When heading out on a Kentucky family vacation, there is so much to see and do that even if you have visited before, chances are you will be able to hunt down entertaining attractions and stunning sights new to your family.
Kentucky is a beautiful state filled with many natural wonders and man-made attractions. Caves are a perfect example. The natural cave formations of Kentucky have been explored for centuries, and there is even a manmade cavern open for tours in Louisville.
This guide provides ideas and places to get your vacation planning started. Once you start making a list of all the spots you want to visit on your trip, you will surely find more reasons to come back to Kentucky again and again.
Kentucky is home to the world's longest known cave system. You can visit this natural wonder and enjoy the park that surrounds it. There is canoeing, horseback riding, and hiking through the parklands.
Then, when you go into the cave, enjoy a guided tour full of regional history. There are plenty of other caves in Kentucky to explore, too. If you are in Cave City checking out the natural formations, it is also worth the trip to see Wigwam Village Motel No. 2. It is not a fancy motel by any means, but it is a roadside attraction on Historic Route 66. Fun fact for the kids: the Wigwam Village motel chain was the inspiration for the Cozy Cone Motel in the Pixar movie Cars.
Closer to Louisville, you can explore underground at the immense manmade cavern under the Louisville Zoo. The former Louisville Crushed Stone Mine is now called the Louisville Mega Cavern and it's located right in the city.
There are historic tours available and visitors ride through the cavern on a tram as a tour guide explains the history and current uses of the mega cavern. It's an intriguing tour filled with Louisville fun facts.
For the adventurous, there are zip lines. In the vaulted areas, participants will find ceilings 90 feet high. Zip lines are installed and the course is lit for added dramatic effect.
Campers will appreciate that this state park is full of stunning natural beauty and there are 50 campsites available. Go gem mining, birding, fishing, horseback riding, rafting, and hiking, all in one spot. Plus, if you time your visit right, you can see the Niagara of the South, a 125-foot wide curtain of water, with a "moonbow." At night, during a full moon, visitors can see a moonbow, a night rainbow.
The Kentucky Derby is a big deal, in Louisville, in Kentucky, and around the world. Visit the track where it all happens. There are plenty of races to bet on if you are the gambling type.
Churchill Downs is also home to the Kentucky Derby Museum, a Derby Store, and more. If you are traveling with young kids, look into the family fun days filled with age-appropriate activities for young kids.
This natural treasure is located in the Daniel Boone National Forest. Stone arches, sandstone cliffs, and stunning rock formations attract visitors from around the world. A popular spot for vacationers and rock climbers alike. It’s so popular, it is on our list of Top 10 Louisville Weekend Getaways. Hunting and trapping are permitted in the gorge, provided all participants follow the rules of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife. There are also plenty of hiking trails, places to picnic, and a couple of spots to launch a canoe.
When it is hot outside, few things are better than a trip to a water park. And, if you are a family who loves to visit theme parks, Kentucky Kingdom and Hurricane Bay are not to be missed. With extreme rides like FearFall, which drops thrill seekers from nearly 130’ in the air, a 5D cinema, and a water park featuring Plummet Summit, aTornado Ride, and a lazy river, there is something for everyone at Kentucky Kingdom.
Many families head to a local zoo when they are on vacation and the Louisville Zoo is a popular destination. Glacier Run, home to polar and grizzly bears is fun as well as the Gorilla Forest. There are opportunities to learn about nature conservation and plenty of seasonal events take place, too. For example, the Louisville Zoo Halloween Party, also known as the World's Largest Halloween Party, is an annual event for children who want a not-too-scary Halloween experience. Kids trick-or-treat and meet characters from their favorite books and movies.
Horse lovers don’t have to go to the track, there are plenty of places to see these majestic creatures in Kentucky. The best of these is the Kentucky Horse Park. There are horseback riding opportunities and a Horses of the World display, an informative show filled with light and sound.
Added bonus: if you are a camping family, you can stay in the park. The KHP campground has access to electricity if you want it, and many modern conveniences including a store, two bathhouses, tennis, basketball, and volleyball courts. Also, there is a junior Olympic-size swimming pool.
Enjoy the grounds with a family walk on the Legacy Trail, a 12-mile-long paved walking and biking trail. The path takes visitors from the Kentucky Horse Park Campground to downtown Lexington.
As horse racing fans know, Churchill Downs isn’t the only important track in Kentucky. In the heart of Kentucky’s famed Bluegrass region is Keeneland. Keeneland is a National Historic Landmark and it continues to play an important role in Thoroughbred racing and breeding. Founded in 1936, Keeneland was designated a National Historic Landmark fifty years later, in1986.
The track hosted the Breeders' Cup in 2015, that was the race won by American Pharoah, a Triple Crown winner! A Triple Crown means a horse has won the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Belmont Stakes. For American Pharoah to win all three of these and the Breeders' Cup is what horse racers call the Grand Slam of horse racing.
If you are a fan of Kentucky Fried Chicken, it will be worth the drive to Corbin, Kentucky, to see where the chicken mecca began. This is the site of Colonel Harland Sanders' first restaurant. It is a KFC, so you can order lunch, but the location looks different than other Kentucky Fried Chicken dining establishments. There is a replica of Sanders’ 40s kitchen and cafe as well as information on how this cafe in Corbin became a household name. The Sanders Court and Cafe was the first restaurant to serve what we all now know as Kentucky Fried Chicken.
History buffs will enjoy Shaker Village, home to the third largest Shaker community in the USA from 1805 to 1910. Learn about farming and gardening techniques of the Shaker community and hike through some, or all, of the 30-mile trails on the land.
Make a weekend of it and stay at The Inn where guest rooms, suites, and private cottages are housed in 13 restored Shaker buildings. Enjoy Shaker reproduction furniture, original hardwood floors, and countryside views. If you love old-fashioned fresh air adventures, with some historical information, be sure to visit Historic Locust Grove, too.
Just across the river from Cincinnati, the Newport Aquarium is your go-to destination for interacting with and learning about sea creatures. There are exhibits to admire and opportunities to have personal encounters with sharks, stingrays, and penguins. Walk through five seamless tunnels and feel like you are swimming with the fishes and marine life.
The attraction is open to the public every day. Visit the website for information on special exhibits and to see which days strollers are allowed (the aquarium, at times, restricts stroller usage due to crowd issues).
A small county, Gallatin is located on the Ohio River. Although it is a rural beauty with lovely, waterways, country roads, and close-knit communities, Gallatin County is also known as the Motorsports Capital of Kentucky as the Kentucky Speedway is there.
It’s a quiet, charming spot, rich in history, auto racing, and water sports. Campers might enjoy one of the scenic campgrounds and there are fishing opportunities, too.