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The Best & Worst Times to Visit Kentucky in 2024

The Best & Worst Times to Visit Kentucky in 2024

What's the best time to visit Kentucky?

The best times to visit Kentucky are spring (April to mid-June) and fall (September to November) due to pleasant weather and open attractions. Spring is ideal for horse lovers as it’s foaling season and hosts the Kentucky Derby in May.

Fall offers excellent hiking, trekking, and vibrant fall foliage, along with festivals like the International Bar-B-Q Festival and Kentucky Bourbon Festival. Summer can be hot, and winter is chilly, making spring and fall the prime seasons for exploration in Kentucky.

Kentucky is a state full of hidden wonders and is a must-visit destination on any road trip around the United States. It’s most famous for the Kentucky Derby, which attracts over 150,000 spectators each year.

However, this sleepy state offers a lot more than a single race. The state offers a unique glimpse into traditional Southern culture that visitors can explore.

Kentucky is the birthplace of Kentucky Fried Chicken, and you can taste the delicious treat at the original KFC (now called the Harland Sanders Café and Museum) or at any family stall throughout the country.

In addition to food, Kentucky also has a unique musical culture. It didn’t get the nickname of “The Bluegrass State” for nothing. This unique musical form is still beloved here, and you can see the talent of local musicians at shows throughout the state.

But knowing the best time to visit Kentucky can help you make the most of your trip. We’ll show you the best, least busy, cheapest, and worst times to go and what to do in each month.

The Overall Best Time to Visit Kentucky

Amazing dusk view of the Frankfort capitol building during the best time to visit Kentucky in the spring with flowers in full bloom

Sean Pavone/Shutterstock

The overall best time to visit Kentucky is during spring (April to mid-June) or fall (September to November). During these seasons, the weather is perfect for exploring.

Plus, most attractions are open for visitors and there are also plenty of local events to keep you entertained. The main reason why spring and fall are the best times to visit is the weather. Summers in Kentucky can get very hot, while winters are chilly and sometimes cold.

The weather in spring and fall is mild and warm, perfect for exploring. Average high temperatures are between 75-85 degrees Fahrenheit, making for a beautiful time to explore.

Summer weather in Kentucky is very hot. Although this is one of the most popular times to visit Kentucky, we don’t recommend it unless you have to. During the summer, there is also a higher risk of severe thunderstorms, including storms that form tornadoes.

You will also miss out on essential Kentucky activities since some attractions, such as bourbon distilleries, shut down due to the heat and for maintenance.

Even the official Kentucky tourism website recommends visiting during the spring and fall. Each of these seasons has its own benefits, so picking which season is best for your trip depends on what you want to see.

Horse lovers will want to visit Kentucky in the spring. If you are hoping to visit Kentucky Horse Country to see the state’s famous horse breeders, then the months of May and June are the best time to visit.

According to the official Horse Country website, spring is foaling season. If you visit during this time, you’ll get to see baby foals frolicking in the famous bluegrass fields. Spring is also the time of the most famous horse-related event in the United States.

The Kentucky Derby takes place at Churchill Downs every first Saturday in May, and thousands of visitors flock to see the races.

Even if you don’t normally watch horse races, the atmosphere, complete with mint juleps and big hats, is worth taking in (if you are not a fan of the race, you may want to avoid Kentucky during this weekend as everything is geared towards the race).

Meanwhile, the fall in Kentucky brings different attractions. If you are looking to get a lot of hiking and trekking done, fall is the best season due to the weather.

It is usually warm, just like spring, but much drier, meaning that you have a higher chance of getting the right weather for your trip. National parks such as Red River Gorge advise on their website that the best times to visit are spring and fall.

Besides the benefit of the weather, which is perfect for hiking in the fall, you can also admire the changing fall foliage. Kentucky foliage is one of the best in the nation and reaches its peak in October.

The foliage season differs depending on the precise location in Kentucky you are going to (for example, it starts earlier in the Appalachian Mountains), so look it up in detail before you go.

Kentucky has a number of great festivals that are worth a visit. There are actually a lot of great festivals in the summer as well, so it might be worth braving the heat if that is what you want to experience.

Some of the most popular local festivals include:

Cheapest Time to Visit Kentucky

natural stone bridge pictured in the middle of a white forest blanketed with snow during the winter, the overall cheapest time to visit Kentucky


The cheapest time to visit Kentucky is during the winter, after the holiday season. During this time, you can usually get deals on flights and hotels.

