Touching borders with Tennessee on the south and Virginia on the southeast, Kentucky may not be as big a state as Texas, but it has ample natural beauty and outdoor adventures to offer. Not just that, there is much history and culture to explore in the state, including ancient museums and forts. Discover the most underrated towns in the state that boast magnificent national parks, rivers, lakes, and outdoor adventures to make for a well-rounded holiday for you and your family!
Love horses? Then Shelbyville should definitely feature on your list of small towns to visit in Kentucky. Located between Lexington and Louisville, Shelbyville is popular for its horse breeding facilities. Don't miss a chance to explore the scenic trails at Shelby Trails Park, where you can also take lessons if you are new to horseriding. For those interested in shopping, the main street in Shelbyville is home to several local shops selling artisanal goods. You can't leave the town without tasting the famous Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) and visiting the local wineries and distilleries, like Talon Winery Shelbyville.
It is not often that you get a chance to rent a beautiful houseboat and find yourself floating on the calm waters of a lake. Well, you can easily enjoy this experience with your loved ones in Somerset, another small town in Kentucky known for its Lake Cumberland. This is the ideal location for a quaint, water-bound vacation where you can rent a boat best suited to your budget and family size!
Other than house boating, you can also take time to explore the Gargantuan Sandstone Bridge, Daniel Boone National Forest, and the SomerSplash Water Park. For a little more adventure, hop on to a train and see the Big South Fork Scenic Railway, which takes you through the surrounding Kentucky countryside.
Calling all history aficionados, you cannot miss a trip to Harrodsburg when in Kentucky. One of the oldest towns in the state, Harrodsburg is known for its rich history, all of which can be explored at the Mansion Museum and Old Fort Harrod State Park. For those visiting the town with kids, there are plenty of things to do at Devine's Corn Maze & Pumpkin Patch, including a visit to the local petting zoo and fun farm activities and games. One of the top-rated places to stay in Harrodsburg is the Beaumont Inn.
When you say Bardstown, the first thing that comes to mind is Kentucky-made whiskey! While you can enjoy good bourbon in this town all year round, fall, and spring are particularly the most eventful months to visit. There is a Kentucky Bourbon Festival that is held in Bardstown in September every year. This festival is all about good food, entertainment, and excellent bourbon! Bardstown also has a historic downtown district, which is home to major town attractions like The Stephen Foster Story (outdoor musical), My Old Kentucky Home (Civil War museum), and My Old Kentucky Dinner Train.
As strange as it may sound, there is a small town in Kentucky called London. This destination is ideal for travelers who love the outdoors because it is filled with natural beauty! The Laurel River, Levi Jackson State Park, Daniel Boone National Forest, and Rockcastle River should all be on your list of must-visit places in London. History lovers might like to explore the Camp Wildcat Battlefield, which has hardly undergone any changes since the battlefield days. If you prefer something more adventurous, head to the Sheltowee Trace National Recreation Park, which is a popular trekking and cycling spot in the town.
Located in Ohio County, Rosine is a small town in Kentucky with a sparse population. But don't let that fool you because this place is far from boring. In fact, Rosine is a great tourist attraction for all those interested in the history of Bill Monroe and his music. Love Bluegrass Music? You should visit the Monroe Homeplace, the venue for the annual Jerusalem Ridge Festival. In 2018, the town announced the opening of the Bill Monroe Museum, which had visitors from all over the world coming in to pay tribute to the father of bluegrass music. If you wish to listen to live Bluegrass Music in Rosine, then Rosine Barn Jamboree is a must-visit. They typically have live music on Friday nights between April and December.
Abraham Lincoln, a famous name in global history, was born in Hodgenville. So, you can come here to trace his heritage by exploring the Abraham Lincoln Boyhood Home and the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park. Another popular tourist spot in Hodgenville is The Lincoln Square downtown, known for hosting several interesting events every year. At this entertainment destination, you can enjoy live music, among other shows, during summertime. When downtown, don't miss a nice meal at the 16TH Restaurant or Laha's Red Castle.
Greenville is a quaint town with a relaxed vibe located in the western hills of Kentucky. The town square is one of the most historical places to visit and is home to a 100-year-old courthouse. While the city center square is the hub of all activity in Greenville, you can also explore the trails traveling through the beautiful Lake Malone State Park. These are ideal for outdoor adventures, including biking, horseback riding, and hiking. There are plenty of good hotels and inns near Greenville, including the Best Western Central City, Super 8 by Wyndham Central City, and Convention Centre Inn. Foodies will not be disappointed during their visit to Greenville at Aunt M's Cafe and The Catfish Dock.
Berea, another small city in Kentucky, is in the southern part of Madison County, close to the Blue Grass Region. This place is known for its extensive arts and crafts culture. You can start your exploration of the city with the Berea Public Art Tour, which gives you a chance to view historic architecture, fountains, and mythical beasts. If outdoor adventure is what you enjoy, then plan a hike at the Indian Fort Mountain Trail System, which has several trail options such as short 2 to 3-mile treks and a longer 6 to 7-mile trek, both of which allow you to witness famous pinnacles in the town. The Berea Craft Festival is held every year in the small town. In addition, Gallery 103 and Kentucky Artisan Centre are where you can find the diverse work of local artists.
Maysville is a scenic town located in the northeastern part of Kentucky, next to the Ohio River. The Kentucky Gateway Museum Center is a fascinating spot to discover the local stories and history of Maysville. Visit The Genealogical and Historical Research Library, which boasts a vast collection of manuscripts, documents, and books from colonial times. You could also tour The Regional History Museum which displays over 4,000 geographical artifacts and also has a fine arts gallery. If theatre interests you, then the Russell Theatre and Washington Opera House are must-visits in Maysville.
Kentucky is the ideal holiday destination if you're looking to explore the small towns of the United States. And now that you have an overview of these underrated towns and the amazing experiences they have to offer, you might be tempted to plan a trip soon! Meet friendly locals, venture out into the beautiful natural reserves, and make the most of the quirky local shops at restaurants in these small towns in Kentucky!