School is out, it’s hot and the kids are probably already bored.
With COVID-19 restrictions eased and many places open and operating at their usual capacity, there seems to be a lot to do and it can get overwhelming. Luckily, we’ve put together the perfect list of summer things to do in Kentucky.
Whether it’s outdoor, food-centric, or kid-friendly (or a combination of the three), we’ve got you covered.
Ready to get out and explore the best that Kentucky has to offer? Here’s our ultimate unofficial Kentucky summer bucket list.
Outdoor (and Underground) Summer Activities in Kentucky
Big Bone Lick State Historic Site: 3380 Beaver Road, Union.
The name of the park comes from the fossils found there, the Pleistocene megafauna (also known as mammoths). Admission to the park, museum and visitor center is free for all visitors. The Big Bone Lick website recommends visiting the buffalo herd, visiting the museum and diorama pit, seeing the salt springs along the Big Bone Creek trail, camping overnight, and of course, taking a keepsake t-shirt.
More information: parks.ky.gov.
Land between the Lakes National Recreation Area: Golden pond.
Located between Kentucky and Tennessee, between Lake Barkley and Lake Kentucky, this National Recreation Area offers an ideal setting for camping, hiking, boating, fishing and more.
You can also visit Lake Barkley and Lake Kentucky on the same trip.
More information: landbetweenthelakes.us.
Louisville Mega Cavern: 1841 Taylor Ave, Louisville.
This old limestone mine is home to an underground aerial ropes course and zipline experience, perfect for an outdoor activity on a rainy day. In addition to the zipline and aerial ropes, the cavern also offers a historic trolley tour and a 90-minute walking tour.
More information: louisvillemegacavern.com.
Mammoth Cave National Park: 1 Visitor Center Parkway, Mammoth Cave.
Need more caves? Mammoth Cave is Kentucky’s only national park and home to the largest known cave system. There are a variety of cave tours, ranger-led programs, and accessible activities.
Visiting space is limited, so reservations are highly recommended.
There are also three campgrounds and over 13 backcountry sites for campers to enjoy a more above-ground experience.
More information: nps.gov/maca.
Red River Gorge: Near Stanon.
The geological area has plenty to see and do, including hiking, camping, canoeing, and wildlife viewing. There is no charge for using the trails, so bonus!
The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources permits hunting and trapping in the gorge. Visitors should therefore take safety measures to protect themselves and their pets during the hunting and trapping season.
More information: www.fs.usda.gov.
Parties and events
Kentucky Highland Renaissance Festival: 955 Elm Street, Eminence.
This year’s festival runs from June 4 to July 17, weekends only from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. The festival is open to all ages and tickets are available now.
More information: kyrenfaire.com.
Kentucky State Fair: Kentucky Exposition Center, 937 Phillips Lane, Louisville.
The State Fair runs August 18-28 this year and is packed with things to see, eat, and do.
More information: kystatefair.org.
Want to do more? :Here are your can’t-miss events in Cincinnati for June and July
Family activities to do
World of Dinosaurs: 711 Mammoth Cave Road, Cave City.
This prehistoric playground has hundreds of life-size dinosaurs and is the perfect afternoon activity for kids. The attraction also includes a dinosaur-themed play area with slides and swings.
More information: dinosaurworld.com/kentucky.
Kentucky Down Under Adventure Zoo: 3700 L and N Turnpike Road, Horse Cave.
The Australian-themed wildlife park allows visitors to roam the “Outback”, where kangaroos and emus roam freely. You can visit the “Truck Country”, where visitors can enter a cage full of birds. There is also gem mining, a petting zoo and educational programs available.
More information: kentuckydownunder.com.
Kentucky Equestrian Park: 4089 Iron Works Parkway, Lexington.
Lexington prides itself on being the horse capital of the world, and Kentucky Horse Park is on a mission to celebrate the relationship between horse and man. The park offers shows, horseback riding, a 260-site campground, and the International Horse Museum.
More information: kyhorsepark.com.
Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory: 800 W. Main St., Louisville.
This museum and factory tour shows the use of Louisville Slugger bats throughout history. Plus, you get your own free souvenir mini bat after completing the factory tour. Advance purchase of tickets is strongly encouraged.
More information: sluggermuseum.com.
Louisville Zoological Gardens: 1100 Trevilian Way, Louisville.
The zoo is open daily and features animals from Africa, Australia, South America, and various islands around the world.
More information: louisvillezoo.org.
River cruise: Queen City Riverboat, Belle of Louisville.
To experience Kentucky by river, there are a number of riverboat cruises available at all price points, including trips on the Queen City riverboats in Cincinnati and the iconic Belle of Louisville in Louisville.
Minor League Baseball: Including the Florence Y’alls, Lexington Legends, Wild Health Genomes, Louisville Bats and Bowling Green Hot Rods.
There’s no major league baseball team in Kentucky, but the minor league teams offer more than just a good time, with cheaper tickets and hilarious mascots to enhance the experience.