Traveling after New Year’s Day is often the most affordable time when visiting most destinations in the United States. The holiday travel rush is over.

Many airlines offer discounts on flights a few days and weeks after New Year’s Day to try and make some money during the low season, so take advantage of those discounts for a budget visit to Kentucky.

Accommodation also becomes more affordable during the winter in Kentucky. Winter is the state’s slow season, so many hotels and B&Bs lower their prices to try and attract off-season visitors that visit in the lull between spring’s Derby season and the winter holiday season.

However, during long weekends and national holidays, such as Presidents’ Day and Martin Luther King Jr. Day, prices tend to spike because people take advantage of the long weekend to travel. For maximum savings, avoid traveling to Kentucky during those weekends in the winter.

Least Busy Time to Visit Kentucky

View from a road in downtown Lexington during the least busy time to visit Kentucky with blue skies over empty streets outside of the convention center

Ivelin Denev/Shutterstock

The least busy time to visit Kentucky is also the winter. There are fewer events during this time that attract visitors, and the weather is not that conducive to exploration.

Fewer people come to Kentucky in the winter because there aren’t that many things to do. It gets too cold to do a lot of exploration, especially in the area around Louisville and in the mountains.

Many of the state’s more famous events occur later in the year, during the spring, summer, and fall. The exception is around Christmas. Although the winter crowds never come close to the spring or fall crowds, you’ll notice more people around Kentucky in December than in January or February.

Many are people who live out of state coming back home to visit family, while others are in town to see the unique local holiday traditions, such as the Lights Under Louisville festival.

Expect some crowds around the holidays, but unexpectedly, holiday crowds tend to be bigger in November than in December.

Most of Louisville’s holiday festivals start in November, so people come to see the lights then. The weather in December can get quite cold, so you can take advantage of the holiday atmosphere with fewer people around as long as you bundle up.

Worst Time to Visit Kentucky

Frosty morning in rural Kentucky during the worst time to visit

Alexey Stiop/Shutterstock

The worst time to visit Kentucky is during the winter or summer. The weather in both seasons is too extreme to do much exploring. Plus, many attractions are closed.

Winter is the least expensive and least crowded season because not many people want to come to Kentucky. Although Kentucky is in the southern United States, it has some of the coldest winters in the region, especially in the northern part of the state and in the mountains.

It is much too cold to go hiking, and often too cold to even explore the local cities and towns. However, you can still make a quick city break out of a winter trip to Kentucky.

Stick to Louisville or one of the other bigger towns in the state. Spend your time exploring indoor attractions instead of the outdoors. Winter is also a good time to try bourbon and fried chicken to warm you up.

Summer has the opposite problem. Summers in Kentucky are very hot and humid.This season also has the highest risk of heavy thunderstorms, which can really ruin an adventure.

During the summer, Louisville tends to empty due to the unbearable heat. However, you can enjoy the indoor attractions, which are mostly air-conditioned.

The mountain regions also tend to be cooler, making them more pleasant places to visit. In summer, many popular attractions such as Mammoth Cave have the longest opening hours and the most frequent tour schedule.

Kentucky by Month: Climate & Activities

Newly filled bourbon barrels in Kentucky pictured during the spring, the best time to visit the state

Thomas Carr/Shutterstock

Still unsure about the best time to visit Kentucky? Take a look at our summary of the weather and climate by month below:


In January, winter temperatures in Kentucky range from -6 to 6°C (21-43°F). This time is ideal for exploring the historic distilleries along the Bourbon Trail, attending winter horse racing events at Churchill Downs, and enjoying outdoor activities in state parks.


Similar to January, February maintains cool temperatures between -4 to 8°C (25-46°F). Visitors can experience the beauty of the Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest, attend the Kentucky Crafted Market, and explore the cultural scene in Louisville.


As spring begins, temperatures range from 2 to 14°C (36-57°F). March is perfect for attending the Kentucky Derby Festival events, exploring the Mammoth Cave National Park, and enjoying the blooming flowers at the Lexington Arboretum.


Spring temperatures in Kentucky range from 7 to 19°C (45-66°F). It’s an ideal time for horseback riding in the Daniel Boone National Forest, attending the Keeneland Spring Meet, and experiencing the International Bar-B-Q Festival in Owensboro.


