50 Interesting & Fun Facts About Kentucky State to Discover
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When you think about Kentucky, what comes to mind? Kentucky isn't an underrated state, as some might think. However, when it comes to thinking about interesting and fun facts about Kentucky state, people sometimes have trouble.
For example, can you name the famous president who was born here? He's often considered one of the best presidents in US history! Or, can you name which Kentucky landmark is one of the "seven wonders of the world?"
Whether you've never been to the state or you've lived here your whole life, there's probably a lot about Kentucky you don't know. So, why not learn a little Kentucky trivia with this list? Below, you will find 50 facts about Kentucky that you might find surprising!
50 Kentucky State Facts
Kentucky Fun Facts
- Bill Monroe called Kentucky home
- Kentucky is called the "Bluegrass State"
- Bobby Mackey's Music World in Wilder, KY, is haunted
- The state is a large producer of bourbon
- You can't take lizards to church in Kentucky
- The Daniel Boone National Forest spans 21 counties
- You can take an underground tour of the Lost River Cave in Bowling Green, KY
- The Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory has its birthplace in Kentucky
- Mammoth Cave National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site
- The World Peace Bell in Newport, KY, weighs 66,000 pounds
- Kentucky Fried Chicken's beginnings go back to Corbin, Kentucky
- Thomas Edison called Kentucky home
- Kentucky was neutral for much of the Civil War
- The Kentucky Derby is the oldest continuously-running sports event in the US
- President Abraham Lincoln was born in Kentucky
- The "Thunder Over Louisville" kicks off the derby
- Kentucky used to own the Ohio River
- The melody for Happy Birthday to You was written in Kentucky
- Liberty Hall Historic Site archives the state's history
- The Mississippi River cuts off part of the state
Interesting Facts About Kentucky
- It's home to the "highly secure" Fort Knox
- Kentucky borders seven other states
- Three of Kentucky's borders are drawn by rivers
- It's the 26th most-populated state
- The state was home to various Native American groups
- Only two cities in the state have over 100,000 residents
- It's actually called the "Commonwealth of Kentucky"
- The state motto is "United We Stand, Divided We Fall"
- Middlesboro in Kentucky is built in a crater
- The state gem is the freshwater pearl
- Weird Facts About Kentucky
- Scary Facts About Kentucky
- Historical Facts About Kentucky
- Random Facts About Kentucky
Kentucky Facts Video
Check out our highlights video of Kentucky facts.
Kentucky Fun Facts
Bill Monroe called Kentucky home
No list of fun Kentucky facts would be complete without mentioning Bill Monroe. Though you might not be familiar with the name, you're familiar with his contributions to music.
Monroe was born in Kentucky in 1911 and is the father of the bluegrass music genre. His band, Blue Grass Boys, was the first to create the interesting folk-country sound that makes up this type of music.
Kentucky is called the "Bluegrass State"
Bluegrass is a type of grass that grows in pastures and lawns across Kentucky. This plant can grow all over the country, but it was initially only found in this state.
Bobby Mackey's Music World in Wilder, KY, is haunted
When Bobby Mackey's Music World first opened in 1978, the owners likely had no idea that it would one day become famous. It's become a state institution and a Kentucky symbol in the years since.
Notably, Bobby Mackey's Music World is said to be haunted, and paranormal tours are offered. In fact, the venue states that it's "The most haunted nightclub in America."
The state is a large producer of bourbon
While whiskey may have been invented in Scotland, its bourbon variation has more American roots. It's unknown for sure who invented the drink first, but many attribute it to Elijah Craig from Kentucky.
Today, most bourbon sold is made in Kentucky. The state's limestone acts as a filter to give it its particular taste. It became so distinct that the liquor was even named after Bourbon County, Kentucky.
You can't take lizards to church in Kentucky
People love their pets, whether they have fur, feathers, or scales. However, while some churches may welcome animals as long as they're well-behaved, that isn't always the case in Kentucky.
It's against state law to bring reptiles to church services in the state. If you break this rule, you don't have to worry about going to jail. You'll just be fined and probably scolded!
The Daniel Boone National Forest spans 21 counties
Daniel Boone National Forest is often underrated despite its size. Spanning 21 counties and over 700 thousand acres of federally owned land, it's home to some of the state's most important natural sites. The area also features around 600 miles of trails! While hiking, you may even spot the Kentucky state bird, the Northern cardinal.
