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Kentucky is a mideastern state of the United States. Its state capital is Frankfort. Attractions include horse racing and beautiful lakes. Kentucky is also culturally part of the American South. It is home to famous food (Kentucky Fried Chicken, Hot Brown, and Burgoo), drink (bourbon whiskey) and music (bluegrass) traditions.


Kentucky regions - Color-coded map
  Bluegrass Region
Horses and bourbon sum up this region; the gently rolling hills are the heart of the thoroughbred industry and many distilleries can be found along its streams.
  Caves and Lakes
A karst region containing the largest cave system in the world; its hub is Bowling Green
  Daniel Boone Country
This rugged landscape is dominated by the Daniel Boone National Forest and it was here that the Wilderness Road was cut enabling the first wave of settlers to enter the state through the Cumberland Gap.
  Kentucky Appalachians
A rugged and rural portion of the state.
  Kentucky Derby Region
This region, centered around Kentucky's largest city, Louisville is also world-famous for its bourbon distilleries
  Northern Ohio River Region
An emerging economic power in Kentucky: The cities of Covington, Florence, Independence, and Newport are among the fastest growing in the state
  Southern Lakes
Containing many man-made lakes, this rural region offers many opportunities for recreation
  Western Coal Fields
This area of alternating ridges and valleys was mined extensively in the years after WWII, but many of the mined lands were turned into wildlife management areas and the region has become a draw for sportsmen; Owensboro is its largest city
  Western Waterlands
A mostly flat area of the state that lies within the floodplains of four major rivers, this region contains the state's largest agricultural operations as well as the recreational areas around Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley

For the most part, these regions are used only by the state for tourism promotion—they do not necessarily reflect the regions recognized by Kentuckians themselves. The state tourism regions map to locally recognized regions as follows:

  • Bluegrass Region — Although there is a locally recognized region called "The Bluegrass", that region covers a considerably larger area than the state tourism region. Especially in the Lexington area, the term Central Kentucky is widely used.
  • Caves and Lakes — Traditionally considered part of the Pennyrile (more properly the Pennyroyal Plateau). Nowadays, it is also seen as part of South Central Kentucky.
  • Daniel Boone Country and Kentucky Appalachians — Together, they largely coincide with the area locally known as Eastern Kentucky or the Eastern Coalfield. (Ironically, Eastern Kentucky University is not in locally defined Eastern Kentucky; it is instead in the Bluegrass.)
  • Kentucky Derby Region — Metropolitan Louisville is generally seen as its own region, locally called Metro Louisville (note that "Louisville Metro" refers specifically to Louisville and Jefferson County, which have a merged government), just "Louisville", or Kentuckiana. Western portions of the region are seen as part of the Pennyrile, and eastern portions as part of the (Outer) Bluegrass.
  • Northern Ohio River Region — The counties that are part of the Cincinnati metropolitan area are more often called Northern Kentucky. The rest of the region is seen as part of the Bluegrass, or sometimes called the Outer Bluegrass.
  • Southern Lakes — Most of the region has been traditionally considered part of the Pennyrile, with its eastern fringes overlapping with locally defined Eastern Kentucky. It is also increasingly seen today as part of South Central Kentucky.
  • Western Coal Fields — This is the only region that corresponds in both area and naming to local usage.
  • Western Waterlands — The region west of the Tennessee River is universally known as the Jackson Purchase, often shortened to just The Purchase. The rest of the region is considered part of the Pennyrile.
  • In addition, the locally defined Bluegrass is surrounded by a chain of conical hills known as The Knobs, which also run through the state-recognized Kentucky Derby Region.


  • Frankfort - State Capitol
  • Bowling Green - Home of Western Kentucky University and home of the Corvette
  • Cave City - Gateway to Mammoth Cave
  • Covington - South side of Cincinnati
  • Fort Knox - Home of gold and armor
  • Lexington - Horse capital of the World and Home of the University of Kentucky
  • Louisville - The Kentucky Derby City and Home of the University of Louisville
  • Paducah - Quilt City
  • Richmond - Home of Eastern Kentucky University

Other destinations


Get in

By car

Kentucky is accessible by five Interstates:

A sixth interstate, I-69, has segments in Kentucky, but is not currently connected with an interstate-standard highway to any other state. The Kentucky segment starts at Henderson, across the Ohio River from Evansville, taking an indirect southwest course through the state as it follows previously existing parkways (see below). The currently signed route passes by Madisonville and Princeton before ending near Calvert City, and from there I-69 will follow the Purchase Parkway (now signed as "Future I-69") to Fulton.

