Last updated: 01:57 PM ET, Tue June 14 2022
Cumberland Gap National Historical Park (Photo via  zrfphoto / iStock / Getty Images Plus)


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Capitol Theater, Bowling Green, Kentucky
PHOTO: Capitol Theater in Bowling Green, Kentucky. (photo via Jacqueline Nix/iStock Editorial/Getty Images Plus)

Kentucky, the Bluegrass State, is home to world-famous Churchill Downs, more than 500 horse farms and Bourbon Country distilleries. It has Civil War battlefields, international museums and art galleries, big cities and small towns. It’s natural attractions include lakes, rivers and state parks.

Top attractions range from Churchill Downs to the Country Music Highway to Kentucky Horse Park. Located at Gate 1 of historic Churchill Downs, the Kentucky Derby Museum presents the traditions of the “greatest two minutes in sports.” Highlights include two floors of interactive, horse racing-related exhibits, a 360-degree high-definition video presentation and a walking tour of Churchill Downs. On the first Saturday in May, the sports world’s spotlight shines on Churchill Downs for the Kentucky Derby.

Kentucky is considered the American birthplace of bluegrass music and is known for its Appalachia folk art and crafts. The Country Music Highway is a 144-mile stretch of U.S. Route 23 in eastern Kentucky, so named because so many well-known country music stars that came from the Appalachian hills region -- including Loretta Lynn, Wynonna and Naomi Judd, Billy Ray Cyrus, Tom T. Hall, Ricky Skaggs, Keith Whitley, Dwight Yoakam, Gary Stewart, Patty Loveless, Crystal Gayle and more.

The U.S. 23 Country Music Highway Museum is dedicated to the country music entertainers who are listed on the brown state signs along U.S. 23. A large great room is also available for catered dinners and musical entertainment. Visitors in the area can also tour the National Quilt Museum, the Kentucky Center for the Arts and the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame and Museum.

Kentucky is also proud of its bourbon -- the only alcohol that is a distinctive product of the United States -- because 95 percent of the corn-based, caramel-colored spirit is distilled, aged and bottled in the state’s Bourbon Country.

The Kentucky Bourbon Trail through the heart of Bourbon Country takes visitors by six distilleries including Maker’s Mark, Jim Beam and Woodford Reserve. Visitors can learn the bourbon-making process, view the facilities and surrounding landscapes, and stick around for an after-tour bourbon tasting.

Kentucky has over 50 state parks and natural sites for recreation. From Lake Cumberland in the east to Lake Barkley and Kentucky Lake in the west, renting a houseboat provides a relaxing getaway for thousands of families every summer. Venture to one of Kentucky’s 17 state resort parks for camping, backpacking, hiking and wildlife viewing. Most of the parks with campgrounds are equipped with RV hookups; at the resort parks, lodge rooms and cabin rentals are available.

Experience one of the largest Civil War battlegrounds in the country at Perryville Battlefield State Historic Site, about 15 miles west of Danville. While in central Kentucky, you can see what Kentucky’s frontier was like at Old Fort Harrod State Park and Fort Boonesborough State Park, where costumed interpreters portray life in pre-Revolutionary War days.

The Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, which attracts nearly 1 million visitors yearly, is the world’s only theme park dedicated solely to man’s relationship with the horse. Celebrated racehorses now call the park home. And there’s always something new and interesting at the International Museum of the Horse.