While primarily known for its bourbon, Kentucky offers so much more than distillery tours and whiskey tastings. From outdoor adventures to rich art scenes and historical sites, there’s so much to do and see throughout the Bluegrass State. As you begin to map out your fall travels, add these five Kentucky towns to your must-visit list!
Morehead & Rowan County
For a destination that’s a bit off the beaten path, Morehead and Rowan County offers an escape from the hustle of everyday life. Located in the Daniel Boone National Forest and dubbed an official Kentucky Trail Town, this is the perfect getaway for anyone who loves the great outdoors.
Many travelers flock to this area to enjoy Cave Run Lake’s breathtaking scenery and water-related fun. Also called the “Musky Capital of the South,” the 8,270-acre lake is a popular destination for boating, camping, fishing, hiking, and more.
Though the fall weather may be too chilly for swimming, you certainly don’t have to get into the lake to enjoy it! Cave Run Kayaking Adventures provides kayak rentals, while Cave Run Muskies Guide Service offers guided fishing tours that range from half a day to three days. All the required fishing equipment is provided, but participants are also invited to bring their own gear.
SB Tip: If you’re looking to spend a few days in Morehead and Rowan County, Cave Run Muskies Guide Service also offers lodging options.
Fishing enthusiasts will also enjoy a visit to the Minor E. Clark Fish Hatchery. Located near Cave Run Lake, the hatchery is operated by the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. It is one of the biggest warm-water fish hatcheries in the United States. This is a fun and educational way to get up-close views of Cave Run Lake’s different fish species.
If you prefer to stay out of the water, the Cave Run Lake area also offers over 100 miles of multi-purpose trails. Whether you set out on foot, bike, or horse, there are plenty of trails to explore!
If you’re traveling with novice hikers, there are plenty of leisure-focused trails, too. The trek to the summit of Lockegee Rock is a popular option that offers a rewarding view at the end. The Downtown Walking Trail is a great way to explore downtown Morehead, starting at the Morehead Visitors Center and continuing through the downtown area for 2.5 miles.
For a trail guaranteed to be kid-friendly, visit StoryWalk® at Rodburn Hollow Park. Created in partnership with the Rowan County Public Library, travelers are invited to read a story as they stroll through the beautiful park.
The Sheltowee Trace Recreation Trail is another popular choice among hikers. Morehead is the only Kentucky community where the trail travels through downtown Main Street, and the route is marked by painted images of white turtles. As you journey through the trail, keep your eyes open for everything from old homesteads to oil and gas wells and other remnants of Kentucky’s past.
To make the most of your time in Morehead and Rowan County, we recommend spending a few days camping out at Twin Knobs Campground. Offering over 200 campsites, there are endless opportunities for even more hiking, biking, fishing, and boating. After all, what’s more fall than cozying up by a fire with hot cocoa and s’mores after an adventure-filled day?
As the official home of the Corvette, it’s no surprise that Bowling Green is known for fast cars. From automobile-focused attractions to cave adventures and a must-attend fall festival, here are all the reasons why you need to visit Kentucky’s third-largest city!
First things first, no trip to Bowling Green is complete without visiting the National Corvette Museum. In addition to close-up views of over 70 Corvettes, museum-goers can enjoy a meal at the Stingray Grill, experience the thrills of the Corvette Racing Simulator, and pick up a souvenir or two at the Corvette Store.
An experience you can combine with your visit to the National Corvette Museum — or enjoy separately — is a guided tour of the General Motors Assembly Plant. The 90-minute tour gives visitors a behind-the-scenes look at the newest Corvettes as they’re being built, from nuts and bolts to the final product you see on the roads.
If you have adrenaline seekers in your group, block out some time to visit the NCM Motorsports Park. Offering multiple experiences — from go-karting to driving a Corvette around a professional race track — there’s something for travelers of all ages and skill levels to enjoy.
Lost River Cave is another popular Bowling Green attraction. Perfect for adults and children, the underground boat tour tells stories of the cave as a native hunting ground, a Civil War campground, a hiding spot for Jesse James, and even an underground nightclub in the 1930s.
The attraction also offers plenty of above-ground activities. You can walk through the on-site trails, go geocaching, mine for gems, and visit the Charlie Miller Butterfly Habitat.
Just 30 minutes up the road from Lost River Cave, you’ll find Mammoth Cave National Park. In addition to thousands of years of history, the park offers sweeping views of rolling hills, deep river valleys, and the largest known cave system in the world!
If you’re unsure when to visit Bowling Green, we recommend planning your trip around Bourbon & Brewfest. Now in its eighth year, the annual festival is slated for Saturday, October 21. From 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. at Bowling Green Ballpark, attendees are invited to enjoy a wide variety of bourbon tastings from Makers Mark, Woodford Reserve, Buffalo Trace, and more. Local craft brews are also available for tastings, with admission starting at $50.
