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 of Daniel Boone National Forest. 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 pleasure in the Creation Museum.
Still looking for more places to visit while you're in the state? Here are the top 25 attractions in Kentucky that you should not miss.
|Table of Contents [Show]|
Affiliate links may be used in this post. I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you if you use my affiliate link.
Mammoth Cave National Park is an outdoor enthusiast’s oasis! It is a state-renowned gem that features the best camping, hiking, and exploration in all of Kentucky.
Mammoth Cave is even a UNESCO World Heritage site 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 seldom see elsewhere.
Jaws drop, pictures are snapped, and Mammoth earns its spot as one of the top tourist attractions in Kentucky.
The hours of the park depend on the season of arrival. During spring and summer, the park is open every day from 8 AM till 6:30 PM. During fall, the hours are 8 AM till 6 PM, and during winter from 8:30 AM till 4:30 PM.
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!
Accommodation: Where to stay near Mammoth Cave National Park
Address: 1 Mammoth Cave Pkwy, Mammoth Cave, KY 42259
On your mark, get set, go! The Churchill Downs in Louisville makes for one of the top tourist attractions in Kentucky and 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's 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 on 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.
Accommodation: Where to stay in Louisville
Address: 700 Central Ave, Louisville, KY 40208
If you think of Kentucky, you’ll likely think horses, so it will come as no surprise that the Kentucky Horse Park is one of the top attractions in Kentucky.
Equine enthusiasts can meet Thoroughbred legends in the Hall of Champions, meet police horses, take in a Parade of Breeds show or explore the blacksmith facility and kids’ barn.
Get a close look at horse history and equestrian culture at the park’s various museums. At the International Museum of the Horse, examine how horses have been used throughout world history.
Don’t miss the Al-Marah Arabian Horse Galleries focused on this amazing breed.
Learn about Saddlebred horses at the American Saddlebred Museum and check out equestrian artifacts, trophies, photos and more at the Wheeler Museum, with a focus on horse shows and competitions.
Of course, don’t leave the park with a horseback ride through the gorgeous grounds.
Accommodation: Where to stay in Lexington
Address: 4089 Iron Works Pkwy, Lexington, KY 40511
Not only one of the prettiest places in Kentucky but Cumberland Falls State Resort Park is also one of the most beautiful places in the US.
Here you can visit the gushing Cumberland Falls, tour the Pinnacle Knob 1937 Fire Tower, hike along Eagle Falls Trail, explore the Gem Mine for colorful gemstones and fossils and take a Rainbow Mist Ride, a guided rafting trip that takes you right up close to these famous falls, known as the “Niagara of the South.”
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 in the great outdoors, you can set up camp at any of the park's 50 campsites, complete with electricity and water hookups.
This being Kentucky, you might want to tack on a guided trail ride through the park, perfect for the first-timer. The array of family-friend outdoor activities makes this one of the most enticing places to visit in Kentucky.
Accommodation: Where to stay near Cumberland Falls State Resort Park
Address: 7351 KY-90, Corbin, KY 40701
A list of Kentucky attractions 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 ensure your spot underneath the starry sky, make a reservation online!
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 fewer 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.
Accommodation: Where to stay in Winchester
Address: 1700 Bypass Rd, Winchester, KY 40391
Getting as close to “heaven on Earth” as is allowed, the Creation Museum is one of the 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 AM to 6 PM, excluding Sunday. On Sunday, the museum is open from 12 till 6 PM. From exhibits to exploration, this is one of the top tourist attractions in all of Kentucky.
Address: 2800 Bullittsburg Church Rd, Petersburg, KY 41080
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.
Accommodation: Where to stay in Harrodsburg
Address: 3501 Lexington Rd, Harrodsburg, KY 40383
The Louisville Zoo is one of the fun places to visit in Kentucky for families.
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
Topping the list of family-friendly things to do in Kentucky, Newport Aquarium introduces you to the world’s underwater dwellers.
If you dare, walk across the Shark Bridge, a rope bridge just inches above a tank full of sharks.
Check out “Shipwreck: Realm of the Eels” for an up-close look at how sea creatures make sunken ships their home.
Meet rare white alligators, giggle at waddling penguins and tickle a stingray.
Walk “beneath” the Amazon as you enter a 32-foot-long acrylic tunnel that lets you see the arapaima and exotic pacu of the Amazon River.
