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Welcome to Kentucky

Kentucky is found in the sting of a drink of bourbon or in the thunder of thoroughbred hooves as they race around the track. It is found in the whack of a wooden bat against a leather ball or in the rev of a Corvette engine. In rural eastern Kentucky, the Appalachian Mountains give way to the state’s iconic rolling bluegrass hills. In larger cities, like Louisville, visitors can bask in Southern culture mixed with a big Midwestern welcome.

Small yellow flowers

State Flower: Goldenrod. Getty Images

Bluegrass Cities

Louisville, the commonwealth’s largest city, serves up a smorgasbord of attractions, from Churchill Downs to the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory to the Muhammad Ali Center. Head downtown to explore a hip foodie scene that’s coming into its own. Lexington, meanwhile, just might be Kentucky’s signature city. Known as the “Horse Capital of the World,” Lexington has over 400 horse farms nestled in its scenic bluegrass hills. Beyond the big towns, hop on the Bourbon Trail to taste test your way through Kentucky’s many distilleries. On the western edge of Kentucky, Paducah is a small town with big charm, thanks to the National Quilt Museum and the Riverwalk.

Pioneering Parks

Pioneers heading west entered this region through a natural break in the Appalachian Mountains known as the Cumberland Gap. Sitting on the border of Tennessee, Kentucky and Virginia, the Cumberland Gap National Historical Park preserves the beauty of this gateway to the west. Over 80 miles of trails take hikers through woodlands and to scenic vistas. Nearby, the Cumberland Falls State Resort Park plays host to the occasional “moonbow,” a nighttime phenomenon that appears over the gushing waters of the “Niagara of the South.”

Hikers on a cliff trail

Kentucky Department of Tourism

Paddle, Play and Cast for Catfish

The Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area is a watersports mecca, thanks to the two lakes straddling this peninsula in western Kentucky. Whether you prefer to zip across a massive lake or to paddle a tiny creek, this playground is a top pick. Catfish, bass and bluegill can be caught in the large lakes and small ponds. Lake Cumberland entices anglers to hook some of the nation’s fattest striped bass. Visitors to Mammoth Cave National Park won’t want to overlook the amazing waterway that cuts through the park. Paddlers will enjoy a trip down the Green River, lined with limestone bluffs.