Historical buildings in Paducah, Kentucky. Editorial credit: Sabrina Janelle Gordon / Shutterstock.com.

9 Lovely Small Towns To Visit In Kentucky This Summer

The Bluegrass State is a paragon of southeastern splendor, and for good reasons. Besides featuring many natural gems like rivers and mountains, this state is also known for its bourbon, bluegrass music, and fried chicken. But that’s not all. More importantly, Kentucky is home to many lovely small towns where visitors can experience the state’s unique features without the crowds. In summer, these towns come alive and invite visitors to unforgettable vacations. From Cave City and its impressive cave system to Paducah and its beautiful murals, here are nine towns in the Bluegrass state begging to offer you the most exciting summer vacation ever.


The serene settings of Augusta, Kentucky.
The serene settings of Augusta, Kentucky.

Augusta is a scenic town along the Ohio River, with the state of Ohio on the other side. On a summer trip here, taking the Augusta Ferry to Ohio is one of the most exciting things to do as it features charming views of the areas surrounding the river. If taking the ferry makes you want to experience more river views, O’Neil Landing is a strip of land along the river, with a sidewalk for promenading and sightseeing. For a dose of history, visit the Rosemary Clooney House and learn about the town’s famous singer, or check out the 1811 Historic Jail, the oldest jail in the state. Before leaving, enjoy a thrilling shopping experience at the good old Augusta General Store and taste some authentic Bourbon at Augusta Distillery.


Aerial view of Bellevue, Kentucky.
Aerial view of Bellevue, Kentucky. Image credit: Travis Estell via Flickr.com.

Bellevue is a charming small town that benefits from the glow of the scenic Ohio River. The town lies on the southern bank of the river, with Cincinnati, Ohio, on the other side. Typical of summer vacations in river towns, a cruise on the Ohio River is a must. Otherwise, relax at Bellevue Beach Park on the river banks overlooking Cincinnati and enjoy picnics at its gazebo or live shows all summer at the amphitheater. Next, hit the iconic tree-lined Fairfield Avenue downtown to admire its enchanting Italianate architectural storefronts and buildings. For food lovers, there are many great options in town for lunch and dinner, including Bellevue Bistro, Avenue Brew, and Nomad KY. For Bourbon enthusiasts, head to Three Spirits Tavernhead in Bellevue’s historic district to enjoy sensational bourbon, cocktails, and wine


The Historic District in Maysville, Kentucky
The Historic District in Maysville, Kentucky. Image credit: Greg Hume (Greg5030) via Wikimedia Commons.

Maysville is a lovely small town on the banks of the Ohio River, perfect for a relaxing summer vacation. Once here, visitors can start by touring the Simon Kenton Memorial Bridge that reigns with pride across the Ohio River. Next, explore the downtown to admire the series of ten historic floodwall murals overlooking the Ohio River. For some adventures, head to Maysville River Park and Marina to enjoy camping, picnicking, and boating. Afterward, enjoy more adventures at the 61-acre Maysville-Mason County Recreational Park, featuring a 12-acre fishing lake, picnic shelters, a one-mile walking trail, a swimming pool, and sports facilities.

Horse Cave

View from inside the Hidden River Cave at the American Cave Museum
View from inside the Hidden River Cave at the American Cave Museum. Image credit: Dave Bunnell via Wikimedia Commons.

Horse Cave is a small town in Hart County with many unique attractions to explore on a summer vacation. Once here, tourists are invited to explore the Hidden River Cave & American Museum and come out of it in style by zip lining. The cave features the world’s longest underground swinging bridge, an American Cave Museum, and a historic sunset dome. Horse Cave is also home to the Kentucky Down Under Adventure Zoo, an Australian-themed animal park featuring animals like Kangaroos, wolves, foxes, draft horses, and Emus, among others. Meanwhile, the Dutch Country Safari Park is another wildlife haven in town to visit with the family, enjoy wagon rides around the safari, and feed smaller animals. It is also worth noting that Horse Cave is 10 miles from Mammoth Cave National Park, home to the longest cave system in the world.


3rd Street in Newport, Kentucky. Image credit: Warren LeMay via Flickr.com.

