The Best Day Trips From Lexington, Kentucky

Horses at horse farm at golden hour. Country summer landscape.
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Many of the best day trips from Lexington, Kentucky involve touring historic places, enjoying local culture, and getting outdoors. Although Lexington itself is a worthy destination, its central location is ideal for making day trips to explore other parts of the state. The best part? Driving times for these day trips from Lexington are two hours or less, meaning you’ll spend more of your time exploring rather than sitting behind the wheel. If you're thinking of a quick getaway from the Horse Capital of the World, here's where to go.

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Louisville: Experience Culture and History

Bridge over the river in Louisville, Kentucky

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Address
Louisville, KY, USA

Kentucky’s largest city has plenty of attractions to merit a day trip from Lexington. If the weather is right, begin by enjoying the waterfront and walking across the Big Four Bridge—a decommissioned railroad bridge from 1895 that crosses the Ohio River. The Louisville Slugger Museum and Muhammad Ali Center are musts for sports fans. There are plenty of free things to do in Louisville, too. For dinner, you’ll find some great places to eat around the city, and you can grab a drink in one of Hunter S. Thompson’s old haunts.

Getting There: Louisville is less than a 90-minute drive on Interstate 64, west of Lexington.

Travel Tip: Louisville’s many fun festivals, especially Thunder Over Louisville and the Kentucky Derby, create a lot of congestion downtown. Check the calendar of events before making a day trip.

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Josephine Sculpture Park: Outdoor Art and Sculptures

Outdoor art at Josephine Sculpture Park in Kentucky

Josephine Sculpture Park

Address
3355 Lawrenceburg Rd, Frankfort, KY 40601-8932, USA
Phone +1 502-352-7082

Approximately 70 creations from artists around the world are spread throughout 30 acres of grassy fields at Josephine Sculpture Park. Some of the large sculptures are interactive and encourage play; others are thought provoking or downright bizarre.

Josephine is located right along Kentucky’s Bourbon Trail, making it a convenient place for enjoying some outdoor art or a picnic after touring one of the distilleries.

Getting There: Josephine Sculpture Park is located south of Frankfort, a 40-minute drive east of Lexington. Take US-421 (Leestown Road) for a scenic alternative to the interstate.

Travel Tip: There’s very little shade in the fields at Josephine. Time your trip appropriately and wear a hat. Entrance is free, but you should leave a token of appreciation in the donations box.

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03 of 10

Natural Bridge State Park: Hike Around Sandstone Arches

Natural Bridge State Park in fall

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Address
Wellington, KY 40387, USA

Natural Bridge is a formidable sandstone arch that is 78 feet long and 65 feet high. Plus, there are other smaller arches and impressive overlooks to enjoy within the 2,300-acre nature preserve. Ten official trails (up to 7.5 miles long) wind through the most accessible part of Daniel Boone National Forest. Along with hiking, you’ll find options for family entertainment in the area including a Skylift and the first commercial via ferrata in the United States.

Getting There: Natural Bridge is an hour’s drive east of Lexington. Take Interstate 64 to Mountain Parkway then watch for signs.

Travel Tip: For more challenging hikes, rock climbing, or if you want to bring a dog, grab a map and head over to the nearby Red River Gorge.

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Perryville Battlefield State Historic Site: Civil War History

A cannon at Perryville Civil War Battlefield in Kentucky

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Address
1825 Battlefield Rd, Perryville, KY 40468-0296, USA
Phone +1 859-332-8631

As far as Civil War battlefields go, the one at Perryville is exceptionally well preserved. The landscape looks pretty well the same as it did on October 8, 1862, the day of Kentucky’s largest Civil War battle. Visitors to Perryville Battlefield can follow trails (walking and driving) that pass by 40 interpretive signs denoting major events and sites in the battle. A small, informative museum houses relics.

Getting There: You can drive to Perryville along scenic Highway US-68 (Harrodsburg Road) in a little over an hour.

Travel Tip: The drive to Perryville Battlefield via US-68 passes by Shaker Village and Old Fort Harrod State Park, two more historic places to include on your day trip from Lexington.

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Bernheim Forest: Trails, Flowers, and Forest Giants

Giant in Berheim Forest near Louisville, Kentucky

Greg Rodgers

Address
Bernheim Forest, Kentucky, USA

Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest has over 40 miles of trails that wind through a beautiful, arboretum setting. There are plenty of places closer to Lexington for hiking, but Berheim merits a day trip for seeing the famous Forest Giants. Danish artist Thomas Dambo created the three large fantasy creatures out of recycled wood and gave them a backstory. The giants can be seen while walking a two-mile loop.

