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120 Free Things to do in Kentucky

120 Free Things to do in Kentucky

We don’t talk about it nearly enough as we should, but we are based out of the great state of Kentucky. We live, work and play in the Bluegrass State and there are so many things to do in Kentucky. Now, we may be a bit biased, but Kentucky is an amazing state full of beauty. With beautiful scenic drives, sparkling lakes and rivers, and more horses than you can shake a stick at, Kentucky is a world all its own. The best part? There are so many amazing things to do that are free!

Free things to do in Kentucky:

People say that nothing in life is free, but we disagree with that sentiment. Perhaps the free things just cost a little in gas to get you to your destination!

Below we have compiled a list of 120 free things to do in Kentucky. Why 120 things? Because there are 120 counties in our great state! We are going to divide up the list into four different regions, so that no matter where you may be exploring, you will be sure to find something in your area. Take a look and let us know if we missed any of your favorite free things to do in Kentucky.

120 Free things to do in Kentucky. In honor of the 120 counties in Kentucky.

Free things to do in Western Kentucky:

Western Kentucky borders Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, and Tennessee and includes the cities of Paducah, Owensboro, and Bowling Green. There is so much to do in this area, including the must-see Land Between the Lakes area.

  1. Flood Wall Murals – Visit Paducah’s thriving riverfront and take a self-guided tour of portraits from Paducah’s past depicting Paducah’s rich history in more than 50 life-sized panoramic murals by renowned artist Robert Dafford and the Dafford Murals Team.
  1. Kentucky Dam  – Visit the inner workings of a dam. The Kentucky Dam is located at Kentucky Lake.
  2. Historic Apple Valley Roadside Attraction. This quirky spot has quite a lot to see, from old toys to a lawnmower graveyard.
  3. John James Audubon Park. – Located in Henderson, the John James Audubon State Park was recognized in Kentucky Living magazine’s 2016 Reader’s Choice Awards!
  4. Panther Creek Park. – The Panther Creek Park has plenty of trails, making it suited for both hikers and wildlife watchers. It also has picnic shelters, a butterfly garden and a 6 acre lake, among others. 
  5. Smothers Park. – Located in Owensboro, Kentucky this park has a playground that most kids dream about.
  6. Trail of Tears. – This historic park is one of the few documented sites of actual trail and campsites used during the forced removal of the Cherokee people to “Indian Territory”
  7. See one of the two remaining iron furnaces at Land Between the Lakes.
  8. Visit War Memorial Park in Oak Grove and make a visit to the Viceroy Butterfly Gardens.
  9. Take a walk around Wickliffe Mounds State Historic Site.
  10. Visit Columbus-Belmont State Park right on the Mississippi River. Make sure you walk the trails and read the historical markers along the way.
  11. Catch a free show at the Kentucky Opry Theatre.

Free things to do in Central Kentucky:

Central Kentucky is rife with things to do. This area of Kentucky is known for its caves and caverns, especially this little one they call Mammoth Cave. This part is also home to Fort Knox and the United States Bullion Depository. Central Kentucky has numerous parks and trails and is home to a lot of our state history.

  1. Visit Abraham Lincoln’s birthplace.
  2. Nolin Lake. – Fishing, boating or just plain relaxing can happen here!
  3. Perryville Battlefield. – History buffs will love reliving historic battles here!
  4. Old Fort Harrod – A full-scale replica of the fort built by James Harrod in 1774 is the centerpiece of Old Fort Harrod State Park in Harrodsburg, KY.
  5. Camp Nelson National Cemetery.
  6. Fort Boonesborough State Park.
  7. Go for a drive along the country roads in Meade County and look at the quilts painted on barns.
  8. Anglin Falls.
  9. Tioga Falls
  10. Yahoo Falls
  11. Find the hidden waterfalls of McCreary County
  12. RiverWalk in Bowling Green. – The Riverwalk has become a popular outdoor photography spot due to the dramatic look of the walking bridge, the beautiful landscaping, stone walls, and a balcony overlooking the river.
  13. Freeman Lake Park.
  14. Aviation Heritage Park.
  15. Basil Griffin Park.
  16. Roland Bland Park
  17. Reservoir Hill Park.
  18. Fountain Square Park.
  19. Oscar Getz Museum of Whiskey. In Kentucky, we take our Whiskey very seriously.
  20. Gethsemani. – This monastery is a great place for reflection and meditation.
  21. Bardstown Art Gallery and Thomas Merton Books Collection. – Take a look at the art created by local artisans and marvel at all of the Thomas Merton books!
  22. Big South Fork National River. – This pristine natural setting offers panoramic views, hiking, fishing and white water rafting.
  23. Berea Pinnacles. – The Pinnacles offer some great views of the local area and trails for those who are just beginning to hike or who hold a moderate passion for hiking!
  24. Kentucky Artisan Center. – In this 25,000 sq. foot Kentucky arts center you can shop for Kentucky Products; experience Kentucky hospitality; explore Kentucky crafts & arts through special exhibits and events; learn about Kentucky artist and artisans; enjoy Kentucky cuisine; learn about other must-see places
  25. Visit the Wolf Creek National Fish Hatchery and learn about how we support the freshwater fish population. Make sure you get some feed and watch the fish go wild!
  26. If you go during the week (there is an environmental fee on weekends), Bernheim Forest is the perfect getaway. Make sure to check out the “Giants” and the Canopy Tree Walk.
  27. Download the Civil War Discovery Trail audio tour and explore the different places throughout Bowling Green which helped play an important role during this time.
  28. If you have a car fanatic in your life, a stop by the Swope Cars of Yesteryear Museum may be in order. 
  29. Visit the Patton Museum and get a look into the life of this military leader.
  30. Take a trip back in time at the Hardin County History Museum.
  31. Visit Stonehenge….the Kentucky Stonehenge, that is.
  32. You can also visit the Liberty Bell in Liberty, Kentucky.
  33. See an Army Tank right outside of West Point, Kentucky.
  34. Check out the Berea College campus. Many of the buildings on campus were built by the students to help pay for their tuitions.
Divided by Region, we've listed 120 free things to do in Kentucky. From Waterfalls to great parks and everything in between. Take a look and find some free family fun!

