On one special day in May, Louisville comes alive for the Kentucky Derby, with thoroughbred horses racing around the oval track of Churchill Downs for just 2 minutes. Join the crowd watching the jockeys on their sleek steeds or place a bet. Be sure to wear a dress and hat or bowtie. Enjoy the race while sipping on the hometown drink, a mint julep, and eating burgoo, a thick, meaty stew.
Spend some time in the city for Derby Festival during the 2 weeks leading up to the race. Join or watch the marathon race (human, not horses), a Texas hold’em poker competition, hot air balloon rides and gigantic fireworks, the Thunder Over Louisville.
Enjoy a variety of other activities in Louisville, from the Muhammad Ali Museum for the great boxer to the Louisville Slugger baseball bat factory and the Louisville Mega Cavern.
Travel east through the bluegrass meadows of horse country to Lexington. Visit the working farm at Kentucky Horse Park. Hike around the 350-acre (142-hectare) Raven Run Nature Sanctuary.
See horsepower of a different kind at the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, with its more than 70 vintage sports cars. Take an underground boat tour at Lost River Cave and Valley.
For historic appreciation, visit Abraham Lincoln’s childhood home in Hodgkenville, the Mary Todd Lincoln House in Lexington and Daniel Boone Monument in the capital city of Frankfort. Follow the Civil War trail through Cumberland Gap and other battlefields.
In the west, enjoy hiking in the Appalachian Mountains. Listen to the region’s hillbilly bluegrass music with its banjoes, fiddles and other stringed instruments. Visit the Bluegrass Music Museum on Owensboro. Many cities and small towns across the state have summer bluegrass festivals.
Travel to the state’s forests, meadows, caves and lakes. At Bardstown, see My Old Kentucky Home State Park. You’ll come to appreciate Stephen Foster’s sentiments when he wrote the state song: “The sun shines bright on my old Kentucky home…”