11 Top Rated Tourist Attractions in Kentucky

Jul 22, 2021

Kentucky is a state in the south-central region of the United States. Known for its rolling hills and rolling tobacco fields, Kentucky is home to around two million residents and the state capital is the fourth largest city in the United States.

Greater Louisville is a city that has expanded its boundaries over the past 100 years and includes a downtown that is the second largest, with over 500,000 residents. It has a commercial district that stretches from the Ohio River along the Tennessee River.

Top attractions in Kentucky include historic neighborhoods, and the city has over 100 museums and points of interest. It is known for its scenic byways and recreational opportunities, and several rivers criss-cross the state.

Kentucky is perfect for outdoor activities, with boating, fishing, golfing, horse riding, hiking, and camping.

The hills and small waterways of the Bluegrass region offer endless opportunities for walking and birdwatching. Indeed, Kentucky is great for strolling, hiking, nature and birdwatching, as well. Visit our page on this theme to find out more.

You can plan your own itinerary in Kentucky by using our interactive map and state guide, as well as our "Tips" and "Additional Information" sections that offer a little more about places of interest in the state. To help you along the way, we also provide information on the best attractions, hotels, and restaurants in Kentucky.

Lexington

Photo of Lexington, Kentucky
Lexington, Kentucky: en.wikipedia.org

Located in the American state of Kentucky, Lexington is the capital of the state. It was founded by Colonel George Rogers Clark in 1775. As the second largest city in Kentucky and a center of the legal profession, it is home to historic Brown's Mill Village, a historical attraction situated in Mill Creek State Park. The village is home to 15 restored historic mill buildings, including a 12,000 square-foot office and event center, a shop and restaurant, and a 16,500 square-foot museum featuring seven original buildings from the area. As of 2015, the Brown's Mill Village has been opened for 2-hour daily guided tours from 1pm to 5pm, from April through October, but the hours may be adjusted during the off-season. Guided tours start from a fee per person of $10. In addition, Lexington was the birthplace of the National Birding Heritage Center and is home to the National Law Enforcement Museum. Another highlight of Lexington is the Thoroughbred racing track in the city's East End. If you are looking for a weekend getaway, there are a number of hotels and inns in Lexington. The Kentucky State Fair and Draft Stakes at the Fairgrounds are also held there each year. Lexington is just north of Louisville, Kentucky.

Kentucky Horse Park

Photo of Kentucky Horse Park
Kentucky Horse Park: en.wikipedia.org

Constructed in the early 1990s, Kentucky Horse Park (KHP) is a wonderful private horse and stable facility in Lexington, Kentucky, located off Exit 31 on I-64. One of the oldest and most popular such facilities in the country, KHP is a premier horse show venue with a full program of other equine events year-round. A fully fenced, 1,600-acre facility, KHP has some of the world's best-known horses, including many that can be seen at the nearby Equus International Horse Trials held in Kentucky each May. Popular at all levels, KHP boasts a wonderful equestrian retail store and salon as well as several visitor activities.

Louisville

Photo of Louisville, Kentucky
Louisville, Kentucky: en.wikipedia.org

With Louisville, one of the country's most interesting cities, you can experience numerous types of food at the same time. Louisville's roots lie in the southern style of cooking known as barbecue. The city hosts a lively festival in October to celebrate the region's barbecue heritage, the third-oldest festival in the country. The Jeffersonville Blues Festival was founded in 2006 and features musicians from around the world, as well as food from many parts of the world, such as sushi. Also within a short drive of the city is a winery that produces St. David's wine. There are lots of fine dining restaurants, though only the best of the best are listed in the Places to Eat section. Louisville was named the "Cradle of the Blues" in the late 19th century and hosts the annual Louisville International Jazz Festival, held every October. There's always a lot to do in Louisville, which has a budget of $2.2 billion.

Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory

Photo of Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory
Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory: en.wikipedia.org

Nestled in the outskirts of Louisville, Kentucky, the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory is America's most famous baseball museum and home of one of the country's largest private collections of baseball artifacts. Home to the all-American classic, the Louisville Slugger, this is where baseball was invented and was a major driver in the sport's growing popularity during the late 1800s. The factory is the site where the first modern ball bats were made in 1884, and in 1946, Louisville Slugger moved its entire operation to the factory. The museum showcases baseball's beginnings and the evolution of the bat that helped popularize the sport, while the manufacturing process includes bat-making, restoration of bats, and demonstrations of the bat-making process. Perhaps the most attractive aspect of a visit to Louisville Slugger is the chance to tour the factory. While admission is not required, it is recommended that anyone with a baseball history museum-going background do not bypass this rare opportunity to be in a functioning baseball factory.

Harrodsburg

Photo of Harrodsburg, Kentucky
Harrodsburg, Kentucky: en.wikipedia.org

Harrodsburg, in the heart of the Appalachian Mountains, has long been a hotbed of mountaineering activity, attracting not only wealthy sportsmen and women but also European royalty and celebrities. Its mountain landscapes, as well as its Victorian-style architecture and early nineteenth-century Cottage City, can all be explored by taking a trip up to the town's unofficial capital, Sugar Loaf Mountain. Highlights of the town's Victorian-inspired Cottage City include a replica of the 19th-century "Mount Washington Hotel," and the Cottage City Covered Bridge, the only stone bridge in America with arched wooden sidewalks. The peak at Sugar Loaf Mountain is covered with ledges and is split into three peaks, offering a variety of climbs, from the easiest climb to the most difficult. Many climbers swear by the "chicken scratch," which consists of a pitch with large holds and is considered to be one of the finest in the world.

