#10. Bowling Green

A spate of construction projects on and around the campus of Western Kentucky University helped the city of Bowling Green, KY engineer one of the nation’s most successful downtown redevelopment efforts. Once underused and blighted buildings are now home to restaurants, offices, apartments and art galleries that lure a steady stream of visitors. Community leaders are seeing the payoff of creating a development district that’s formally called the WKU Gateway to Downtown Bowling Green. The district is expected to bring county and city governments more than $200 million in revenue by 2037. The relationship between university officials and city leaders illustrates why Bowling Green is one of the Top 10 Best College Towns in the country.

As WKU got a new health and science center, dormitory, alumni center and four new fraternity houses the city of Bowling Green added a minor league ballpark, concert venue, shopping centers, a Hyatt Place hotel and office buildings. More than 30 projects have been completed or are under construction in the Gateway district, which has become the city’s entertainment hotspot. Independent restaurants in Bowling Green, bars and shops draw students and full-time residents into downtown. Favorite hangouts for the college crowd include Hilligans Bar & Grill, 440 Main and Tea Bayou, a New Orleans cafe and tea bar.  

Among the many performing arts venues in Bowling Green is the 1,800-seat Southern Kentucky Performing Arts Center, better known here as SKyPAC. This large venue opened in 2012 and hosts a variety of performances from orchestra nights and musical acts to one-man shows. Tidball’s, located near the downtown square, packs in an assortment of up-and-coming bands with the occasional national act thrown in the mix. While the National Corvette Museum tops the list of “must see” attractions in Bowling Green the L & N Historic Railpark and Kentucky Museum delight visitors. A collection of caves, lakes and parks surround Bowling Green and provide amazing outdoor adventures. 

Fun Fact: The tradition of waving a red towel at sporting events started with WKU basketball coach E.A. Diddle, who clutched a red towel on the sideline, chewed on it, threw it and often waved it at fans and to signal players.



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