25 Best Things to Do in Kentucky
Popularly known as the Bluegrass State, Kentucky is home to bustling cities, endless pastures, the world’s longest cave system, and of course, Kentucky Fried Chicken.
Lexington is home to unique horse racing attractions, museums, beautiful parks and great restaurants.
Popularly known as the Bluegrass State, Kentucky is home to bustling cities, endless pastures, the world’s longest cave system, and of course, Kentucky Fried Chicken.
There are many things to do in Paducah, Kentucky, whether visitors are interested in art or history, looking for educational activities, or simply want to enjoy a cup of coffee.
Visit the Kentucky Derby Museum, tour the Louisville Mega Cavern and explore other great attractions on your weekend trip to Louisville.
This lively city in southern Kentucky may be best known for the National Corvette Museum, where visitors can actually drive classic Corvettes for an extra fee.
Kentucky is home to some breathtaking landscapes, featuring rolling hills, forested woodlands, glassy lakes, and cascading waterfalls.
Known for being the hub of horse racing, the state behind the iconic Kentucky Fried Chicken brand, and the heart of bluegrass America, Kentucky offers plenty of unique and memorable experiences for tourists.
These drive-ins on our list offer the opportunity for people to enjoy cuddling with loved ones in the comfort of their own vehicles, going on first dates, and experiencing American cinema in its most classic form.
Kentucky is home to a large number of breweries, offering something for every palate.
With dedicated spaces for toddlers, kids, teens, and adults alike, the parks offer exciting rides, waterparks, wave pools, and even miniature golf courses and faster-than-light raceways.
Weekend Getaways in KY
A fascinating history and the beautiful landscape are a couple of the many reasons to visit the interesting state of Kentucky. Known as the Bluegrass State, each season offers an abundance of activities to enjoy for tourists and locals alike. Make Kentucky a stop during your cross country trip or make it your main destination and travel through all of the incredible attractions it has to offer. The dazzling Appalachian Mountains, for example, stand proud in the East, while the Ohio River in north allures river enthusiasts from all over the country. No matter what you decide, there’s bound to be a memorable moment (or a dozen!) in store for you and your travel companions at this southeastern state.
Many visitors to Louisville will be the first to tell you that there’s something unexplainably special about Kentucky’s largest city. Sitting along the Indiana border, by the banks of the Ohio River, Louisville is home to some of the friendliest people in the country. With such a welcoming community, the big city exudes a small town feel while showcasing incredible art, food, culture and, the pièce de résistance, unbelievable bourbon. Seasoned travelers and repeat visitors to Louisville love to come during the autumn months to bask in the glorious fall foliage and to take part in the lavish Halloween celebrations that last the whole month of October. No matter what time of the year, however, there are one-of-a-kind places to visit such as Old Louisville, Museum Row, the world famous Kentucky Derby and several gorgeous parks.
When in the southeast, Lexington probably won’t be the first city that comes to mind for an exciting weekend getaway and wrongfully so. A hidden gem of Kentucky, Lexington is the horse capital of the world with over 400 horse farms and the first city in the country to play host to the World Equestrian Games. Some of the most popular attractions have to do with Lexington’s horse culture, with visitors loving the Kentucky Horse Park and the Keeneland Race Course, the top thoroughbred racetrack in the United States. Outdoorsy travelers can visit one of the city’s 131 parks to enjoy a family picnic or outdoor sports while connoisseurs of alcoholic beverages can visit the many wineries and whiskey houses for tours and fantastic samples.
You’ll never run out of new things to see and places to visit at Bowling Green, Kentucky. Best known for being the home of America’s sports cars, Bowling Green is where the Corvette was born and the residents certainly know a thing or two about fast cars. Aside from guests with a need for speed, Bowling Green caters to lovers of the outdoors with attractions like the Lost River Cave and the Duncan Hines. The city of Bowling Green is also home to the Corsair Distiller, a stop on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour and a cutting edge distillery that offers tons of knowledge and insight to bourbon enthusiasts. Gather the family, your friends or head to Bowling Green, a classic American destination, for some fun in Kentucky’s third largest city.
