Top 10 Landmarks in Kentucky

Last updated on May 25th, 2021 at 09:58 am. Originally published on March 12th, 2021

What is a Landmark?

Historic buildings. One-of-a-kind geological formations and landscapes. Things you just can’t see anywhere else.

When it comes to landmarks, Kentucky is rich — so rich that it can be difficult to narrow down which ones should go on your bucket list. Luckily, we’ve done the hard work for you! Here are 10 Kentucky landmarks you absolutely do not want to miss.

What are Some Famous Landmarks in Kentucky?

1. Mammoth Cave National Park

2. Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park

3. Cumberland Falls

4 Red River Gorge Geological Area

5. Churchill Downs

6. Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory

7. Belle of Louisville

8. Louisville Water Company Pumping Station

9. Big Bone Lick State Historic Site

10. The Kentucky Bourbon Trail

Kentucky Landmarks

From deep underground caves to sky-high water towers, here are some of the best U.S. landmarks to add to your to-do list in Kentucky.

1. Mammoth Cave National Park

Frozen Niagara in Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky, USA. This national park is also UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1981.

If there’s one Kentucky landmark you’ve already heard of, it’s probably this one — and for good reason. Mammoth Cave National Park is so much more than just a series of stunning underground caverns (though it’s certainly that, too). In fact, this cave system is the longest known in the world so far… and it’s actually still in the process of being excavated and discovered! Cavers have mapped 400 miles of underground tunnel so far and think there may be as many as 600 more miles down there. Keep in mind that visitors can only venture into the cave with a professional tour guide, and these tours often sell out ahead of time, so you’ll want to book early. There are also some excellent hiking opportunities above-ground, if you’re not so sure about venturing into the darkness — totally understandable!

Things to do near Mammoth Cave National Park: Only 45 minutes or so from the city of Bowling Green, Mammoth Cave National Park is close to a variety of other wilderness areas, including Nolin State Park and Blue Holler Offroad Park. There are also some excellent RVshare rentals in the area to call home for your adventure!

2. Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park

The first Lincoln Memorial building (1911) at Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park in Hodgenville, Kentucky

Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president and the man who signed the Emancipation Proclamation, was born in none other than LaRue County, Kentucky, famously into a small family living in a one-room log cabin. Today, the site of that cabin (though not the cabin itself, unfortunately) have been enshrined and memorialized at the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park, which today is marked with a beautiful ivory structure similar in design to — and older than! — the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. Along with learning more about this legendary man and his unique history, visitors can also enjoy some beautiful hiking trails around the grounds, including one that meanders by the Sinking Spring the Lincoln family used as a water source.

Things to do near Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park: A few miles south of downtown Hodgenville and only a short way further from Elizabethtown, Abraham Lincoln Birthplace Historical Park is close to My Old Kentucky Home State Park, Green River Lake State Park and others. Here are some RVshare rentals in the area to consider.

3. Cumberland Falls

Cumberland Falls, Kentucky

Sometimes called “the Little Niagara” or “the Niagara of the South,” Cumberland Falls offers an incredible cascade viewpoint that will indeed make you feel as if you’ve traveled further afield. Along with the epic falls themselves, this park is also home to the historic Pinnacle Knob Fire Tower, originally constructed in 1937, as well as a gem mine — and the falls themselves can be seen via either a hiking trail or the Rainbow Mist boat ride. Fishing, birding, rafting, and horseback riding are all also enjoyed by the many annual visitors to this park, who come from both near and far.

Things to do near Cumberland Falls: While Cumberland Falls State Park is a worthy destination in its own right, it’s also close to many other beautiful area wildernesses such as General Burnside State Park, Indian Mountain State Park just south of the border in Tennessee, and others. Here are some RVshare rentals in the area to browse.

4. Red River Gorge Geological Area

Sky Bridge is a sandstone arch in the Red River Gorge geological area.

Tucked into the larger wilderness of the Daniel Boone National Forest, the Red River Gorge Geological Area is characterized by unusual rock formations including gravity-defying stone arches, towering sandstone cliffs, and more — not to mention the beautiful Kentucky forest cover and endless summer sunshine the area offers. Comprised of about 29,000 acres and located only an hour east of Lexington, the Red River Gorge Geological Area has been designated a Geological Area, National Historic Landmark, and National Archaeological District as well as being placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Long story short: you need to experience it for yourself.

Things to do near the Red River Gorge Geological Area: The wider Red River Gorge Geological Area is positively awash with outdoor recreation opportunities, from hiking and rock-climbing to swimming, rafting, paddling and so much more. Be sure to check out Natural Bridge State Resort Park for even more stunning stonework, and check out these local RVshare rentals if you’re looking for ways to get around.

5. Churchill Downs

LOUISVILLE, KENTUCKY, USA - MAY 15, 2016: Entrance to Churchill Downs featuring a statue of 2006 Kentucky Derby Champion Barbaro.

Perhaps the most famous horse-race track in not only the country, but the world, Churchill Downs is where the Kentucky Derby is held each May, as well as the Kentucky Oaks race. The track was originally opened back in 1875 and was named for Samuel Churchill of the prominent Kentucky Churchill family at the time. Today, the track is open for races, and tours of the track are also available through the Kentucky Derby Museum. Keep in mind that, while there isn’t an official dress code, people are expected to dress for the occasion — there are guidelines listed on the website in case you’re unsure if your outfit will fly!