In addition, the future I-66, not connected to the existing highway of that number in Virginia, is proposed to be routed through the southern half of the state, with much of the route following other Kentucky parkways.

Kentucky is connected to many U.S. Highways:

  • US 27 runs from Covington south to Somerset.
  • US 127, also from Covington, runs through Frankfort, Danville and the Lake Cumberland area.
  • US 150 offers a connection between Louisville and I-75 between Lexington and Tennessee.
  • US 23 (Country Music Highway) connects Ashland with Virginia south of Pikeville.
  • US 60 bisects the state from the Mississippi River to Ashland, passing through Paducah, Henderson, Owensboro and Louisville before following I-64 the rest of its route.
  • US 68 begins just east of Paducah, running as largely an east-west route through Hopkinsville, Bowling Green and Glasgow. A short distance past Glasgow, the road takes a sharp turn to the northeast toward Campbellsville, Harrodsburg, Lexington and Maysville.

By air

There are three large airports in the state. Louisville International Airport is served by several major airlines, including Southwest, Frontier, Delta/Delta Connection, United Express, American Airlines/American Eagle, and Midwest Connect. Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky International Airport, located off of I-275 near Hebron, is a major hub for Delta, and is also served by American Eagle, United Express, Comair, Delta Connection, and USA 3000. Lexington's Blue Grass Field offers direct flights from fourteen cities in the midwestern, southern and eastern parts of the country via American Eagle, US Express, United Express, and Delta Connection. The two smaller commercial airports in Kentucky are Barkley Regional (serving Paducah), served by Delta Connection, and Owensboro-Daviess County Airport, served by Great Lakes Aviation. The Ashland area is served by Tri-State Airport near Huntington, West Virginia. There are many other smaller, general aviation airports throughout the state.

Get around

Kentucky maintains 9 parkways to supplement the Interstate and U.S. Highways. These roads were all built as toll roads but have since become freeways, although the portions of these roads that will become part of the new I-66 and I-69 may become tolled again in the future. Nine roads make up the parkway system:

  • The Audubon Parkway, the shortest road in the system, connects Henderson and Owensboro. It is now signed as a "Future I-69 Spur" and is likely to be eventually numbered as I-369.
  • The Martha Layne Collins Bluegrass Parkway runs from I-65 on the north side of Elizabethtown to Versailles, just west of Lexington.
  • The Louie B. Nunn Cumberland Parkway runs through South Central Kentucky from I-65 east of Bowling Green to Somerset, near the Lake Cumberland resort region. It has been designated as part of the future I-66.
  • The Hal Rogers Parkway (often called "the Rogers"; formerly the Daniel Boone Parkway), mainly a two-lane road with frequent passing lanes for heavy trucks, connects London with Hazard in the eastern third of the state. The future I-66 will parallel this road, although on a mostly new route.
  • The Bert T. Combs Mountain Parkway connects I-64 in Winchester to Salyersville in eastern Kentucky. Note that the eastern half of this road, past Campton, is two lanes. Long-term plans call for the reinstatement of tolls to fund expansion of the eastern section to four lanes, plus an extension of about 15 miles to Prestonsburg.
  • The William H. Natcher Parkway (often called "the Natcher"; formerly the Green River Parkway) connects Owensboro with Bowling Green. The southern half of the highway (Bowling Green to the Western Kentucky Parkway) has also been designated as part of the future I-66.
  • The Edward T. Breathitt Pennyrile Parkway runs from Henderson to Hopkinsville. The section from Henderson to the Western Kentucky Parkway is now signed exclusively as I-69; Pennyrile Parkway signage now exists only on the southern section from the WK to Hopkinsville.
  • The Julian M. Carroll Purchase Parkway runs diagonally through the Jackson Purchase (the region west of the Tennessee River), starting at the Tennessee state line in Fulton and ending at I-24 at Calvert City near Kentucky Lake. It is now signed as "Future I-69".
  • The Wendell Ford Western Kentucky Parkway (also known as "the WK", from its former signs), is unofficially the longest road in the system, though no longer officially so. The western segment from Eddyville to the Pennyrile Parkway is now signed exclusively as I-69; this segment, plus the segment from the Pennyrile to the Natcher, will be part of I-66.