Mammoth Cave National Park

Photo of Mammoth Cave National Park
Mammoth Cave National Park: en.wikipedia.org

There are over 200 caves and tunnels throughout the Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky. The park has several miles of these caves, but the most notable attractions are the Mammoth Cave itself. Once you enter the cave and walk through the vast labyrinth of limestone, you'll see a huge chamber, created when the ancient Kansa tribe settled in the area and began using the cave. Outside the cave are numerous "perforation zones," which are large caverns that have been used for a number of centuries as a stopover for Native American tribes. Here they held dances and ceremonies and made offerings to the spirits who lived in the caves. The park also offers tours to these sites.

Barren River

Photo of Barren County, Kentucky
Barren County, Kentucky: en.wikipedia.org

Barren River State Park is an incredible place to visit if you are looking for a glimpse of a truly remote, wild area of America. Set on a scenic bend of the Kentucky River, just a few miles north of the town of Barren River, it is one of the oldest state parks in the United States. Situated on the banks of the Kentucky River, Barren River was formed by a cataclysmic flood, and the layers of rock left behind are a fascinating showcase of the area's geologic history. A few accessible hiking trails lead into the park and over the spectacular bluff that is a dominant feature of the park. The entrance to the park is near an iron bridge that once connected the city of Pineville, Kentucky, to the north with the town of Barren River, Kentucky to the south. The park is operated by the state of Kentucky, and in 2010 received a "Significant Restoration Project" award from the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The park is open from April through November.

Westminster Cathedral

Photo of Christ Church Cathedral (Lexington, Kentucky)
Christ Church Cathedral (Lexington, Kentucky): en.wikipedia.org

Erected in 1859 by Scottish immigrant and Scottish Rite Freemason Robert E. Breckinridge, former president of Louisville & Nashville Railroad and one of the wealthiest men in the state, Westminster Cathedral in Kentucky combines Gothic Revival and Neo-gothic styles, with much of the interior designed by architects and artists who were leaders in the movement called the Aesthetic Movement. A square structure at a time when most U.S. cathedrals were of the Romanesque or Gothic style, the cathedral has multiple chapels along a central nave and aisles, and a large tower. It also contains many Byzantine Revival and other designs, although its style remains almost entirely Gothic in nature. Some of the most elaborate furnishings were added during the 20th century. Today, Westminster Cathedral is the Mother Church of the Scottish Rite Masons in the U.S. and one of the most attractive Gothic Revival-styled buildings in the United States.

Greenwich War Memorial

Photo of The Battery (Manhattan)
The Battery (Manhattan): en.wikipedia.org

Located in Greenwich, Tennessee, this memorial was built in 1921 as a tribute to those men who died in World War I. It was first dedicated as a memorial for those who died during the first World War but is now a permanent memorial dedicated to all war victims. The memorial includes a cenotaph (a grave-like monument) containing a semicircular lawn which holds a sundial and monuments to American war dead. In addition to the memorial is a visitors' center and park area which includes a fountain, a rose garden and the theater called The Memorial where films are shown on special occasions. Inside the visitors' center, the American History gallery tells the history of the United States and a monument to the Cuban refugees who died during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Boat Rides

Photo of Kentucky Kingdom
Kentucky Kingdom: en.wikipedia.org

When an adult swim in the cool, clear waters of Kentucky's Oakes River is in order, the best choice is a leisurely paddle on a pleasant river ride along its western bank. Starting in Shelbyville, tours can be organized through Louisville Hotels and Adirondack Guide Company. There's a lot to do on this lovely river that straddles the state line between Kentucky and Tennessee, and the natural, unspoiled beauty of the countryside makes a tour rewarding. The 13-mile stretch of the river is lined with reeds and small trees, and a picture-perfect view of the riverbank gives a sense of what the journey is like. Access to the waterway is by an easy 15-mile trip down the quiet Spaghetti Bowl Canyon on the Kentucky side, before a wild trip over rocks, through a tunnel and down a small canyon that ends with a view of the entrance to Cumberland Caverns on the Tennessee side. A highlight of the ride is Covington, a town about 30 miles from Louisville with a historic downtown with a restored period arcade that is a great place to stop for food.

Millennium Bridge

Photo of World Peace Bell (Newport, Kentucky)
World Peace Bell (Newport, Kentucky): en.wikipedia.org

The 140-foot (43-meter) long Millennium Bridge in Louisville, KY, was constructed during 1998 as part of the revitalization of the urban center. Taking its name from the millennium-year marker, the pedestrian bridge represents a balance between modernism and art. Although it looks like a simple triangle on the map, the bridge has 17 supports as it rises from the ground, making it the most cantilevered steel structure in the United States. The large opening at the end of the bridge was built with minimal design restrictions and is an additional tribute to the modern age. In the month of December of each year, the bridge is draped in white and lit up at night for the millennium celebration. An exhibition inside the information center explains the cultural context behind the construction of the bridge.