This Undiscovered Arts Destination Is Also One of the Few UNESCO Creative Cities in the U.S.

Its nickname is the "Quilt City."

<p>Paducah CVB</p>

Paducah CVB

Set halfway between St. Louis, Missouri, and Nashville, Tennessee, is the unassuming town of Paducah, Kentucky. It may not have the clout of other small Southern towns like Eureka Springs, Arkansas, or Gatlinburg, Tennessee, but Paducah has something very few cities can boast: It’s a UNESCO Creative City, a designation it has held since 2013.

Paducah stands alongside other U.S. cities like Santa Fe, New Mexico, and Austin, Texas, as well as international destinations like Sydney, Australia, and Rome, Italy, on the coveted UNESCO Creative Cities Network. Cities can be recognized for their contributions to film, music, media arts, gastronomy, crafts, and folk art. Paducah was shoe-in for the latter category, thanks to its long-standing, quilt-making tradition.

Nicknamed the “Quilt City,” Paducah is home to The National Quilt Museum, the world's largest of its kind. It features 320 contemporary quilts that showcase various quilt-making methods and hosts workshops with world-renowned instructors.

In addition to being a top destination for quilters, Paducah is home to a thriving arts community, with ongoing live theater, performances by the Paducah Symphony Orchestra, and wall-to-wall murals throughout the city depicting pivotal moments in Paducah’s history.

Here’s what to know about this largely undiscovered arts community, including when to go, where to stay, and what to do.

Best Things to Do in Paducah, Kentucky

Paducah is a true art community, with several theaters and art centers. A visit to the The National Quilt Museum is a must, especially because contemporary quilt maker Velda Newman will have her work displayed through mid-July. Newman’s large-scale designs showcase subjects from nature, while the "Flora, Fauna, and Landscape" exhibit, which is on display through early May, features nature-inspired work by quilters from all over the world.

Meanwhile, near the confluence of the Ohio and Tennessee rivers are the city’s renowned floodwall murals, a series of 50 life-sized masterpieces by Robert Dafford that showcase Paducah's rich history. With a self-guided tour of the murals, travelers can learn about the destination's past, which includes a founding by William Clark of Lewis and Clark fame and a key role in the Civil War.

No trip to Paducah is complete without a visit to the offbeat Maiden Alley Cinema and a performance by the Paducah Symphony Orchestra.

Best Places to Stay in Paducah, Kentucky

Belle Louise Historic Guest House is set in an impressive Italianate mansion built in 1879. The well-loved bed-and-breakfast has five distinct rooms and is located in Paducah’s artsy Lower Town district near The National Quilt Museum and riverfront.

Nearby, The 1857 Hotel has 10 rooms set in a historic building downtown with vaulted ceilings and exposed brick. The boutique property is adjacent to the historic Market House Theatre and The Carson Center for the Performing Arts.

Best Places to Eat and Drink in Paducah, Kentucky

One of the best places to grab a bite is The Coke Plant, an abandoned Coca-Cola bottling plant that was renovated into a mixed-use space that includes a coffee shop and craft brewery. The impressive art deco building is only eclipsed by the brews at Dry Ground Brewing Company inside. The beer is good, and there’s a never-ending list of events, including their “Geeks Who Drink” trivia night.

Don’t miss a meal at the Freight House, a unique Kentucky-style restaurant located in a historic railroad depot, or the shrimp tacos at Flamingo Row, a Caribbean eatery with lively tropical decor. Meanwhile, the family-owned and operated Purple Toad Winery is a must-visit for wine lovers.

Best Time to Visit Paducah, Kentucky

Paducah is a four-season destination, but it’s hard to beat the temperate climate found in spring and fall.

Quilters won't want to miss the American Quilter’s Society QuiltWeek, which takes place from April 27 to 30. The Lower Town Arts & Music Festival happens in May, while the River’s Edge International Film Festival kicks off in November.

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