Kentucky also has more than 9000 numbered state routes; most are just a dozen miles long or so. Notable ones for traversing the state include:

  • KY 9, more often known as the AA Highway (from its originally planned route of Ashland to Alexandria), crosses the northeastern tier of the state, starting just north of I-64 in Grayson and running roughly parallel to the Ohio River, though inland, to I-275 (the Cincinnati bypass) in Northern Kentucky. The only town of any real size along the route, apart from some suburbs at the Northern Kentucky end, is Maysville.
  • KY 80 crosses the southern part of the state, linking Mayfield, Hopkinsville, Bowling Green, Somerset, London, Hazard and Pikeville.
  • KY 70 runs west to east across the central part of the state. Begins in Smithland, on the Ohio River, and ends at US 150 near Mount Vernon. The section between Morgantown and Cave City is very scenic and passes through Mammoth Cave National Park.


  • Kentucky Horse Park: Located in Lexington off I-75. The only park of its kind and host of the 2010 World Equestrian Games. 1,200 acres of exhibits, pastures, barns, museums and an art gallery. Open year round.
  • General Motors Bowling Green Assembly Plant: Located in Bowling Green off of I-65 exit 28 at Louisville Rd. and Corvette Dr. Bowling Green is the only production site for the classic American sports car, the Chevrolet Corvette and the two-seat Cadillac XLR. Every Corvette produced since 1982 was manufactured at the Bowling Green plant. The plant offers a 1 hour guided walking tours of portions of the assembly area.
  • National Corvette Museum: Located in Bowling Green off of I-65 exit 28 across from the GM Assembly Plant. The museum houses more than 75 Corvettes including one of the original 1953 Corvettes, the only 1983 Corvette in existence, the millionth Corvette produced and many other rare 'Vettes. Also displayed are photographs, advertisements, television commercials, and Corvette memorabilia.
  • Lost River Cave & Valley: Located in Bowling Green at jct. US 31W and Dishman Ln. The Lost River Cave & Valley offers a 45-minute underground boat and walking tour of a cave discovered by Indians 10,000 years ago. The cave, which is a constant 56 F, was a shelter for Indians, the site of a 19th-century water-powered mill, a campsite used by both sides during the Civil War, a hiding place for the outlaw Jesse James, and a popular 1930s night club. During the summer a butterfly exhibit can be viewed.
  • Crystal Onyx Cave: Located in Cave City, off of I-65 exit 53 then 2 mi. e. on SR 90 to 363 Prewitts Knob Rd. This cave contains rare onyx formations, a lake and cave dwelling wildlife. An Indian burial site dated back to 680 B.C. may also be viewed. Guided 1 hour tours are conducted daily.
  • Mammoth Cave National Park: Located Northeast of Bowling Green, Northwest of Park City, and 10 miles west of Cave City. Mammoth Cave National Park occupies 52,830 acres. Within the park is Mammoth Cave, which is the worlds longest known cave system. It contains 365 miles of underground passages charted on five levels. Guided tours that range from 1.25 to 6 hours and vary in degree of difficulty are conducted daily.
  • Swope's Cars of Yesteryear Museum: Located in Elizabethtown at 1100 N. Dixie Ave. Among the restored vintage automobiles displayed in the museum are such luxury cars from the 1920s and '30s as Packards, Pierce Arrows, Hupmobiles and a 1939 Rolls Royce. Cars on display from later decades include several '60s Chevrolet Impalas, a 1956 Ford Thunderbird, and a 1961 Metropolitan. Also this museum is free.
  • Patton Museum of Cavalry and Armor: Located on Fort Knox army base the museum is named for WWII General George Patton. Displays include German and Japanese war artifacts, an extensive collection of US and foreign tanks and weapons, and mementos of Patton's military career, including his wartime caravan truck and the sedan in which he was fatally injured in 1945.
  • US Bullion Depository: The 100-square-foot, 1937 treasure house is bombproof; its walls and roof are faced with huge granite blocks. At different times the vault has also held one of the copies of the Magna Carta, the US Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. The depository is closed to the public but can be viewed when driving on US 31W.
  • Maker's Mark Distillery: Located in Loretto off of SR 52. The distillery began operations in 1805. The former master distiller's home, built in the 1840s, is now the visitor center and the starting point for the 50 minute guided tour. Highlights of the tour include the still house, the fermenting room, warehouses, and the bottling house.
  • Jim Beam's American Outpost: Located in Clermont about 2 miles east of I-65 on SR 245. A film about the burbon making process is shown in the tourist center, a replica of an old tobacco barn. The historic Beam family home and rackhouses where the bourbon is aged in oak barrels also can be seen.
  • Churchill Downs: Located in Louisville on 700 Central Ave., is the historic racetrack where the Kentucky Derby is run. Racing seasons are late April through early July and late October to November. A 30 minute guided tour is available through the Kentucky Derby Museum.
  • Kentucky Derby Museum: Located adjacent to Gate 1 of Churchill Downs. The museum showcases the Thoroughbred industry and the Kentucky Derby. Two floors of racing artifacts, interactive exhibits, and fine art relate the tradition of Derby Day. Five Derby winners are buried at the museum, and a sixth (2006 winner Barbaro) is buried just outside Gate 1.
  • Louisville Slugger Museum: Located in downtown Louisville on the corner of 8th and Main Sts. The entrance to the museum is distinguished by the 120 foot, 68,000 pound steel baseball bat. Visitors can view collections of baseball memorabilia before moving on to the guided tour of the manufacturing facility where you can see the bats being made.