Free things to do in Eastern Kentucky:

Eastern Kentucky is beautiful land. The hills and mountains of the Appalachian region are a sight to behold. Add to that the numerous state parks dotted throughout with their multitude of trails, and this slice of Kentucky is a nature-lover’s heaven. Make sure if you find yourself down near the Cumberland Gap area, to take a ride through the Cumberland Gap Tunnel. It will take you right into Tennessee and right through a mountain!

  1. Kingdom Come State Park  – Check out the spectacular rock formations here!
  2. Cumberland Falls State Park. Did you know that if you time your visit just right you can see a moonbow here?
  3. Natural Bridge – If you haven’t seen this stone bridge formation in person, you are really missing out!
  4. Daniel Boone National Forest. – The Daniel Boone National Forest embraces some of the most rugged terrain west of the Appalachian Mountains. Steep forested slopes, sandstone cliffs and narrow ravines characterize the land.
  5. Dr. Thomas Walker Historic Site. – His expedition explored thousands of acres of land in the western wilderness of Kentucky decades before Lewis & Clark. Near the river, which he named the Cumberland, Walker built a cabin.
  6. Red River Gorge.  If you love hiking and camping, you can’t miss this beautiful spot.
  7. Torrent Falls.
  8. See the waterfall Cumberland Falls State Park is named for.
  9. Levi Jackson Wilderness Road State Park.
  10. Camp Wildcat Civil War Battlefield. –  Camp Wildcat Preservation Foundation works to preserve, protect and interpret this unique battlefield so that future generations can learn about the sacrifices made here.
  11. Mother Goose. – If you are into unique roadside attractions, Mother Goose is just that. Stop for a quick photo opp.
  12. Osborne Bend Trail. – This trail is located in Red River Gorge and has fantastic views!
  13. Carrington Rock. –  if you enjoy a challenge then it is worth the effort to take this adventure. The top of the rock has amazing views!
  14. Check out the Harland Sanders Cafe and Museum in Corbin and see where Kentucky Fried Chicken was born.
  15. A trip to Carter Caves State Resort Park is great for hiking and fishing. They also offer cave tours for a fee. 
  16. Take a drive up the side of a mountain to see the Chained Rock near Pineville.
  17. Take a spooky trip through the Nada Tunnel. This is a one lane road inside the tunnel, so make sure to wait your turn!
  18. For a unique experience, visit Middlesboro, Kentucky; it was built inside a meteorite crater!
  19. Newly erected, the Port of Ashland sculptures are pretty cool and have a great story behind them.
  20. Take the Mill Springs Battlefield Driving Tour and explore 10 different stops.

Free Things to do in Northern Kentucky:

Northern Kentucky is home to the cities of Louisville, Lexington and Frankfort, as well as Covington, Florence and Newport. Newport is right across the river from downtown Cincinnati, Ohio. With all the large cities in this area, there is no lack of things to do and see!

