Whether you’re taking a vacation or just passing through Kentucky, you might be wondering what activities the state has to offer. Kentucky has a lot of opportunities to keep you occupied no matter how long your trip is!
15 Best Things to Do in Kentucky in 2023
So, you’ve made it to Kentucky but are having difficulty finding the best places to go. Look no further, as we have a great list of ideas to kickstart your Kentucky adventure.
1. Visit the Kentucky Derby Museum
The Kentucky Derby Museum is a non-profit organization that works in preserving the history of the famous Kentucky Derby.
It sits right next to the Churchill Downs Racetrack and is an approximate 10-minute drive from downtown Louisville. During your visit, you will get a comprehensive review of the derby, starting from 1875.
The admission ticket provides access to a range of interactive exhibits, a walking tour of the Churchill Downs Racetrack, and a special 360º viewing of The Greatest Race.
Yes, you’ll get to walk alongside the track where those beautiful horses compete every year. Don’t forget to stop at the museum store on the way out to get a Kentucky Derby-themed souvenir. While there are admission fees, children under five can visit for free.
2. Take a Spooky Tour of Waverly Hills Sanatorium
This one is perfect for those who are interested in the spooky and paranormal. The Waverly Hills Sanatorium opened in 1910 as a tuberculosis hospital that could treat 40-50 patients at any given time.
Years later, in 1924, construction began again to increase the size of the hospital. The sanatorium reopened in 1926, with the capacity to now hospitalize more than 400 patients.
It finally closed its doors in 1961 after doctors found an antibiotic that could cure the disease. After the building came out of quarantine, it was run as a nursing home for about 19 years.
Now the Waverly Hills Historical Society takes care of the massive building. Today, the sanatorium offers historical tours, paranormal tours, and even paranormal investigations.
The tours are about two hours long, and the investigations last for six hours. These run overnight, so make sure you drink some coffee before starting your ghost hunt! Prices range depending on which activity you choose.
3. Visit the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory
See where the famous Louisville Slugger baseball bats come from! This place offers plenty of artifacts from the baseball world to discover, including some legendary pieces from some familiar baseball players’ faces.
Through the many exhibits, you’ll gain a new appreciation of the importance of this bat brand throughout the years. Some of these exhibits are interactive too.
After checking out what is on display, you have the opportunity to take a tour of the baseball bat factory. You’ll see how the iconic company makes their bats from the beginning to the end.
You’ll also get a free mini bat after you tour the factory. The whole experience lasts about an hour and a half, and admission rates will depend on age.
Kids under five years old are free. If you want a more behind-the-scenes look at the factory, they offer All-Star Experience packages. With this, you can see archives and get a personalized bat.
4. Take a Ride Over to the National Corvette Museum
The National Corvette Museum at Bowling Green has plenty of exhibits showcasing the old, new, and exotic sides of the Corvette brand.
View the beautiful cars that made the Corvette what it is today and take in the Skydome, where you’ll get an in-depth history of the car and the National Corvette Museum itself. In 2014, a sinkhole formed in the Skydome and damaged some of the Corvettes on display.
You can get an interactive tour of this sinkhole and learn about and see what happened to the cars involved. Take a drive in the Corvette simulator and try out driving around a virtual track.
After that, grab a bite to eat at the Stingray Grill and go shopping at the Corvette store for apparel, gifts, and more. There are various admission prices, and kids under four get in for free.
5. Visit the Kentucky Horse Park
The Kentucky Horse Park opened in 1978 to celebrate the relationship that humans have with horses. The whole idea of the Lexington-based park is to focus on learning and engaging with these beautiful creatures. It is the ultimate horse lover’s dream!
The park offers live horse shows, museums, trail rides, pony rides, and even places to camp. Learn the in-depth history of these remarkable animals and interact with them through many provided opportunities.
If you want to stay a little longer, you can reserve a spot on their campground, which offers a plethora of amenities. And don’t forget the gift shop.
You can visit Kentucky Horse Park from April through October, Wednesday to Sunday. General admission for adults will depend on the season you visit. Horseback trail rides, pony rides, and camping spots are add-ons.
6. Take a Tour of Noah’s Ark at Ark Encounter
If you’re interested in learning about Noah’s Ark, you can visit a life-size version of it in Williamstown. Once inside, you’ll get to see three floors of exhibits with plenty to explore. Here, you’ll learn about Noah and how his ark came to be.