State Parks

Wherever you travel in Kentucky, you are never far from one of 52 Kentucky State Parks. Each park has its own unique attributes, from shorelines to majestic mountains, from winding caves to enchanting woodlands.

State Resort Parks

Kentucky offers seventeen state resort parks, more than any other state. This wealth of resort parks, each featuring a full-service lodge and dining room, has given rise to our reputation as "the nation's finest state park system."

State Recreation Parks

The Kentucky State Parks operate 22 recreation parks that offer a variety of activities for visitors, whether you have a few hours, a day or a week to spend with us. You can visit these parks and enjoy camping, fishing, golf, boating, hiking, picnicking, tennis, mini-golf, horseback riding, historic sites and much, much more.

  • Big Bone Lick
  • Carr Creek
  • Columbus-Belmont - often called the "Gibraltar of the West" by the Confederates, was considered by them the key to their defense of the upper Mississippi River valley.
  • 1 E.P. Tom Sawyer, 3000 Freys Hill Rd. Louisville, KY 40241, +1 502 429-3280, . A 562-acre oasis on the outskirts of Louisville, the rolling fields that were once farmland are now the site of some of the finest indoor and outdoor recreation facilities in Kentucky. The park is named in honor of Erbon Powers “Tom” Sawyer, a Louisville leader and visionary (and also the father of recently retired ABC News anchor Diane Sawyer).
  • Fish Trap Lake
  • General Burnside Island State Park
  • Grayson Lake
  • Green River Lake
  • John James Audubon
  • Kincaid Lake
  • Kingdom Come
  • Levi Jackson Wilderness Road State Park
  • Lake Malone
  • My Old Kentucky Home - it is believed that Stephen Foster wrote "My Old Kentucky Home" here while visiting in 1852.
  • Nolin Lake
  • Paintsville Lake
  • Taylorsville Lake
  • Yatesville Lake



Kentucky State Parks offer a great variety of species and settings for fishing. Anglers have a choice of largemouth and smallmouth bass, striped bass, trout, bluegill, crappie, catfish and many more kinds of fish at state parks. And for beginners, many parks have fishing equipment to loan to guests.


Kentucky is famed for bluegrass, bourbon, beautiful mountains and thoroughbreds. And, spurred by a renewed focus from the State Park system, golf now is becoming a larger part of Kentucky's recreational reputation. With 19 State Park golf courses, there is sure to be something for everyone.


There are several indoor firing ranges at which arms and ammunition may be rented, along with some time at a firing lane.


There’s plenty of water to go around for a swim at Kentucky State Parks. The parks operate more than two dozen swimming pools and 11 beaches at lakes. And during the winter, there are indoor pools at Lake Cumberland and Lake Barkley resort parks.


More than $2.5 million has been spent in recent years on improvements at campgrounds, which offer 2,600 improved sites. Reservations are now available for the campgrounds. You can enjoy campground activities such as entertainment, arts and crafts, mini golf, cook outs and nature programs.


The state parks oversee 15 marinas that offer pontoon and fishing boat rentals. The marinas also provide a variety of services including fuel, fishing licenses, ice and slip rentals. And many parks have canoes and paddle boats as well.


Kentucky State Parks offer nearly 300 miles of trails suitable for all levels of enjoyment. From the remote 45 miles currently developed on the Pine Mountain Trail to the .5 mile self-guided interpretive trail through the Civil War redoubts at Columbus-Belmont State Park, there is an outdoor experience that will satisfy everyone! Along with the state parks, many hiking opportunities can be found on federal lands located within the state. The Daniel Boone National forest boasts over 600 miles of trails including the 290 mile Sheltowee Trace. The 58 mile North-South Trail is located in the Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area and the Pine Mountain Trail will be integrated into the 1600 mile Great Eastern Trail.


Looking to explore some new surroundings with your favorite equine companion? Visit one of the scenic Kentucky State Parks horse trails and escape for the day. Or, spend the weekend at a “horse campground” for some cowboy time under the stars. You will find several parks are equipped with seasonal riding stables for the whole family to enjoy. Horse back riding is also an option at many private stables, and at the Kentucky Horse Park seasonally.