  1. Patriot Peace Memorial. – Pay your respect to those who fought for our freedom here.
  2. Kentucky’s Folk Art Center. – The Kentucky Folk Art Center at Morehead State University is one of Kentucky’s special places. Located in the historic Union Grocery, the Center offers much more than a typical museum experience. KFAC houses a permanent collection of nearly 1,400 pieces of self-taught art.
  3. State Capitol Building – There is something very interesting about a visit to a State’s Capitol, it is after all where the magic happens
  4. Pay your respects to Daniel Boone at his gravesite.
  5.  Claiborne Farm. – Thoroughbred greats are born, raised and trained here.
  6. Boone Station– Situated just 25 minutes southeast of Lexington, this nice historic site should make your list of historic destinations to visit in the region. Take a walking tour to experience the true value of this KY landmark.
  7. Blanton Forest State Nature Preserve. – As one of 13 large old-growth tracts remaining in the eastern United States, Blanton Forest is a diverse ecological treasure.
  8. Purple People Bridge. The Newport Southbank Bridge — popularly known as the Purple People Bridge — is a pedestrian-only bridge that stretches 2,670 feet (one-half of a mile) across the Ohio River, connecting Newport, Ky. to downtown Cincinnati and to trails along the river in both states.
  9. Kentucky Vietnam Veterans Memorial.  The Kentucky Vietnam Veterans Memorial overlooks the state Capitol and honors the 125,000 Kentuckians who served this nation so courageously and unselfishly during the Vietnam era
  10. If you have yet to have a cold Ale 8, you don’t want to miss the Ale 8 One Plant.
  11. Weisenberger Mill. If you haven’t had good grits, it is probably because you haven’t had Weisenberger Mill grits.
  12. This 24 hour art gallery inside of a hotel is really something to see at 21C Museum Art Gallery.
  13. Louisville Nature Center –   The Louisville Nature Center provides nature education and encourage stewardship in an urban forest.
  14. Scott County Jail. – Scott County Jail Complex located in Georgetown, Kentucky served as the Scott County jail from 1892 until 1990. Currently, the building houses the Scott County Arts & Cultural Center.
  15. Toyota Manufacturing Plant. Ever wonder how your favorite Toyota is made? Stop in for a tour of the plant and see for yourself.
  16. Arboretum in Lexington. – The Arboretum, State Botanical Garden of Kentucky is a 100-acre greenspace located on the campus of the University of Kentucky in the heart of Lexington, Kentucky.
  17. Kite Festival This colorful festival is fun for the whole family and best of all it is free!
  18. Big Four Bridge  stretch your legs and walk across a walking bridge from Downtown Louisville over to Jeffersonville, Indiana.
  19. In October, take a look at the trains at the Railroad & Bluegrass Festival
  20. The Parklands. are a great place to explore nature. From hiking and biking to catching minnows in the streams there is something for everyone.
  21. Raven Run Nature Sanctuary.
  22. Lexington History Museum.
  23. Bluegrass Scenic Railroad and Museum – The train lover in your live will absolutely enjoy their time at this museum!
  24. Tour the governors mansion in Frankfort.
  25. Cherokee Park.
  26. Jacobson Park.
  27. Pioneer Park.
  28. EP Tom Sawyer Park.
  29. Thoroughbred Park
  30. Jerry’s Junk. – Jerry Lotz owns a corner house on Louisville’s east side. It’s a great location. It offers views into both its side and back yards — and Jerry wants people to look.
  31. Colonel Sanders Grave. – Pay tribute to the king of chicken at the Colonel’s grave.
  32. Vent Haven: Ventriloquist Museum. – This museum full of ventriloquist dolls is something that you have to truly see to believe.
  33. Stop for pictures in front of the worlds largest bat.
  34. Check out the 30 ft statue of David.
  35. Before I die…wall in NuLu. Writing your goals before you die is a surreal experience.
  36. Go see the world peace bell.
  37. Jesus swingset sculpture. Commissioned by the family of a child taken too soon,  this sculpture is truly something to see.
  38. Newport Levee. So close to Cincinnati, you can smell the Skyline Chili. This area is a great place to sit and just watch people all day.
  39. Duncan Tavern. – Duncan Tavern has always been a place where the American Spirit flourishes through an in-house museum and genealogical library.
  40. Explore the Big Bone Lick discovery trail.
  41. Check out the Florence Y’all Water Tower as you head down I 75/ I 71. 
  42. Visit the friendship garden Yuko-en on Elkhorn and get zen.
  43. Stop by the Covered Bridge Museum in Fleming County.
  44. After visiting the museum, take a drive to see one of the three covered bridges within the county.
  45. Drive by the Heigold House Facade and wonder what the heck happened to the rest of it?
  46. Cruise by the Kentucky Castle and make your little prince or princess’ dreams come true.
  47. Check out the  CVG Airport Viewing Area in Erlanger. The viewing area has picnic tables and a playground; great views of the airport.
  48. Take a self-guided tour of the Buffalo Trace Distillery grounds. 
  49. Stay in your car and cross the Kentucky River on the back of the Valley View Ferry.
  50. Take a hike through the Blackacre Nature Preserve and maybe even get a chance to get acquainted with a friendly goat or horse.
  51. Visit the Josephine Sculpture Park and check out the unique installations.
  52. Come see the Floral Clock on the grounds of the Capitol building.
  53. Sit a spell with Abe at the Lincoln Memorial sculpture at Louisville’s Waterfront Park. 
  54. Visit the Statue of York in Louisville and learn about his contributions to the expeditions of Lewis and Clark.

So there you go, 120 free things to explore and do in Kentucky. Share with us your favorite thing to do while you are in Kentucky. If you are in Louisville, be sure to check out our article about what to do while you are in town. You can see that here.

Divided by Region, we've listed 120 free things to do in Kentucky. From Waterfalls to great parks and everything in between. Take a look and find some free family fun!

Gregory Crawford

Monday 16th of December 2019

Please don't forget the number of lakes in Kentucky and the number of border lakes as well!!😊😁

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Wednesday 14th of February 2018

[…] Once you’ve enjoyed learning a bit about the famous Kentucky bourbon, don’t miss all the other great things to do in Kentucky! […]