The Top 25 Bucket List Destinations in Kentucky

Published on July 19th, 2021

Planning a visit to Kentucky soon? This is an excellent choice! Kentucky has tons of things to see and do, meaning you will definitely have a full and awesome trip and plenty of things to add to your Kentucky bucket list. 

That said, planning a trip to such an awesome place can be a little overwhelming. If you’re not sure how to start your planning, you’ve come to the right place. 

In this article we will discuss our favorite places to visit in the Bluegrass State. Take these suggestions and build a Kentucky travel bucket list of your own. 

Kentucky bucket list

What is a Bucket List?

Before you begin, let’s take a minute to discuss what exactly a bucket list is. 

The most simple explanation is that a bucket list is a collection of things you want to do before you kick the bucket. For some people this might include places to go and people to meet. Others might include foods to taste or experiences to try. No matter what you include, your bucket list should be a reflection of you.

Most people keep a single bucket list that encompasses all aspects of their life. However, we recommend keeping a separate travel list for each state you plan to go to. This helps keep things organized and ensure you see all you want to see in each location. 

Today, we will focus on building your Kentucky bucket list by giving you some awesome bucket list ideas.

Mammoth Cave National Park
Image source: Beatrice Murch

— Bucket List Vacations: Kentucky’s National Parks —

Our National Parks Service does a wonderful job of creating and maintaining awesome parks, monuments, and historic sites for us to visit. In fact, they do so good a job that we have yet to visit an NPS site we haven’t liked, and we recommend always making a spot for these places on your state bucket lists. 

#1. Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park

Abraham Lincoln is one of our most well known presidents, and most people have a pretty good idea of what he did while in office. What many don’t necessarily know is the story of how Lincoln became the man he was. Visit the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historic Park to learn a bit about the man’s early life. 

#2. Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area

Looking to get outdoors? Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area is the perfect place to do just that. Enjoy all the beauty Kentucky has to offer, admire the sandstone bluffs, and snap photos of the scenic gorges, all while enjoying outdoor activities such as hiking.

#3. Camp Nelson National Monument

Camp Nelson was originally a supply depot and hospital during the Civil War. Eventually, the place became a recruitment and training center for African American soldiers and a refugee camp for their wives and children. Learn the fascinating history behind this place at the national monument. 

#4. Cumberland Gap National Historical Park

The first great gateway to the west, Cumberland Gap is a beautiful and scenic place that once invited travelers to adventure into the unknown. Do some hiking, check out some gorgeous sights, and gaze in awe at the beauty of this lovely park. 

#5. Fort Donelson National Battlefield

The surrender of Confederate Fort Donelson on February 16th, 1862 was the beginning of a string of events that would ultimately lead to victory for the Union and the end of the Civil War. Learn the details of this fascinating story at the national battlefield park. 

#6. Mammoth Cave National Park

Mammoth Cave is easily one of the most beautiful and amazing cave systems in the country. Visit this national park and take guided tours through the cave to learn all about the formation of the natural wonder as well as its history. Don’t forget to hike the beautiful park trails too!

#7. Mill Springs Battlefield National Monument

Early in the Civil War, a Union victory was won at the Battle of Mill Springs. The story of this victory can be discovered at this national monument where you can learn the state’s importance to both sides of the fight.  

#8. National Historic Trails

In addition to monuments, historic sites, and parks, Kentucky also has two historic trails running through it. These are the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail and the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail. Visit these trails for even more history lessons and scenic landscapes.

Kentucky Derby
Image source: Bill Brine

— More Kentucky Bucket List Experiences —

Besides the Kentucky NPS sites above, there are also plenty of museums to see, foods to try, events to attend, and more in the Bluegrass State. Try some of these options on for size and add your favorites to your Kentucky bucket list. 

#9. See Thunder Over Louisville

The biggest fireworks display in the world, Thunder Over Louisville is an event you might just want to plan your trip around. This nighttime spectacular is unlike nothing you’ve ever seen and is sure to blow your mind. On top of that, the show kicks off the Kentucky Derby Festival, meaning you’d be in town for that amazing event as well. 

#10. Attend the Kentucky Derby

Speaking of the Kentucky Derby, this is one of those things everyone really should experience while in Kentucky. The Kentucky Derby is known around the world, after all, and there is a reason for that. See what the hype is all about by checking it out for yourself!

#11. Hike Up Black Mountain

Easily one of the most gorgeous places in the state, Black Mountain stands a full 4,145 feet high. It offers an amazing hike that rewards persistent hikers with an absolutely breathtaking view, and those who enjoy time in the outdoors are sure to adore it. 