You can take an underground tour of the Lost River Cave in Bowling Green, KY
When walking around in Bowling Green, Kentucky, you may not realize that there might be people taking a boat tour beneath your feet. The Lost River Cave is an underground cave system that spans seven miles. The cave system has been explored and subsequently opened to the public, allowing you to take an underground boat tour of Lost River Cave.
The Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory has its birthplace in Kentucky
The Louisville Slugger baseball bat has become practically synonymous with the sport. As it's also America's pastime, it's no surprise that the original Louisville factory has been converted into a museum.
Bats are still made at the site, so you get a behind-the-scenes look at how the most famous baseball bats in the world are made. As of writing this, you even get a personalized bat at the end of the tour.
Mammoth Cave National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site
Kentucky is home to many things. Did you know it has one of the seven natural wonders of the world? Mammoth Cave in the Mammoth Cave National Park is that wonder.
Since 1969, Mammoth Cave has been declared the longest cave system in the world. This same title has caused it to be listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO since 1981.
The World Peace Bell in Newport, KY, weighs 66,000 pounds
The World Peace Bell Association is a Japanese organization aiming to spread world peace. They're known by their symbol, a bell. The original bell is in Japan, with over 20 replicas spread around the world, including a replica in Newport, Kentucky. Weighing 66 thousand pounds and having a diameter of 12 feet, it's a unique site to see.
Kentucky Fried Chicken's beginnings go back to Corbin, Kentucky
One of the interesting things about Kentucky has to do with one of the state's most famous exports. Harland Sanders was born to a working-class family in Indiana. Little did he know he'd one day become world-famous.
It wasn't until he was 40 that Sanders began selling fried chicken in Corbin, Kentucky. Nine years later, he perfected the KFC recipe still used today. However, it would take over a decade for KFC to become a franchise, with the first opening in 1952.
Thomas Edison called Kentucky home
Before he became known as the inventor of the lightbulb, Thomas Edison was a young telegraph operator. This job resulted in Thomas Edison living in historic Butchertown in Louisville, Kentucky.
It was during this time that Edison first became fascinated with inventing things. In fact, much of his initial career was spent improving telegraph technology. It's possible none of that would have happened had he not lived in Kentucky.
Kentucky was neutral for much of the Civil War
Kentucky may be considered part of the South today, but it was a border state during the United States Civil War. Since Kentucky was neutral at the start of the Civil War, both the Confederacy and the Union worked to gain control of the territory during the war.
Kentuckians fought on both sides of the war initially. However, as the battles raged on, the state eventually petitioned to officially join the Union.
The Kentucky Derby is the oldest continuously-running sports event in the US
Even if you've never seen a horse race, you've heard of the Kentucky Derby. It's the US' longest-running sporting event, having begun in 1875, and is also one of the most prestigious. Due to its notoriety, visitors worldwide flock to Kentucky during Derby Weekend.
The state takes so much pride in the derby that the thoroughbred horse was named a Kentucky state animal; the state declared in 1996 that the thoroughbred would be the Kentucky state horse.
President Abraham Lincoln was born in Kentucky
One of the most interesting Kentucky history facts has to do with one of the most famous US presidents, Abraham Lincoln. While Illinois might be the "Land of Lincoln," it's not where he was originally from.
Abraham Lincoln was born in Kentucky in 1809. Lincoln and his family later moved to Indiana, and the future president himself moved to Illinois.
The "Thunder Over Louisville" kicks off the derby
The Kentucky Derby itself maybe three days of horse racing, but the festivities begin three weeks before the horses hit the track. To kick off the event, there's an explosive fireworks display called the "Thunder Over Louisville."
As one of the largest firework displays in the country, it can be seen lighting up the sky for miles around. Over the years, it's become so popular that races, concerts, and other events have started taking place around the day of the display.
Kentucky used to own the Ohio River
The Ohio River might be named after a different state and flows through six states, but its ownership might surprise you. Rather than being owned by the state that shares its name, Kentucky was initially the river's owner.
In the late 1700s, the government determined who had a claim to the river. Part of the river's flow was given to West Virginia. Since the river helps create a border between Kentucky and other states, Kentucky was named the owner of that river portion.
