Kentucky, The Bluegrass State, is full of fun for the whole family! You and your family will experience outdoor adventures, journeys through history and culture, or a hearty culinary heritage on your next vacation Kentucky.
Here are 10 must see attractions in Kentucky.
Mammoth Cave National Park
A visit to Kentucky would not be complete a visit to the world’s longest known cave system. Mammoth Cave lies in the “Land of 10,000 Sinks,” an area in southwestern Kentucky approximately 80 miles south of Louisville. With over 400 miles of passages surveyed so far, the Mammoth Cave is one of the world’s largest known cave systems, and was already known to the original Indian inhabitants of the region in the 1st millennium BC. A variety of tours are available. The cave is home to creatures who have adapted to the darkness including fish, cave crickets and eyeless crayfish. Exploring the cave is only half the story. In addition to the many thrilling guided cave tours, you can hike, bike, ride your horse, canoe and kayak, picnic, enjoy a campfire program, and more. If you love the outdoors, this is the best place to bring the entire family.
Churchill Downs is home to the Kentucky Derby. However, there are so many other things happening here; it really cannot be missed. There is no other place to have the most fantastic horse racing experience. Home to the Kentucky Derby, you can enjoy an exciting day at the races, visit the museum, and go shopping at the Derby Store. Children can join the Family Fun Days for a highly interactive experience with games, crafts, as well as a fun visit from Churchill Charlie.
The Kentucky Horse Park allows visitors a chance to see a working horse farm and learn about horses. Featuring dozens of different breeds of horses at work and at play, the park showcases the horse in daily equine presentations, including the Breeds Barn and Hall of Champions shows, as well as horse-drawn trolley rides pulled by Draft horses, horseback riding and pony rides, and horse farm tours to area farms.
The International Museum of the Horse, now a Smithsonian Affiliate, is dedicated to all breeds of horses and covers more than 50 million years of equine history. The American Saddlebred Museum, the Showplace for Saddlebreds, offers a panorama education of Kentucky’s first native breed of horse.
Cumberland Falls State Resort Park
The majestic Cumberland Falls holds a number of fun activities for you and your family. You can go gem mining and discover some real, colorful and beautiful gemstones at the gemstone flume. Anything from locally-found Pyrite, Fluorite and Quartz, to Ruby, Moonstone, Topaz, Crystal Points, Sapphire, Emerald, Amethyst, Garnett, Citrine, Aventurine, Obsidian, Sodalite, Calcite and Raspberry Quartz could be found. 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 at the great outdoors, you can set up camp at any of the park’s 50 campsites complete with electricity and water hookups.
Newport Aquarium showcases thousands of animals from around the world in a million gallons of water. The Newport Aquarium is where you will get to have a first-hand encounter with some of the most exotic sea creatures like sharks, fish, jellyfish, and stingrays. Walk through a gigantic aquarium and feel like you are actually swimming with the magnificent sharks. Your kids will enjoy the Penguin Encounters where they can actually touch, interact with and play with the friendly penguins.
One of the most state-of-the-art museums in the country, Creation Museum will excite you and thrill you in many different ways. At the 75,000-square-foot museum, the pages of the Bible dramatically come to life. Animatronic dinosaurs and people, real fossils, holograms, and more bring the history of the Bible to life. You can play on a full-size Allosaurus skeleton, encounter Biblical characters coming to life, soar on zip lines or challenge your skills on an aerial adventure course. You can tour the beautiful botanical gardens, the petting zoo or ride a camel. Check out the highly interactive displays such as Dr. Crawley’s Insectorium as well as the Dragon Invasion exhibit.
Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill
The Shaker Village is where you will get to experience a part of Kentucky’s rich spiritual history and heritage. It is an open air village with dozens of buildings showing the traditional lifestyle of Shakers. On display are handmade furniture and everyday items from the 1800s. Demonstrations on the various crafts are given throughout the day. 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.
This zoo is one of the most visited attractions in all of Kentucky. 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. The zoo offers a train, carousel and ropes course. You can also make a pit stop at the playground and during the summer, a splashpark is open for younger kids. Your kids will also enjoy a day of learning and exploration about animal and nature conservation through the Backyard Action Hero program.
Kentucky Kingdom and Hurricane Bay
If you think a vacation is not complete without a visit to a theme park then you should make sure to drop by Kentucky Kingdom and Hurricane Bay Louisville. 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 is the highlight of the park and features a giant wave pool, several types of slides, as well as some rest and relaxation at the Lazy River.
Cumberland Gap National Historical Park
At Cumberland Gap, the first great gateway to the west, follow the buffalo, the Native American, the longhunter, the pioneer… all traveled this route through the mountains into the wilderness of Kentucky. Discover rich history, spectacular overlooks, unique rock formations, cascading waterfalls, and an extensive trail system in Cumberland Gap National Historical Park’s 24,000 acres. A popular hike is to the Hensley Settlement, a well preserved old country township. The stories of early pioneers and settlers, Civil War Soldiers, and mountain communities come alive when visiting the numerous historic buildings and structures found in the park. Walk in the footsteps of early pioneers and Native Americans, visit the ruins of fortifications used in the Civil War, and experience the life of an early mountain community. Explore a hidden world found underground- inside the mountains! It is a world of darkness, with fantastic dripstone formations and strange animals who have adapted to the cave environment. The Visitor Center is situated in Middleboro.
From horse racing and Bourbon Country, to the culture of Appalachia, Civil War significance and Abraham Lincoln, Kentucky is a state enriched with deep traditions, important history and authentic heritage. Check it out for your next family vacation.