Situated between Louisville and Lexington, Frankfort, Kentucky’s capital city, sits along the banks of the Kentucky River beckoning guests from near and far. A true river city, visitors can immerse themselves in the culture and tradition of Frankfort through historical sites like the Berry Hill Mansion, the Kentucky Historical Society and the State Capitol. To enjoy everything that the Kentucky River has to offer, head to the Benson Creek Marina or take a tour at the River View Park or the Capital View Park. Overall, Frankfort offers the best that the wine, bourbon and horse country has to offer, so no matter what you’re interest you’re bound to have a good time at Kentucky’s capital.
Immerse yourself in Bluegrass tradition and heritage at Owensboro in Daviess County, Kentucky! Home to the International Bluegrass Music Museum, enthusiasts of the genre can learn of its history and conservation efforts that are taking place till this day. There’s more reasons to visit Owensboro than just its Bluegrass charm, however. From its location on a scenic bend of the Ohio River, to world famous festivals and barbecue competitions, there is a wealth of culinary and cultural assets to visit and see. The Owensboro Museum of Fine Art, for example, is a top cultural destination in Kentucky and is the state’s second largest museum. Named the top sportstown in Kentucky by Sports Illustrated, a trip to Owensboro is also the perfect excursion for lovers of sports and recreation.
If there’s one thing Paducah has in spades, it’s a creative community. People from around the globe flock to Paducah to be immersed in the city’s distinct, creative culture for inspiration and guidance. Paducah has become so well known for its art scene and rich heritage that it’s been designated a UNESCO Creative City. For the most immersive experience, visit Lower Town where historic homes and art galleries are plentiful and welcoming. Paducah is also rich in historic sites with dozens of memorials and monuments standing throughout the area paying homage to veterans or moments in local history. The downtown area in itself is full of history with old shops and neighborhood joints that are bona fide tourist attractions in their own right.
Known locally as Etown, Elizabethtown is known for being the birthplace of President Lincoln and bourbon amongst other things. With a central location between 12 major cities and just 40 minutes away from the Louisville International Airport, Elizabethtown is home to a vibrant community with a charming small town vibe. Military fans or enthusiasts will certainly enjoy a trip to Elizabethtown thanks to its many historic military assets like Fort Duffield, Cemetery Hill, The Cannonball. It’s also just a few miles from the famous Fort Knox in Hardin County, which is home to over 40,000 soldiers, their families and employed civilians. If outdoor activities are more your cup of tea, Elizabethtown has several greenspace trails, area parks and outdoor activities available to visitors and locals alike such as the Buffalo Lake Trail, the Billy Creek Trail, Cave Springs and Fisherman’s Park.
Standing for justice, education and industry, the city of Richmond is filled with fun and recreation for visitors of all ages and interests. Whether you’re eager to cool off with a relaxing dip in the pool or try your hand at 18 holes in the nearby golf course, Richmond has got you covered. Sports enthusiasts can visit the Adventure Falls Miniature Golf and Batting Cages or take part in events held by the Athletic Leagues. Golf enthusiasts can take on all 18 holes at the Gibson Bay Golf Course with their buddies or challenge their personal best on a solo trip. For recreational activities like hiking, trail biking, or picnics, area parks like the Camp Catalpa Park or the Betty Miller Park are at your service.
No, you’re not in England, but don’t write off London, Kentucky just yet. A small home rule-class city in Laurel County, London boasts among the best of southeast Kentucky’s nature and recreation sites. Known as a “Trail Town”, London has gone above and beyond when it comes to ensuring that thrill seeking visitors get the best experiences possible at venues like the Rockcastle River, the National Forest, the London Wellness Park and the Levi Jackson State Park. Other must-visit destinations in London include the Daniel Boone National Forest, the Laurel River Lake, Mike’s Hike and Bike, and the Sheltowee Trace Outfitters. Hike and bike to your hearts content, test your mettle at London’s most exhilarating water adventures, camp out under the starts or get your heart pumping on the back of an ATV. No matter what, you’re bound to make memories that will last you a lifetime.
