A trip to Kentucky will take you far beyond the stereotypes. This southern state has a character all its own. If you spend a few days in Kentucky you can explore some of America’s most important and interesting landmarks, but pass a week or two in the Bluegrass State and you’ll find yourself enjoying spectacular geographical wonders.
Kentucky’s most famous attraction is probably Churchill Downs, the site of the Kentucky Derby, but it’s closely followed by Mammoth Cave, the world’s longest cave system. Visitors with an interest in American history should visit the Lincoln Birthplace, George S. Patton Military Museum, and maybe swing by the National Corvette Museum.
Mammoth Cave National Park
This massive cave system is considered to be the longest known cave system in the world and it is rightfully considered one of Kentucky’s top tourist attractions. The National Park covers 52,830 acres which includes areas around the Green River and the 400 miles of passageways that make up Mammoth Cave.
Visitors can tour the cave with group tours offered by the National Park Service. A variety of tour routes and lengths are available.The tours allow visitors to explore the caves while also learning about the history of the cave and the cave’s formation.
Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historic Site
Two farms near Hogdenville, Kentucky represent two important historical sites where Abraham Lincoln lived as a child. He was born at Sinking Spring Farm in a one room log cabin. When Lincoln was two the family moved to a farm along Knob Creek where they lived until he was seven years old. Today the Knob Creek Farm has a 19th century log cabin which might be similar to Lincoln’s family cabin, as well as a 20th century tavern and touristic site. Visitors can tour each farm site and explore the Memorial Building at Sinking Springs Farm.
Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill
In the small town of Pleasant Hill is the site of a former Shaker religious community that was active from 1805 to 1910. Today the site is a National Historic Landmark and a popular tourist destination where visitors can learn about the life and history of this particular Shaker community.
Visitors to Shakertown can explore the grounds and the preserved or re-created buildings. There are also museum exhibits, live performances, and reenactments of artisan and farm working methods using traditional tools. Other interesting activities include hiking the nature trail system or enjoying a riverboat cruise.
Kentucky Derby and Churchill Downs
The site of the world-famous Kentucky Derby horse race is Churchill Downs, a racetrack in Louisville, Kentucky, which dates to 1875. The derby has taken place since the track’s opening in 1875 and has been a part of American culture ever since. Visitors can watch a race at Churchill Downs, tour the Kentucky Derby Museum, or watch the short film “The Greatest Race,” in the museum’s 360-degree cinema. For a truly memorable trip, plan your visit to Churchill Downs for the beginning of May and enjoy the thrilling experience of being a part of the Kentucky Derby crowd.
George S. Patton Jr. Military Museum
This military museum, located in Fort Knox, is dedicated to honoring the memory of General Patton, and inspiring a sense of leadership, strengthening bonds between the military and its communities, and to encourage interest in the country’s military and military history. The museum features exhibits about the history of General Patton and his military career and is currently expanding to add more extensive exhibits.
Top Things to Do in Kentucky
Cumberland Gap National Historical Park
At the massive natural break in the Appalachian Mountains, you’ll find the site called Cumberland Gap and one of Kentucky’s great National Historical Parks. The gap is known for its history as one of the only routes to pass through the Appalachians, used by Native Americans and migratory animals for hundreds of years.
The park spans 20,508 acres and in addition to its natural value, is a notable historic site which preserves historic structures like the Hensley Settlement, an early 20th century mountain community or the 19th century wagon path.
Breaks Interstate Park
The Breaks Interstate Park is often called “The Grand Canyon of the South,” for its deep gorge created by the Russell Fork River. The park spreads into the states of Kentucky and Virginia and owes a bit of its history to the frontiersman Daniel Boone.The canyon ranges from 830 to 1,600 feet deep, is five miles long, and is the deepest gorge east of the Mississippi River. Visitors to the park can tour the historical and geological exhibits at the visitor center or take part in sports and activities like mountain biking, hiking, fishing, horseback riding, or whitewater rafting. Camping and lodging is also available at the park.
Kentucky Horse Park
This horse farm and educational theme park is not your average theme park. The Kentucky Horse Park, located in Lexington, aims to teach visitors about horses and man’s relationship with horses. The park features a parade of horses with different breeds, sculptures of famous race horses. The National Horse Center which serves as the headquarters for several organizations that put on annual events, a documentary film, and special events and programs.
National Corvette Museum
Kentucky is home to the Chevrolet Corvette, one of America’s most beloved sports cars. The Bowling Green Assembly Plant has made Corvettes since 1981 and the National Corvette Museum is located just a quarter mile away. Visitors can tour the assembly plant and visit the museum to learn about the history of the iconic car. A big hit at the museum is the Corvette Hall of Fame which features individuals who have been involved in the Corvette’s success.
Lost River Cave & Valley
Also in Bowling Green is the Lost River Cave, a seven mile cave system that’s made more spectacular and famous by the river that runs through it. No visit to Lost River Cave is complete without an underground boat tour, the only of its kind offered in the state. Visitors on the tour enjoy a guided experience of entering the cave mouth and touring the cave by boat. Also at the park you’ll find nature trails, blue holes, and gem mining.
Things to Do in Kentucky
Although you might find the state’s famous fried chicken to be delicious, the Bluegrass State has much more to offer than horse races and buckets of chicken. For an experience that’s a little bit southern and 100% American, spend some time in Kentucky where you’ll find yourself surrounded by beautiful landscapes, friendly people, and cornerstones of American history at every turn.