Best Places to Visit in Kentucky
Kentucky not only has a lot of Southern charm, but it also has a lot of history, attractive small towns, and a fascinating metropolis. If you’re planning a trip to Kentucky, don’t forget to check out some of the top places to visit in Kentucky.
Even though fried chicken and bourbon are top on the list of activities to eat and drink, Kentucky is more than that. Horse racing, on the other hand, is a big part of Kentucky culture. Churchill Downs is the most well-known of the state’s five racetracks. Kentucky, home to frontiersman Daniel Boone and Abraham Lincoln’s birthplace, has a variety of activities to keep you busy.
There are magnificent landscapes to be seen, caves to be visited, and bluegrass festivals to be experienced. Creamy gravy is an art form in Kentucky, and it’s the perfect accompaniment to that fried chicken. Here is a Kentucky travel guide that covers some of the top things to do and best places to visit in Kentucky:
Louisville is the biggest city in Kentucky and is known for being the birthplace of Major League Baseball’s Official Bat, the Louisville Slugger, as well as holding the Kentucky Derby. It also produces some of the world’s best bourbon, has a world-class zoo, a plethora of events, and a lot of wonderful historical hotels. Tourists of all types will find enough to see and do in this town where Southern charm meets big-city comforts. You can still visit Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby Museum even if you aren’t here for the famed sporting event. The third biggest bat, measuring 120 feet high, leans outside the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory in downtown Louisville. It is one of the top tourist attractions of Kentucky.
Inside, see Babe Ruth’s and Cal Ripken’s bats, take a fastball swing, and take a guided tour. As the third-biggest National Historic District in the country and the biggest Victorian district in the country, Old Louisville is a historical treasure mine for history aficionados and architectural enthusiasts.
The city of Lexington is known as the world’s horse capital. It is one of the most popular places to go in Kentucky if you want to learn about the history of Horse racing in the city, which dates back several centuries.
You can begin your journey to Lexington by visiting one of the city’s famous horse racetracks. There are several attractions to visit at the Kentucky Horse Park, as well as regular horse demonstrations. At the Keeneland Race Course, you may watch Thoroughbred horses go through their daily exercises and roam about the grounds before planning breakfast at the Track Kitchen.
If you like learning about horses, you should take a Horse Farm Tour, which is a one-of-a-kind Lexington adventure. There are approximately 450 horse farms where you may schedule a visit and see where some of the most renowned Kentucky Derby champions now reside. On the Bluegrass Country Driving Tour, you can simply drive through the Lexington area and observe the farmland and horses grazing in the grasslands.
Bowling Green has been dubbed Kentucky’s “motor city” since Chevrolet has been producing the Corvette here since 1981; you may tour the facility or visit the National Corvette Museum, both of which are situated here. During the Civil War, the city was founded in 1798 and served as the Southern capital of Kentucky.
Forbes ranked it as one of the best places to visit in Kentucky and get retire. The city includes a lot of parks, so it’s an excellent area to experience nature in a city. Fountain Square, with its Victorian fountain, the hands-on Barrow River Imagination Museum of Science, and Aircraft Heritage Park are among the other main attractions. This is one of the best places to see in Kentucky that you must add to your itinerary.
Big South Fork National River:
You may get close and personal with the environment at the Big South Fork National River and Picnic Area. The national park, which is located in northern Kentucky’s Cumberland Plateau, has miles of trekking trails, mountain climbing, and whitewater rafting activities, equestrian riding, and camping.
Many natural bridges have been created by erosion in the Big South Fork region, as well as breathtaking vistas of the river gorge as it slices through old rock. It also features hoodoos comparable to those found in the western US.
Land Between the Lakes:
The Land Between the Lakes National Wildlife Area is called by its location, which is sandwiched between Kentucky and Barkley lakes and linked by a canal. President John F. Kennedy declared it a national recreational area in 1963, and it is situated in Kentucky and Tennessee. From hiking trails to driving through an elk and buffalo prairie, this gorgeous location has plenty of the best things to do in Kentucky.
You should also pay a visit to the Homeplace, a reconstructed 1850 farm where personnel dress in historical clothes and raise crops using traditional implements and practices. There’s also a planetarium where you can see any eclipses.
Kentucky Bourbon Trail:
The Kentucky Bourbon Trail is a must-see for every spirit-seeking traveler thereby making it one of the best places to visit in Kentucky. The tour includes stops at Jim Beam, Maker’s Mark, Wild Turkey, and Four Roses, and also smaller craft distilleries.
You’ll see how America’s original spirit is manufactured, tour distilleries, and maybe even sample some of the best in the state. Kentucky has been creating bourbon since the 1700s when farmers recognized that liquidizing their corn and grain crops made it easier to carry them to market.
Harland Sanders Cafe and Museum:
We’ve all heard of Kentucky Fried Chicken, the delectable fast food that has gained worldwide acclaim. But how well do you know Colonel Harland Sanders, the guy responsible for the KFC crave?
The Colonel’s very first establishment was the Harland Sanders Cafe and Museum. It’s not like most other KFC restaurants you’ll find nowadays. It has a near-exact copy of the kitchen where Sanders worked in the 1940s, as well as historical facts regarding the cafe’s ascent to renown.
It’s correct to conclude that seeing the location where the original KFC chicken was served in all of its magnificence with 11 herbs and spices is one of the most enjoyable things to do in Kentucky!
Kentucky State Capitol:
The Kentucky State Capitol is in Frankfort, and it is often regarded as one of the country’s top ten most beautiful capitals. It is a big and sumptuous structure with architecture created by Frank Mills Andrews and the best tourist attractions in Kentucky. Its grand marble staircase is undoubtedly the most coveted luxury element (and other staircases within). It’ll feel like you’ve left the state entirely!