Another quintessential fall activity is visiting a local apple orchard. Luckily, Bowling Green is home to Jackson’s Orchard & Nursery. The 105-acre farm offers apple picking, a playground for children, pumpkins, and more.
Though it is considered a bit of a “hidden gem,” the Baker Arboretum and Downing Museum is a great attraction to visit year-round — but especially in the fall. The arboretum covers about 115 acres and overlooks Bowling Green and Western Kentucky University, while the museum features a collection of artwork from Joseph Dudley Downing.
If your day of exploring leaves you craving a sweet treat, head to Chaney’s Dairy Barn for award-winning ice cream. Recently visited by Guy Fieri on his television show All-American Road Trip, the ice cream shop offers a free playground for children and barn tours to observe its Jersey cows and robotic milk process.
Located between Louisville and Lexington, ShelbyKY is made up of Shelbyville, Simpsonville, and Shelby County. Offering over 90 horse farms, two distilleries, unique lodging opportunities, and plenty of outdoor fun, there’s so much to do and see in this Kentucky community!
Bourbon lovers will love ShelbyKY for its central location near everyone’s favorite Kentucky distilleries. Kick off your distillery tour with a visit to Jeptha Creed Distillery, the only Kentucky distillery owned and operated by a mother-daughter duo. Joyce and Autumn Nethery are known for using Bloody Butcher corn in Jeptha Creed’s famous bourbon, vodka, and moonshine.
Newer to ShelbyKY’s distillery scene, Bulleit Distilling Co. is known for its focus on sustainability. The distillery operates a retaining pond, so it never uses more water than what’s required, and it recently planted one million trees to offset the wood it uses in its barrels.
If you want to get a head start on your holiday shopping, head to Kentucky’s only designer outlet mall: the Outlet Shoppes of the Bluegrass. Located in Simpsonville, the mall is home to more than 90 well-known brands, including Calvin Klein, Coach, Kate Spade, Restoration Hardware, and more.
Outdoor enthusiasts shouldn’t miss ShelbyKY’s miles of hiking trails. Perfect for the whole family, we recommend visiting The Greenway Trails in Shelbyville, as they provide paved paths along Clear Creek.
For scenic views along with fishing opportunities, head to Lake Shelby Park & Campground. The area includes a 20-acre lake stocked with bluegill, crappie, bass, catfish, and more. Plus, it offers 10 RV campsites and 15 additional tent and primitive campsites. Another great camping site is Guist Creek Marina & Campground, which offers 30 RV campsites and 13 tent sites.
When it comes time for dinner, the Claudia Sanders Dinner House is a staple, as Colonel Harland Sanders of KFC opened it to honor his wife. The restaurant remains open today and serves Colonel Sanders’s original fried chicken recipe.
For a blend of fine dining and authentic Southern hospitality, the Bell House Restaurant is known for its famous Kentucky Hot Brown (smoked turkey covered in signature mornay sauce and topped with bacon and a tomato slice) and Bob’s Burger (black Angus beef topped with onions and cheese).
You’ll likely need a few days to explore all that ShelbyKY offers. Luckily, there are more than 100 vacation rentals and bed and breakfasts throughout the area! For a unique rental option, Bottled in Bond Loft on Main Street has been featured on HGTV. Other notable options along Main Street are the Saddlebred Suites and the Le Coop Loft. For something a bit more off the beaten path, Bourb Inn is a renovated cabin about a 15-minute drive from Buffalo Trace Distillery.
For a bed and breakfast option, Cerulean Farm does not disappoint. The secluded getaway offers a beautiful wrap-around porch and miles of scenic pasture views.
For a Kentucky getaway that includes a bit of everything, pay a visit to Danville. Whether you’re a fan of art, history, or food, there’s something for everyone to enjoy here!
As you start mapping out your visit, make sure to do so around the grand opening of the GLASS National Art Museum on Friday, November 3. Located at the Art Center of the Bluegrass, the museum features three unique exhibits. The main gallery features works by glass artist Stephen Rolfe Powell, while another gallery explores the life of Powell and the history of glass blowing. The third gallery showcases works from the museum’s permanent collection as well as rotating exhibits from regional and national glass artists.
SB Tip: You can view “Time Zippy,” another piece of Stephen Rolfe Powell’s artwork, at the Boyle County Public Library.
Art enthusiasts will also enjoy a trip to the Great American Dollhouse Museum. Unlike traditional museums, this Danville attraction offers an array of exhibits that are connected physically and by the stories they tell. As you stroll through the museum, you’ll journey through America’s social history in miniature, with more than 200 dollhouses, miniature buildings, and room boxes, depicting the country from Native American and Colonial periods to the Old West and the modern era.
