Known as the “Land of Unbridled Spirit,” Kentucky is home to fine bourbon distilleries, rich natural beauty and legendary horse races. From lively bluegrass music festivals to calming mountain streams, visitors to this south-meets-midwest state have a wealth of Kentucky-centric sites and scenes to explore.
Kentucky’s bourbon-distillery tradition dates back more than 200 years. Some of the more famous bourbon producers include Maker’s Mark Distillery (in Loretto), Wild Turkey Distillery (in Lawrenceburg) and Woodford Reserve Distillery (in Versailles). Bourbon connoisseurs can tour all of these facilities, and many also attend the annual Kentucky Bourbon Festival, held every September in Bardstown, for tastings, events and music.
Teetotaling tourists may be drawn more to the Kentucky outdoors. Fisherman and boaters come to the state to enjoy its more than 54,000 miles of rivers and streams. The moderate climate also makes for comfortable hiking and exploring in one of 52 state parks that pepper the state. Horseback trail excursions are a popular method of exploring and hunting game through Appalachian landscapes.
Horses are particularly important to Kentucky, where horse races are some of the most celebrated equestrian events in the U.S. Probably the best known of the Kentucky tracks is Churchill Downs in Louisville. This track is home to the Kentucky Derby, also known as the “the greatest two minutes in sports.” Visitors can tour horse camps and thoroughbred stables, and even take riding lessons on pedigree horses.
Food and music are also integral to the Unbridled Spirit of Kentucky. Fried chicken is a favorite, but other popular regional dishes include burgoo, a thick meat-and-vegetable stew, and Benedectine-spread sandwiches, comprising cream cheese and shredded cucumbers. Music-wise, bluegrass is the mountain-heritage sound of the Appalachian state, and fans enjoy the music in several large outdoor festivals, the most prominent being the Kentucky Bluegrass Music & Burgoo Festival in Louisville.
Along the Kentucky River lies the state’s capital of Frankfort, one of the smallest state capitals in the United States at just under 30,000 people. Major cities in the state include Louisville in the north and Lexington in the southeast. The state’s third largest city, Bowling Green, lies to the south.