At the Tide Pool, you can touch a variety of sea creatives, from sea stars to horseshoe crabs. From the ripsaw catfish to adorable baby cuttlefish, the aquarium’s collection keeps growing.
Address: 1 Aquarium Way, Newport, KY 41071
Also Read: 25 Best Aquariums in the USA
If you think a vacation is not complete without a visit to a theme park, then you should make sure to drop by the 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 relaxation at the Lazy River.
Address: 937 Phillips Ln, Louisville, KY 40209
Baseball fans of all ages will enjoy a trip to the most iconic of Kentucky tourist attractions.
The Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory celebrates its namesake bats and the role they’ve played in baseball throughout the decades.
Learn about inspiring Black baseball players, from Jackie Robinson to Ken Griffey Jr. Step into the Bat Vault, home to more than 3,000 original bat models, some up to 100 years old.
And don’t miss the factory tour, seeing firsthand the steps of the bat-making process.
Perhaps best of all, guests are allowed the chance to hold genuine bats used by the game’s greatest players, including Mickey Mantle and David Ortiz!
The three not-to-be-missed items in the museum’s collection are Babe Ruth’s Notched Bat, the Joe DiMaggio 56 Game Hit Streak Bat and the Hank Aaron 700th Homerun Bat.
Address: 800 W Main St, Louisville, KY 40202
One of the most historic of Kentucky attractions, the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park, is the first memorial to honor the country's 16th president.
The rural grounds of Knob Creek Farm, where you’ll find Lincoln’s boyhood home, are perfect for hiking and picnicking.
Look, too, for the historic tavern and early 19th-century log cabin, symbolizing the one in which Lincoln was born.
Take a walk on the same trails Lincoln walked past Sinking Spring. The excellent visitors center offers exhibits about Lincoln and local pioneer life.
Address: 2995 Lincoln Farm Rd, Hodgenville, KY 42748
Also Read: Best Places to Live in Kentucky
An award-winning Kentucky tourist attraction, the Muhammad Ali Center is dedicated to its namesake’s life and legacy.
Guests are amazed and inspired by stories from Ali’s life and the six core principles that define his legacy.
Two and a half floors of interactive exhibits, images, videos, artifacts and presentations incorporate confidence, conviction, dedication, giving, respect and spirituality, the tenets by which Ali lived his life.
Don’t miss the orientation film, as well as historic Civil Rights-era footage, videos of Ali fights and even hands-on boxing fun.
The museum is located in downtown Louisville and is open Tuesday through Sunday.
Address: 144 N 6th St, Louisville, KY 40202
Set on 25 wooded acres an hour north of Nashville in Bowling Green, Kentucky, the Lost River Cave area offers countless available activities.
The historic underground boat tour experience is one of the most fun things to do in Kentucky.
Listen as your guide shares folklore and facts about the Lost River Cave’s history as a native hunting ground, a Civil War campground, a hideout for outlaw Jesse James and an underground nightclub in the 1930s.
Above ground, take a hike on two miles of walking trails to blue holes, limestone bluffs and a natural spring. Search for gemstones and fossils; perhaps finding rose quartz or amethyst.
Kids can keep their treasures and get an identification card to go with them.
Little ones can blow off steam at the imaginative Monticello Banking Company Nature Explore Playscape, and no one should miss the Charlie Miller Butterfly Habitat, a favorite of locals and visitors alike.
Accommodation: Where to stay in Bowling Green
Address: 2818 Nashville Rd, Bowling Green, KY 42101
A perennially popular Kentucky tourist attraction, the Louisville Mega Cavern is one of the largest in the United States.
For years, this cavern was a secret known only to Louisville Crushed Stone, created by a massive limestone quarry.
Once it opened to the public, visitors streamed in for underground adventures. Tackle one of six underground zip lines, including a dual racing zip, while at the same time learning about the geology and history of this unique Kentucky attraction.
Move on to the challenging aerial ropes course, the only fully underground course of its kind in the world.
The Mega Tram educates visitors on the cavern's history, geology, mining and green-building technology.
Finally, explore more than half of the entire cavern on a 90-minute walking tour. This year-round, all-weather attraction is Kentucky's favorite.
Address: 1841 Taylor Ave, Louisville, KY 40213
Also Read: Best Caves in the USA
When dollhouse and miniature collectors visit Kentucky, they won’t want to miss the Great American Dollhouse Museum.
