Central Kentucky is home to no shortage of beautiful, fascinating, and historic sites and attractions. Here are just a few unique places worth a visit!
Red River Gorge
Nestled within the heart of Kentucky, the Red River Gorge boasts a breathtaking landscape of sculpted sandstone cliffs, captivating rock formations, and lush forests. The Red River Gorge is only 1 hour and 40 minutes from Lexington. One of its iconic landmarks, the Natural Bridge Hike, spans approximately 0.75 miles and leads adventurers to a magnificent natural sandstone arch standing 65 feet high and 78 feet long. As you traverse the trail, expect a moderately challenging ascent with rewarding panoramic views at its summit. For those seeking a less trodden path, the Natural Arch hike, spanning roughly 1.2 miles, provides a serene journey through dense woodlands, culminating at a picturesque stone archway.
After a day of exploring these trails, what could be more enchanting than retreating to a cozy treehouse nestled within the park? Situated just steps away from these hiking havens, these treehouses offer an immersive nature experience, allowing you to stay cradled in the embrace of the gorge’s unparalleled beauty.
A city as big and with a history as storied as Louisville, Kentucky, is a site unto itself– there are tons to do in Derby City. Speaking of which, Louisville is home to none other than Churchill Downs, the almost 150-year-old location of the Kentucky Derby. The complex is open for tours on most days, including the entirety of January. To see races, events, and hours, check out Churchill Downs’ website.
Kentucky Artisan Center at Berea
The Kentucky Artisan Center is a regional hub of local art vendors and small businesses, where you can peruse and purchase the wares of hundreds of Kentucky creators. Besides the thousands upon thousands of square feet occupied by over 800 sellers, there’s a daytime cafe that serves breakfast and lunch, as well as Kentucky-centric desserts like Sav’s Chill Ice Cream and Kentucky Derby pie.
Old Fort Harrod State Park
Old Fort Harrod State Park features a full-scale replica of 18th-century Fort Harrod; a delight for history buffs, of course, and the focal point of the park. However, there’s also the Matheny-Taylor House, inside of which you’ll find the Mansion Museum. Not to mention one of the oldest cemeteries in the United States, as well as several other historical sites. Essentially, anyone who feels a special connection to Kentucky or appreciates US history will find Old Fort Harrod State Park plenty fascinating.
Woodford Reserve Distillery
If you’re a bourbon fan, this is one visit that can’t be skipped. You can reserve tasting and tours at this impressive contemporary distillery, which also features a gift shop and cocktail bar. For the devoted, it’s only a short drive from numerous other distilleries in the region and is a part of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. Nearby Bardstown, Kentucky, actually boasts the most bourbon distilleries in the world– earning the town the title of “Bourbon Capital of the World.”
McConnell Springs is the perfect attraction for both experienced and new hikers, with an easy-to-follow trail that winds through beautiful natural formations and greenery. As the name suggests, McConnell Springs has not just one but two natural springs, but there’s also an education center and amphitheater for cooling off in the warm months and checking out events.
Mammoth Cave National Park
Last but absolutely not least, of course, is Mammoth Cave National Park. Mammoth Cave itself is the longest cave system in the world and attracts visitors from all over the globe. There are lots of above-ground activities to do in the area too, including hiking, boating, stargazing, and horseback riding. Keep in mind that you must be on a scheduled tour to enter the cave, so as to protect the natural environment.