Just 12 miles south of Cincinnati, Florence is a quaint town located in northern Kentucky and is part of what is known as the River Region. Bursting with spectacular scenery and historic sites, the beauty of Florence and the surrounding regions will stick with you and beckon you back for more. Being so close to Cincinnati, visitors can rest assured that their visit to Florence will be filled with metropolitan features and activities while still staying true to the town’s identity as a rural destination. Golf is a local favorite past time in addition to recreational activities like hiking and biking at the Florence Nature Park. Florence is also a great town for sports lovers with the Boonelink Golf Course, the Florence Family Aquatic Center and more open to visitors. Fans of minor league baseball can head to the home field of Florence Freedom for an even more in depth experience of Florence’s rural charm.
A small town with a huge personality, Pikeville has been recognized as one of the 100 best small towns of the country twice in a row. True to the state’s Equine heritage, Pikeville is home to Dreamz Stables, one of the newest destinations for horse lovers in the state. Another popular equine destination is the Bob Amos Park where visitors can explore two trail systems on horseback. Meanwhile, the Big Sandy River and Pikeville Pond are some of the best spots in town to enjoy water based activities like canoeing, kayaking and tube rentals. For those interested in learning more about the heritage of Pikeville, a trip to the Big Sandy Heritage Center, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is certainly in order.
Sitting peacefully at the banks of the Ohio River, Henderson is a historic and picturesque town in western Kentucky with tons of activities for all kinds of visitors to enjoy. One of the top draws in Henderson is the 3-mile Riverwalk, which is representative of the value of public investment. Apart from showcasing the commitment of the community to their hometown, the Riverwalk offers some of the best views of the Ohio River and is an exceptional location for your children to roam free and play. Stop by the John James Audubon Museum for an educational experience that features wildlife viewing, hiking and fishing among other activities. It’s also home to one of the most expensive books in the world, “Birds of America”.
Blending a progressive attitude and a deep devotion to history and tradition, Winchester brings a unique flavor to every vacation. The town was founded back in 1793, in a region of Kentucky that was known back then as the Western Frontier, and is the cornerstone of Clark County. A beautiful landscape surrounds Winchester, as they are nestled in the crook the Eastern Appalachians and the lovely Bluegrass. The town is rightfully known for their forward glance and dedication to a prosperous future with a vibrant downtown area filled with growing businesses and matured industries. When you’re not exploring what the center of town has to offer, head to the outer areas to rest and admire the stunning rolling landscapes or to trek through thriving grasslands and hills that Kentucky has become so well known for.
Mammoth Cave National Park
Gloomy and yet peculiarly grand, the Mammoth Cave National Park is the longest known cave system in the world with over 400 miles ready to be explored. The Mammoth Cave National Park as a whole covers the entire cave system, a portion of the Green River valley and south central Kentucky’s hill country. Unsurprisingly, Mammoth Cave is the main draw of the park with thousands of guests being guided through the cave’s complex system of labyrinths and humongous chambers daily. Once you’ve completed your journey through Mammoth Cave, head to the Green or Nolin River for some water sports or to fish for your picnic lunch. Guests are also welcome to spend the night under the stars with several camping sites in the park being open to the public.
Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky 42259-0007; Phone: 270-758-2180
Cumberland Gap National Historical Park
If you’re looking for the perfect place to visit for total immersion in nature, head to the Cumberland Gap National Historical Park to experience the beauty and serenity that the solitude of the southern mountains has to offer. Trace the steps that the country’s early pioneers, soldiers and settlers alike, took through the mountains or find a place to sit and simply enjoy the sights and sounds of the park’s wildlife. Some of the best and most introspective moments can be spent relaxing by the immaculate mountain streams, which snake their way throughout the area, while the breathtaking landscapes offer avid hikers and trekkers a tough ascent. With the park spanning over 24,000 acres of gorgeous land, the Cumberland Gap National Historical Park charms guests from around the world with 85 miles of moderate to difficult trails, great camping and other enjoyable recreational activities.
