The John A. Roebling Bridge connects Covington, Kentucky to Cincinnati, Ohio.

Kentucky's 7 Most Underrated Towns to Visit in 2024

As 2024 gets underway and thoughts turn toward hitting the road for a day trip, a weekend getaway, or even a longer vacation, popular travel destinations like Kentucky are getting ready to roll out the welcome mat to visitors. And while popular places to visit in Kentucky, such as Lexington and Louisville, need little introduction, the state’s often overlooked small towns are well worth considering during the planning stages.

From pretty Berea, celebrated as the arts and crafts capital of Kentucky, to the endless outdoor adventures in places like London and Glasgow, these seven most underrated towns to visit in 2024 are sure to satisfy even the most curious of travelers.


Town square in Hodgenville, Kentucky, USA
Town square in Hodgenville, Kentucky. Image credit Jamie, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Located an easy one-hour drive south of Louisville along the I-65 highway, Hodgenville is a must-visit for its pivotal role in the life of one of America’s most revered politicians: Abraham Lincoln. It was here in 1809 that Lincoln was born, and where he spent the first few years of his childhood. Most visitors who do venture to Hodgenville are drawn by the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park, a must-see attraction that features a cabin representing Lincoln's birthplace set within a stunning neoclassical memorial building that honors his legacy. 

Another key site is the Abraham Lincoln Boyhood Home at Knob Creek. Just a short drive from Hodgenville, this second Lincoln location offers a glimpse into the President’s formative years on the farm where he grew up. Other Lincoln landmarks include the Lincoln Museum with its artifacts and personal items, as well as the town square with its statue of the young Lincoln.


Downtown London, Kentucky.
Downtown London, Kentucky. Image credit w.marsh - Flickr: Downtown London, CC BY 2.0Wikimedia Commons

Kentucky’s very own London, while substantially smaller than the capital of the United Kingdom, is certainly worth a visit. Located in the south of the state near the border with Tennessee, London’s position on the I-75 makes it an ideal stopover for road trippers wanting an authentic Kentucky small-town experience. In addition to being positioned near Daniel Boone National Forest, standout attractions in London include Laurel River Lake with its boating and fishing adventures, as well as the Sheltowee Trace National Recreation Trail, which passes through the Daniel Boone National Forest​​.

Interested in history? Historic highlights include Camp Wildcat Battle Monument, which marks the scene of one of the earliest engagements of the Civil War in Kentucky (try to time a visit to coincide with a re-enactment or guided tour). Feeling quirky? London also celebrates the annual World Chicken Festival, a nod to the region's claim as the birthplace of Kentucky Fried Chicken, one of the world's largest fast food chains.


Downtown Pikeville, Kentucky.
Downtown Pikeville, Kentucky. Image credit Cody Thane Prater via Shutterstock

Pikeville’s pretty Appalachian Mountains setting makes this underrated tourist destination worth including on any 2024 Kentucky travel itinerary. Highlights include a fascinating Hatfield-McCoy Feud Sites driving tour, which takes in locations known to have featured in the country’s most infamous family feud. Allegedly started by a pig swimming the Tug River, some 60 people are believed to have died as a result of this legendary “Mountain War” of the late 1800s.

Rest assured, it is a friendlier town these days, and thanks to its picturesque Appalachian Mountains location, the area around Pikeville these days is popular for activities like hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding, while the Levisa Fork of the Big Sandy River provides opportunities for kayaking and canoeing​​. Another highlight is the Pikeville Cut-Through Project. One of the largest earth removal projects in the Western Hemisphere, this spectacular feat of engineering boasts a great observation deck for visitors to view the massive cut made through a mountain to reroute the river and railroad tracks.


A street in Glasgow, Kentucky.
A street in Glasgow, Kentucky. Image credit Ichabod, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

There is little need to guess where the founders of the small town of Glasgow found their inspiration when it came to naming their community (the city of Glasgow in Scotland). Established in 1799, Glasgow celebrates its 225th birthday in 2024, making it a perfect “wee spot” for a dose of Scottish heritage. Highlights include an as-yet-to-be-named Scottish festival (replacing the once-popular Glasgow Highland Games), along with displays about the community’s connection to Scotland in the South Central Kentucky Cultural Center, also known as the Museum of the Barrens.

Glasgow is also a gateway to some of Kentucky's most stunning natural attractions, most notably Mammoth Cave National Park, the world's longest-known cave system, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site that offers tours through vast underground chambers and passageways.


Row of colorful, historic buildings on the main street in the downtown area, Paducah, Kentucky.
Main street in the downtown area of Paducah, Kentucky. Image credit Angela N Perryman via Shutterstock.

Paducah is located at the confluence of the Ohio and Tennessee Rivers. It is recognized as a UNESCO Creative City of Crafts and Folk Art for its dynamic community of artists, craftspeople, and cultural storytellers. Paducah’s Lower Town Arts District, with its studios and galleries, is fun to explore, especially for the opportunity to interact with local artists and purchase their artwork.

The National Quilt Museum is another neat spot to visit. The largest museum of its kind, it draws thousands of visitors annually for its international quilt and fiber art exhibitions. The Floodwall Murals are another art-related draw and brighten up the Ohio River's protective floodwall with scenes from the town’s past.


Overlooking Covington Kentucky and downtown Cincinnati from Devou Park.
Overlooking Covington Kentucky and downtown Cincinnati from Devou Park.

Covington’s another often overlooked Kentucky town on the Ohio River that’s worthy of a visit in 2024. Despite its proximity to Cincinnati across the river, Covington is often overlooked by travelers who tend to congregate in neighboring Newport, home to the Newport Aquarium and the trendy Newport on the Levee shopping mall.

Don’t make the same mistake, and instead spend at least a few hours exploring Covington attractions such as its MainStrasse Village, a historic district with a strong German heritage that is especially fun during the town’s annual Oktoberfest celebrations. The Covington Arts District is also fun to explore and is home to several galleries and public art installations.


An aerial view of the countryside around Berea, Kentucky.
Countryside around Berea, Kentucky.

Its location just 40 miles south of the city of Lexington, just off the I-75 highway, makes Berea a great choice for a Kentucky day trip. Here, art and culture run deep in the community, which has been home to the pioneering Berea College since 1855 and is notable as the first college in the South to be coeducational and racially integrated. Be sure to allocate time to explore its picturesque historic campus, too. This connection to artists and artisans has led to the town being nicknamed the "Folk Arts and Crafts Capital of Kentucky,” a title it wears proudly as Berea today is a beacon for artists, musicians, craftsmen, and visitors from around the globe.

Tourist highlights include the Kentucky Artisan Center with its displays of Kentucky-made arts and crafts, offering visitors a chance to appreciate and purchase unique pieces ranging from pottery to paintings, and also participate in demonstrations and workshops. A highlight for 2024 is the Berea Craft Festival in July, which this year promises 110 vendors.

Whether you are here for a day, a weekend, or even a week, these underrated towns are certainly worth including on any adventurer’s Kentucky travel itinerary. From Berea's vibrant arts scene to Hodgenville's historical connections to President Abraham Lincoln, as well as London's outdoor adventures, Glasgow’s Scottish roots, and Covington's German traditions, these small towns invite travelers to delve deeper into the heart and soul of the state of Kentucky.

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