Top 13 Kentucky Attractions: Best Places to Visit

Taking a vacation in Kentucky is a pleasure with all of these attractions

If you are heading out on a Kentucky family vacation, be sure to see something new! There is so much to see and do in Kentucky, even if you have visited before, chances are you will be able to hunt down entertaining attractions and stunning views new to your family.

Kentucky is a beautiful state filled with many natural wonders and manmade delights. Caves being a perfect example, the natural cave formations of Kentucky have been explored for centuries, and we have a manmade cavern open for tours right here in Louisville.

Here are 13 ideas and places to get your vacation planning started. Of course, 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. 

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Mammoth Cave National Park

Mammoth Cave in Kentucky
Photo Courtesy Mammoth Cave National Park

Did you know Kentucky is home to the world's longest known cave system? See this wonder and enjoy the great outdoors outside of 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. Already seen Mammoth? Well, there are plenty of other caves around to explore! Check out this article on the Top 8 Natural Caves of Kentucky. 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.

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Louisville Mega Cavern

Historic Tram Tour of Mega Cavern
Image courtesy of the Louisville Mega Cavern
1841 Taylor Ave, Louisville, KY 40213, USA
+1 877-614-6342

If you are in the mood to stay in the Louisville limits but still want to explore underground, check out the immense manmade cavern under the Louisville Zoo. That's right, the former Louisville Crushed Stone Mine is now called the Louisville Mega Cavern, it is located right in the city! There are historic tours available, 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. Feeling more adventurous? there are zip lines, too. In the vaulted areas, participants will find ceilings 90’ high. Zip lines are installed and the course is lit for added dramatic effect.

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Cumberland Falls

Cumberland Falls in Kentucky
© Kentucky Department of Travel;
Cumberland Falls, Kentucky 42634, USA

Campers, take note: 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. That’s right, at night, during a full moon, visitors can see a moonbow, a night rainbow.

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Churchill Downs

Churchill Downs track in Louisville, KY
Image © Mali Anderson
700 Central Ave, Louisville, KY 40208, USA
+1 502-636-4400
Stadiums, Sports Attractions & Ski Resorts

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. Don’t want to play the horses? No worries, 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.​

If you are heading out on a family vacation, be sure to see something new! There is so much to see and do in Kentucky. It is a beautiful state filled with many natural and manmade attractions. Here are TK ideas on where to get started. Of course, once you start planning your trip you will surely find even more reasons to come back to Kentucky again and again. 

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Red River Gorge

Kentucky's Red River Gorge
© Kentucky Department of Travel;
3451 Sky Bridge Road Hwy 715, Stanton, KY 40380, USA
+1 606-663-8100

This natural treasure is located in the Daniel Boone National Forest. Stone arches, sandstone cliffs, and stunning roc 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 is 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.

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Kentucky Kingdom and Hurricane Bay

Kentucky Kingdom and Hurricane Bay
Photo Courtesy of Greater Louisville Convention and Visitors Bureau
937 Phillips Ln, Louisville, KY 40209, USA
+1 502-813-8200

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.

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Louisville Zoo

Louisville Zoo in Louisville, KY
© 2009 Jessica Elliott
1100 Trevilian Way, Louisville, KY 40213-1559, USA
+1 502-459-2181

We’re going to the zoo, zoo, zoo…how about you, you, you. Sound familiar? Many families head to a local zoo when they are on vacation and the Louisville Zoo is no exception. This is a popular attraction! Glacier Run, home to polar and grizzly bears is popular as well as Gorilla Forest. There are opportunities to learn about nature conservation and plenty of seasonal themes 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.

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Kentucky Horse Park

4089 Iron Works Pkwy, Lexington, KY 40511-8400, USA
+1 859-233-4303

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 at 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. 

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4201 Versailles Rd, Lexington, KY 40510, USA
+1 859-254-3412
Historic Attractions

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. 

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Harland Sanders Cafe and Museum

688 Hwy 25, Corbin, KY 40701, USA
+1 606-528-2163

If you are a fan of Kentucky Fried Chicken, it will be worth the drive to Corbin, KY, 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.

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Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill

3501 Lexington Rd, Harrodsburg, KY 40330, USA
+1 859-734-5411

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, 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 time fresh air adventures, with some historical knowledge, be sure to visit Historic Locust Grove, too.

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Newport Aquarium

1 Levee Way, Newport, KY 41071, USA
+1 800-406-3474

Just across the river from Cincinnati, the Newport Aquarium is your go-to destination for interacting with 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 exhibit and to see if it is a day strollers are allowed (the aquarium, at times, restricts stroller usage due to crowd issues).

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Gallatin County

1 Speedway Drive, Sparta, KY 41086, USA
+1 859-578-2300

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. Why? Because of the Kentucky Speedway, of course! It’s a quiet, charming spot, rich in history, auto racing, and water sports. Campers might enjoy one of the campgrounds offered, and there are fishing opportunities, too.

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Top 13 Kentucky Attractions: Best Places to Visit