There are more than 200 dollhouses, miniature structures and room boxes on display here, all incredibly detailed.
The exhibition hall showcases American social history in miniature, from Native American history to the modern era.
A second display includes an entire miniature town from 1910, with a mansion, Shaker village and tiny businesses.
It’s easy to dream up fictional stories for the diminutive town residents. Finally, the last section of this fascinating museum represents a fairyland of fairies, elves, witches and trolls – again, all in miniature.
Stop by the Miniatures Store to stock up on collectibles, furniture, accessories and fixtures for your own dollhouse.
Accommodation: Where to stay in Danville
Address: 344 Swope Dr, Danville, KY 40422
It’s not every day a bridge is a cause for hubbub – but such is the case with the mile-long, pedestrian-only Big Four Bridge that crosses the Ohio River between Louisville, Kentucky, and Jeffersonville, Indiana.
An outstanding example of historic bridge preservation, the bridge is one of the most popular places to go in Kentucky, day or night.
And, perhaps especially at night, thanks to the computerized, colored LED floodlight system that bathes the bridge in light each night and allows for a kaleidoscopic light show.
Enjoy the changing views from both on the bridge, as you cross it, and onto the bridge from afar.
Cyclists can cross the bridge on a ride along the Louisville Riverwalk and the Kentuckiana River Trail, as well as the Ohio River Greenway and Levee Trail on the Indiana side of the river.
On each side of the bridge, you’ll find waterfront parks, perfect for picnicking and playing frisbee.
Address: 1101 River Rd, Louisville, KY 40202
Celebrate America’s sports car at the National Corvette Museum, a top place to visit in Kentucky for car enthusiasts.
You may recall the museum making headline news back in February 2014 when a sinkhole collapsed in the Skydome portion of the museum.
Pay close attention to the new "Skydome Sinkhole" exhibit that tells what happened that day, including the geological features that caused it, the eight cars that were affected and how they were recovered and the reconstruction of the building.
The tiniest Corvette fans can design their own concept car, build it out of blocks and test it on various ramps and tracks in the Corvette KidZone.
Check out Corvettes from several generations at “Skydome Generations” and get behind the wheel of a C6 Corvette in the racing simulator.
Address: 350 Corvette Dr, Bowling Green, KY 42101
If you’re driving down I-75 between Cincinnati and Lexington, you can't help but notice the massive Noah's Ark.
At 510 feet long, 85 feet wide and 51 feet high – the dimensions are given in the Bible – the Ark Encounter is one of the most unique attractions in Kentucky.
Step inside this engineering marvel and explore three decks of exhibits depicting what Noah’s experience may have been, the Flood, the animals and more.
Beyond the ark itself, there is a playground, zip-line tour of the grounds, the Ararat Ridge Zoo and daily programs, concerts and presentations in the Answers Center.
Accommodation: Where to stay in Williamstown
Address: 1 Ark Encounter Dr, Williamstown, KY 41097
One of the most unaltered Civil War sites in America, the Perryville Battlefield State Historic Site is one of the most historical things to do in Kentucky – it’s also a stop on the Lincoln Heritage Trail.
Look out over the same views the soldiers saw that day in 1862 and take a self-guided walking tour of the grounds to learn more about Maney's attack at the battlefield or take a 3.5-mile-long driving tour of the battle.
There are 19 miles of interpretive walking trails to explore, first-person interpretations to watch, and a museum full of artifacts to explore.
Learn the sobering story of the South’s last serious attempt to gain possession of Kentucky in what ultimately was the most destructive Civil War battle in the state.
Address: 1825 Battlefield Rd, Perryville, KY 40468
Set in one of the most beautiful vacation spots in Kentucky, My Old Kentucky Home State Park will conjure up images of what life here may have been like in the early 19th century.
This beloved site inspired Stephen Collins Foster’s famous song, “My Old Kentucky Home, Good-Night!” Fancy yourself a Kentucky socialite as you tour the graceful, three-story mansion, originally named “Federal Hill.”
As you walk about the grounds, read the interpretive panels that tell the story of former owners Judge John Rowan and three generations of family.
In the summer months, watch a performance of “The Stephen Foster Story,” Kentucky’s longest-running outdoor drama, full of colorful period costumes and lively choreography.
The popular Kenny Rapier Golf Course is open year-round, and a campground is open from mid-March to mid-November.