#12. Check Out the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory

Most of us have heard of the Louisville Slugger brand of baseball bat, but have you ever thought about where they come from? At this museum, you can see some awesome baseball memorabilia and photos, as well as tour the baseball bat factory to see exactly how they’re made. 

#13. Go to Harland Sanders Cafe and Museum

In the 1940s and ’50s, Harland Sanders Cafe was owned and operated by Colonel Sanders, founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken. It was the first place his famous chicken was served. These days, the cafe serves hungry visitors that same special recipe chicken while also serving as a museum about the history of KFC.

#14. Seek Out a Moonbow

Have you ever seen a moonbow? Chances are you haven’t. This is because these unique nighttime rainbows require very specific atmospheric conditions to appear. Cumberland Falls is one of the only places in the world with these conditions, meaning a nighttime visit to the falls might just reward you with one of these elusive moonbows. 

#15. Sleep in a Castle

Normally we recommend staying in an RV, but if you have a chance to sleep in a castle, you should take it! As it turns out, Kentucky actually offers this opportunity. Castlepost is a large bed-and-breakfast that looks exactly like a medieval castle on the outside and provides accommodations fit for a king on the inside. 

#16. Enjoy a Mint Julep

The Mint Julep is the drink of the Kentucky Derby and is quite refreshing on a warm day. Be sure to try this bourbon-based beverage while in Kentucky!

#17. Spend Time at the Kentucky Horse Park and Farms

Considering it’s the home of the Kentucky Derby, it should come as no surprise that the state offers lots of opportunities to see horses. One of the best places to spend time with these animals is Kentucky Horse Park and Farms. Here, you can ride a horse, watch them being trained, or just observe them as they roam freely. 

#18. Eat Kentucky Hot Brown

It doesn’t sound very appetizing, but Kentucky Hot Brown is actually quite delicious and something you should definitely try. This open-faced sandwich starts with a slice of toast that is then covered in turkey, bacon, tomatoes, and creamy cheese sauce. It originally started at the Brown Hotel (hence the name) but can now be found in eateries across the state. 

#19. Watch a Basketball Game

Folks who live in Kentucky are quite passionate about basketball. Witness their passion for yourself by attending a game. No matter which Kentucky team you see, you’re sure to enjoy watching the excitement of the fans just as much as you enjoy watching the game itself. 

#20. Follow the Kentucky Bourbon Trail

Visit historic Bardstown and head out on one of their fantastic bourbon tours to get a taste of authentic Kentucky bourbon along their Bourbon Trail. Not only will you get to sample the drinks made, you’ll also learn some history and visit some of the longest-standing aging operations out there. 

#21. Admire the Floodwall Murals 

Located on Washington Street, Jefferson Street, and Water Street in Paducah, the Floodwall Murals are absolutely gorgeous works of art. They feature a number of different scenes, each one more vivid and lifelike than the last, bringing beauty and color to the town. 

#22. Explore the Corvette Museum

If you’re a car fan—and really, even if you’re not— be sure to make a stop in Bowling Green to check out the Corvette Museum. Bowling Green is where all Corvettes are made, and it’s the only place they have ever been manufactured. The museum houses a huge number of Corvettes and provides some interesting information about the cars. 

#23. Compare Derby Pie to Thoroughbred Pie

The official pie of the Kentucky Derby, the chocolate-and-walnut Derby Pie is considered by many living in Kentucky to be the very best dessert around. That said, others would argue that the similar Thoroughbred Pie (which adds bourbon to the recipe) is the better option. Try both of these local favorites and decide for yourself which is best.

#24. Ride a Riverboat

River trade was once incredibly profitable for Kentucky and those who lived there. The port towns were bustling trade centers, and riverboats were a common sight. Experience riding on one of these riverboats by hopping on the Belle of Louisville

#25. Visit Red River Gorge

Perhaps the only part of the state that matches Black Mountain in beauty, Red River Gorge is a must-see spot. It is a part of the green and gorgeous Daniel Boone Forest and features unique natural rock bridges. Its rivers are ideal for rafting, kayaking, or canoeing, and there are plenty of trails for those who love hiking. 

Clearly, Kentucky is a wonderful and exciting place to visit. Wondering how you’re going to see it all? We recommend visiting in an RV. This allows you to hop from one amazing attraction to the next in comfort. 

We have plenty of Kentucky RV rentals available, so finding the perfect rig for your trip should be a cinch. Reserve your favorite one, finish up your Kentucky bucket list, and get ready to have an absolute blast during your visit to this amazing state!

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