91 Bartlett Park Road, Middlesboro, Kentucky 40965; Phone: 606-428-2817
First discovered in 1859, the Diamond Caverns is arguably the most beautiful cave in the whole state of Kentucky. Today, guests are invited to come and rediscover its beauty through guided tours. The natural beauty of the cave is highlighted by state-of-the-art lighting that has been strategically placed throughout each cavern. See complex drapery deposits along the halls or admire the way the deposits cascade in naturally colorful calcites. Huge cathedral-sized chambers can also be explored at the Diamond Caverns and quickly inspire awe to all those who visit. When you’re done exploring the Diamond Caverns, you can even head to the adjacent cave in the Mammoth Cave National Park for further exploration.
1900 Mammoth Cave Parkway, Park City, Kentucky 42160; Phone: 270-749-2233
Red River Gorge
There’s a reason that the Red River Gorge attracts thousands upon thousands of visitors every year. From incredible, eye-catching rock formations to magnificent sandstone arches, the Red River Gorge offers avid explorers the chance to get up close and personal with the best that nature has to offer. Hike around the gorge to see towering cliffs or seek out the unique features of the gorge for an exciting. Other recreational activities like canoeing, bird watching, and camping and encouraged. Need more convincing? The Red River Gorge’s grandness is exemplified by other distinctive titles. It is, for example, a designated Geological Area, a National Archaeological District, a National Natural Landmark and its even on the National Register for Historic Places.
Daniel Boone National Forest, Winchester, Kentucky 40391; Phone: 859-745-3100
Bob Noble Park
As the premier park in Paducah, the Bob Noble Park offers visitors a variety of activities, all easily enjoyed within the park’s 135 acres of green space. Its popularity is evident in the many activities that it hosts such as 5-kilometer races and fundraising walks among others. Apart from exploring the park on foot, guests can roam around the 5-acre lake or head to the bridge or gazebo to try their hand at fishing. There is also a swimming pool available to families visiting with children as well as areas for sports such as a volleyball court, a skate park, basketball and tennis courts, and more. Children can also make use of the Boundless certified playground or head to the Arts and Crafts Building to develop their creative skills. Don’t forget to explore the Greenway Trail, which links to the Stuart Nelson Park.
2801 Park Avenue, Paducah, Kentucky; 270-444-8508
Cove Springs Park
Spread over 240 acres of land, the Coves Spring Park is a popular weekend destination for locals of Kentucky and neighboring states. With a variety of environments to discover such as wetlands, forested ravines, streams and more, it’s no wonder that thousands of people come to visit regularly. More than just natural attractions, the park is home to historic features like two interpretive shelters that are home to displays detailing the heritage of the park. The park also has a children’s memorial, an archery range and a sky trail to visit, while families who want to spend their whole day at the park are welcome to enjoy the shelter and picnic facilities open for public use.
100 Cove Spring Road, Frankfort, Kentucky 40601; Phone: 502-223-6965
Elizabethtown Nature Park
Experience some of the best recreational spaces that Elizabethtown has to offer at the Elizabethtown Nature Park. All 104-acres of the park sits on rolling grasslands that were previously used as pasture land. The peaceful Freeman Creek is a main feature of the park, lacing through the land and flowering towards the Freeman Lake, the largest lake in the city. Explore the park on foot and venture into the tunnel that connects the nature park to the north end of the Freeman Lake Park or set off on the walking trail that transitions into the Freeman Lake Park trail system. The Elizabethtown Nature Park is also home to the Hardin County Veterans Tribute, which pays respect to the men and women of the US Army, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard.
