From raging waterfalls to racing horses, Kentucky is a state chock full of adventure! It is a tourism hot spot for incorporating just a little bit for everyone.
Those looking to answer the call of the wild will be mystified by the magnificence that is two state of the art National Parks. Those who want to dance with lady luck will find their fun at the Churchill Downs, famous for the Kentucky Derby. And those in search of some spirituality will find entertainment in the Creation Museum.
Here are the top 10 attractions in Kentucky that you should not miss.
Mammoth Cave National Park is an outdoor enthusiast’s oasis! It is a state-renowned gem that features some of the best camping, hiking, and exploration in all of Kentucky. Mammoth Cave is even a UNESCO World Heritage site, and has been referenced by many famous travelers and adventure magazines.
Perhaps its most popular draw comes in the form of the famed cave tours. Deep within the natural beauty of Mammoth, visitors are taken by foot or water to marvel at Mother Nature’s hidden gems. Weaving through the complex layer of caves, these tours will bring you up close and personal to something you can seldom seem elsewhere. Jaws drop, pictures are snapped, and Mammoth earns its spot as one of the top tourist attractions in Kentucky.
The hours of the Mammoth Cave National Park depend on the season of arrival. During spring and summer, the park is open every day from 8 a.m. till 6:30 p.m. During fall the hours are 8 a.m. till 6 p.m., and during winter from 8:30 a.m. till 4:30 p.m. Entrance into the park itself is free, however you’re going to want to use the money you saved here on some of those magnificent cave tours. Happy trails!
Address: 1 Mammoth Cave Pkwy, Mammoth Cave, KY 42259
Accomodation: Where to stay near Mammoth Cave National Park
On your mark, get set, go! The Churchill Downs in Louisville makes for one of the top tourist attractions in not just Kentucky, but the South! Its classic name to fame is the annual hosting of the Kentucky Derby. Every year thousands of tourists and locals flock to the Churchill Downs to experience one of the greatest days in all of Derby history. If you’re a fan of the race, be sure to get in early! The Kentucky Derby is one of the most anticipated events in Louisville and can often fill up fast.
As exhilarating as the Kentucky Derby is, it’s just the tip of the Churchill Downs iceberg. Every week during September meet, this location hosts “Twilight Thursdays.” Admission is just $5, doors open at 4 and there is live music, draft deals, and even food trucks! What more could you want in a Thursday? If beer isn’t your beverage of choice, maybe check out the famed “Bourbon and beats.” When the lights go down, Churchill Downs lights up and experiences some of the best in cocktails, racing, and music. And if your beverage of choice is juice: check out the Family Adventure Day in October. Every year, the Churchill Downs hosts this celebration of all things fun and family. It’s a great way to explore the facilities with kid-friendly activities at every turn.
Whatever day, race, or celebration you choose: be prepared to saddle up for some serious Kentucky action! The Churchill Downs is one place that never disappoints.
Address: 700 Central Ave, Louisville, KY 40208
Accomodation: Where to stay in Louisville
If you have always been fascinated by horses, the best place to visit would be the Kentucky Horse Park. Their Horses of the World display will allow you to discover different breeds of horses through a breathtaking show filled with colors and sounds.
If this is your first time to go horseback riding, you can enjoy a 35-minute guided trail ride. If you have kids who would love to try out riding, they can go on Pony Rides around the pony paddock.
Address: 4089 Iron Works Pkwy, Lexington, KY 40511
Accomodation: Where to stay in Lexington
The majestic Cumberland Falls holds a number of fun activities for you and your family. You can go gem mining and discover some real, colorful and beautiful gemstones at the gemstone flume. You can also go birding and discover some of the most exquisite bird species such as the Pileated Woodpecker or the Wood Thrush.
If you love roughing it up at the great outdoors, you can set up camp at any of the park's 50 campsites complete with electricity and water hookups.
Address: 7351 KY-90, Corbin, KY 40701
Accomodation: Where to stay near Cumberland Falls State Resort Park
Tourism in Kentucky just isn’t complete without mentioning ways to appreciate its natural beauty. The Daniel Boone National Forest is the perfect place for visitors to immerse themselves in the lush luxuries of the great Kentucky wilderness. There is so much to see here, from steeping green hills to breathtaking rushing waterfalls.