Stay safe

  • During hunting season, wear brightly-colored clothing if you go into the woods.
  • If you are backpacking, biking or any off-road adventure, register with the Park Office. Make sure you call or visit on the way out. It only makes sense, you may get lost, or break something. Cell phones may not work in these areas.



Kentucky's cuisine is similar to traditional southern cooking, although in some areas of the state it can blend Southern and Midwestern.

Kentucky has invented several dishes; most notably the Kentucky Hot Brown and beer cheese. The Hot Brown was developed at the Brown Hotel in Louisville. The dish is usually layered in this order: toasted bread, turkey, bacon, tomatoes and topped with mornay sauce. Beer cheese is a cheese spread that originated in Central Kentucky near Winchester. While there are conflicting stories on where beer cheese originated, Johnny Allman's, a restaurant on the Kentucky River (present-day site of Hall's on the River) is generally credited with inventing the dip. Colonel Harland Sanders began Kentucky Fried Chicken in Corbin. Today, visitors can see where the restaurant got its start.


  • Ale-8-One, known colloquially as Ale-8, is a regional fruity/ginger-flavored soft drink. It is bottled in the Central Kentucky city of Winchester and distributed only within the state and neighboring portions of Indiana and Ohio.
  • Bourbon, America's native spirit, is produced almost exclusively in the state of Kentucky. Many major distilleries are clustered in Central Kentucky in picturesque settings near a natural source of water.

Alcohol laws in Kentucky are (pun not intended) a mixed bag. As you travel through the state, you can find yourself in a "wet", "dry", or "moist" city or county. A guide to these terms:

  • Wet – This means that an area allows full retail sales of alcoholic beverages, either packaged for off-premises consumption or by the drink (as in bars or restaurants). All cities in the state with a population of 20,000 or more now allow off-premises sales.
  • Dry – An area that does not allow sales of alcoholic beverages at all. Note that some otherwise dry areas do allow for sales at wineries (about 25 around the state), golf courses (also about 25) and certain historic sites (currently one).
  • Moist – This is the most confusing designation, with two different meanings.
    • The state officially uses "moist" strictly to describe otherwise dry counties in which at least one city has approved full retail sales. Examples of "moist" counties in this sense include Warren County, in which Bowling Green is wet, and Hardin County, where three cities, including Elizabethtown, are wet.
    • In popular usage, "moist" more often refers to a location that does not allow package sales but has allowed sales by the drink in larger restaurants. Depending on state and/or local law, establishments with licenses to sell by the drink may or may not have dedicated bars—but all must derive at least 70% of their revenues from food and non-alcoholic drinks.

The laws governing package sales in wet areas also have their own quirks. Supermarkets are allowed to sell beer, but not wine or distilled spirits—at least not in the main grocery section. A supermarket can hold a license to sell wine and spirits, but must do so out of a separate facility with its own entrances, checkout counters, and staffing; if the wine and spirits shop is inside the supermarket, it must be walled off from the grocery section. Supermarkets that have such licenses usually (but not always) place the entrance to the wine and spirits shop either inside the main entrance of the grocery or next door to it. Pharmacies can sell all types of alcoholic beverages if they hold the required licenses, as can dedicated liquor stores.

Go next

Kentucky is bordered by seven other states.

  • Missouri - To the west of Kentucky, Missouri can boast of having St Louis, home of the Gateway Arch and Union Station.
  • Illinois - Located to the northwest of Kentucky, Illinois is also the home of Abraham Lincoln in Springfield.
  • Indiana - Kentucky's northern neighbor, Indiana has several caves to visit and is rich in covered bridges.
  • Ohio - Another northern neighbor, an easy day-trip from Kentucky is the city of Cincinnati, home of Kings Island and the Bengals (NFL) and Reds (MLB).
  • West Virginia - Located east of Kentucky, West Virginia has the New River Gorge Bridge, one of the highest in the eastern US.
  • Virginia - To the east of Kentucky (and south of West Virginia), Virginia has the Blue Ridge Mountains and Shenandoah National Park.
  • Tennessee - Tennessee shares Kentucky's southern border. Here you'll find the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the music city of Nashville and Elvis' home in Memphis.

This region travel guide to Kentucky is an outline and may need more content. It has a template, but there is not enough information present. If there are Cities and Other destinations listed, they may not all be at usable status or there may not be a valid regional structure and a "Get in" section describing all of the typical ways to get here. Please plunge forward and help it grow!