Jake Cain is an entrepreneur and writer from Cincinnati, Ohio. He spends his free time driving around the country in his late 90’s conversion van, affectionately known as the “Monster Van” with his wife and 3 boys.
The largest state in the Commonwealth of Kentucky, Louisville is known for its annual Kentucky Derby horse race and is also the home of the famous Kentucky Fried Chicken.
There are lots to explore in this American city, plus a lot of history as well, but there is even more to experience just outside the city lines.
Kentucky is also home to the largest caves in the world and of course you can visit the first-ever KFC as well where Colonel Sanders created his secret recipes.
Let us explore some of the best day trips that you can take from Louisville.
An hour and 20 minutes away from Louisville, Lexington is the “Horse Capital of the World”. It is the second-largest city in Kentucky and makes for a fantastic day trip from Louisville.
Dress your best and make your way to Keeneland for some first-class thoroughbred racing. Also, visit two historic racecourses, the Keeneland Race Course or the Red Mile as well. After this, you can also visit one of the many bourbon distilleries in Lexington as part of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.
Other Lexington attractions include Boone Creek Outdoors Zipline, Horse Farm Tours, Horseback Riding, and a tour of Old Kentucky Chocolates.
- Distance: 1 hour and 20 minutes
- Ideal for: Family fun and horse lovers
The state capital of Kentucky, Frankfort is one of the most historic cities in the state. It is also one of the original European settlements in the area.
There is lots of entertainment that you can find here, plus distilleries and wineries to make your day trip even better. State Capitol is one great place to visit in Frankfort.
- Distance: 58 minutes
- Ideal for: Family fun
Located 99 miles away, Cincinnati is one and a half-hour away from Louisville. Located in the neighboring state of Ohio, it was once named “Paris of America”.
The city was founded after the American Revolution and was once a bustling industrial city. If you love baseball, then the Great American Ball Park is home to the Cincinnati Reds, baseball’s first professional franchise.
After that, you can head to The Eagle Food and Beer Hall which is a gastropub with fried chicken to die for and over 100 variety of beers. Another interesting place to visit in Cincinnati is the Over-the-Rhein which is Cincinnati’s Brewing District.
Families can head to Washington Park for a great picnic or the nearby Vine Street which is loaded with boutique shops, cafes, restaurants and street art.
To end the trip on a sweet note, have some homemade Belgian waffles at The Taste of Belgium.
- Distance: 1 hour and 30 minutes
- Ideal for: Beer and baseball lovers
Cave City, Kentucky
Located 85 miles south of Louisville, Cave City is the heart of cave country and makes for a great day trip.
This city is also known for its historical WigWam Village Motel or Wigwam Village #2 which is one of the original seven featuring nights in Native American-style teepees.
For some more quirky things to do, visit the Funtown mountain which is conceptualized as a “carnival amusement park”. Cave City is also home to Dinosaur World, which is a real-life Jurassic Park where huge models of prehistoric creatures are on display in an open-air setting.
- Distance: 1 hour and 21 minutes
- Ideal for: Quirky getaway
Red River Gorge, Kentucky
A two and a half-hour drive away from Louisville, Red River Gorge is a huge area of a canyon surrounded by pristine forest.
This canyon system has an abundance of high sandstone cliffs, rock shelters, waterfalls, and natural bridges. Outdoor enthusiasts can partake in hiking, rock climbing plus photography as well.
After burning some calories, head to Miguel’s Pizza for a classic pizza experience.
- Distance: 1 hour and 57 minutes
- Ideal for: Outdoor enthusiasts
French Lick, Indiana
This small town in Indiana packs up a punch and is packed with all kinds of adventures you can take. French Lick makes for a fantastic day trip from Louisville as it is only 60 miles northwest of the town.
Enjoy skiing, jet-skiing, indoor karting, ATV tours with your family. Or just head to the French Lick Resort and Casino, where you can play your heart out.
If you are thinking of extending your stay, then there is no better place to stay as well.
- Distance: 1 hour and 14 minutes
- Ideal for: Family getaway
Cumberland Falls State Park
A three-hour drive from Louisville, Cumberland Falls State Park is a great substitute for Niagra Falls. The falls are truly a sight to behold and are part of the extensive Cumberland River.
Often called the “Little Niagra” or the “Niagara of the South,” the falls are a sight to behold in terms of length.
Under a full moon, you can be lucky and see n elusive lunar rainbow or “moonbow” which is formed by the mist emanating from the falls.