The melody for Happy Birthday to You was written in Kentucky
One of the little-known interesting facts of Kentucky has to do with one of the most famous songs in the world. Not a day goes by that "Happy Birthday to You" isn't sung, and it's been translated into languages around the world.
The song may feel like it's been around forever, but it's related to two sisters, Patty and Mildred Hill. The sisters from Kentucky wrote the melody for a song for school children called "Good Morning to All" in the 1890s. An unknown songwriter released Happy Birthday to You in the 1910s using the melody that the sisters wrote, although they were not initially credited.
Liberty Hall Historic Site archives the state's history
The Liberty Hall Historic Site is one of the most important landmarks in Kentucky. Made up of two buildings and four acres of land, the site was once the home of a prominent family in the state.
Today, the historic site is a well-preserved museum. Visitors can get a glimpse at what life was like in the state over a century ago. The Liberty Hall Historic Site has state history collections from the 18th century through the 20th century.
The Mississippi River cuts off part of the state
When you look at a map, you'll notice the state of Kentucky's shape isn't what you'd expect. An entire portion of Kentucky's territory is completely separated from the rest of the state.
This is called the Kentucky Bend, which was created partly by the Mississippi. However, that's a simplified version of the story. In reality, a combination of earthquakes shifting the landscape, surveyors creating inaccurate representations of the state, and the Mississippi's flow all play a role in the Bend's creation.
Interesting Facts About Kentucky
It's home to the "highly secure" Fort Knox
Fort Knox has become synonymous with "highly secure" and "difficult to enter or escape." Since the fort was used to store much of the country's gold, security was a top priority. It's also been the main center for US military training and strategies.
Interestingly, Fort Knox is located in Kentucky. It covers three counties, Hardin, Mead, and Bullitt counties, and is situated between Louisville and Elizabethtown.
Kentucky borders seven other states
Being in the heart of the Appalachian region, Kentucky is no stranger to borders. It shares land or river lines with seven other US states.
Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia, Tennessee, Missouri, and Illinois are all considered Kentucky's neighbors. While some of these states share landlines, others need bridges to connect them, thanks to rivers like the Mississippi.
Three of Kentucky's borders are drawn by rivers
Though Kentucky is completely bordered by other states, not all of these borders are on land. Some of them were drawn by pre-existing waterways.
The Mississippi River, the Ohio River, the Tug Fork, and the Big Sandy River each run along the state's borders. These rivers cover over 400 miles of land. In fact, except for its southern border, Kentucky's territory is entirely determined by the rivers surrounding the state.
It's the 26th most-populated state
Kentucky is a famous state, but it's not a very crowded one. With under five million people living there, it's the 26th most-populated state in the country.
The state was home to various Native American groups
Native Americans play a huge role in Kentucky facts and history. There are artifacts showing people living in the territory that date back thousands of years.
Over the years, many different tribes have called Kentucky's territory home. However, the most prominent belonged to the Cherokee, the Chickasaw, the Osage, and the Shawnee cultures. Some Native American groups still call the state home today.
Only two cities in the state have over 100,000 residents
When you consider Kentucky's statewide population, it's not surprising that it's mostly made up of small cities and smaller towns. Only two Kentucky cities have over 100,000 residents.
Louisville is the state's most populous city, with a little over 630,00 people. The next biggest city in Kentucky is Lexington, with approximately 320,000 residents.
It's actually called the "Commonwealth of Kentucky"
The state may be most commonly called Kentucky, but that's not the state's official name. According to federal documentation, the state is officially named the "Commonwealth of Kentucky."
Kentucky and three other states refer to themselves as commonwealths. Though there's no difference between a commonwealth and a state, it helps further separate the state government from the old monarchy ruling.
The state motto is "United We Stand, Divided We Fall"
If you ever look at the Kentucky state seal or the Kentucky state flag, you'll likely see the words "United We Stand, Divided We Fall". That phrase has been adopted as the official Kentucky state motto since the 1940s.
The phrase comes from a 1768 song and, in part, is thought to signify the state's stance during the Civil War. Since the state was initially neutral, taking a stance for the Union was a great show of support on Kentucky's part.
Middlesboro in Kentucky is built in a crater
Kentucky experienced a meteor hit 300 years ago, which created a three-mile-wide crater. If you have trouble finding it, no one could blame you. Rather than just finding an indent in the earth, you'll actually find the town of Middlesboro, which is built within the crater impact area.
