Kentucky — Attractions
Kentucky attractions are a marvelous mix of nature, bluegrass, horses, bourbon, and cities that are cool without pretension. It’s an ideal travel destination because you can easily blend amazing outdoor recreation with Lexington and Louisville for a dose of relaxed urban fun. Horses play a major role in Kentucky’s culture, evident in its world-famous races and beautiful bluegrass farms. There’s no trouble finding something to do in Kentucky, the hard part is deciding what to exclude.
Best known as the host of the Kentucky Derby, Louisville is the state’s biggest city and a fun place to linger for a few days. The 120 parks or seven-mile RiverWalk are ideal to stroll and soak in the skyline, while sports are on display at the Kentucky Derby Museum or Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory. Be sure to take a two hour cruise on the Ohio River’s oldest running steamboat, the Belle of Louisville, which will surely be a highlight.
Address: Northern Kentucky
Mammoth Cave National Park
The world’s longest cave system, Mammoth Cave is a marvel of subterranean beauty with several different levels of cavern tours led by park rangers. Ranging from a casual stroll above ground to all-day adventures on your hands and knees, the daily tours sell out quickly so plan ahead. There is just as much to do on land with 53,000 acres of national park to hike, camp, horseback ride, or canoe on the river.
Address: Mammoth Cave National Park, 1 Mammoth Cave Parkway, Mammoth Cave, KY 42259
Kentucky Bourbon Trail
Scotch is to Scotland what bourbon is to Kentucky. The Kentucky Bourbon Trail lets you guide yourself through six of the state’s top distilleries including Maker’s Mark, Woodford Reserve, Wild Turkey, and Jim Beam. Around since the 1700’s, this is the only place in the world where you can experience this form of whisky on its home turf. A superb multi-day road trip for any serious whiskey fan, the distilleries themselves are wonderfully charismatic and usually located in quaint historic towns ideal for a layover.
Address: Kentucky Distillers Association, 614 Shelby Street, Frankfort, KY 40601
Home to bourbon, bluegrass farms, legendary horses, and history, Lexington epitomizes Kentucky. The state’s second-largest city has just the right mix of small town hospitality and big city charm to warrant a few days touring the six legendary distilleries, meandering around the cool historic downtown streets, and immersing yourself in the rich horse breeding culture. Many champion ponies have come from Lexington, and the Kentucky Horse Park serves as an equestrian museum and attraction for the curious. Horse races are held seasonally at the gorgeous Keeneland track, and though not open to the public, you can also drive by the famous Calumet and Claiborne Farms and spy on the thoroughbreds.
Address: Central Kentucky
Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill
The largest Shaker community in America is located 25 scenic miles from Lexington. A National Historic Landmark, the 33 original 19th century buildings stand on a 3,200-acre property. Like a living museum, there are craft shops, restaurants, and lodging. Visitors can guide themselves around the village and enjoy activities like riverboat cruises and horseback riding. It’s an interesting look into a major religious community’s lifestyle 200 years ago, and also a fun outdoor excursion.
Address: Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill, 3501 Lexington Road, Harrodsburg, KY 40330
Daniel Boone National Forest
Covering 21 counties in the southeastern highlands, this is Kentucky’s natural heart and soul. Named after the great American explorer who first traversed the land, the area today looks much like it did 200 years ago. Scenic roads wind through forests and valleys, with the occasional small town providing an amenity or two. The rock climbing, biking, camping, canoeing, and outdoor exploration is unparalleled. Take a ride on the Big South Fork Scenic Railway or hike a portion of the 269-mile epic Sheltowee Trace National Recreation Trail.
Address: Daniel Boone National Forest, Winchester, KY 40447
International Bluegrass Music Museum
Kentucky is the birthplace of bluegrass music and its pioneers such as Bill Monroe and Ricky Skaggs. There are several pilgrimage sites for diehard fans, and this museum in the northwest of the state is one of them. Interactive exhibits, artifacts, and educational workshops showcase this fantastic genre of music. Also worth a look is the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Renfro Valley in the central region. Not exclusive to bluegrass, this museum features everyone of note from the great state of Kentucky.
Address: International Bluegrass Music Museum, 207 E. Second Street, Owensboro, KY 42303