Accommodation: Where to stay in Bardstown
Address: 501 E Stephen Foster Ave, Bardstown, KY 40004
Set in the UNESCO Creative City of Paducah, Kentucky, the National Quilt Museum houses more than 600 quilts in its collection, with about 50 to 60 of these pieces on display to visitors at any given time.
This award-winning museum rotates its quilts 10 to 12 times a year within three different galleries, so there’s always something new to admire.
Many of the quilts you’ll see are award winners from regional and national contests and have been noted for their uniqueness or historical relevance.
The collection focuses on contemporary quilts (defined as after 1980), as well as fiber art.
Accommodation: Where to stay in Paducah
Address: 215 Jefferson St, Paducah, KY 42001
When Keith Holt returned to his native Kentucky after 20 years in Los Angeles, he arrived with two truckloads of toys.
He was inspired by Roadside America to build his own indoor toy extravaganza, with an elaborate model train exhibit as its centerpiece.
While his original vision may not have panned out, Holt instead had the beginnings of a junk art environment, which he continued to add to over the years, resulting in the folk-art garden that exists today.
Visitors to this wacky, pun-happy attraction find artifacts from the Holt family, gaudy souvenirs, a “Re-tire-ment Home,” the “Valley of Lost Soles” and much more.
The Toyland dream did finally come to fruition on a smaller scale and includes 3,500 toys, including pop-culture favorite and quirky pieces, as well as six working model trains, all as a mind-boggling diorama in a small shed.
Accommodation: Where to stay in Calvert City
Address: 9351 US-68, Calvert City, KY 42029
If you’re a fan of the paranormal, make sure to stop at Waverly Hills Sanatorium, one of the more spooky places to visit in Kentucky.
The sanatorium itself is a beautiful example of early Tudor Gothic Revival style architecture and is listed on the National Historic Register.
Known as one of the “most haunted places on earth,” this is the place to take bone-chilling tours that visit Waverly Hills’ morgue, haunted room 502 and the body chute (you’ll have to see it to believe it).
There is also the opportunity to embark on public or private guided investigations of the grounds, during which you can roam on the floors and try to find paranormal evidence.
As you might imagine, the Halloween haunted house at Waverly is quite a fright.
Address: 4400 Paralee Dr, Louisville, KY 40272
Did you know Colonel Sanders was a real person? A Kentucky, if not US institution, the Harland Sanders Café and Museum, was run by its namesake from 1940 to 1956, during which time Colonel Sanders cooked up his famous Kentucky Fried Chicken recipe.
And the rest, as they say, is history. Colonel Sanders first started serving meals to travelers at his own dining table in the backroom of his service station.
His food became so popular that he built Sanders Café. After a fire destroyed the original café, Sanders built the current one, with an adjacent motel.
Today, you can visit the restored original Sanders Café and spend time in the museum to see memorabilia from the halcyon days of Kentucky Fried Chicken.
Don’t miss the 100-pound barrel of Sanders’ secret seasoning mix of 11 herbs and spices. There’s even a restored “Model Motel Room,” a full-scale replica of the accommodation in Sanders’ hotel.
Address: 688 Hwy 25, Corbin, KY 40701
Mammoth Cave National Park is the largest-known cave system in the world. It is a real oasis for outdoor enthusiasts, featuring the best hiking, camping, and exploration in the state. One of the best parts about the adventure is that you'll get to enjoy the caves not only on foot but also by water.
Kentucky is famous for fried chicken, coal reserves (the state has the 9th largest coal reserves in the country), bluegrass music, tobacco production, and bourbon. It is also known for horse racing and Louisville sluggers – some of the best baseball bats in the world.
Spring and fall, between April and June and August and September, are the best seasons to enjoy the great outdoors in Kentucky. Remember that the summer months are the most popular for tourism, and that's exactly when the big cities might get too hot to handle.
"The Niagara of the South," Cumberland Falls, is one of the most picturesque waterfalls in the country. Here, visitors are able to spot moonbows regularly (the best time for seeing the wonder is between dusk and midnight). The waterfall is located within Cumberland Falls State Resort Park, which is also home to the historic Dupont Lodge.
If you want to spend some time exploring Mother Nature, then head to the Mammoth Cave National Park, Cumberland Falls State Resort Park, and Daniel Boone National Forest.
Some of the most unique attractions include the Ark Encounter (an exact copy of Noah’s Ark) and the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, during which you'll get to travel through the heart of Bourbon Country and stop at 16 distilleries.