The state gem is the freshwater pearl
If you're curious about some of Kentucky's official state symbols, you'll be interested to learn that the state gem is the freshwater pearl. The state shares this symbol with Tennessee.
Historically, the Mississippi River has been a great place to find freshwater pearls. Since the state is on the "Mighty Mississippi's" path, the pearl became a symbol for Kentucky in 1986.
Weird Facts About Kentucky
The highest temperature on record was in Kentucky at 114°F
If you're looking for Kentucky information to impress your friends, then you should share that the highest temperature recorded in the state was 114°F. That temperature was recorded in 1930, and it hasn't been that hot since.
Though Kentucky might be in the south, that doesn't mean the temperatures rise that much. Summer temperatures typically stay below 100 F statewide.
Benedictine is a state specialty
Tea and sandwiches are a Kentucky tradition for relaxing spring and summer days. However, no sandwich would be complete without benedictine spread.
This sandwich spread or cracker dip features cream cheese, cucumbers or cucumber juice, onion, and cayenne pepper. The flavor combination may seem interesting to out-of-towners, but it's a state specialty and can be found on restaurant menus around Kentucky. It was created by Jennie Carter Benedict in Louisville around the beginning of the 20th century.
Three-way traffic lights were invented by a Kentuckian
Anyone who has ever been on the road is very familiar with traffic lights featuring red, amber, and green. However, did you know that the amber signal was invented by a Kentuckian? Garrett Morgan, born in Paris, Kentucky, invented the first version of the modern three-way traffic light in 1923 after seeing an accident.
Post-It Notes were once only made in Kentucky
Post-It Notes are a staple item in offices around the world. You can thank Kentucky for these little notepads.
Now, Post-Its are made in multiple factories, but at one time, Post-It Notes were only produced in Kentucky at a plant in Cynthiana. A scientist for 3M combined his frustration with his page markings falling out and his temporary adhesive to create the sticky notes we know today.
You can only remarry the same person three times in the state
Sometimes, it takes a few tries to make things work out in a relationship. However, in Kentucky, you better make sure the third time works out!
According to state law, you can marry (and divorce) the same person a maximum of three times, making a fourth wedding off limits. There's no record of how many times this law has needed to be enforced.
Scary Facts About Kentucky
Waverly Hills Sanatorium in Kentucky was opened for tuberculosis
Tuberculosis may be practically unheard of now, but it was once a global problem that lasted decades. It was a highly contagious illness that easily spread from coughing and sneezing.
Since it was so easy to infect others, tuberculosis patients needed their own hospitals. In Kentucky, the Waverly Hills Sanatorium was constructed to serve that purpose. It opened in 1926 and remained in operation for tuberculosis patients until 1961.
Sleepy Hollow Road in Oldham County, KY, is thought to be haunted
If you're looking for scary or fun facts of Kentucky, here's one you'll love. Sleepy Hollow Road in Oldham County is considered a paranormal hotspot.
Also called the most haunted road in Kentucky, people have claimed to see spooky shadows and figures around the sides of the road for years. While most sightings happen at night, there are stories of daytime ghostly encounters.
Mammoth Cave used to be an experimental hospital
Today, Mammoth Cave is just known as a natural marvel, but that wasn't always the case. In 1839, Doctor John Croghan purchased the cave system to turn it into a health and wellness center.
Instead, with tuberculosis rearing its ugly head in the country, he turned the caves into a literal underground hospital. He treated patients of the disease with experimental procedures. The hospital was, for a time, the only tuberculosis hospital in the country.
Camp Taylor in Louisville, KY, was hit by a flu epidemic
Camp Taylor was a much-needed army training camp located around the Louisville area. In 1918, one of the worst flu pandemics hit Kentucky and claimed lives across the state.
Camp Taylor was hit particularly hard by the flu. So many lives were lost that the camp is now considered one of the most haunted places in the state.
There may be a ghost in Nada Tunnel in Powell County, KY
Nada Tunnel, which opened in 1910, is located along Route 77 in Kentucky. The tunnel is known for its uniquely natural-seeming structure, but that's not all. There's a local legend that a ghost haunts the tunnel. This spirit is said to be of a construction worker who died while building Nada Tunnel.