1900 Ring Road, Elizabethtown, Kentucky 42701; Phone: 270-769-3916
Laurel River Lake
Situated just west of Corbin, the Laurel River Lake is a 5,600-acre large reservoir that was built by the US Army Corps of Engineers back in 1977. Today, the clear and deep waters of the lake draw visitors from near and far, all of whom are eager to enjoy its vast beauty and tree-lined shore. Dozens of peace coves line the nearly 200-mile long shore and gives guests the perfect spot to relax. For thrill seekers, the lake is also the perfect spot to go boating, skiing and scuba diving as its one of the cleanest lakes in Kentucky. Fishing is another popular past time at the lake with black bass, walleye, crappie, blue gill, rainbow trout and catfish to be caught. Try night fishing for trout and get to know the local community as the activity is a popular past time amongst locals in the summer months. Drive-in, boat-in and ground camping facilities are also available for those who want to spend a night or two under a blanket of magnificent stars.
Daniel Boone National Forest, London, Kentucky 40744; Phone: 606-864-4163
Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area
How does 170,000 acres of land to play in sound to you? Pick your perfect spot and pitch your tent or bring your RV over for a fun weekend at the Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area. Camping enthusiasts can enjoy nature to the fullest at camping grounds like the Hillman Ferry. Meanwhile, guests are also welcome to bring their boats to the Land Between Lakes with several boat ramps situated throughout the recreation area. All boat ramps provide access to the Kentucky and Barkley Lakes which have a combined shoreline of 300 miles to explore and camp at. Other popular camp grounds throughout the area include the Energy Lake, Wranglers and Piney camping grounds with amenities like RV hook-ups, showers and restrooms, canoe or bike rentals and activity areas readily available.
238 Visitor Center Drive, Golden Pond, Kentucky 42211; Phone: 800-525-7077
Daniel Boone National Forest
Established in 1937, the Daniel Boone National Forest is the only national forest that is situated wholly within the borders of Kentucky. It is home to some of the most rugged terrain of the western Appalachian Mountains and features steep forest covered terrain, narrow and exhilarating ravines as well as beautiful sandstone cliffs. The trails are challenging and provide some of the most gorgeous views that a nature lover could ask for. When you’re not hiking or getting to know the terrain, head to the cliffs for rock climbing or visit the ravine for some fishing. Camping grounds are also open to the public while picnic areas provide groups who are visiting for day trips the perfect space to gather at. Don’t forget to stop by one of the lakes in the forest like the Beaver Creed Wilderness and the Red River Gorge.
1700 Bypass Road, London, Kentucky 40744; Phone: 606-864-4163
A unique draw within the Jefferson Memorial Forest, the Fairmount Falls exude peace, serenity and beauty. It is the tallest natural waterfall in Louisville and is nestled within 8 cozy acres of land. Hiking around the area is a popular activity in the area and the falls provide avid photographers and nature lovers with the perfect photo opportunities. For a complete experience of Fairmount Falls, hike in through the Jefferson Memorial Forest and follow the trail to the waterfalls. Once there, enjoy the relaxing sound of the water falling from the top of the falls and snap all the photos you want before heading to the public picnic area and enjoying a re-energizing meal with your companions.
9600 Thixton Lane, Louisville, Kentucky 40291; Phone: 502-368-5404
Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area
Spanning a whopping 125,000 acres of land, the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area encompasses the Cumberland Plateau with part of the national park in Tennessee and the rest in Kentucky. The park boasts some of the most awe-inspiring gorges and eye-catching sandstone bluffs alongside beautiful natural and historic features. Adrenaline junkies can test their guts on an exhilarating whitewater paddling excursion or put their muscles to the test at several natural rock climbing facades situated throughout the park. Families traveling to the park for the perfect family outdoor recreation rip can take a horseback ride throughout the park or hike one of the many trails that wind through the park. Truly, there’s no shortage of activities to enjoy at the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area.
4564 Leatherwood Road, Oneida, Tennessee; Phone: 423-569-9778