Newport is a scenic river town in Campbell County, at the confluence of the Licking and Ohio Rivers. Hence, a summer vacation here can start with river cruises on the confluence or a walk along the Purple People Bridge that links Newport and Cincinnati. The bridge is a fine spot for photography as it dazzles in its brilliant purple color. Visitors with families can then proceed to enjoy picnics at Festival Park by the banks of the Ohio River and participate in the Newport Italian Fest, featuring Italian delicacies and exciting games every summer. The Newport Aquarium is another highlight attraction in town to visit as it features a coral reef tunnel suitable for walks and a wide range of marine creatures, including sharks, penguins, and stingrays, among others. For some prime entertainment, visitors can catch a show at the Falcon Theater and then sip bourbon afterward at the New Riff Distilling.


The countryside around Berea, Kentucky.
The countryside around Berea, Kentucky.

Berea is a lovely town in Madison County that promises an unforgettable summer vacation. This town is especially great for outdoor enthusiasts as it is home to attractions like the charming Owsley Fork, which offers opportunities for fishing, kayaking, canoeing, and hiking. Hikers will find more satisfaction away from the lake at the Pinnacles in Berea College Forest, which is famous for being the best hike in Kentucky. On the trail, hikers will be met with several rocky overlooks offering panoramic views of Berea and its surrounding greenery.

More adventures are available at the 123-acre Johnson B. Stephenson Memorial Forest featuring a trail that leads to the beautiful 75-foot Angling Falls and offers sights of the Angling Creek, limestone caves, and rocky ridges. Berea is also an art lover’s paradise with great art spots like - the Union Church, Mitchell Tolle Building, Frost Building, Berea Arts Council, and Studio Arts at Berea.


Downtown Somerset, Kentucky
Downtown Somerset, Kentucky.

Somerset is an irresistible town in Pulaski County, perfect for a calm and relaxing summer vacation. The town’s biggest flex is that it is positioned near Lake Cumberland, one of America’s largest artificial lakes, offering opportunities for boating, fishing, kayaking, canoeing, and picnicking. This town is also an arts haven, featuring art-decorated spots like Somerset Adventure Mural, Cooper Arts Mural, and Bremen Sculpture. For more excitement, visitors are welcome to enjoy the beautiful sight of Fountain Square Park in the heart of Somerset while browsing through surrounding eateries and shops. Fischer Fun Park is another incredible attraction in town worth a visit, especially for families, as it features slides, swings, and a 25-foot observation tower, among other attractions.


Maiden Alley in the downtown arts district of Paducah, Kentucky
Maiden Alley in the downtown arts district of Paducah, Kentucky.

Paducah is a charming town on the confluence of the Ohio and Tennessee Rivers, teeming with sensational summer experiences. Once here, visitors can start an unforgettable vacation by taking pictures with the backdrop of the Paducah Flood Wall Mural backing the Ohio River. While in the area, walk the irresistible riverwalk adjacent to the mural and admire the scenic river views. Proceed to Bob Noble Park, featuring a five-acre lake with two fishing piers, a swimming pool and fountain, and a recreational walking path. For more adventures, head to the nearby Land Between The Lakes National Recreation Area to enjoy hiking, fishing, boating, picnicking, boating, and wildlife viewing. Back in town, visitors can see interesting quilt and fiber artworks at the National Quilt Museum and learn about the city’s locomotive history at the Paducah Railroad Museum. For visitors to this town on Saturdays, the Paducah Farmer’s Market is a must-visit for satisfying fresh food shopping.

Cave City

Dinosaur World in Cave City, Kentucky
Dinosaur World in Cave City, Kentucky. Editorial credit: Roig61 / Shutterstock.com

Cave City is one of the best places for a summer vacation in Kentucky. First off, this town is famous for being a gateway to the Mammoth Cave National Park, featuring the world's longest cave system. Visitors can explore this magnificent cave on guided tours to wonder at its spacious interiors and awe-inspiring geology. Aside from the cave, the park features 80 miles of hiking trails and rivers for fishing, boating, kayaking, and canoeing adventures. Visiting families can also have fun at Dinosaur World, featuring life-sized dinosaur figures in a natural setting, alongside games, rides, and an indoor museum. The Mammoth Valley Park is another exciting, family-friendly destination worth visiting to ride a scenic chairlift, climb rocks, and enjoy the only alpine slide in Kentucky.

The small towns of Kentucky deserve accolades for creating the perfect atmosphere for sensational summer experiences. While towns in the American South feature natural splendor, these towns in Kentucky raise the bar with their rich culture, storied history, sensational downtowns brimming with activities, and warm locals. Recline in these lovely towns this summer and you just might extend your vacation into the fall season.

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