Southwest of Louisville, Radcliff is a small town in the picturesque Knobs Region of north-central Kentucky. This part of the state is infused with military history, along the supply lines for the Union Army in the Civil War.
Later, in 1918 Fort Knox was established next door to Radcliff, and today this is home to the U.S. Army Cadet Command. Right beside the fort, the U.S. Bullion Depository is one of the most secure buildings on the planet, and normally takes the fort’s name.
You can head to the fort for a compelling museum devoted to General George Patton, while there’s a series of beautiful preserves and trails open to the public on Department of Defense land.
1. General George Patton Museum
The main public attraction on Fort Knox is this museum that opened in 1949, dedicated to the memory of General George S. Patton, Jr., (1885-1945), a figure etched in the world’s consciousness.
Here you can view the largest collection of Patton-related material in the world, dating from his childhood to the conclusion of WWII.
Among the many exhibits are his personal carry gun, touring car, helmet, office van, medals, uniforms and more. There’s also a wealth of photography, accompanied by details of his career and famous quotes.
Up to 2011 Fort Knox was home to the U.S. Army Armor Center and the U.S. Army Armor School, and there’s still an excellent display of tanks and other armored vehicles at the museum.
2. Saunders Springs Nature Preserve
Protecting several cascading natural springs, there’s a glorious natural haven on steep, densely wooded terrain right next to Radcliff.
The Saunders Springs Nature Preserve is on 26 acres, and has a lot of unique features despite its relatively small size. The first thing you’ll notice is a set of three preserved 19th-century log cabins at the entrance.
The preserve has an elevation difference of 200 feet, for a diversity of scenery, but also ecosystems. From 1920 to 1968 this was the site for a water processing plant, fed by the springs that are now key to the preserve’s appeal today.
There are ten different trails adding up to around three miles, with interpretive boards explaining the history of this unforgettable place.
3. Fort Duffield Park & Historic Site
We’ll see that this area was on a key supply route for the Union Army in the Civil War, both by rail along the Louisville and Nashville Railroad, and the turnpike of the same name.
To protect these supply lines the Union Army established this fort in 1861, on high ground by the Ohio River outside of West Point.
Requiring around six weeks of construction, the fort was never challenged and had actually been abandoned by the time of the Confederate Morgan’s Raid across the Ohio River in the summer of 1863.
The earthworks of this star-shaped fort are remarkably intact, and visiting the site you’ll be in no doubt of its strategic value. An understated memorial with stone markers and a small granite monument pays tribute to the 61 soldiers who died while in service at the fort.
4. U.S. Bullion Depository
When most people say “Fort Knox” they’re usually talking about the adjacent United States Bullion Depository, also known as the Gold Vault.
This renowned fortified vault, one of the world’s most secure buildings, was built in 1938 to contain the nation’s gold supply, but such is the level of security that the depository has been a temporary home to many other priceless items.
These include original copies of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, three original prints of the Gutenberg Bible, the U.S. Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.
Sadly a tour is out of the question, but there are clear views from the Fort Knox Welcome Center, and then along Bullion Blvd and a section of Dixie Blvd as you travel north.
5. Tioga Falls Hiking Trail
On Department of Defense land, but normally open to the public, there’s a two-mile trail leading you to a breathtaking waterfall.
The Tioga Falls Hiking Trail is in fact on the route of an old wagon trail, and even before you get to the falls there are interesting old details to see such as historic railroad trestles.
Wrapped in deep hardwood forest, the falls themselves are a delight, with a long flight of five drops with a total height of more than 130 feet. Consult the signs for details of closures for military training or hunting.
6. Bridges to the Past Walking Trail
There’s absorbing history in store on this two-mile trail, around eight miles north of the Fort Knox Main Gate on Louisville Nashville Turnpike.
Here you’ll discover a preserved section of the Louisville and Nashville (L&N) Turnpike, a road chartered by the Kentucky State Legislature in 1829 and finally completed in 1838.
This was an important artery through Kentucky in the 19th century, traveled by the likes of President Andrew Jackson and the famous Swedish opera singer Jenny Lind.
In the Civil War the turnpike was a vital road and supply route for the Union Army, memorably in September 1862 when General Don Carlos Buell marched his Army of the Ohio towards Louisville to defend against a possible Confederate attack.
As with Tioga Falls Hiking Trail, this trail may be closed at short notice.
7. Boundary Oak Distillery
In 2013, this distillery in Radcliff became the first legal liquor producer in Hardin County since the days before Prohibition.
Boundary Oak Distillery uses limestone-filtered water from an historic natural spring that once supplied the water to a 19th-century schoolhouse next to the owner’s farm. This is now the first ingredient for a selection of premium small-batch bourbon, amber whiskey and moonshine.
