The derbies, liquor and tobacco commonly associated with Kentucky only partly define this southern state, which also includes elegant cities and vast plains under big skies.
The state of Kentucky combines the great plains of the Midwest with the homespun welcome and forested mountains of the Deep South. Like many of the states in this region, it is fiercely proud of its local culture, which includes making delicious bourbon and racing thoroughbred horses. Embrace the natural beauty and authentic American sights of the “Bluegrass State.”
Paleo-Indian peoples first lived in Kentucky in about 12,000 B.C. and tribes such as the Shawnee and Cherokee were still living here when the first white settlers arrived in the 1660s. Roam the landscapes of a state that has been shaped by wars and visit battle sites such as Blue Licks Battlefield State Resort Park, near Carlisle.
Thousands of visitors flock to the state each year for the Kentucky Derby. Derby day in May includes a huge festival with balloon racing and fireworks. Visit Churchill Downs in other months of the year for low-cost seats watching other races. Explore the Kentucky Derby Museum for an informative celebration of this historic race.
Join the Kentucky Bourbon Trail to hop between sites that revolve around America’s most famous alcoholic export. The Evan Williams Bourbon Experience and the Heaven Hill Bourbon Heritage Center offer insights into the distilling process. Don’t miss Bardstown, an incredibly picturesque town known as the “Bourbon Capital of the World.”
Explore the welcoming cities of Kentucky, including Frankfort, home of the Old State Capitol and the Kentucky History Center. Visit Lexington for historic mansions such as the Headley-Whitney Museum and Hunt-Morgan House.
Embark on an adventure into Kentucky’s scenery. One of the best ways to explore is by joining the Sheltowee Trace National Recreational Trail, which runs for 319 miles (513 kilometers) through the heart of the state. To see Kentucky from a different angle, head underground at Mammoth Cave National Park, one of the longest cave labyrinths in the world.
Fly into Louisville International Airport, in the state’s capital city, for quick access to the state. Visit Kentucky in spring for warm days and to see the landscapes of the state in their brightest colors.