Things to do near Churchill Downs: Located in the historic-yet-happening town of Louisville, Churchill Downs is just the beginning of the exciting things to see and do in this part of the state. Read on for more of our must-see landmarks specifically in the town of Louisville, and don’t forget to check out some local RVshare rentals and RV campgrounds.

6. Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory

LOUISVILLE, KY, USA - JULY 23, 2018: The Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory is located in the downtown Louisville and showcases the past, present and future of the brands success.

The baseball bat par excellence and a huge name in sports history, if you’re at all a baseball fan (or even if you’re not), you owe yourself a visit to the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory. Along with the informative museum, you’ll also be able to see first hand where these incredible bats have been made since 1855 when you tour the factory, and you can get one of your own personalized at the onsite museum store. Perhaps the best part is the Hold a Piece of History exhibit, wherein visitors get to put their own hands on bats that were used by legends like Mickey Mantle, Johnny Bench, David Ortiz, and Derek Jeter. (Yes, really.)

Things to do near the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory: While you’ll find plenty to do in Louisville, don’t forget that this big city is just a short while away from some beautiful wildernesses if you need to get away from it all. Taylorsville Lake State Park is a great option just a short way outside of town, and if you cross the border into Ohio, you can visit Charlestown State Park for even more beautiful hiking opportunities. Here are some great local RVshare rentals to consider.

7. Belle of Louisville

LOUISVILLE, KENTUCKY, USA- FEB 2, 2016: Belle of Louisville paddlewheel in the Ohio River in Louisville KY.

A beautiful and historic steamboat that originally dates back to the early 20th century (though she’s been restored and refurbished since then, of course), the Belle of Louisville is indeed a looker — and an amazing opportunity for those looking for a new way to see the city. Cruise along the water and enjoy the skyline like you’ve never quite seen it before, or plan a special, just-for-you charter cruise for a birthday, anniversary, or even a wedding. Either way, you’ll be simultaneously enjoying a piece of history and carving your own, new story, all at the same time.

Things to do near the Belle of Louisville: You know the drill: check out the rest of Louisville for the kind of fun you can’t put a price tag on, many of which is cheap or free anyway. Meanwhile there are some great RV campgrounds and rental rigs in the area to create your home away from home!

8. Louisville Water Company Pumping Station

Louisville Water Company Pumping Station

Also known simply as the Louisville Water Tower, the Louisville Water Company Pumping Station, located on River Road, has been designated a beautiful waterfront park, and for good reason: this stunning tower is actually the oldest ornamental water tower in the world, older even than the Chicago Water Tower. Along with offering an incredible photo opp, this water tower is also a unique event venue and a common spot for Louisville lovers to tie the knot.

Things to do near the Louisville Water Company Pumping Station: Meander along the Ohio River towards downtown to enjoy the scenery before you arrive at the heart of Louisville itself, awash with eateries, shops, museums and more. As always, we’ve got you covered on the RV rental front!

9. Big Bone Lick State Historic Site

Fossils are visible at Big Bone Lick State Historic Site

Looking for a hands-on history experience that’ll outshine even the very best classroom lesson? Kentucky’s own Big Bone Lick State Historic Site has you covered: it derives its name from the one-of-a-kind Pleistocene megafauna fossils that can be found here, thanks to the mammoths that were attracted to this area because of the salt deposits around the sulphur springs. (Yes, even ancient elephantine creatures enjoyed, and even needed, salt in their diets!) Along with viewing the bones of these long-ago residents, visitors can also get familiar with the creatures who call this place home today, including a herd of bison and an array of native birds and insects. There’s also an onsite museum and campground, so you can turn the venture into a whole weekend.

Things to do near Big Bone Lick State Historic Site: Located northeast of Louisville en route to Cincinnati, Ohio, this park is also within easy driving distance of Kincaid Lake State Park and a number of excellent RV campgrounds. Here are some rental rigs to peruse and consider.

10. The Kentucky Bourbon Trail

Bourbon Barrels in Louisville Kentucky - LOUISVILLE, KENTUCKY - JUNE 14, 2019

Okay, we’ll admit, this one’s cheating a bit — because it’s actually a whole series of landmarks. But if you’re a fan of the sweet, vanilla-laced scent and taste of good Kentucky whiskey (or even if you’re not), the Kentucky Bourbon Trail is a landmark not to be missed, whether you take on the whole thing or just part of it. Including a wide range of distilleries scattered across the span of the state, including big names you’ve certainly heard of (like Four Roses) and craftier versions you maybe haven’t yet (Wilderness Trail), you can explore the Bourbon Trail via a DIY tour or with one of the many tour companies available in the area just waiting to show you around. Just make sure to designate someone as a sober driver!

Things to do near the Kentucky Bourbon Trail: Given that the Kentucky Bourbon Trail is spread across a large section of the state, there’s plenty to see and do along the way. As always, head to Louisville for a big city Kentucky experience, and be sure to check out the state parks that populate this part of the state. Here are some RVshare rentals in the area to help you get around in comfort and style!

Planning an RV Trip to Kentucky

An RV trip is the perfect way to string together a great trip that allows you to see all of the amazing landmarks Kentucky has to offer — and we’ve got you covered for all your RV rental needs!

We’ve also written guides to Mammoth Cave National Park, the many excellent state parks Kentucky is lucky to have in its roster, and Louisville, perhaps the best known of its urban cities. Oh, and here are the 10 best campgrounds in the state, to boot!

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