Unique things to do in Kentucky

Reasons to Visit Kentucky: The Top 5 Things to Do (From a Local!)

When people think of Kentucky, often they envision horse races, big hats, and maybe some barefoot children running around a coal mine in the hollers of the Appalachians.

While these images (however stereotypical) may represent portions of the bluegrass state, there is so much more than just banjos and moonshine in the great Commonwealth!

As a born and raised (northern) Kentuckian with a love of exploration, these are my top 5 things to do- all of which are great reasons to visit Kentucky!

While there are plenty of tourist attractions here, these experiences are ones I recommend most for any vacation in Kentucky.

All photos taken by myself or my husband!

Some links in this post are affiliate links, meaning if you book or buy something through one of these, I may earn a small commission (at no additional cost to you!).

1. Rolling Hills, Horses, Bluegrass, and Basketball

If you want to see the Kentucky most people envision, take a drive near the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington. The rolling bluegrass fields, white picket fences, and horses frolicking in the sun make you feel like a character in a storybook.
Towns like Lexington (“The Horse Capital of the World”) provide ample opportunities for experiences of the horse industry. Take a drive down Lexington’s Old Frankfort Pike, and see grand horse farms and old southern mansions.
Kentucky Horse Park, Lexington, Old Frankfort Pike
Kentucky Horse Park & Old Frankfort Pike, Lexington
Another great way to experience the bluegrass state is spending a day at the scenic Keeneland race track. Open in April and October, come to admire the athletic beauty of these horses- and to learn the art of betting!
Keeneland, Horse Races, Kentucky
Keeneland Race Track
Once your money is gone, take a stroll across the campus of the nearby  University of Kentucky, and get a small taste of the state’s great appetite for basketball too. (GO CATS!!)
kentucky, horses, lexington. reasons to visit kentucky.
Somewhere near Lexington
You can also visit the iconic city of Louisville– a trendy town with a great history. Home to the famed Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs, as well as the baseball lover’s Louisville Slugger Museum. Horses, history, and bluegrass- who can ask for more?

2. The Kentucky Bourbon Trail

A simple truth: If you want  bourbon whiskey, you come to Kentucky. If you want to sample it, try its many varieties and note its subtle differences, you visit the bourbon trail.
Maker's Mark, Bourbon Trail, Kentucky, Loretto
The Bourbon Trail at Maker’s Mark- Loretto, KY
The Kentucky bourbon trail is a network of 9 distilleries scattered throughout central Kentucky, providing guests the opportunity to sip some bourbon, and get stamps on their “passport”.
Most of the stops offer tours, with the chance to learn about the history and the distilling process, all while enjoying gorgeous views. Particularly scenic stops include Makers Mark, Woodford Reserve, and Heaven Hill Distillery in Bardstown.

Maker's Mark, Bourbon Trail, Kentucky

3. Mammoth Cave National Park

Most people outside of Kentucky have no idea that the state is actually home to the world’s longest network of caves. Yes, you read that right- not just America’s longest cave network- the WORLD’S! If that’s not a reason to visit Kentucky for you, I don’t know what is!
Stretching out over 400 miles of epic passageways, this National Park is mysterious and truly fascinating. Visit the park to go on a variety of guided underground cavern tours.
Try your hand at spelunking, or just admire the stalagmites and stalactites (all while dodging those pesky bats!).Mammoth Cave, Cave City, Kentucky

 4. The Red River Gorge

Located in the mountainous central part of the state, The Red River Gorge is a canyon system near the Red River. It is a protected geological area attracting thousands of campers, rock climbers, and adventure seekers each year.
Red River Gorge, Hike, Natural Bridge, Kentucky
Natural Bridge State Park is adjacent, and is one of the most beautiful hikes in the American south. Part of the Daniel Boone National Forest, this natural area offers stunning hikes, dramatic cliff-side views, and pristine forest.
The greater Red River Gorge as a whole is also famous for its incomparable rock climbing. A final bonus is that the Gorge looks beautiful year round- especially in the spring and fall!
Red River Gorge, Natural Bridge, Daniel Boone National Forest, Kentucky

5. Small Towns and Southern Hospitality

Kentucky is home to many small towns that epitomize the American south.  Walk through any little “map dot” town and you can find an old city hall, or some small local-run restaurants.
You’re also bound to see some old barns slowly fading away, or meet friendly locals ready to serve some sweet tea!
Small towns like Rabbit Hash in Northern Kentucky, or Augusta with its picturesque Victorian homes, can give you a little taste as to what you can find in any small town you stumble upon.
Augusta, Rabbit Hash, Covington, Owenton Kentucky
Small Town Kentucky- From Barns to Mansions
Kentucky does small towns right! In fact, the beautiful little gem of Bardstown was recently named “the most beautiful small town in America”!
Filled with stately old homes, and even a haunted tavern, it is the site of the official “Old Kentucky Home”. Upon visiting in 1852, Stephen Foster was inspired to write our great Kentucky state anthem!
Bardstown, Kentucky. Small town cute. Reasons to visit Kentucky.
Historic Bardstown

1 Comment

  • Reply Mackenzie February 24, 2021 at 1:09 pm

    Great article! Definitely have to visit one day!

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