- Distance: 2 hours and 49 minutes
- Ideal for: Outdoor lovers
Located three hours away from Louisville, the town of Nashville makes for a fantastic day trip. If you love country music and beer – then the town of Nashville is the best place for you.
This Music City seems to have it all. Southern charm, great music scene, and delicious food. In 2013, Nashville was nicknamed “Nowville” and “It City” by GQ, Forbes and The New York Times!
Go barhopping or do a beer bike tour in Nashville and then explore the museum dedicated to the Man in Black – the Johnny Cash Museum. Country music fans can visit the Country Music Hall of Fame or go on the hunt for some of Nashville’s best street murals!
- Distance: 2 hours and 50 minutes
- Ideal for: Country music lovers
This second oldest settlement in Kentucky was voted as Most Beautiful Small Town in America in 2012.
This quaint town is also the Bourbon Capital of the World. This is where bourbon refined into the world-renowned drink it is today, and there are annual festivals here celebrating all things bourbon.
Jim Beam also originated near Bardstown.
Head to the Main Street for some Georgian gems while walking by the Bardstown City Hall. Other tourist attractions include My Old Kentucky Dinner Train, the Kentucky Railroad Museum and the Civil War Museum.
- Distance: 49 minutes
- Ideal for: Bourbon lovers
Mammoth Cave National Park
Mammoth Cave National Park is the largest cave system in the world and makes for a fantastic family-friendly trip from Louisville.
The current known length of these twisting, turning caverns is 412 miles. The vast chambers have earned their name from their length of course- Mammoth!
The park became a national park in 1941, and finally became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1981. The cave system can be explored via many tours that are offered here which range from one hour long to one day long!
Do book the tickets prior to your arrival, as if you come here during the peak season you may not get a chance to explore the Mammoth Cave National Park.
- Distance: 1 hour and 37 minutes
- Ideal for: Outdoor enthusiasts
La Grange, Kentucky
This quaint little town of La Grange has 30 freight trains roll on down the town’s Main Street, which is truly a sight to see and the main attraction in this city.
Besides that, visitors can explore the quaint shops, art galleries, eateries, and a few main attractions.
You won’t need more than an hour to tour this small town, but it is so cute that you don’t want to miss it!
- Distance: 23 minutes
- Ideal for: A short getaway
Also known as “E Town”, Elizabethtown is best known for the namesake film “Elizabethtown” starring Orlando Bloom and Kirsten Dunst.
Also the birthplace of Abraham Lincoln, Etown also claims to be the birthplace of Bourbon. There are many historical sites that the visitors can explore like Swope’s Cars of Yesteryear Museum, the Brown-Pusey House and more.
- Distance: 49 minutes
- Ideal for: Historic getaway
Located just around an hour away from Louisville, Georgetown is a Kentucky gem and was renamed after the United States’ first president, good ole George Washington.
An interesting place for people who love history, Georgetown has over 200 historic buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Walk around this picture-perfect Victorian-era town which has lots of galleries, boutique bakeries, and restaurants to keep you busy. Other attractions include a tour of the Toyota Manufacturing Plant, horseback riding at Whispering Woods Riding Stables and visiting the Old Friends Retired Thoroughbred Farm.
- Distance: 1 hour and 10 minutes
- Ideal for: Historic getaway
The beautiful town of Madison stretches out along the banks of Ohio River. Madison makes for the perfect day trip from Lousiville as it is just one hour away from the city.
It is surrounded by a lush green state park and also has the United States’ largest contiguous National Historic District.
Some tourist sites include the Lanier Mansion, as well as Shrewsbury-Windel House, the Madison Railroad Museum.
- Distance: 1 hour and 3 minutes
- Ideal for: Idyllic getaway
Not to be confused with Nashville, Tennessee – this is Nashville, Indiana. This quaint town of Nashville is almost like you have stepped into an episode of Gilmore Girls.
Also called “the artist colony of the Midwest”, this town has unique craft shops, antique shops, galleries and studios in every nook and cranny. If novelty shopping is your deal, then it doesn’t get any better than Nashville, Indiana.
Shop for things like jewelry, home decor, clothes and antiques here.
- Distance: 1 hour and 27 minutes
- Ideal for: Shopping
Louisville has a plethora of destinations that visitors can scrounge, plus there are lots of places to visit around the city as well like the country music capital of Nashville and the bustling city of Cincinnati in Ohio.
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