Only a quick two and half hours from Cincinnati we stumbled upon this unique adventure zoo in tiny town of Horse Cave, Kentucky. We didn’t quite know what to expect since we purchased our tickets on Groupon. We have been burned by tacky tourist attractions before, but this placed looked promising. I mean, where else can you go that you can pet a kangaroo?! Upon arrival I was skeptical because the parking lot is gravel and there didn’t appear to be any sense of order as to where you should park. I couldn’t see the zoo since it is spread out into the hillside, and my fears began to mount. REST ASSURED MATES THIS IS A TRIP WORTH TAKING. Here are my top reasons why you need to make the trip to visit Kentucky Down Under.
The Zoo Is Very Interactive
I have been to many zoos, but none were as interactive as this. If you or your child loves to pet animals and have close up encounters with them, then this is the place for you. The zoo cares for a variety of animals that you might not see everyday in your local zoo, including bison, maras zebu, dingos and naturally kangaroos. They have a variety of different hands on exhibits to visit, including a full petting zoo. Peacocks are parading around the grounds and the resident dogs make a terrific welcoming committee. Soph was more impressed with the friendly dogs then the bison, go figure. They have a great nature trail that is well shaded with the forest canopy that offers even more to explore. Check out everything they have to offer here: http://www.kentuckydownunder.com/
Take The Cave Tour
Your admission into the park includes a free tour of the historic Oynx Cave. The tour is roughly forty-five minutes long and includes beautiful formations and an underground pool at the end. They have made the cave very family friendly, however no strollers or wheelchairs are allowed inside the cave. I would recommend placing all babies in a carrier to do the tour as the cave is slippery and wet. Keep little ones close by as there are no handrails, but steps have been carved out. There are few spots in the cave where you will have to duck under formations and squeeze through some tight spots. I am in no way a small person, so these spots were a shade tight for me. At one point I almost had to take Sophie out of the carrier or grease myself up to get through. Praise the Lord we made it without getting the tanning butter out, but just something to keep in mind if you have a baby attached to you.
You are rewarded with an awesome view of the underground mineral pool after making your way through the rest of the cave. The guides are great at giving the history of the cave and do have a tip jar out at the end of the tour. If you are visiting on a hot summer day, the cave offers a respite from the heat. However, when you come back out into the humidity you may decide to run back in! I recommend planning this during the hottest part of your day or right before you leave.
Animal Shows and WoolShed Programs
How would you like the opportunity to hold a snake and have it around your neck?! All ages got the chance to touch, hold or watch a snake during the first animal show of the day. We visited the zoo with our dear friends whose kids are ages 6 and 8 and they were fearless! Having a 5 foot snake slithering around them was one of the highlights of their trip! Depending on the weather the zoo’s animal shows will differ, as that determines which animals they can bring out.
The Woolshed Program of the day was sheep herding. Onlookers got to witness the sheep dog round-up the sheep from the field. Followed by having the dog bring the sheep directly to the fence line where guests were standing. The sheep herder demonstrated how the dog responds to different cues and how they train them to herd sheep. Truly a unique and memorable experience since this city gal rarely visits the farm.
Tip: If this doesn’t interest you, then now is your time to hit to the cafe and the bathroom since everyone is at the Woolshed Program!
Feed the Lorikeets
This is an experience for the books and the only exhibit we had to wait to get into. Visitors get the opportunity to purchase Lorikeet food and go and feed them. Depending on the time of day and how much they already had to eat you could get swarmed with birds! There were literally birds landing on folks heads, lining their arms and landing on their hands. I wasn’t able to capture a good photo of this phenomenon, but check out the parks website for photos. Sophie loved this! She couldn’t get over being so close to the birds and having them flying over her head. Be sure to bring cash because each cup of feed is $1.00. I would recommend buying more than one! Fair warning: You may get pooped on by the birds.
The highlight of the Kentucky Down Under to me was the Outback Walkabout. At this exhibit you can walk around petting kangaroos, maras and emus. There is even a huge tortoise moseying around. You can venture off the pathway, which is handicapped accessible, to get closer to the these furry and feathered friends. Get those dollars out because you can also buy food here to feed the animals. The staff review how to pet the animals because one wrong move will get you punched in the face.
Be sure to keep an eye on the kiddos to ensure they are petting the animals properly and to prevent any unwanted incidents. When walking around be on the look out for Emu eggs and of course piles of poo. We spent a lot of time here and would have likely returned if nap time wasn’t calling. It did get really hot as there isn’t much shade in this area. Be sure to have sunscreen on, because all the shaded areas are taken by the kangaroos!
Other Tips and Recommendations for Visiting the Zoo
We thoroughly enjoyed our visit to Kentucky Down Under. We do have a few tips and recommendation that may help make your experience at the adventure zoo even better.
- RENT THE GOLF CART!!! The zoo now offers two types of golf carts to rent. For families with small children and those with disabilities this is a must. The park is mostly gravel and there are some steep hills. While strollers and wheelchairs are allowed it might be difficult getting them up the steeper part of park. It was the best money we spent all day! They do not rent strollers here.
- LOOK FOR A GROUPON– We were able to snag our tickets on Groupon. This made the zoo more affordable, as regular admission is not cheap. The money we saved we used to rent the golf cart!
- BRING WATER AND SUNSCREEN- The zoo does allow you to bring in your own water and food if you so desire to bring them in.
- CHECK OUT THE OUTBACK CAFE’– A lovely staff member gave me the low down on the Cafe’. Most things in the Cafe’ are made from scratch and they cater to special diet needs. The woman who is runs the cafe’ takes great pride in her work and they will often sell out of items. They have a variety of things from Frito Pie to Bison Burgers! We only stopped in for beverages, however the food looked amazing!
- DON’T WEAR FLIP-FLOPS- Trust me on this, it will make navigating the park a whole lot easier and you won’t have gravel in your flip-flop every two minutes.
- BRING ONE DOLLAR BILLS- If you want to feed the animals be sure to have your dollars at the ready. They can make change for smaller bills.
Check out other nearby attractions
Mammoth Cave National Park – https://www.nps.gov/maca/index.htm
Cave City – http://cavecity.com/attractions/
Hart County tourism http://kygetaway.com/
Kentucky Down Under is roughly an hour from Louisville. You can always opt to stay the night in the city and day trip down. We stayed in Mammoth Cave National Park at the Lodge. We stayed in one of the sunset terrace rooms, which was a great fit for our little family.
Note: there was construction on I-65 at the time we went so that might add-on some drive time. (May.2018)