You can take a guided tour of the capitol building if you want to be wowed by the Opera Garnier-inspired architecture. While you’re there, don’t forget to check out the First Lady Doll Collection!
Red River Gorge:
The Red River Gorge is one of the popular tourist spots in Kentucky. It is located in the Daniel Boone National Forest and contains some of the world’s most famous natural stone arches. Its sandstone cliffs and distinctive rock formations attract both tourists and rock climbers.
The Red River Gorge is not only beautiful to look at, but it is also a designated national geological region. You can go on a trek, row a canoe, or have a picnic in the region (as long as you follow the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife’s requirements).
Are you unable to attend the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs? Then travel to Keeneland, which is home to another renowned racetrack. It’s not just one of the state’s most entertaining tourist destinations, but it’s also a National Historic Site!
Keeneland was formed in 1936 and has been a major player in the thoroughbred horse training and racing industry ever since. The Breeders’ Cup was held there in 2015 when triple crown winner American Pharoah took home the top spot. The races at Keeneland take place in April and October, so if you’re in the area during those months, stop by to see elite horses in action from the moment the sun rises.
Horse auctions are also held around this time, and you may watch them while eating some of the bread pudding on sale!
Dog Slaughter Falls:
Dog Slaughter Falls is one of Kentucky’s well-known tourist attractions and natural wonders, and it’s ideal for a family hike. The 15-foot waterfall is one of the most spectacular in the state, and the Dog Slaughter Falls Trail provides excellent views of the falls. The two-mile hike is rated as moderate and is a great place to stroll your dog. Visitors will be able to see hemlock and rhododendron forests along the walk, but Dog Slaughter Falls is without a question the centerpiece of any journey to this section of Kentucky.
Harrodsburg, founded in 1774, is the state’s oldest city and one of the top 10 places to visit in Kentucky. As a result, you’ll find several noteworthy historical buildings, like America’s largest restored Shaker hamlet, Pleasant Hill Shaker Village, and Dedman Drugstore, which was first opened its doors in 1865. Still, it houses The Kentucky Fudge Company, as well as its original soda fountain. Visitors can also take a trip aboard the original Dixie Belle paddle steamer to get a different perspective on the beautiful Kentucky River Palisades. Colorful storefronts, stores that sell locally made crafts, antique shops, and cafés serving great So-Cal cuisine adorn the streets of downtown Harrodsburg.
Mammoth cave national park:
With approximately 400 miles of caves and who knows how many yet to be discovered, Mammoth Cave National Park is home to the world’s longest known tunnel system. The fairy dust appears to have been scattered on the crystal columns suspending from the cave ceilings. The frightening structures spring from the walls and rise from the ground to cast murky shadows in the dim light. The Giant’s Coffin, Bridal Altar, and Star Chamber are stalactite and stalagmite structures that were organically sculpted from stone and worn by water, and their beauty has been frozen in time.
During the summertime, you can explore a tiny section of the cave without a ranger, but all other regions, including the Frozen Niagara Trip, a brief tour that includes the cave’s most elaborately decorated sector, require ranger-guided tours. The Historic Tour takes you through two miles of underground systems, including old mining regions, Mammoth Dome, and a variety of long caverns after entering by the natural entrance.
Sunset on Kentucky Lake:
Kentucky Lake, with a capacity of 4,008,000 acre-feet of water, is one of the largest man-made artificial lakes in the United States. The sunsets across the lake, on the other hand, are incredible. Kentucky Lake and its neighbor Lake Barkley are renowned for bass and crappie fishing, and the land between the two lakes is home to an elk and bison prairie that is open throughout the year. To the west of Kentucky Lake, Kenlake State Resort Park may be found, and to the north, Kentucky Dam Village State Resort Park.
Bardstown was named one of the “Most Beautiful Small Towns in America” by Rand McNally. This charming town, situated in the center of Kentucky’s Bluegrass Region, is recognized as the “Bourbon Capital of the World,” with some local distilleries going back to 1776. The annual Kentucky Bourbon Festival takes place in September to celebrate the state’s bourbon history. Bardstown also features a distinct downtown with a mix of wonderful eateries, eccentric boutiques, and historic buildings, as well as My Old Kentucky State Park, which hosts The Stephen Foster Story, a Broadway-style musical about the composer of Kentucky’s state anthem.
Breaks Interstate Park:
Breaks Interstate Park is regarded as the unofficial Grand Canyon of the American South. It spans the Virginia-Kentucky border and contains the deepest gorge in Mississippi’s eastern region. Daniel Boone was the guy responsible for its discovery, and it is currently a popular tourist destination! You can stay in one of the lodges, go rafting, or simply enjoy the uniqueness of being so close to the state boundary. It’s a fantastic location and one of the most popular places to visit in Kentucky for nature lovers!
Pinnacles of Berea:
The Pinnacles of Berea offer some of the best hiking trails not only in Kentucky but the entire South. The main trail is a 6.6-mile loop that takes 3 to 4 hours to complete, based on your hiking knowledge and fitness. The trail, which is open to dog walkers and is open from April to October, is brimming with gorgeous wildflowers. For some of the amazing sights of the Pinnacles of Berea’s breathtaking scenery, go to the West Pinnacle and Indian Fort Outlook.
In Kentucky, one of the most picturesque states in the country, there are lots of fun and interesting activities to see and do. Whatever your favorite form of entertainment or area of interest, there are bound to be some captivating, intriguing, relaxing, and rich sights to behold. This list of the top things to do in Kentucky should help you locate your ideal vacation spot!
What’s next waiting for you?
Now you know where to go and what to do in Kentucky, you can plan your travel with utmost enthusiasm. Check out our other travel guides to explore some of the best places to visit near Kentucky.