Danville is also home to many historical sites. For example, Abraham Lincoln’s grandmother lived in the Forkland area of Boyle County for nearly 30 years, and some of her descendants still reside here. This inspired the opening of the Abraham Lincoln Museum, which includes artifacts and memorabilia from the 16th US president.
For a leisurely fall stroll intertwined with a bit of history, head to Constitution Square. The park includes a statue that represents the official seal of the commonwealth, and visitors are invited to tour the site where Kentucky’s constitution was signed. Guided group tours and self-guided tours are both available.
After immersing yourself in Danville’s art and history, enjoy a delicious dinner at any of its premier restaurants. For lunch or casual dining, you can’t go wrong with options like Drake’s, The Catered Dog, or Giovanni’s Pizza. On the other hand, if you’re looking for fine dining or a date night option, consider visiting The Still at Blue Rook Distillery or La Cosa Nostra.
There are also plenty of new and exciting options popping up in downtown Danville, thanks to its newly renovated outdoor dining spaces. Popular restaurants with patio seating (and delicious food!) include Copper & Oak, Bricks & Brews, and Bluegrass Pizza & Pub.
After dinner, treat yourself to a nightcap, as Danville is also home to plenty of cocktail bars and late-night destinations. For craft cocktails in a unique atmosphere, visit Boogie Knight’s. Craft beer lovers will enjoy a trip to Gypsy Run Brewery or Morley’s Backyard, while bourbon aficionados will swoon over the Wilderness Trail Distillery.
Before heading home, return to downtown Danville to pick up a souvenir or two from any of the charming shops! Popular boutiques include A&L Accessories, Derby Shoppe and Raggs, Bran’s Boutique, and more.
For a Kentucky vacation filled with a bit of everything — from history to outdoor adventures and bourbon tastings — Frankfort is the perfect destination. As the capital of the Bluegrass State, here’s everything you need to know about where to eat, drink, play, and explore!
No trip to Kentucky is complete without a classic bourbon experience. Luckily, Frankfort is home to four iconic distilleries — Buffalo Trace, Castle & Key, Glenns Creek, and Whiskey Thief. In addition to bottles of bourbon, each distillery also offers tours of their facilities and whiskey flights.
To get an inside look at Frankfort’s role in bourbon history, you can also take a 60-minute guided Bourbon and History Tour. Taking place throughout downtown Frankfort, the tour is led by a Colonel E.H. Taylor, Jr. impersonator — who is known as the founding father of the bourbon industry. Reservations are required, and tours run through Friday, October 13. To see tour dates, check out Visit Frankfort’s events page.
Kentucky River Tours also offers a unique bourbon tour, as it’s the nation’s only water-based bourbon history experience! Tours range from one hour to two-and-a-half hours and explore six distilleries located along the river. You will also see the grave of famous explorer Daniel Boone, the Leestown Settlement, wildlife along the shore, and much more.
If you want to immerse yourself in more history, we recommend taking a tour of the Kentucky State Capitol. As one of the most beautiful structures in Frankfort, the neoclassical building offers historical exhibits, views of the legislature’s room, and up-close views of the famous Kentucky Floral Clock.
The Kentucky Historical Society also offers three unique museums — the Kentucky Military History Museum, the Thomas D. Clark Center for Kentucky History, and the Old State Capitol. Each museum explores war history, politically significant events, and buildings from the state’s history.
As the Public Art Capital of Kentucky, you’ll also spot fun sculptures, murals, and art pieces throughout downtown Frankfort. To see and experience the city’s art scene firsthand, take a self-guided walking tour of the historic downtown district. You’ll find QR codes on many of the art pieces so you can learn more about them and the artist behind the work.
Another great place for art lovers — or a great opportunity to get outside — is the Josephine Sculpture Park. The 30-acre nonprofit outdoor art gallery showcases nearly 70 rotating pieces of art, some of which are interactive! You can also make a day of it by packing a picnic basket and enjoying lunch as you take in views of the surrounding plants and wildlife.
If the weather allows, we also recommend exploring any of Frankfort’s beautiful parks. Juniper Hill Park and Golf Course offers an 18-hole golf course, a walking trail, playgrounds, and more.
For hiking and biking trails, visit Cove Spring Park and Nature Preserve, which also offers close-up views of streams and waterfalls. Other popular parks include Leslie Morris Park and Salato Wildlife Education Center.
Enjoy your Kentucky adventures!
This article is sponsored by Morehead-Rowan County Tourism, Visit Bowling Green, KY, ShelbyKY Tourism, and Visit Frankfort. All photography provided.