Historical Facts About Kentucky
Hernando de Soto is thought to have been the first European in Kentucky
Every state in the US became territory after explorers and settlers found their way to the area. Most information suggests that Hernando de Soto was the first explorer to reach Kentucky and make contact with the native peoples in present-day Kentucky.
Louis Jolliet and Jacques Marquette are also noted as some of the first Europeans in Kentucky. Jolliet was known for his explorations around North America and was the first to explore Kentucky in depth. Unfortunately, his canoe capsized during his expedition, and much of his research was lost.
Fort Harrod was the first permanent colonial settlement in Kentucky
Though explorers made their way through Kentucky's territory in the 1500s and 1600s, the first settlement in the future state wouldn't exist until 1774.
The first permanent colonial settlement was Fort Harrod, constructed by James Harrod. Other settlements soon followed. Today, Harrodsburg sits on the site of the original Fort Harrod. Though the name was slightly changed, the town still commemorates its founder.
The Siege of Boonesborough lasted 11 days
There are many historical facts on Kentucky, but one of the most important occurred in 1778. Though the Revolutionary War was raging, there were other conflicts around the new country, as well.
The Siege of Boonesborough is a notable one that lasted 11 days, beginning on September 7, 1778, and ending on September 18, 1778. At the time, Boonesborough was a new settlement, and the siege was an attempt to cause the settlers to leave the land. Some say this was the longest siege in Kentucky frontier history.
It was the 15th state in the Union
Kentucky may not have been one of the original 13 colonies, but it was still one of the first states in the Union. On June 1, 1792, Kentucky became the 15th state to become part of the new country.
Initially, Kentucky was considered a Virginia territory. Gaining admission into the USA gave the state a say in governmental affairs and granted Kentucky independence.
People have lived in Kentucky for 14,000 years
Kentuckians are proud of their state, but the history of the current Kentucky population is relatively short. Historians say the first people to live on the land, modern-day Kentucky, likely arrived 14,000 years ago.
People were largely nomadic then and followed animals to support their hunter/gatherer lifestyles. However, it's likely that some of these people stayed around the Kentucky area and eventually evolved into Native American tribes.
Random Facts About Kentucky
The state flower is the goldenrod
If you find yourself in the Bluegrass State, make sure to keep an eye out for the goldenrod. This yellow plant is the official Kentucky state flower. The goldenrod has been the state flower since 1926 due to its widespread growth in the territory.
Black Mountain is the state's highest point
As part of the Appalachians, Kentucky has many mountains and hills. Its highest point is Black Mountain, which reaches 4,145 feet above sea level.
The mountain can be found in Harlan County and is near the state's border with Virginia. Despite its impressive height, most hikers can reach the mountain's peak in about two hours.
The state tree of Kentucky is the tulip tree
Another of the Kentucky facts about the state is that its residents love nature. So it's no surprise they nominated the tulip poplar as the official Kentucky state tree as it grows throughout the state.
The tulip tree differentiates itself from other trees in a few of its characteristics. Its leaves grow yellow and turn green as the seasons change, which is the opposite of typical tree cycles.
The Kentucky Derby is one of the most profitable sports events
The Kentucky Derby may take up one weekend yearly, but it's one of the most profitable annual sporting events. As a horse race, it generates millions in revenue from multiple sources. It's hosted in Louisville, and the event is so popular and well-known that the Louisville nickname of Derby City was created.
Bets, increased tourism, and the economics that come along with buying and selling prized horses all work together to bring the state $400 million on average in revenue. That not only makes it the biggest sporting event in the state but also a driving force in its overall economy.
It's the most fertile state for agriculture
If you want to learn one of many weird Kentucky facts, remember that the state is one of the most productive for agriculture in the United States. The US is full of farmland, so what makes KY so unique?
Kentucky's soil is particularly fertile and diverse. This allows an extensive array of crops to grow well. It also means that the ground is full of nutrients that take much longer to deplete when compared to the soil in other areas.
How many of these facts did you already know? Were you surprised by any of them? Clearly, Kentucky is a well-rounded and very interesting state with a lot of trivia worth knowing. It wouldn't be surprising if you now start planning a trip to the Bluegrass State after reading a few of these facts!
However, don't think you've learned everything there is to know about this great American state just yet. These 50 facts barely scratched the surface. There's plenty more to learn. Hopefully, this list has inspired you to do some research on Kentucky for yourself!
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