Just south of Ohio and Indiana sits unassuming Kentucky — maybe not most people’s first pick for family vacation destinations, but this state is packed with things to do and adventures.
The first thing to consider when looking into Kentucky travel is the unique role the state played throughout the nation’s history. As the birthplace of one of the country’s most esteemed leaders and a central battlefield of the Civil War, history is a great starting point for any visitor coming into the state.
The Kentucky Lincoln Heritage Trail features 16 stops in and around Louisville to encourage a deeper understanding of President Abraham Lincoln’s early years. Make sure to stop off at the Lincoln Museum in Hodgenville, which takes visitors through integral points of Lincoln’s life with 12 historically accurate dioramas.
Beyond Lincoln, there are lots of historic sites worth exploring. The state is home to the Trail of Tears Commemorative Park and Heritage Center in Hopkinsville. The park honors those whose lives were lost during the trail of tears genocide. There is also the Trail of Tears Historic Site, which honors the spot of a Cherokee camp site during the march. While uncomfortable, these spots are important to acknowledge for the pain they inflicted on whole populations.
For a lighter piece of history, check out Bluegrass Heritage Museum in Winchester, Kentucky. The museum focuses on the history of the state’s Bluegrass region, not music, so keep it in mind if you’re traveling with young musicians.
If you’re more interested in local flavor, good news: Kentucky is 100 percent authentic Bourbon country. Throughout the entire state, the Kentucky Bourbon Trail offers visitors and locals alike festive programming celebrating the state’s spirited history. The Kentucky Bourbon Trail runs through 16 distilleries, where visitors can tour and participate in tastings. If your Kentucky itinerary is bringing you into the urban center, the Urban Bourbon Trail, in downtown Louisville, is your best bet.
Bourbon is an excellent way to get an authentic taste of Kentucky. Luckily, for travelers who can’t or don’t drink, there are plenty of other places and ways to get an authentic taste of the state during your visit. Kentucky offers loads of local farms and farmers markets all over the state. Jane’s Saddlebag, in Union, is the perfect place to revel in history and get a home-cooked, Kentucky-style meal.
It is possible to spend an entire trip focusing on the food, drink and history of Kentucky, but the state has a lot of other fun attractions for the entire family. Make sure to hit these spots while visiting:
Bowling Green is home to the National Corvette Museum. The museum shows off more than 70 cars from different periods in the brand’s life — a must-see for motorheads.
Fans of the American pastime should check out the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory. The factory offers tours. Here, guests can see where the most famous baseball bats have been crafted since the late 1800s. After the tour, everyone gets to take home a complimentary miniature Louisville Slugger bat.
If you want to do some natural exploring, check out Lost River Cave. These underground cave and river tours offer great chances to explore Kentucky’s more esoteric and natural side.
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