This city of just over 30,000 is ensconced in rich farmland near the border with Tennessee in southwestern Kentucky.
A big part of local life is the US Army base Fort Campbell, founded in 1941 and home to the 101st Airborne Division.
Once you get a pass, you can visit the Don F. Pratt Museum on the base, with enthralling insights about the 101st Airborne’s advance across Western Europe in WWII.
Hopkinsville has a resurgent downtown, with elegant architecture, museums, diverse restaurants and a treasured craft brewery, all setting the scene for the Hoptown Summer Salute festival in August.
There’s also an acclaimed distillery in Hopkinsville, Casey Jones Distillery, and this is part of a cross-state trail with three stops in Kentucky and Tennessee.
1. Trail of Tears Commemorative Park and Heritage Center
Hopkinsville was on the Trail of Tears, the long-term forced displacement of some 60,000 American Indians from the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Muscogee (Creek) and Seminole tribes in the mid-19th century.
The Trail of Tears Commemorative Park and Heritage Center is on a portion of the Cherokee campground by the Little River. Importantly, it features two of the verified gravesites along the trail, those of Chief White Path and Fly Smith.
There’s a heritage center with artifacts, open March through October, and the park is the setting for The Trail of Tears Intertribal Pow Wow, held on the weekend after Labor Day, featuring native dance competitions, food, crafts and more.
2. Pennyroyal Area Museum
There’s a series of attractions under the umbrella, Museums of Hopkinsville. The largest of these is the Pennyroyal Area Museum, housed in the solemn former Post Office building from 1915.
The museum moved here in 1976, and much of the original interior remains in situ. The museum has recently come through a multimillion-dollar renovation and sheds light on important local personalities and chapters in the history of the Pennyrile region.
You’ll get in touch with the rich African-American heritage, learn about the clairvoyant Edgar Cayce (1877-1945) and discover the story of the Black Patch Tobacco Wars at the turn of the 20th century, while there’s also an absorbing exhibit about the nearby Fort Campbell Army Post.
3. Casey Jones Distillery
For a true Kentucky experience you could head for this distillery out in the countryside a few minutes northwest of Hopkinsville.
Active from the 1930s to the 1960s, Alfred “Casey” Jones made his name building handmade “coffin” stills, so-called because of their square shape, which made them portable.
One, made by Casey Jones in 1967, is put to use at this distillery, which is run by his grandson, making moonshine to a prohibition-era Jones/Balentine recipe.
For the inside track, you don’t need to make a reservation to join a public tour of the distillery, which departs on the hour throughout the day.
This can be combined with a tasting session, letting you sample the range of bourbons, moonshine and barreled whiskeys.
4. Don F. Pratt Museum
The Fort Campbell Army Post, on both sides of the Kentucky-Tennessee boundary, is by far the biggest employer in the city.
For visitors, the base should be on your radar for the Don F. Pratt Museum, especially if you’re interested in the history of the 101st Airborne Division, which is garrisoned here.
After receiving a base pass at Gate 4 or 7, you can check out an awe-inspiring collection of vehicles, weapons, medals, field equipment and other memorabilia from WWII to Iraq and Afghanistan.
The 101st Airborne Division features prominently, with a display of objects that belonged to high-ranking Nazi officials including Hitler, Göring and Julius Streicher, captured in Berchtesgaden in 1945.
5. Historic Downtown
Be sure to give yourself some time to experience everything that downtown Hopkinsville has going for it.
You could start with 6th Street, which has a cluster of eateries and little stores for antiques, clothes and handmade gifts, while the much-loved Hopkinsville Brewing Company is set one block to the north.
At the west end of 6th Street, next to the courthouse is the 650-seat Alhambra Theater, dating to 1928, and serving as a vibrant performing arts hub for Hopkinsville.
Head south along Main Street and you’ll find many more local restaurants, coffee houses and stores, as well as the site of the Hopkinsville-Christian County Downtown Farmers Market, open Wednesdays and Saturdays, April through October.
6. Hoptown Summer Salute
This award-winning two-day event in late August has taken over from Little River Days as Hopkinsville’s premier summer festival, attracting people from over 100 miles around.
Taking place downtown at Little River Park and 9th Street, the Summer Salute brings live music, more than 100 food and craft vendors, carnival rides and a wealth of things for children to do.
Every year there’s a famous headliner taking the stage on the Saturday evening, and the year before we wrote this article this was country star Travis Tritt.
7. Woody Winfree Fire-Transportation Museum
Part of the Museums of Hopkinsville is a collection of historic vehicles and firefighting equipment, a few steps from the Pennyroyal Area Museum.
This attraction is set in the former Hopkinsville Fire Station (1905), and gives you a wonderful insight into the history of transportation in the area.
You’ll see wagons, an authentic buggy, horse-drawn vehicles and preserved gas pumps from the 1930s and 1940s.
Some of the standout exhibits are a Chevrolet Pumper fire truck (1927), a LaFrance Fire Truck (1928), a 1909 Model 10 Surrey and a 1926 Model T Ford Touring Car.