But, this isn’t the only thing you’ll see. In addition, this massive location will give you access to a playground, ziplines, virtual reality experiences, and even a zoo.
And if you’re hungry, grab a bite to eat at one of the many restaurants spread throughout the property. Make sure to grab a souvenir on your way out at the gift shop! Single-day ticket prices do vary, and kids ten and under can get in for free.
7. Explore Mammoth Cave at Mammoth Cave National Park
Mammoth Cave is the longest underground cave system in the world. The cave is completely nature-made and has been around for thousands of years.
Currently, the cave measures 420 miles long. But, don’t worry, you don’t have to walk all those miles. The cave offers educational tours for the price of an admission ticket.
There are multiple cave tour packages to choose from, and they each focus on specific attributes and areas of the cave. Due to this, admission prices range.
The park itself is free to enter and explore as you wish, and they have much more to offer than just the cave. They have campgrounds, lodging, 80 miles of trails, horseback riding, and more.
8. Visit the Newport Aquarium
The Newport Aquarium offers a host of activities, exhibits, and animals for you and your family to enjoy. View some of the world’s most beloved aquatic animals, as well as some exotic species that you don’t get to see quite often!
Walk across the shark bridge, where you’ll be able to view sharks below your feet. You can pet some stingrays and sharks, and touch some little sea critters in the tide pool.
The aquarium offers many opportunities to interact with animals, creating an engaging experience for everyone. Daily admission prices vary. They also offer annual passes if you want to visit multiple times throughout the year.
9. Visit the Louisville Zoo
The Louisville Zoo is host to more than 1,100 animals and about 130 acres of land. They have a variety of exhibits, including Africa, Australia, the Islands, the Americas, Glacier Run, and the HerpAquariam.
You will get a peek into the lives of animals from multiple continents and learn about how they interact with their natural environments and each other. The zoo offers tons of fun for everyone in the family.
Besides the animal exhibits, you can see a live animal presentation, ride the carousel, and eat some lunch. Then, end the day at the store for a souvenir to remind you of your trip to the fascinating Louisville Zoo.
This zoo is a non-profit and commits itself to the well-being of its residents. So, you can feel confident when purchasing a ticket that the money goes to the animals’ care. Admission prices range depending on the day that you attend.
10. Explore Cumberland Falls State Resort Park
The first thing you should do when visiting this park is to take a walk over to the cascading Cumberland Falls. After all, the falls are in the park’s name and are one of the most beautiful aspects of the area.
You can then hike on multiple trails, or if you aren’t into hiking, take an exciting horseback ride through the forest. As you probably noticed by the name, the park is also somewhat of a resort.
Not only does it offer a beautiful slice of nature, but there are lodging options, campsites, and a restaurant. You get to enjoy nature while still having access to modern-day amenities.
The park offers plenty of opportunities for a range of activities such as swimming, fishing, hiking, horseback riding, and picnicking. The scenic area is free to visit. You will only need to make a payment if you use the campgrounds, lodging, or eat at the restaurant.
11. Go for a Hike at the Daniel Boone National Forest
The Daniel Boone National Forest is another stunning place to visit. This forest spans 21 Kentucky counties, offering tons of places to explore. In addition, there are over 600 miles of trails for you to follow, so get your hiking shoes on.
You can also swim, boat, camp, picnic, and more at the free park. Picnic tables are dotted throughout the forest for you to rest and have a bite to eat. And if you’re looking to stay overnight, the campgrounds can be rented for a fee. Just keep in mind that there are no showers. Toilets are available, but they don’t flush.
12. Visit the Muhammad Ali Center
The Muhammad Ali Center is a cultural center and museum solely dedicated to the life of famous American boxer and activist Muhammad Ali.
It encapsulates Ali’s core principles that emphasized respect, spirituality, and dedication (among many of his other values). These are principles that Ali kept close to his heart throughout his entire life.
The exhibits and galleries offer you a look into Muhammad Ali’s journey through life. They offer you an interactive experience to understand the core principles that shaped him as a human being.
As you walk through each exhibit, the museum encourages you to reflect on what your core principles might be. It’s a learning and reflecting experience for everyone. Admission rates vary, and children five and under are free.
13. Walk Around the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historic Park
The Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historic Park showcases the first Lincoln memorial ever built. This spot preserves Lincoln’s birthplace and the location of his childhood home and farm.
