How to Spend 24 Hours in Paducah, a Charming Little Port Town in W Kentucky

Shortly after moving to Nashville earlier this year, I casually mentioned to the DH that I wanted to visit Garden of the Gods in S Illinois. To my absolute surprise, he planned a visit there in conjunction with an overnight stay in Paducah, which is on the way. Designated a UNESCO Creative City in 2013, the city excels in seven creative fields: Crafts & Folk Art, Design, Film, Gastronomy, Literature, Media Arts, and Music. Talk about qualifying your client!

What to See

Historic Downtown

We thoroughly enjoyed walking the historic downtown area brimming with antique stores, art galleries, and restaurants. Most of the buildings are well maintained, colorful, and inviting. Occasionally I felt a slight hippie vibe meshed with a little New Orleans flair. Historical markers line the streets recounting memorable events, or acknowledging famous people who influenced Paducah’s history.

Scenic Riverfront

At the edge of downtown is the riverfront, where the Tennessee and Ohio Rivers meet. Like most port cities, life is intertwined with the water. From war to commerce, no facet of life is untouched. Tragically, in 1937, the rivers flooded, causing the worst natural disaster in Paducah history. Today, flood gates wear a mural of Paducah’s stories. The city is also a port of call for the American Steamboat Company (currently on hiatus due to the pandemic). I was enamored with the number of families and couples picnicking on the green.

What to Do

River Discovery Center

The River Discovery Center is located on the scenic riverfront. The museum tells the story of the ongoing role of the river in Paducah. The tour begins with a short film. With numerous interactive exhibits, this is an excellent choice when traveling with children.

We were the only guests in the museum, and I enjoyed speaking at length with the docent about the building’s history. Housed in a former bank (which I believe is the oldest building in Paducah), the museum occupies the bottom floor. The second level is restored with period furnishings to depict the bank owner’s residence at the time.

Back downstairs, the kids had the run of the Simulation Room. Using the same technology the Navy, Maritime Colleges and Maritime Training Centers use, they were able to drive a Coast Guard vessel and barge.

For additional fun, there are two scavenger hunts to complete: one for younger kids, and one for everyone else.

The docent also spoke fondly about the Dragon Boat Races most weekends. Unfortunately, these are also on hiatus due to COVID, but I can imagine attending one is quite fascinating.

We ended our visit in the gift shop, which is full of educational toys. My favorite kind!

Go Antiquing

Where to start? There is quite literally an antique store on every corner. Our favorite is Paducah Antique Mall. It is two floors of nostalgia including furniture, glassware, and comics. There’s even an injection of spooky. Yikes!

National Quilt Museum & On the Trail of Discovery

This museum features fiber art and quilting from around the world. Though this was not of interest to us with the kids in tow, I can think of any number of my friends who would love to get lost in here.

Immediately in front of the museum, and on the museum grounds, is On the Trail of Discovery by George Lundeen. It is an historical marker portraying the Native Americans who helped Lewis and Clark on their journey to the Pacific Ocean.

Visit The Farmhouse

The Farmhouse is a super cute local gift and coffee shop. We went in search of Martin Farm Soaps, which are made from goat’s milk and other organic ingredients. It is a short drive from downtown and well worth the visit.

Where to Eat


Fairly new to Paducah, Broussard’s is laid back Cajun cuisine. The food is divine, and the portion sizes are substantial! The DH enjoyed a trio platter of crawfish etoufee, jumbalaya, and shrimp creole. OMG, delish! I had Cajun ribs and fries, while the kids both had chicken and fries. All yummy! For dessert we shared bread pudding. Everything was so, so good!

Where to Stay

Belle Louise Historic Guest House

The DH scored major points with this splendid bread and breakfast within walking distance to the downtown area. I loved everything about our stay from the history of the home, to the chandeliers and furnishings. The owners were gracious enough to give us a tour, and I plan to write a post dedicated solely to this Grand Dame. But for now, here is a preview.


The DH earned a 5/5. It is obvious he thought about my hobbies and passions and made a 24 hour trip one to remember. Thank you, sweetie!

Paducah, KY / Belle Louise Historic Guest House / Garden of the Gods

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