center (now a National Monument) where Union troops achieved the first major victory in the Western Theater of the Civil War. Browse arts and crafts or listen to the music of local and regional artisans at the Cooper Arts Center in downtown Somerset. Take a walking tour of historic downtown to get a sense of how time and history have shaped this 200-year-old town.
Come Wine & Dine
No matter where you’re staying, you’ll want to visit the tasting room at Cave Hill Vineyard & Winery, set just north of town among gently rolling hills. If it's craft beer you love, visit Jarfly Brewing Company the first of its kind in downtown Somerset.
And, of course, you’ll eat well! With luck, you’ll haul in a mess of fish on your own, but area restaurants stand ready to serve everything from grits, biscuits and gravy to fried chicken, sushi and steak with potatoes. You won't want to miss the hot donuts from Amon's Sugar Shack, available Thursday through Saturday evenings during the summer.
Whether you’re shopping for produce from the area’s rich agricultural bounty or antiques and hard-to-find knickknacks, the local farm markets, unique antique shops/malls and vast flea markets are great places to meet the locals and get personal advice about the items and places they treasure.
Ready to make your escape?
Call 800-642-6287 or visit www.lctourism.com for information on all there is to see and do here. Your dream vacation waits on the shores of Lake Cumberland!