The Cumberland Falls is famous for its “moonbow” which draws hundreds of tourists to its banks monthly. The Daniel Boone National Forest is predominately marked by two well-known campsites. The Little Lick Campground and the Holly Bay Campground are fantastic places to set up camp for the night if you really want to see what this national forest is all about.
Aside from hiking, the Daniel Boone National Forest also features boating and target shooting. To assure your spot underneath the starry sky, make a reservation online! It is $9 per site online, and $10 by way of call service. It is important to note that reservations are exclusively catered towards the summer recreation season. With good reason! As stunning as this location is no matter the weather, summer is really the time to go for ease of trip and less layers.
This is a massive stretch of land from all corners, so it is highly recommended to stay more than one day. Check out some of the trail maps, or make it a ‘decide as you go’ adventure. All compasses point straight to Daniel Boone National Forest for some of the best hiking paths in Kentucky.
Address: 1700 Bypass Rd, Winchester, KY 40391
Accomodation: Where to stay near Daniel Boone National Forest
Getting as close to “heaven on Earth” as is allowed, the Creation Museum is one of the most unique attractions in Kentucky. This is one of the few museums in the world that details the works of creationism in such an interactive way.
There are numerous exhibits to explore, and even more historical telling’s featured all around the complex. The Creation Museum creates a place to experience the Christian religion in an immersive and educational setting. Found in Williamstown, Kentucky, this location is the proud host to thousands of guests throughout the year.
And it is so much more than just a museum! The Creation Museum is also a planetarium, a zip line adventure course, a petting zoo, and more. Take a stroll through the heavenly botanical gardens or take a seat in the state of the art theater.
The Creation Museum is a destination with so much to offer! It is open every day from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., excluding Sunday. On Sunday, the museum is open from 12 till 6 p.m. Ticket prices range by age and are as follows: adults: $35, seniors: $30, youth (11-17): $25, Children(5-10): $15, and below 4 is free. From exhibits to exploration, this is one of the top tourist attractions in all of Kentucky.
Address: 2800 Bullittsburg Church Rd, Petersburg, KY 41080
Accomodation: Where to stay in Petersburg
The Shaker Village is where you will get to experience Kentucky's rich history and heritage. Explore the Living History Museum to meet the men and women who have called the village their home for over 100 years.
Visit the farm and garden to discover Shaker Hill's traditional ways of growing and harvesting fresh produce. If you want to challenge yourself and enjoy nature, you can hike, bike or run through the village's 30-mile trail system, which features fantastic landscapes that you would love to take photographs of.
Address: 3501 Lexington Rd, Harrodsburg, KY 40383
Accomodation: Where to stay in Harrodsburg
This zoo is one of the most visited attractions in all of Kentucky. Explore some of their award-winning animal exhibits such as the Glacier Run where you will encounter Polar Bears and Grizzly Bears; the Gorilla Forest where you will discover a multi-faceted rotational exhibit allowing you to go deep into the realm of a gorilla's natural habitat.
Your kids will also enjoy a day of learning and exploration about animal and nature conservation through the Backyard Action Hero program.
Address: 1100 Trevilian Way, Louisville, KY 40213
Accomodation: Where to stay in Louisville
Named as the number one aquarium in the 2012 Reader's Choice Travel Awards, the Newport Aquarium is where you will get to have a first-hand encounter with some of the most exotic sea creatures like sharks, fish, jellyfish, and stingrays.
Walk through a gigantic aquarium and feel like you are actually swimming with the magnificent sharks. Your kids will enjoy the Penguin Encounters where they can actually touch, interact with and play with the friendly penguins.
Address: 1 Aquarium Way, Newport, KY 41071
Accomodation: Where to stay in Newport
If you think a vacation is not complete without a visit to a theme park then you should make sure to drop by Kentucky Kingdom and Hurricane Bay. This park offers extreme rides that will thrill you and take your breath away.
Go on the FearFall ride that will drop you from a towering 129 feet at an exhilarating 45-mile per hour speed. Watch a show at their 5D cinema to have a viewing experience that is just totally out of this world.
The Hurricane Bay water park also offers you some fun under the sun with their Plummet Summit and their Tornado Ride, as well as some rest and relaxation at the Lazy River.
Address: 937 Phillips Ln, Louisville, KY 40209