State parks, historic sites and resort areas provided a vacation destination for Kentuckians seeking places of natural beauty and unique historic character. Most early-to-mid 20th century vacationers took small family-oriented trips to places that could be reached by automobile in a few days. Several factors were necessary for this type of tourist trade to flourish. First, road systems had to be constructed of a strong, even surface and be navigable by map. Second, sites of interest had to exist and receive wide publicity. Third, a cheap, reliable mode of transportation had to be at one's disposal. And lastly, there must be available leisure time and funds for vacationing.
With the introduction of the mass-produced automobile in 1908 and the federal highway modernization program undertaken in 1916 and 1920, the resources were available by which average-income Kentuckians could take to the road. Their choice of vacation spot was largely influenced by word-of-mouth endorsements and publications like In Kentucky magazine and Kentucky Progress Magazine.
It must be remembered, though, that vacationing was not yet possible for the workaday population. Nor was it easy for African Americans of any income level to take a holiday. Most motels, restaurants and some tourist grounds refused to serve Americans of African descent. Typically, black Kentuckians brought food and beverages with them and planned ahead to stay overnight in African American-owned hotels or with relatives. They could not simply stop for refreshment or accommodation wherever they wished. Ironically, though, African Americans were permitted employment at the same establishments which denied them entrance as vacationers. The historic photo above is of tourists at a state park in Kentucky (In Kentucky magazine, Autumn 1956).