You can visit the distillery to find out about the family history of master distiller Brent Goodin, going back more than 200 years and deeply entwined with the bourbon industry.
Tours and tasting experiences, including an introductory film, are available seven days a week and last around 45 minutes.
8. Red Hill Cutlery
A neat roadside attraction near the intersection of the Dixie Blvd and Joe Prather Hwy is the World’s Largest Pocket Knife, which was unveiled in 2020 in front of Red Hill Cutlery.
This is Kentucky’s largest knife dealer, and a mecca for knife collectors. That blade you see is completely real, weighing 6,200 pounds, measuring 17.5 feet long and equipped with a backspring and pins to keep it in place.
Inside Red Hill Cutlery you can also visit the Kentucky Museum of American Pocket Knives, a free, interactive attraction showcasing an incredible collection of blades, some going back centuries.
9. Armor Unit Memorial Park
On the grounds of the General George Patton Museum, allow some extra time for this park honoring the armor units that have served the United States from WWI to the present day.
The Armor Unit Memorial Park takes on special significance at Fort Knox, as this base was the home of the U.S. Army Armor Center and the U.S. Army Armor School for six decades up to 2011.
The Memorial Park was dedicated in 1990 and features monuments for World War I tank corps, five cavalry and armor regiments, U.S. Army tank destroyers, 16 Armor Divisions (with 1811 Battalions) and 23 separate armor battalions.
10. Blazer’s Fun Zone
Towards the south of Radcliff there’s a classic family entertainment center with a whole spectrum of activities to thrill kids and younger teenagers.
All in a climate controlled environment you’ve got a host of inflatables that smaller children will love, as well as a cosmic roller skating rink, arcade (40+ games), laser tag, a safe bouldering area with a foam pit and even an inflatable ax throwing range.
Food-wise there’s the Blazer Bites Café for shareable snacks like buffalo wings, nachos and cheese sticks, along with pizza, burgers and a choice of sweet treats.
11. Fort Knox Water Park
Open to civilians, this small aquatic center is behind Devers Middle School on Fort Knox. With a season that runs from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day, Fort Knox Water Park is great for families who need to escape the heat in summer.
What you’ll find are two slides, a zero-depth pool for toddlers and smaller children, along with a leisure pool featuring a lily pad bridge.
There’s a snack shack if you need to refuel, but you can also bring your own lunch for a picnic in the shade on the park’s grassy margins.
12. Hardin County Schools Performing Arts Center (PAC)
Roughly halfway to Elizabethtown along N. Dixie Hwy is a fantastic performing arts facility allowing students in the county to participate in the arts.
For residents and visitors to the area, the Hardin County Schools Performing Arts Center is also a stage for professional and community theatre productions, live music, dance, musicals, children’s theatre, workshops and other cultural events.
A few noteworthy performances from recent years include Annie, The Sound of Music, Young Frankenstein, The Little Mermaid, and regular productions by Kentucky Shakespeare.
13. Lindsey Golf Course
The local public golf course with clear views of the U.S. Bullion Depository has undergone a renovation in the last few years, with some 240 new trees planted, as well as new bunkers, new Bermuda tees and a brand new clubhouse with a grill & lounge and a view of the first hole.
Lindsey Golf Course is in a rolling landscape and has broad fairways that taper at the end, so if you’re going for distance from the tee you’ll also need to be accurate.
There are five sets of tees, catering to beginners as much as competitive golfers. You’ll need to keep an eye out for the two large lakes, which are both a hazard and a source of water for the state-of-the-art irrigation system.
14. Somewhere in Time Antique Mall
In a large mid-century building at 332 N Dixie Blvd, Somewhere in Time Antique Mall is a treasure trove for people who love hunting for antiques. Once you step inside you’ll be shocked by how big this place is.
There are multiple booths under the same roof, selling everything from china to furniture, vintage toys, kitchenware, timepieces, old signs, kerosene lamps, textiles, dolls, sports equipment, typewriters, sewing machines, musical instruments, books, vinyl and much more than we can list here.
15. Kentucky September 11th Memorial
For a poignant moment of reflection, the Kentucky September 11th Memorial is found in a corner of the Kentucky Veterans Memorial Cemetery Central at 2501 N Dixie Blvd.
Set on a rise with a view of the valley behind, the memorial is centered on a salvaged section of steel beam from the World Trade Center, in the shape of a partial cross.
This is accompanied by a section of limestone wall recovered from the pentagon. These are flanked by marble tablets, with an engraving depicting ground zero and the names of the Kentuckians who lost their lives in the War on Terror.