The museum also pays tribute to Hopkinsville’s firefighters, and many original features from the old station are still intact, like the 22-foot brass pole and a corrugated concrete flooring that gave traction to the station’s horses.
8. Hopkinsville Brewing Company
It’s only right that “Hoptown” should have a craft brewery downtown. In fact, Hopkinsville Brewing Company became the first craft brewery in the entire county when it opened in 2016.
This is a 2.5-barrel nanobrewery, producing 88-gallon batches every three weeks or so. The brewery has proved such a hit that it has since expanded into the building next door.
You can call in for a pint or flight, and can spend a little longer, making the most of the free Wi-Fi and ordering from one of the slew of restaurants in Hopkinsville’s Downtown Renaissance District.
Among the eight beers on tap when we made this list were a Witbier, an IPA, a Bourbon Porter, a Milk Stout and a Fruit Sour.
9. Tie Breaker Family Aquatic Center
A great option for families during the school summer break is this outdoor pool complex off the Hopkinsville Bypass in the south of the city.
Open Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day, the Tie Breaker Family Aquatic Center has been on the scene since 2007, and packs a lot of attractions into a relatively small site.
These are two twisting tube slides, a lazy river, a leisure pool and the wonderful Splash Zone interactive playground, which has beach entry. Encircling the complex is an unbroken line of lounge chairs, with umbrellas for shade and neat landscaping.
10. Pennyroyal Scuba Blue Springs Resort
An old, 22-acre rock quarry on the east side of Hopkinsville has been converted into Kentucky’s only full-service diving facility.
Going down as far as 130 feet, the waters here are spring-fed and have a remarkable level of visibility, ideal for divers of all abilities, from beginner to advanced.
As well as plenty of fish, there are more than 40 interesting objects submerged in the depths, from sculptures to wrecks. There’s a shop on site offering rentals, as well as accommodation, a service department and a dive school.
11. Round Table Literary Park
At the Hopkinsville Community College campus in the north of the city there’s an outdoor attraction that was established in the mid-1970s by the members of the college’s literary magazine, The Round Table.
Labeled with historical markers you’ll find detailed reproductions of Arthurian scenes like The Sword in the Stone and The Round Table, encircled by 24 seats, each inscribed with the name of a knight in its appropriate location.
Other scenes that were added later include the Graeco-Roman Amphitheatre from 1989 and a faithful replica of the ruins of the Tholos of Delphi completed in 1996.
12. Christian Way Farm & Mini Golf
Agritourism doesn’t get more wholesome than this attraction combining a petting zoo, farm-themed activities and mini-golf.
There’s a small world of fun awaiting youngsters, including lawnmower train rides, giant board games, a tricycle arena, a corn truck (like a giant sandbox), gaga ball and a playground. Come fall you’ve also got a corn maze and pumpkin patch.
The farm’s friendly animals are of course a big draw, and you can feed them with corn that you’ll shell and grind yourself.
The other headline is the mini-golf course, designed with a lot of love and blessed with idyllic views of the surrounding countryside.
Older visitors may be interested in the farm’s rich collection of historic equipment, while the cafe and country store may tempt parents to stay a little longer.
13. Copper Canyon Ranch
The couple who own this property a short way northeast of Hopkinsville have dedicated years to building a replica Old West town.
At Copper Canyon Ranch there’s a boardwalk and a series of recreated buildings including a Wells Fargo telegraph office, a log church, a saloon, general store, bank, barber shop and more.
These buildings are loaded with period appropriate props and furniture. You can visit for a tour, while kids can take pony rides. There are also seasonal events, from historic reenactments to a haunted hayride at Halloween.
14. Stateline Whiskey Tour
If the Casey Jones Distillery sparked your interest in the area’s distilling heritage, this spot can be the first stop on a whiskey-themed tour straddling the Kentucky-Tennessee line.
The Stateline Whiskey Tour takes in two more small-batch establishments, both within a 30-mile radius.
The next is MB Roland Distillery in Pembroke, KY, a grain-to-glass distillery using white corn to make its line of products, from bourbon to Kentucky pink lemonade, by hand.
Then you’ve got Old Glory Distilling Co. in Clarksville, TN, known for its premium Tennessee whiskey and bourbon. Each distillery has a unique story to tell and a distinct range of spirits for connoisseurs to sample. Tour all three you’ll also be eligible for a gift.
15. Jeffers Bend Recreation Area
This peaceful, 40-acre patch of grassland is on the north fork of the Little River in the northeast of Hopkinsville. Walking the trails here you would have no clue that this was once the site for the Hopkinsville Water Treatment Plant.
There are almost three miles of trails in total, as well as a one-acre lake, a bird observatory, a welcome center and environmental classrooms.
Outside you can enjoy the delightful butterfly, herb and children’s gardens. The latter allows children from neighborhoods in the area to plant and harvest their own vegetables.