A gateway to the American South, Kentucky hosts some of the most charming destinations in the United States. Known for horse races, bourbon, and bluegrass, there is much to be found in Kentucky's beautiful and enchanting cities.
The first and most obvious choice would have to be Louisville. Known as the City of Bourbon, the famed drink is believed to have first been made in this city as far back as 1789. Many aspects of Lousiville tourism surround this invention. Countless bars and restaurants in this city claim to serve the world's most authentic and pure bourbon.
Alcohol is not everything in Louisville, however. The unmistakable southern architecture for which the area is famous is on full display in its many neighborhoods and boroughs. The largely untouched historic center of the city is a great place to go for a night out with a few friends.
Lastly are the horse races. Churchill Downs, the world-renowned racetrack and home of the Kentucky Derby, is just as nice as it looks on television. Even if you are not interested in betting on horses, soaking in the atmosphere is a must for anyone considering visiting Louisville.
The self-proclaimed horse capital of the world, Lexington, is a city that is very much a part of the deep history and culture of horse breeding that is so prevalent in Kentucky. Home to a litany of world-class horse breeders, if you are interested in these animals, then Lexington is a must.
Most tourists will find themselves visiting Airdrie Stud, the hub of all horse breeding in the city and arguably the state. Tours here allow guests to get up close and personal with the horses. Petting and feeding are permitted as well.
Aside from horses, Lexington is a medium-small city with an impressive modern core. Clear glass buildings and old brick structures give Lexington a great mix of both new and old architecture. The relative cleanliness and safeness of this city make it a great place to visit or even settle down in.
Located between both Lexington and Louisville, the small town of Frankfort offers the quintessential Kentucky small-town lifestyle. A place that seems to be stuck in a time capsule, the historic downtown of Frankfort might be one of the most well-preserved in the entire state.
An afternoon stroll through the center of Frankfort will give visitors a great look into the storied past of both the town and state. Colorful brick buildings line the street along with outstanding restaurants and diners offering all the best of southern cuisine. The city's capitol building is the pinnacle of local architecture. Constructed in 1910, the capitol building is adorned with some of the most impressive sculptures and murals around.
A much more rural town than others on this list, Elizabethtown is a great example of countryside living in Kentucky. Slow-paced and laid back, nothing happens here in a rush, and that is how the locals like it. The surrounding area is filled with rolling hills and grassy fields for as far as the eye can see. Plenty of bike and walking trails around the town make a great way to spend an afternoon outdoors. The downtown strip of Elizabethtown has filled the dark red brick buildings that can be found in most small towns. However, many of them are decorated with street art and murals. It gives the town a great mix of both new and old.
The quaint and sleepy town of Richmond is just about as typical as you could get in rural Kentucky. However, there is much more than meets the eye here. Past the rustic old town is a rich history that is seldom seen at the surface level. The small town of Richmond was the site of one of the largest battles in Kentucky during the Civil War. The Battle of Richmond was a decisive Confederate victory over the Union. The momentum gained afterward would open the door for the rest of Kentucky to be taken by the South.
If history is not your thing, there is still plenty to do. The surrounding area is a lush and beautiful grassland that makes for a great place to take a leisurely walk or even a casual horse ride.
Located right along the mighty Mississippi River, Owensboro's culture and identity have been heavily molded by this crucial body of water. Steamboat rides down the river are a common and memorable experience for both locals and tourists alike.
If water activities are not to your liking, there is always the main attraction which is the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame and Museum. The supposed capital of the genre, bluegrass music is the heart and soul of Owensboro.
Live music is in full supply in this city. Concerts and music contests are a regular occurrence here. A weekend trip to witness one of these events is a must for anyone fond of this kind of music.
A hub of bourbon distilleries, Bardstown might as well be built out of the stuff. This town has the well-earned reputation of being the "bourbon capital of the world." While there are undoubtedly many other towns in Kentucky that would dispute that claim, the reputation of Bardstown remains.
Bardstown has a rustic country atmosphere that is hard to find anywhere else. The town has been accurately described by visitors as a "Norman Rockwell painting come to life." The local community is as strong as ever and is more than helpful to outsiders. The stereotype of Southern hospitality is nowhere as strong as it is in Bardstown.
Anyone who takes the time to look past the bourbon and bluegrass will find that Kentucky has one of the most unique and irreplaceable charms and beauty in all of the United States. Whether you are in the big cities or the countryside towns, there is still a strong sense of community and togetherness that you won't be able to find anywhere else.