Cruising lazily down a river at three miles per hour in a canoe with friends and family is a summer staple. And the Little Miami River is not the only place to do it—just look 30 minutes south to Thaxton’s Canoe & Paddler’s Inn on the Licking River in Butler, Kentucky. Paddlers can choose from six-mile trips, which average two to three hours, to 18-mile, overnight trips. After being shuttled upstream and getting situated in a canoe, kayak, tube, or raft, a gentle current will carry you through the island-strewn river with plenty of pebble beaches and muddy banks to take a rest and have a picnic. The easygoing current, with only a few mild rapids, makes the Licking River ideal for beginners and families.
Thaxton’s also offers a few Full Moon Floats each summer. Weather permitting, these guided six-mile trips allow for plenty of time to bask in the beauty of the full moon while floating quietly down the river for four to five hours through the middle of the night. (Just don’t trust your GPS getting there; they’re on U.S. 27 right past KY 177.)
No matter the distance covered on the river, you’d would be missing out to not eat at The Smoking Pig. Just down the road from Thaxton’s, this quirky, family-run barbecue restaurant—with a homemade smoker—feels as if you’re eating in a friend’s backyard. With toilets turned into flower planters and bed frames reused as flower beds, the food isn’t the only attraction at The Smoking Pig, either: There is plenty to wander around and see, including an antique store, a greenhouse, and a playground. The sprawling patio, picnic tables, and homey-country decor make for cozy spaces to enjoy the far, which includes typical barbecue items—pulled chicken, brisket, ribs—as well as the less common, like frog legs, fried pickles, and barbecue nachos. Large portions and a laid-back atmosphere make for an ideal place to wind down from a day on the river and enjoy a piece of homemade peanut butter pie before heading home.
A photo posted by Brett Price (@brettpricee) on