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12 Top-Rated Weekend Getaways in Kentucky

Written by Anietra Hamper
May 22, 2020

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As you travel through Kentucky, you cannot help but embrace the history and culture that defines it. From the rolling pastures of bluegrass to the revelry that surrounds the Kentucky Derby, there is a peaceful and playful energy throughout the state.

Kentucky lends itself to great excursions, from one of the most impressive cave systems in the world at Mammoth Cave National Park to the family-friendly Newport of the Levee and the scenic and romantic drives near Lexington.

Plan your sightseeing with our list of the top weekend getaways in Kentucky.

Note: Some businesses may be temporarily closed due to recent global health and safety issues.

1. Kentucky Derby Weekend

Kentucky Derby
Kentucky Derby

Planning a weekend trip around the famed Kentucky Derby is one of the best getaways in the state. The Kentucky Derby horse racing takes place at Churchill Downs in Louisville in May. There are so many exciting events that surround Kentucky's premier event that you can fill several days enjoying the pageantry and social scene.

The festivities and events surrounding the Kentucky Derby last for about a month, so even if you do not attend the weekend of the race, you can still enjoy the revelry in the weeks prior. There is usually a paddle-wheeler race on the Ohio River, parades, fireworks, a marathon, and a hot-air balloon display.

It is essential to know that if this is a priority for you, then you will need to book lodging and tickets far in advance and know that everything will cost a premium. Booking a year in advance is not too soon. Of course, if you plan a Kentucky Derby weekend, you cannot forget to pack your derby hat.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Louisville

2. Family Weekend in Newport

Downtown Newport, Kentucky
Downtown Newport, Kentucky

One of the best getaways for families in Kentucky is in the city of Newport. There are so many things to do, especially at the Newport on the Levee complex. Several hotels, like the Hampton Inn & Suites Newport / Cincinnati, are within walking distance of the complex.

You can plan several days to visit the Newport on the Levee on the Ohio River, starting with the world-class Newport Aquarium. It is known for its interactive exhibits, like touching a shark and the Penguin Encounter.

Spend another day on the Newport Express train for a fun tour then head to Rotolo, where you can spend an afternoon or evening bowling in a boutique-style bowling alley or playing bocce ball. Newport on the Levee also has a GameWorks and a movie theater depending on the amount of time you have to fill.

There are always events happening in Newport near the riverfront, so check out the seasonal festivals for the time that you plan your getaway. Newport is just across the bridge from Cincinnati, so it is easy to plan for an additional day taking in a Cincinnati Reds baseball game while you are enjoying your Kentucky weekend.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Newport

3. Louisville Weekend

Louisville Slugger Museum
Louisville Slugger Museum | PEO ACWA / photo modified

While many people know Louisville for Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby, the city has so much more to experience, which is what makes it fun for a weekend getaway. That being said, you should spend one of your mornings at Churchill Downs, where you can watch the thoroughbred horses during their morning workouts. You can also stop by the Kentucky Derby Museum while you are here to learn about the history of the Derby.

Explore some of the arts scene in Louisville at the Louisville Stoneware gallery, which has been a staple in the city for more than 70 years. You can also visit some of the local glass shops, where artisans make one-of-a-kind vases and blown-glass artwork.

Plan an afternoon at the Speed Art Museum, which has artwork that depicts Kentucky's ties to horses. You can even stay in Louisville's 21c Museum Hotel for a fully art-themed weekend.

Bardstown Road is worthy of some of your Louisville itinerary, as it is a fun place to stroll, shop, and taste some of the local fare. Fourth Street Live District is where you will go for nightlife and music. Wrap up your weekend with a performance at Actors Theatre or a baseball game at Slugger Field featuring the Louisville Bats.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Louisville

4. Outdoor Getaway at Red River Gorge

Rock arch in the Daniel Boone National Forest
Rock arch in the Daniel Boone National Forest

Besides thoroughbred horses, Kentucky is known for its stunning natural scenery. That makes it easy to plan an outdoor-focused weekend getaway at Red River Gorge in south-central Kentucky. The Red River Gorge has stunning cliffs, sandstone arches, and unusual geological formations. You can rent a cabin or treehouse for the weekend or stay at the campground.

One day of your getaway should be spent hiking through the Daniel Boone National Forest, which has several million acres. There are 600 miles of hiking trails for all skill levels. There are many lakes and streams that can fill part or all of a day with swimming, kayaking, or even scuba diving.

Another day on your itinerary should include the Gorge Underground, where you explore an underwater lake and cavern by kayak. If you want to up your outdoor adventure quota on the weekend away, the Red River Gorge has some incredible rock climbing areas. Never tried it? No problem - there are local guides you can hire to teach you some of the basics about climbing and safety.

5. Couples Weekend in Lexington

Horse farm on the Bluegrass Country Driving Tour
Horse farm on the Bluegrass Country Driving Tour

Spending a weekend in Lexington is one of the best romantic getaways in Kentucky. Sprawling horse farms surround the area making for a nice drive for a day, especially along the self-guided Bluegrass Country Driving Tour. You can also book a guided tour that will take you past some of the most scenic areas and makes stops at several farms.

Another part of your weekend should be spent in downtown Lexington, where you will find small romantic inns that are a nice break from chain hotels. Victorian Square is where you can spend some time shopping and find some Bluegrass fare to eat at the local restaurants.

Before departing Lexington, you will want to visit the Kentucky Horse Park and the Keeneland race track, one of the most famous horse-racing tracks in the world.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Lexington

6. Cumberland Falls Getaway

Cumberland Falls
Cumberland Falls

A weekend at Cumberland Falls in southeastern Kentucky near Corbin is great for families, couples, and solo travelers. You can stay right on the property at the Cumberland Falls Resort in the state park making it convenient for dining and for heading outdoors for the day.

