Morehead, Kentucky at a Glance
Location: In the Appalachian Mountain foothills of northeastern Kentucky
Access: Interstate 64; U.S. 60; Bluegrass Airport, Lexington; Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport
Major Meeting Spaces: Morehead Conference Center
Hotel Rooms: 338
Off-Site Venues: Kentucky Folk Art Center, Morehead State University, Rowan County Arts Center, Innovation Launch Pad, Hampton Inn
Tucked in the foothills of eastern Kentucky’s Appalachian Mountains, the town of Morehead is an appealing combination of well-preserved history, a highly acclaimed university, booming economic development, plenty of meeting space, small-town hospitality and myriad opportunities for attendees to immerse themselves in the outdoors.
A nationally accredited Main Street program, Downtown Morehead Inc. (DMI), has focused on the adaptive reuse of old buildings for the past five years. For example, on Morehead’s Main Street, a former movie theater is now a thriving bookstore and coffee shop, and old City Hall has become a small-business incubator space with upstairs apartments and a conference room for 25.
In the works is a $32 million downtown full-service hotel project to be built next to the Morehead Conference Center.
“A hotel with rooms and meeting space will change things downtown forever,” said Tony Pence, executive director of DMI. “Morehead’s a jewel no one knows yet, but they’re finding out.”
Near Main Street, what’s now Morehead State University (MSU) began as an indirect result of a notorious 1880s feud. The institution, named by U.S. News and World Report as one of the best rural universities in the South for the past 16 years, recently added 80,000 square feet of meeting space.
Students at MSU’s Space Science Center, home to a radio telescope/deep-space tracking system that attracts scientists from all over the world, work directly with NASA. On weekdays and evenings, groups can rent the center’s state-of-the-art digital planetarium.
Antiquing abounds downtown, as do ethnic and downhome restaurants.
“We’re located in the heart of the Daniel Boone National Forest, with scenic views everywhere you look,” said Joy Brown, executive director of Morehead Tourism.
Morehead became the third official Kentucky Trail Town when it rerouted the 323-mile Sheltowee Trace Trail, the state’s longest, through the city’s heart along Main Street. Through-hikers can caffeinate at the Fuzzy Duck, dine at the All Seasons Café and take the 2.5-mile Historical Walking Tour of this 1856 city before continuing on to Tennessee.
Nearby, 8,000-acre Cave Run Lake has 200 miles of shoreline with a 100-mile trail system for hikers, bikers and equestrians.
In the heart of downtown, the Morehead Conference Center (MCC) is but a short stroll to the Kentucky Folk Art Center, Main Street shops and boutiques and more than a dozen eateries. Home to the Cave Run Symphony Orchestra, the multipurpose event facility boasts spaces from an 18,000-square-foot exhibit hall for trade shows to a 600-square-foot space for smaller gatherings.
“The center can hold 1,800 theater-style and 600 to 800 banquet-style,” said Jamie Breeze, MCC’s director. An 8,000-square-foot gallery, bright with natural light, welcomes receptions or breaks.
Specialty catered bar services include fine wine pairings, bourbon bars, nonalcoholic smoothies and organic tea bars with espresso and coffee.
Kentucky Folk Art Center
Housed in the circa-1906 Union Grocery building, the Kentucky Folk Art Center (KFAC) showcases more than 1,400 pieces by self-taught Kentucky artists. At the core of this often-whimsical art lie the common man’s heartfelt courage and convictions.
KFAC’s 50-seat auditorium accommodates meetings, receptions and, the first Saturday in December, the center’s annual juried Appalachian Holiday Arts and Crafts Fair.
“Morehead is a seriously huge hub for music and art,” said Tammy Stone, administrative coordinator of KFAC, owned by MSU, as is the Kentucky Center for Traditional Music that preserves the commonwealth’s rich mountain musical heritage.
On campus, MSU’s newly expanded student center has 10 meeting rooms, plus three ballrooms. The Claypool-Young Gallery hosts faculty and student exhibits and receptions.
On Main Street in the 1899 Rowan County Courthouse, the Rowan County Arts Center offers exhibits, workshops and plays, plus meeting and reception space.
The dream of three local homebrewers, the already-popular Sawstone Brewing Co. opened in a repurposed 1916 building in August. Groups of 15 to 20 attendees can take tours and tastings.
“Our food right now is locally sourced bar snacks and seasonal food trucks,” said owner/brewer Derek Caskey, “though a kitchen is in our future.”
Morehead’s proximity to the outdoors guarantees lots of teambuilding options. Groups can pedal or paddle to breathtaking scenery with mountain bikes, kayaks and canoes, rentable at MSU’s Outdoor Adventures. This outfitter supplies gear, instruction and transportation. A high-and-low-ropes challenge course can accommodate up to 35. And there’s rock climbing an hour away at Red River Gorge.
Rife with rolling fairways, woods and natural hazards, Eagle Trace is a public 18-hole, 72-par course that offers golf packages and pro-led instruction.
Water-based teambuilding and recreation are available at Cave Run Lake, the Musky Capital of the South, where groups have access to superb fishing and boat rentals.