Old beautiful architecture building in Bardstown one of the most beautiful towns in Kentucky. Image credit Jantira Namwong via Shutterstock

7 Adorable Small Towns In Kentucky

Surrounded by the Ohio River to the north and the majestic Appalachian Mountain range to the east, Kentucky is a southeastern state. Known for hosting the Kentucky Derby at the Churchill Downs each May, this diverse state is full of adorable small towns in each region. Nicknamed the "Bluegrass State" due to a specific type of grass that grows on its rolling hills, Kentucky is also blessed with a flourishing thoroughbred horse industry. Whether you're planning a long visit to the state or just passing through, spend some time in one of its adorable towns.


Painted horse statue located in rest stop in Shelbyville, Kentucky.
Painted horse statue located in rest stop in Shelbyville, Kentucky. Image credit MachoCoffee via Shutterstock

Located just outside of the bustling city of Louisville, charming Shelbyville offers the best of both worlds. Since there is a range of things to do and see, the city is ideal for all types of vacations, such as a girls' trip, a romantic couples' escape, or a family holiday. Located on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, Shelbyville is home to two world-class distilleries, the Bulleit Distillery, and the Jeptha Creed Distillery. Tour the state-of-the-art facilities and sample local bourbon. The city also offers two wineries where you can sit and sip away an afternoon. 

Nature lovers will delight in Shelbyville's seven parks, where visitors can hike wooded trails, view wildlife, or go horseback riding, fishing, or swimming. The city also offers four golf courses and a designer outlet mall.


Main Street, Greenville, Kentucky.
Main Street, Greenville, Kentucky. Image credit J. Stephen Conn via Flickr

A cute city filled with historic buildings and charming boutique shops, Greenville is nestled in the western portion of the state. Whether you want to spend time shopping and taking in cultural attractions, or immersing yourself in nature, you can do it here. Spend the day at Brizendine Brothers Nature Park, where you take a 1/2-mile walk through woodlands and check out local wildlife. Take a boat ride or go fishing at Lake Malone State Park, or take a 1.5-mile hike among secluded wilderness and scenic rock walls. 

If shopping is more your thing, stroll through the city's quaint downtown, checking out everything from antiques and vintage items to trendy clothing and accessories. Before heading out of the area, stop at Luke's Town and Country Flea Market, a 13-acre outdoor shopping experience featuring items from various dealers and vendors.


Main street, Somerset, Kentucky.
Main street, Somerset, Kentucky.

Situated on the edge of Cumberland Lake near the Daniel Boone National Forest, the city of Somerset is the quintessential small southern town. The region, which is rich with history and outdoor recreational activities, is ideal for any trip, from a weekend getaway to a week-long stay.

Check out the Mill Springs Battlefield National Monument, a significant Civil War battleground, and learn about Kentucky's role in the historic event. Explore the onsite visitors center, museum, and nearby cemetery. You can also spend a few hours at Somerset's International Paranormal Museum. Nature lovers won't want to miss the 17-acre Somerset Park, which features a playground, soccer field, picnic areas, and a paved walking track. Elgie Woods Piano Park delights locals and visitors alike with a unique water fountain and a stage, which showcases musical performances each spring.


Roundabout near the historic courthouse and Talbot tavern in Bardstown, Kentucky.
Roundabout near the historic courthouse and Talbot tavern in Bardstown, Kentucky.

Another cute city in Kentucky is Bardstown, which is in the heart of the state's bourbon trail. The area features 11 distilleries within a 16-mile radius and an abundance of historic sites, and plenty of southern charm. 

Bardstown, which is the state's second oldest city, boasts the My Old Kentucky Home State Park, a 200-year-old mansion and former plantation. Stop in to see lush formal gardens, tour guides in period dress, and unique artifacts. Don't miss the Willett Distillery Visitor Center and Whiskey Shop, which offers tours and tastings, or a trip to the Oscar Getz Museum of Whiskey History. Nature lovers will want to spend some time at the Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest.


Historic buildings in the downtown district of Paducah, Kentucky.
Historic buildings in the downtown district of Paducah, Kentucky. Image credit Angela N Perryman via Shutterstock

Located on both the Ohio and Tennessee Rivers, Paducah is a charming city that's ideal for both family vacations and romantic getaways. Although it retains plenty of small-town charm, Paducah is within easy proximity to bustling cities. History buffs will want to check out the Lloyd Tilghman House and Civil War Museum and the William Clark Market House Museum, which feature rotating exhibits highlighting the city's rich history. You can also spend a few hours at the River Discovery Center to learn about Paducah's extensive maritime history.

If you want to get outside and explore your natural surroundings, walk, jog, or bike down the city's Greenway Trail, which connects the historic downtown to both Stuart Nelson Park and Bob Noble Park. The two parks offer amenities such as lighted tennis and basketball courts, picnic pavilions, and a skate park.


Playhouse in the Park, Murray, Kentucky.
Playhouse in the Park, Murray, Kentucky.

Situated in southern Kentucky near the Tennessee border, Murray was given the name "Friendliest Small Town in America" and is known for its thriving arts and crafts scene. Murray is also full of experiences for nature and history lovers, making it the ideal destination for families. If you love to knit or crochet, visit Red Bug Yarn & Gifts, which offers lessons in all aspects of the fiber art world. You can make your own candles from scratch at Muddy Watters Designs, a shop that holds candle "pour parties" and is available for walk-ins.

Enjoy charming small-town life by spending time in Murray's historic downtown. Check out local cafes, bookshops, unique clothing boutiques, and local cuisine eateries. If you're visiting on a Saturday morning between May and October, don't miss the extensive farmers market, which sells Kentucky produce and homemade goods.


Beautiful downtown area of Harrodsburg, Kentucky.
The beautiful downtown area of Harrodsburg, Kentucky. Image credit J. Stephen Conn via Flickr.

Kentucky's oldest town, Harrodsburg, is a small town located just southwest of Lexington. Founded in 1774, Harrodsburg is rich in history, and named one of the "20 Best Small Towns to Visit" by Smithsonian Magazine. Make a trip to the 3,000-acre Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill, which features interactive programming, hands-on workshops, and fossil hikes. History also comes to life at Old Fort Harrod State Park, where visitors can view a full-scale replica fort showcasing the state's first permanent settlement.

If you're looking for a charming place to stay in Harrodsburg, consider the Beaumont Inn, Kentucky's oldest operating country inn. The inn features a park-like setting, three onsite restaurants featuring more than 100 different types of bourbon, and a relaxing spa.

No matter what region of Kentucky you're visiting or driving through, you'll find no shortage of adorable small towns oozing with southern charm and hospitality. Bring your family, a romantic partner, or a group of friends, and experience all that this state has to offer, from gently rolling hills to historic downtowns bustling with local shops, restaurants, and businesses.

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