Kentucky is known as the Bluegrass State because of its rolling, emerald horse farms and toe-tapping mountain music. But even if you aren’t a fan of thoroughbred horse racing or Bill Monroe, there is still an impressive array of things to see and do that is both urban and natural.
Though most cities in Kentucky do not automatically spring to mind when people plan a trip to the US, places like Louisville, Lexington, Berea, and Covington have surprisingly diverse and entertaining scenes. There are historic downtown districts, locally-themed museums, and great food. But where Kentucky really excels is in its natural attractions. From caves and rivers to hiking trails and horseback rides, there are countless ways to get acquainted with the Bluegrass State.
The people of Kentucky help make all the traveling and sightseeing a fun and relaxing experience. They are unpretentious down-home folks, even in the big cities and happy to share their little slice of heaven with visitors. You get incredible value for your dollar here, both on hotel rates and on the banquet of filling southern comfort food in a variety of restaurants. Posh resorts and spas aren’t common, but cozy inns and cheap barbecue shacks are.
Visit in the spring or fall if you can. This is when Kentucky really shines, especially in April and May as the famous Kentucky Derby horse race gets geared up. After a dose of socializing in Louisville, head underground to the world’s longest cave system at Mammoth Cave or spend some time riding beautiful horses in what is perhaps America’s most stunning pastoral landscape. The Appalachian foothills are another unique gem of the state, featuring dozens of mountain hamlets known for their artistry and craftsmanship.
It’s not easy to move around Kentucky unless you have your own wheels. One of the highlights of any trip is simply driving its country roads or tracing the Bourbon Trail. The scenery is stunning in spring and fall, and a car is the only way to experience it.
- Plan a couple of weeks in Louisville to enjoy the festive run-up to the Kentucky Derby on the first Saturday of May
- Explore the underground majesty of Mammoth Cave, the planet’s longest cave system on a ranger-guided tour
- Take a horseback ride at one of the state’s many top-ranked stables and soak in the bluegrass scenery
- Tour Kentucky’s many world-famous bourbon distilleries like Maker’s Mark, Knob Hill, and Wild Turkey on the Bourbon Trail
- Catch some hot local bluegrass music live in little towns like Owensboro or even downtown Louisville
- Watch a horse race at Churchill Downs, the site of the Kentucky Derby, or the striking Keeneland track outside Lexington
- Discover your favorite barbecue in the little-known backcountry shacks of western Kentucky