15 Kentucky Vacation Spots: The Full Bluegrass Experience

Kentucky is also known as the Bluegrass State and is the hub of horse racing, plus it is also the state behind the iconic Kentucky Fried Chicken brand. The state has a diverse geography and cultural history, which offers a variety of attractions for couples, families, and everyone else.

Explore the popular cities of Lexington, Louisville, and Frankfurt. Nature lovers can also explore the many parks and natural springs Kentucky has.

Let us explore some of the best Kentucky vacation spots that you can visit.

Kentucky Derby, Kentucky

Kentucky Derby

Kentucky is known for horse racing, and it is no surprise that the most famous tourist spot in Kentucky is the Kentucky Derby in Churchill Downs. Every year thousands of tourists visit the Churchill Downs to experience one of the greatest days in all of Derby’s history.

Kentucky Derby takes place the first Sunday in May and is one of the most anticipated events in Louisville. Admission is just $5 and doors open at 4. 

Just next to the Derby, there is Kentucky Derby Museum which houses a variety of exhibits that explore the history of the Kentucky Derby and Churchill Downs since the first race in 1875. 

Louisville, Kentucky

Louisville

The largest city in Kentucky, Louisville is also one of the oldest cities west of the Appalachian Mountains. The city was founded in 1778 by a military official named George Rogers Clark.

Louisville is also the base for some of the most famous companies in America, including Kentucky Fried Chicken, the Kentucky Derby, and Louisville Slugger baseball bats.

Plus, the city is also home to Fortune 500 companies and several water and rail transportation giants. There are many museums, sports stadiums, historical sites, and restaurants to explore by visitors.

Daniel Boone National Forest, Kentucky

Daniel Boone

Kentucky is home to some amazing natural attractions and Daniel Boone National Forest makes for the perfect place to explore for nature lovers.

Located west of the Appalachian Mountains, Daniel Boone National Forest has rugged terrain, and the sprawling forest covers 708,000 acres of forestlands. In addition to that, there are three lakes, many rivers as well.

Nature lovers can spend time here hiking, camping, fishing, kayaking, boating, rock climbing, and much more. Since this is a massive national forest, it is recommended to stay here for more than a day. 

Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill, Kentucky

Shaker Village

Shaker Village is an open-air village that contains 34 of Pleasant Hill’s original buildings and is a great place to get to know more about Kentucky’s rich heritage and history.

Start by exploring the living history museum where visitors can meet the men and women who have called the village their home for over 100 years. The Historic Centre has handmade furniture and everyday items from the 1800s.

If you can visiting Shaker Village with family, then visit the farm where you can meet animals,  learn about the sustainable farming methods of the Shakers, and take hayrides among other activities.

Newport Aquarium, Kentucky

Newport Aquarium

Newport Aquarium is a great vacation spot in Kentucky for families. The aquarium was number one in the 2012 Reader’s Choice Travel Awards

Here you can have a first-hand encounter with some of the most exotic sea creatures like sharks, fish, jellyfish, and stingrays. Plus, you can learn about the diverse aquatic life thanks to its extensive system of acrylic tunnels.

Do visit the Amazon Tunnel where visitors can walk through the habitat of the massive Arapaima as it swims in a river along a flooded Amazon forest floor. Other tunnels explore coral reef species, alive with lifelike the unicorn fish, honeycomb moray eels.

Apart from these, there is the Surrounded by Sharks exhibit where you will literally be surrounded by these predators. 

Kentucky Horse Park, Kentucky

Horse Park Kentucky

Located just a short drive from Lexington, Kentucky Horse Park allows visitors a chance to see a working horse farm, learn about, and visit with horses. If you love these creatures, then there is no way you should miss the Horse Park.

There are several attractions and activities in the park, including the opportunity to take horse or pony rides. For kids, there are multiple kids barns for meeting smaller animals; the Mounted Police Barn; the Breeds Barn, where a selection of rare breeds reside and more.

In addition to that, there are multiple shows that take place featuring the various breeds and occupations of the horses.

Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky

Mammoth Cave

The Mammoth Cave is a lovely destination in Kentucky’s backwoods. It lies in the “Land of 10,000 Sinks” or the Caveland Corridor, 80 miles south of Louisville. 

Mammoth Cave National Park is built to preserve the world’s longest cave system. It has more than 400 miles of passages surveyed so far and was already known to the original native inhabitants of the region by the 1st millennium BC.

Top attractions in the park include the Mammoth Dome, which is almost 200 feet high, and the Ruins of Karnak, and also the  Snowball Dining Room, with its extraordinary rock formations.

The park is open all year round too.

The Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area, Kentucky

Big South Fork

The Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area was established in 1974 and covers more than 125,000 acres of the Cumberland Plateau. Ideal for hiking, horseback riding, fishing, hunting, and stargazing, the recreation area makes for a great vacation spot in Kentucky for outdoor lovers.

There are many natural bridges as well which are a treat to climb on plus,  provide some fantastic opportunities for photography.  The Big South Form National River and Recreation Area are open year-round and you can camp here too.

Red River Gorge, Kentucky

Red River Gorge

Thousands of people visit the Red River Gorge every year and it is most famous for its natural stone arches. This is a designated geological area and a landmark listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The region attracts many hikers, backpackers, campers, rock climbers, and other adventure seekers. There are designated spots for camping as well. 

Cumberland Falls State Resort Park, Kentucky

Cumberland Falls

Cumberland Falls State Resort Park is also known as the “Niagra of the South” and makes for a great vacation spot. The Cumberland Falls are 125-foot wide falls that drop 68 feet into the Cumberland River.

Visitors can take advantage of many trails which short to medium length, and in addition to its 17 miles of hiking, visitors come for the camping, swimming, birding, and fishing. 

Lexington, Kentucky

Lexington

Referred to as the “Horse capital of the world”, Lexington is a must-visit for anyone traveling to Kentucky. Located deep in Kentucky’s Bluegrass region, the city has a lot to offer.

The main attractions include the Kentucky Horse Park, The Red Mile, and Keeneland racecourses. Plus, there are many historic sites that you can explore such as the Waveland State Historic Site and Kentucky statesman Henry Clay’s Ashland estate. 

You can visit the American Saddle Museum as well and you can watch the racing at the Keeneland Race Course. 

Frankfort, Kentucky

Frankfort

The capital of Kentucky definitely deserves a visit. This scenic city nestled alongside the Kentucky River makes for a great vacation spot.

Frankfort is the governmental center of the state and the economy thrives because of several large shopping malls and a couple of famous distilleries. There are lots to do for tourists like tour the distilleries, tour museums, parks, shopping centers, entertainment venues.

London, Kentucky

London Kentucky

The quirky town of London is best known for hosting the yearly World Chicken Festival. This amazing festival was created to honor Colonel Sanders, the icon behind the Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise.

It is worth the visit to explore the Festival which features the world’s largest skillet, a 700-pound behemoth that is used to cook 7,000 pieces of chicken during the weekend-long festival. 

This unique festival began in 1989, and it features all kinds of family-friendly fun. 

Pikeville, Kentucky

Pikeville

This cute and picturesque city surely deserves a visit and is located on the eastern edge of Kentucky. The city is also the site of  the Pikeville Cut-Through, a rock-cut that is known for being the largest civil engineering project in the western hemisphere

The city became popular in the 1990s and now is a lovely residential area with many schools and businesses. 

Pikeville is also known for hosting a popular annual cultural festival called Hillbilly Days. 

Richmond, Kentucky

Richmond, Ken

Richmond is the center of commerce for South-Central Kentucky and is located in the heart of the Bluegrass Region. The city is known for its extensive park system.

The Lake Reba Recreational Complex is the most popular of all the parks in town, but visitors also enjoy seeing Paradise Cove and Adventure Falls. 

Conclusion

Kentucky is a lovely hotpot of natural wonders such as the Cumberland Falls and exciting cities like Lexington and Louisville.

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