Getting There: Berheim Forest is 30 minutes south of Louisville or around 1.5 hour’s drive from Lexington.

Travel Tip: Bernheim Forest is open until 7 p.m., but the visitor center is only open until 3 p.m.

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06 of 10

Cumberland Falls State Park: Waterfalls and Moonbows

Cumberland Falls State Park in Kentucky

Joshua Moore / Getty Images

Address
7351 Hwy 90, Corbin, KY 40701, USA
Phone +1 606-528-4121

Kentucky’s 68-foot-tall Cumberland Falls is the second largest waterfall east of the Rockies. Around 17 miles of manicured hiking trails allow visitors to view the photogenic falls from different sides and explore farther afield into Daniel Boone National Forest.

Getting There: Cumberland Falls State Park is near Corbin, Kentucky, a little less than two hours south of Lexington.

Travel Tip: If possible, time your visit near a full moon for a chance to see a rare moonbow. Cumberland Falls is one of only three places in the Western Hemisphere that consistently creates one!

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07 of 10

Newport on the Levee: Entertainment Along the Riverfront

A child looks at a shark in Kentucky's Newport Aquarium

Getty Images / Handout

Address
1 Levee Way, Newport, KY 41071, USA
Phone +1 859-291-0550

Newport on the Levee is an entertainment district located just across the Ohio River from downtown Cincinnati. Along with enjoying Cincinnati’s scenic skyline, you can explore dozens of options for eating, shopping, and nightlife. Entertainment includes a large cinema, GameWorks, and a chance to see marine life up close at the award-winning Newport Aquarium.

Getting There: From Lexington, drive an hour and 40 minutes north on Interstate 75 to Newport, Kentucky.

Travel Tip: Walk across the nearby Purple People Bridge, the longest pedestrian bridge (0.5 miles) that links two states (Kentucky and Ohio).

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Bardstown, Kentucky: Bluegrass Scenery and Distillery Tours

My Old Kentucky Home in Bardstown, Kentucky

Gary W. Carter / Getty Images

Address
Bardstown, KY 40004, USA

The pleasant town of Bardstown is known as the Bourbon Capital of the World. Around 95 percent of all bourbon comes from Kentucky, and Bardstown has 11 distilleries within proximity that can be toured! The 1812 plantation mansion (My Old Kentucky Home State Park) that served as inspiration for Stephen Foster's "My Old Kentucky Home, Good Night"—the state song of Kentucky—can also be enjoyed.

Getting There: Bardstown is a little over an hour’s drive from Lexington via Bluegrass Parkway.

Travel Tip: Enjoy a drink or some Southern cuisine in the Talbott Tavern. Constructed in 1779, the old stone inn is considered the oldest western stagecoach stop in America. Abraham Lincoln and Jessie James both stayed there.

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Fort Boonesborough State Park: Experience Pioneer Life

Fort Boonesborough State Park in Kentucky

Paulo Peres / Getty Images

Address
4375 Boonesboro Rd, Richmond, KY 40475, USA
Phone +1 859-527-3131

Kentucky pioneer Daniel Boone and his party founded Fort Boonesborough in 1775 and defended it from British forces in 1778. Today, Fort Boonesborough is a state park where visitors can experience pioneer life in a replica fort staffed by living historians who share their knowledge. A nearby Civil War defensive position can also be explored on a day trip from Lexington.

Getting There: Fort Boonesborough is located on the Kentucky River around 45 minutes southwest of Lexington.

Travel Tip: Don’t miss the partially hidden Kentucky River Museum housed in a separate building. Admission is included in your fort ticket.

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Berea, Kentucky: Hiking, Arts, and Crafts

Overlook from a hike at the Berea Pinnacles

Greg Rodgers

Address
Berea, KY, USA

Berea is a charming college town considered the Folk Arts and Crafts Capital of Kentucky. Along with visiting the Kentucky Artisan Center, Artisan Village, College Square, and numerous galleries, you can attend workshops to watch artists create their wares. Berea is also home to the Pinnacles, one of the most enjoyable and popular places to hike in Kentucky.

Getting There: Berea is 45 minutes south of Lexington on Interstate 75, making it an easy day trip.

Travel Tip: Trails at the Pinnacles can get busy on weekends, but fewer hikers venture beyond the east and west pinnacles. Continue up the steep trail for excellent views from Eagle’s Nest and Buzzard’s Roost.

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The Best Day Trips From Lexington, Kentucky