Before starting your adventure through the park, it is best to examine some exhibits and learn some background information on the 16th president at the visitor center. With that knowledge fresh in your mind, move on to navigating the charming environment.
You will see a replica of Lincoln’s birthplace home encapsulated by a memorial, a replica of Lincoln’s childhood home, and numerous walking trails.
Make sure to stop by the Sinking Spring! Not only is it fascinating to see, but it was also Lincoln’s family’s primary water source. The park is free to visit, so take your time and enjoy the historic and scenic area.
14. Take a Walk Across the Big Four Bridge
The Big Four Bridge stretches across the Ohio River, connecting Jeffersonville, Indiana to Louisville, Kentucky. It was first built in 1895 to create a railroad for travelers between the two cities. But, years later it became a pedestrian bridge.
The bridge provides about two miles for you to walk or ride your bike. You can quite literally walk to another state, which is not something that can typically be done. The best time to visit the bridge is undeniably at night.
Once the sun goes down, the bridge lights up with a rainbow of LED lights, producing a truly beautiful sight.
The bridge lights up every night, so you have multiple opportunities to see those dazzling lights during your visit to Kentucky. The bridge is, of course, nice to see in the daytime as well, but to see it at night is truly something else.
15. Take a Tour of Keeneland
If you’re interested in horse racing, Keeneland is the place for you. Although Keeneland is only busy a few times a year with races, it is still open to the public daily.
Its mission is to preserve thoroughbred racing while keeping the well-being of the horses their top priority. The grounds of Keeneland are always clean and perfectly landscaped, making it a gorgeous landmark to see.
Visit early in the morning to watch the horses train, then grab a bite to eat for breakfast at the Keeneland Track Kitchen. And if you’re looking for some behind-the-scenes, take one of the many tours that Keeneland has to offer.
This National Historic Landmark holds races twice a year, horse sales four times a year, and a variety of tours. These are all available to the public.
Some tours are organized daily, while others are only run at certain times of the year. So, if you want to see something specific, make sure to check the schedule.
Things to Consider
When you’re taking a trip to Kentucky, there are a few things to consider. The first is the weather. Kentucky’s autumns and winters are quite mild, with temperatures during the day usually hovering somewhere in the 50s.
But, during the spring and summer, that can get much higher, with summer temperatures reaching the 90s. Plan your trip according to the weather as most of these activities require you to be outside.
If you don’t love the heat, you’re better off visiting in the fall or winter. Another aspect to keep in mind is travel time. If you’re planning on seeing multiple places on this list, remember that Kentucky is a big state.
While some of these attractions might be close to each other, others span out across the state. Try to plan out an itinerary so you can ensure that you’ll have time to visit every place you want to go.
This next consideration ties into travel time. Figuring out lodging options before you leave for Kentucky is always the best option.
It is nearly impossible to visit everything in one day, so you’ll want to make sure that you have a few days allotted for exploring. With that in mind, you’ll need somewhere that is ideally situated as a comfortable base camp.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some frequently asked questions that people have about Kentucky:
What is the number one attraction to visit in Kentucky?
The one place that many people travel to see is the Churchill Downs Racetrack, where the Kentucky Derby is held. You can always watch the race on TV, but to see the track in person is an incredible experience.
What is Kentucky’s nickname?
Kentucky is the Bluegrass State. The name comes from grass that grows throughout the state. The grass sprouts blue/purple flowers, giving meadows a blue hue.
What is Kentucky famous for?
Kentucky is famous for several things, not to mention its rich history. But, to name a few, the Bluegrass State is famous for thoroughbred horse racing (specifically the Kentucky Derby), coal, and bourbon.
What is Kentucky’s state food?
One of Kentucky’s most famous dishes is the Hot Brown. It is a sandwich containing turkey, bacon, tomato, and Mornay sauce. It typically comes as an open-faced sandwich.
What is the Kentucky state motto?
Kentucky’s state motto is “United we stand, divided we fall”. It comes from the song “Liberty Song” by John Dickinson.
Your Turn — Book Your Trip to Kentucky Today!
Kentucky is a beautiful state filled with gorgeous parks and a lot of history. The state has so much to offer with plenty of attractions to keep you entertained on your visit.
The Kentucky Derby Museum and Mammoth Cave are two landmarks that should definitely be at the top of your list. These spots will give you a little taste of what makes Kentucky so extraordinary.