Top Attractions in Kentucky
Kentucky is filled with attractions that are recognized worldwide, from Churchill Downs to the distilleries of Bourbon Country, but some of your most enduring memories may just come from happy discoveries along the way. If you need a little help getting started, here’s a roundup of some of Kentucky’s most iconic attractions – along with some off-the-beaten-path recommendations worth going out of your way for.
Churchill Downs, Louisville
This historic race track in the heart of Louisville is where the Kentucky Derby is run each year on the first Saturday in May. You can take a variety of tours every day of the week, and visit the Kentucky Derby Museum to see racing memorabilia, interactive multimedia exhibits and more.
Kentucky is home to the largest-known cave system in the world, with 400 miles explored to date. Along with awe-inspiring subterranean tours, Mammoth Cave National Park offers hundreds of miles of nature trails and rivers to explore. Many more caves and attractions await in the nearby towns of Cave City and Horse Cave, including the American Cave Museum/Hidden River Cave.
West Kentucky African-American Heritage Center, Russellville
Centered around several restored buildings in Russellville’s Black Bottom Historic District, this cultural center is an excellent place to hear stories of African-American life in Kentucky, from slavery through the present day.
Read More: Unforgettable Kentucky
Ark Encounter, Williamstown
Your jaw will drop when you see this bible-scale replica of Noah’s Ark – the largest timber-frame structure in the U.S. Appropriately, there is also a hands-on animal park at this family-friendly attraction.
Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame and Museum, Owensboro
This state-of-the-art museum is America’s premier place to listen to and learn about bluegrass music, a true Kentucky original. Attend a live concert, and take a detour to visit Jerusalem Ridge, the homeplace of “Father of Bluegrass” Bill Monroe.
Read More: Bluegrass Music in Kentucky
Newport Aquarium, Newport
The aquarium has 70 exhibits and 14 galleries, including five seamless acrylic tunnels totaling over 200 feet (61 m) in length. While exploring guests have the opportunity to touch a shark, play in the interactive frog bog and even pet a penguin during the Penguin Encounter.
Louisville Zoo, Louisville
Opened in 1969, the Louisville Zoo currently exhibits more than 1,100 animals on 130 acres of natural settings representing zoogeographical areas, specific habitat types or special education areas including: Glacier Run, Africa, Islands, New World Exhibits (North, Central and South America), Australian Outback, the HerpAquarium and the Metazoo Education Center.
Cumberland Falls, Corbin
Nicknamed the “Niagara of the South,” this 125-foot-wide waterfall is easily one of the most scenic attractions in Kentucky. If you time your trip right, you can hike to see the elusive moonbow, and spend the night at the historic Dupont Lodge.
As notable for its history as its scenic beauty, Cumberland Gap was the first great gateway to the West. It was here that Daniel Boone began his legendary journey into Kentucky in 1769, opening up a whole new American frontier.
Travel through the heart of Bourbon Country on this trail that stops at 16 signature distilleries, including Maker’s Mark, Woodford Reserve and Jim Beam. You can also take the Kentucky Bourbon TrailⓇ Craft Tour to visit 20 more small-batch distilleries, and explore other trails to wet your whistle at dozens more bourbon hot spots.
Read More: Bourbon Trails
Kentucky Artisan Center, Berea
The Kentucky Artisan Center celebrates Kentucky’s artisans through sales, exhibits and displays, events , demonstrations and information about Berea and other Kentucky destinations. The Kentucky Artisan Center is a great place to experience Kentucky hospitality and see the array of Kentucky's creative works.
Kentucky Horse Park, Lexington
This equine theme park is the perfect place to learn about Kentucky’s storied horse culture. Here you can see horses of many breeds, visit three museums and take barn tours and horseback tours amid postcard views of rolling bluegrass.
This outdoor wonderland boasts 170,000 acres of untouched wilderness between Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley. Activities range from boating to hiking to off-roading, and must-see sights include an Elk & Bison Prairie and a planetarium.
My Old Kentucky Home, Bardstown
The farm that inspired the imagery in Stephen Collins Foster's famous song, “My Old Kentucky Home, Good-Night!” is Kentucky's most famous and beloved historic site. Built between 1812 and 1818, the three-story house originally named, "Federal Hill," by its first owner Judge John Rowan became Kentucky's first historic shrine on July 4th, 1923.
Kentucky Kingdom & Hurricane Bay, Louisville
With more than 70 rides and attractions, including six world-class roller coasters, a huge water park, children’s rides, games, shows, and so much more, Kentucky Kingdom has something for everyone.
Country superstar Loretta Lynn (and her sister, singer Crystal Gayle) was born a coal miner’s daughter in the hills of Eastern Kentucky. Visit her Butcher Holler homestead and learn about her humble beginnings, then continue on U.S. 23, dubbed the Country Music Highway, to see where dozens more country stars got their starts.
Read More: Loretta Lynn's Kentucky
Muhammad Ali Center, Louisville
The boxer known as “The Greatest” was born Cassius Clay in Louisville in 1942. This non-profit museum and cultural center pays tribute to both the athlete and the man, with inspiring exhibits based around Ali’s career and humanitarian efforts.
National Corvette Museum, Bowling Green
Bowling Green is the one and only place in the world where the Corvette is manufactured. Take a tour of the factory, see more than 80 mint ‘Vettes on display, and burn some rubber on the track at NCM Motorsports Park.
National Quilt Museum, Paducah
Located in the UNESCO Creative City of Paducah, the National Quilt Museum is the world’s premier quilting and fiber arts museum in the world, featuring three galleries filled with eye-popping fiber artistry.
Read More: Crafts in Kentucky