While Cumberland Falls has 17 miles of hiking trails, this park has a number of other outdoor activities that are not as common for state parks. Since you are in horseback country, Cumberland Falls is a great place to learn how to do horseback riding. There are guided trips that you can take on the trails (even with children as young as six) for a leisurely ride through the forest.

Another day can be for taking a guided rafting trip on the Cumberland River. If you want to try something new on your getaway, you can learn about birding, as Cumberland Falls is a prime location for migrating species.

7. Bowling Green Weekend

National Corvette Museum
National Corvette Museum | Alberto Cabello / photo modified

Many of Kentucky's towns are quiet and laid-back but if you are looking for an energetic weekend away then the scene in Bowling Green is a good fit. It is a college town and an easy weekend trip from Louisville since it is only two hours away. Bowling Green is an especially great getaway for people who enjoy trains and cars.

You will want to visit the Historic RailPark and Train Museum. You can take a historic railcar tour and learn about the passenger trains that were common through Bowling Green in the early 1900s. There is also a museum and gift shop.

Plan part of a day to visit the National Corvette Museum and see displays and models of one of the most iconic sports cars in American history.

The rest of your weekend, you can head to another major Kentucky attraction that is just 30 minutes outside of Bowling Green, the Mammoth Cave National Park. It has the world's longest cave system, with more than 400 miles of natural passageways to explore. You can choose from several tours through the caverns and see rock formations that are several million years old.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Bowling Green

8. Kentucky Fried Chicken Weekend in London

Kentucky fried chicken
Kentucky fried chicken

For a quirky weekend getaway, you can plan a trip to London, Kentucky to celebrate the roots and contributions of Colonel Sanders and Kentucky Fried Chicken. London had the first KFC restaurant in the 1940s before the chain became a staple in countries around the world.

Your best option is to visit during the annual World Chicken Festival, usually held in the fall, which commemorates the town's fried chicken fame with events and, of course, tasty chicken cooked on the world's largest skillet. On non-chicken festival weekends, you can still indulge in this famous London attraction by visiting the Colonel Sanders Museum and café.

More time can be spent at some of the other nearby attractions in London, including the Levi Jackson Wilderness Road State Park and the historic Camp Wildcat Civil War Battlefield.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in London

9. Frankfort Weekend

Downtown Frankfort and the Kentucky River
Downtown Frankfort and the Kentucky River

The Kentucky capital of Frankfort is a nice getaway, especially if you are looking for a mix of the city scene and outdoor activities on the water. Frankfort is located on the Kentucky River, where you can spend a day on the water canoeing or kayaking. You can even book a vacation rental near the water for some of the most scenic views in the city.

You can spend another part of your weekend exploring some of the historic spots, like the capitol building and the grave of American frontiersman Daniel Boone at Frankfort Cemetery. Then, you can take a self-guided walking tour of some of the beautiful historic properties in the area or take a tour of the L&N Depot to learn about Frankfort's railroad history.

Leave ample time in your Frankfort itinerary to visit and tour the Rebecca Ruth Candy Museum, a famous candy maker in the state.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Frankfort

10. Equine Weekend in Georgetown

Horse farm in Georgetown, Kentucky
Horse farm in Georgetown, Kentucky

Georgetown is considered horse country in Kentucky. It is the place to go to see all things related to horses in the state. One of the best places to visit in Georgetown is the Old Friends Thoroughbred Retirement Farm. It is a retirement farm for thoroughbred horses, where you can spend a day getting up close to these amazing animals. On a tour of the facility, you will see horses that have been featured in movies like Seabiscuit and Kentucky Derby winners.

Spend another part of the weekend at the famous Kentucky Horse Park. Part of this working horse farm is located in Georgetown, so it is easy to take part in the daily equine demonstrations and visit the museums on-site. Wrap up your weekend by going to Evans Orchards to pick fresh fruit to take home.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Georgetown

11. An Adventure Weekend in Cave City

Entrance to Mammoth Cave in Mammoth Cave National Park
Entrance to Mammoth Cave in Mammoth Cave National Park

Adventure weekends are fun, and Kentucky lends itself to that with so many great natural features, and there are several in Cave City. You can start with a full day at nearby Mammoth Cave National Park, which is only a few miles from Cave City. After a good night's rest, you can spend another day or two exploring several of the other caves in the area.

Crystal Onyx Cave is a terrific cave system in Cave City, which offers one-hour tours explaining the many crystal and rock formations inside. Onyx Cave is a different attraction, which also has cave tours featuring the underground geology of the area.

If you have extra time to fill or just need some above-ground entertainment, the Dinosaur World attraction is fun - especially for kids, who can take part in a fossil dig.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Cave City

12. History Weekend in Elizabethtown

Creek in Elizabethtown, Kentucky
Creek in Elizabethtown, Kentucky

For a weekend wrapped in history, Elizabethtown is a fun getaway. The Swope's Cars of Yesteryear Museum is a fascinating walk through time. The museum has original cars dating back to the early 1900s. You can plan for a matinee or evening then make your way to the renovated Historic State Theater Complex.

On another day of your weekend, you can explore other interesting historical sites in the area, like the Hardin County Museum, the Lincoln Heritage House, Brown-Pusey House, Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall, and the Cannonball. The downtown area itself is nice to peruse. It has many old buildings and fascinating stories. You can also take a guided walking tour.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Elizabethtown

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