May sees temperatures ranging from 12 to 24°C (54-75°F). It’s a great month for exploring the Newport Aquarium, attending the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs, and enjoying outdoor concerts and festivals across the state.


In June, summer arrives in Kentucky with temperatures between 17 to 29°C (63-84°F). June offers opportunities for hiking in Red River Gorge, experiencing the Kentucky Shakespeare Festival in Louisville, and attending the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame & Museum’s ROMP Festival.


July maintains warm temperatures from 20 to 31°C (68-88°F). It’s a popular month for exploring the Cumberland Falls State Resort Park, attending the Forecastle Festival in Louisville, and enjoying outdoor activities at Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area.


Temperatures in August range from 19 to 30°C (66-86°F). It’s an excellent time for visiting the Kentucky Horse Park, attending the Kentucky State Fair, and exploring the historic district of Bardstown.


As fall begins, temperatures range from 15 to 27°C (59-81°F). September offers a pleasant transition, with opportunities for bourbon tasting along the Bourbon Trail, attending the World Chicken Festival in London, and exploring the scenic beauty of Cave City.


October sees temperatures ranging from 8 to 20°C (46-68°F). It’s a great month for attending the Kentucky Bourbon Festival in Bardstown, exploring the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park, and enjoying fall foliage in the Daniel Boone National Forest.


Fall temperatures range from 2 to 13°C (36-55°F). November is perfect for experiencing the Breeders’ Cup World Championships at Keeneland, exploring the Kentucky Horse Country, and attending holiday events in Louisville and Lexington.


In December, winter returns to Kentucky with temperatures ranging from -4 to 7°C (25-45°F). December brings opportunities for holiday-themed events, exploring the Louisville Mega Cavern, and enjoying the festive atmosphere in historic towns like Lexington and Bardstown.

Things to Consider

Misty view of Cumberland Falls State Park pictured with the amazing falls misting off the water during the best time to visit Kentucky


Here are a few additional tips to help you plan your trip to Kentucky:

  • Pack allergy medication if visiting in the spring. One of the benefits of visiting in the spring is the way that everything blooms, from bluegrass to wildflowers. However, this isn’t a benefit for those with pollen allergies, so make sure you have medication on hand.
  • The best time to visit Cumberland Falls State Resort Park is around the full moon. During the five days around the full moon each month, the waterfalls form a unique moonbow, or moon rainbow.
  • Pack layers and waterproof clothing. The weather changes rapidly in Kentucky, no matter the season. Even if the forecast predicts dry weather, pack something waterproof just in case.

Frequently Asked Questions

Neat view of a winding road in the middle of Lexington's rural countryside with a traditional horse farm pictured during the overall best time to go to Kentucky

Lexington, KY, USA October 20, A meandering country road traverses a fall landscape in Kentucky’s Blue Grass region near Lexington/James Kirkikis/Shutterstock

Here are some other questions people tend to ask when planning trips to Kentucky:

What is the best time to go to Kentucky?

The best time to go to Kentucky is in the spring for horse-related events and in the fall for hiking. During these seasons, the weather is the mildest.

What city has the best weather in Kentucky?

Madisonville has the best weather in Kentucky, with year-round mild temperatures. Other parts of the state get very hot in the summer and very cold in the winter.

What are the seasons in Kentucky?

The seasons in Kentucky are the typical seasons found in temperate climates throughout North America and the world. Kentucky gets a cold winter, a warm, wet spring, a very hot summer, and a pleasant fall with lots of foliage.

What months are warm in Kentucky?

Kentucky is a bit warmer than states further north. The weather starts to warm up by mid-April and stays warm until mid-October. The summer months of June, July, and August get very hot.

So, What’s the Best Time to Visit Kentucky?

The transitional seasons of fall and spring are the best time to visit Kentucky to have weather that is warm enough to explore, but not overbearingly hot.

Lovers of all things horse-related should come in the spring, when the whole state comes alive for Derby Day and the horse farms are full of new foals. Meanwhile, the fall is best for exploring nature and going on bourbon distillery tours.

So, with so much to see and do and several amazing times to visit, what are you waiting for — book your trip to Kentucky today and experience for yourself all that this amazing state has to offer. Happy travels!