Kentucky has an interesting history. An official state since 1792, there have been inhabitants in the area for thousands of years. These days, the Bluegrass State is now associated with horse races, bourbon, chicken, baseball, and obviously, music.
However, there is more to Kentucky when you see it from the eyes of someone who calls it home. Here, we’re going to explore a wider range of famous landmarks in Kentucky.
Famous Landmarks in Kentucky
1. Churchill Downs
Thanks to the wildly popular Kentucky Derby, Churchill Downs has been attracting tourists and horse lovers alike since 1875. The racing complex resides in the capital and is named after the once-prominent Churchill family.
The derby has brought so much fanfare to Louisville. Over the years, the city felt compelled to open a museum dedicated to the annual event just down the street.
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In total, Churchill Downs can accommodate 165,000 guests and takes up 115 acres of prime Kentucky real estate. There’s not an official dress code, but that doesn’t mean the venue can’t judge you on your appearance. By judge, we mean deny admission.
Aside from the Kentucky Derby, there is a whole calendar of horse racing and other events throughout the year at Churchill Downs. The facility is also open for visitors to walk through with a ticket.
2. Ark Encounter
Just a stone’s throw away from Ohio and Indiana is a little area in Kentucky called Williamstown. In 2012, the site was chosen by a group of creationists to build a religious-themed park. Over $100 million later, Ark Encounter was opened in 2016.
The site revolves around stories from the Christian bible about the story of Noah’s Ark. In the story, located in the book of Genesis, God sent a flood to earth. Beforehand, Noah had been given insight and was allowed time to build an enormous ship.
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Noah’s Ark was made to hold a mating pair of all the species. Eventually, after the great flood subsided, the population would start anew.
The first thing you see at Ark Encounter is the namesake. The ark is 510 feet long, 85 feet wide, and over 50 feet high. It takes about four hours to get the whole experience.
3. Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory
One of the reasons Louisville is associated so closely with baseball is because of the famous Louisville Slugger. Part of Museum Row in downtown, the Louisville Slugger Museum is a nostalgic walk through the history of the bat and the ball.
The preferred bat of many players was invented in 1884 by Bud Hillerich. Little did the 17-year-old know it at the time, but he made an iconic bat that would be his legacy. Inspiration came from a baseball star of the day who broke his bat during a game.
The museum explains all the history and iterations of the Louisville Slugger, which is over 130 years old. Adjoining the museum is the factory where the baseball bat is made. The full tour takes about two hours to complete and culminates in a free mini bat to take home.
4. Kentucky Horse Park
It seems only natural that having one of the most famous horse racing tracks in the world would result in other horse-related landmarks for the state. Kentucky Horse Park is an all-inclusive horse complex.
Open since the late 70s, this horse park serves a number of purposes for the equestrian community. To start with, the venue is a working horse farm. There are trainers and equestrian professionals around the clock to work with the horses.
Kentucky Horse Park is also where international competitions take place. So, just like Churchill Downs, this place attracts people from all over to watch horse racing.
If you’re a really big fan of the races, this horse park comes with a bonus. Part of dropping by is also the educational theme park. Visitors can learn more about the history of horse racing as a concept and activity in Kentucky.
5. Mammoth Cave National Park
There’s touring historical places and then there’s exploring prehistoric caves. Mammoth Cave National Park goes beyond the typical tour experience with the longest cave system in the world. It should be noted that the largest mammals to ever live are actually not associated with the caves.
Considered one of the major world wonders, this cave has been wowing visitors for well over a century. Overall, the park takes up 53,000 acres but the caves extend beyond 420 miles.
Creating a national park around the site is beneficial to the longevity of the caves in relation to humans. The land around it is protected and continuously evaluated.
This UNESCO World Heritage Site doubles as an international biosphere reserve. To say this cave is important to many researchers is an understatement.
6. Cumberland Falls State Resort Park
Part of Daniel Boone National Forest, Cumberland Falls State Resort Park stretches across almost 1,700 acres.
The most popular part of the park is Cumberland Falls, standing 68 feet tall. Waterfalls are always amazing natural structures, but the one in this park has a rare feature.
Only a select few places on this side of the planet exhibit moonbows, and Cumberland Falls is one of them.
They aren’t the only falls in the park, though. Close by is the 45-foot Eagle Falls. The water comes from the Cumberland River. Parts of the river are protected as a Kentucky Wild River, as voted on by the Kentucky General Assembly.
The river and park are both taken care of by the Kentucky Nature Preserves and are free to visit.
7. Muhammad Ali Center
One of the greatest boxers of all time grew up right here in the heart of Louisville. So, naturally, the city welcomed the chance to host a museum dedicated to his life and legacy.
The six-story, almost 100,000-square-foot space opened in 2005. Muhammad Ali Center was actually the brainchild of the boxer’s wife, Lonnie Ali. The goal of the Muhammad Ali Center is to provide education and inspiration for all walks of life.
While they are deeply involved in the local community, employees have outreach on a global scale through a number of big events.
The center is an interactive place for all ages. Part of the experience is activities that are both fun and educational. A full tour takes about three hours.
8. Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park
The two sites preserved by the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park are where the 16th president was born and lived out his early childhood.
Both farms cover almost 350 acres, including a visitor center. ALBNHP was established over a century ago and was the first memorial built to honor Lincoln.
Sinking Spring, the south part of the site, was where the future president’s parents settled only two months before he was born.
Lincoln made his introduction to the world inside a one-room log cabin. Today, you can take a look inside and walk around the land he played on until he was two.
On the other side is a memorial building that is reminiscent of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. Everything revolves around 16, including windows, ceiling rosettes, and fence poles. There are 56 stairs leading up to the door, representing his years of life.
9. Daniel Boone National Forest
Whether you live in Kentucky or are just passing through, it would be tough to miss Daniel Boone National Forest. This natural woodland area makes an appearance in 21 counties over 708,000 acres.
That is not even the complete area, though. That’s just the part the government is responsible for. The actual boundary extends as far as 2 million acres.
The forest was established in 1937 but didn’t become Daniel Boone until the 60s, as a way to remember the famed explorer. Close to three million visitors make the trek annually for rock climbing, biking, hiking, boating, and horseback riding.
As many as 16,000 visitors can be in the park at the same time. Luckily, there are 600 miles of trails and 100 recreation areas to accommodate the masses.
10. Belle of Louisville Riverboats
The most widely traveled river steamboat in America has been in service since 1914. Steam-powered boats were all the rage throughout the 1800s and were involved in action as far back as the War of 1812.
By the start of the 20th century, trains had surpassed steamboats in popularity. Not all were retired, though.
Belle of Louisville may be on the National Historic Landmark list but it still has several cruises to choose from.