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 facts
50 Kentucky State Facts
Kentucky Fun Facts
- Bill Monroe called Kentucky home
- It's also called the "Bluegrass State"
- Bobby Mackey's Music World is world-famous
- The state may have invented bourbon
- The Daniel Boone National Forest spans 21 counties
- You can't take lizards to church
- The Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory has its birthplace in Kentucky
- You can take an underground tour of Lost River Cave
- Mammoth Cave National Park is a world wonder
- The World Peace Bell holds a world record
- Thomas Edison called Kentucky home
- Kentucky Fried Chicken had humble beginnings
- Kentucky was important in the Civil War
- The Kentucky Derby is one of the most prestigious horse races
- Kentucky used to own the Ohio River
- The "Thunder Over Louisville" kicks off the derby
- Liberty Hall Historic Site archives state history
- Happy Birthday to You was written in Kentucky
- The Mississippi River cuts off part of the state
Interesting Facts About Kentucky
- It's home to Fort Knox
- It borders 7 other states
- Three of its borders are drawn by rivers
- It's the 26th most populated state
- The state was home to three Native American groups
- Only two cities have over 100 thousand residents
- It's actually called the "Commonwealth of Kentucky"
- The state motto is "united we stand, united we fall"
- The state gem is the freshwater pearl
- Middlesboro is built in a crater
- Weird Facts About Kentucky
- Scary Facts About Kentucky
- Historical Facts About Kentucky
- Random Facts About Kentucky
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.
Bill Monroe 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.
It's also called the "Bluegrass State"
After reading that last fact, it's no surprise that the Kentucky state nickname is the "Bluegrass State." However, that's not the only inspiration behind the moniker.
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 is world-famous
When Bobby Mackey's Music World first opened in 1978, the owners likely had no idea that it would one day become famous. In the years since it's become a state institution and a Kentucky symbol.
The establishment is known for being a lively nightclub that plays exclusively country music. It's even a major stop for bands touring the Concord area.
The state may have invented 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.
The Daniel Boone National Forest spans 21 counties
The Daniel Boone National Forest is often underrated despite its size. Spanning 21 counties and over 700 thousand acres, it's home to some of the state's most important natural sites.
The forest is also getting larger every year as more land becomes federally owned and protected. Hikers are even able to regularly encounter the Kentucky state bird, the northern cardinal, while on one of the many trails in the woods.
You can't take lizards to church
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 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 also 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.
You can take an underground tour of Lost River Cave
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 7 miles.
The cave system has been explored and subsequently opened to the public via boat tours. Adventurous travelers can even take a kayak tour of the caves.
Mammoth Cave National Park is a world wonder
Kentucky is home to many things. Did you know it has one of the 7 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 holds a world record
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 22 replicas spread around the world, including a replica in Newport, Kentucky. Weighing over 65 thousand pounds, this replica is the largest swinging bell in the world.
Thomas Edison called Kentucky home
Before he became known as the inventor of the lightbulb, Thomas Edison was a young telegraph operator. This job brought him to Louisville, Kentucky.
It was during this time that Edison first became fascinated with inventing things. In fact, a large portion 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 Fried Chicken had humble beginnings
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 southern family. Little did he know he'd one day become world-famous.
It wasn't until he was 49 that Sanders began making his famous fried chicken. It would take over a decade for KFC to become a franchise. From there, it wouldn't take long for restaurants to pop up around the country.
Kentucky was important in the Civil War
Kentucky may be considered part of the south today, but during the United States Civil War, it was a border state. Since it was neutral, 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 one of the most prestigious horse races
Even if you've never seen a horse race, you've heard of the Kentucky Derby. It's the oldest running race in the world and 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.
Kentucky used to own the Ohio River
The Ohio river might be named after a different state and flows through 6 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, it was named the owner of that river portion.
The "Thunder Over Louisville" kicks off the derby
The Kentucky Derby itself may be 3 days of horse racing, but the festivities begin 3 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.
Liberty Hall Historic Site archives state history
The Liberty Hall Historic Site is one of the most important landmarks in Kentucky. Made up of 2 buildings and 4 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.
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 was written by two sisters, Patty and Mildred Hill. Both these women were from Kentucky, and the song was written for the children Patty taught.
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. There's an entire portion of Kentucky's territory that is completely separated from the rest of the state.
This is called the Kentucky Bend, and it was created in part 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 Fort Knox
Fort Knox has become synonymous with "highly secure" and "difficult to enter or escape." However, few people know where the real fort is located.
The historic Fort Knox is between Elizabethtown and Louisville in Kentucky. 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.
It borders 7 other states
Being in the heart of the Appalachian region, Kentucky is no stranger to borders. It shares land or river lines with 7 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 its 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, 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 completely 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 5 million people living there, it's the 26th most populated state in the country.
While the population in many states has gone up between the 2010 and the 2020 census, that's not the case for Kentucky. The state has seen a small drop in its population in that time!
The state was home to three Native American groups
Native Americans play a huge role in Kentucky's 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 3 most prominent belonged to the Cherokee, the Chickasaw, and the Shawnee cultures. These groups still call the state home today.
Only two cities have over 100 thousand 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 thousand residents.
Louisville is the state's most populous city with nearly 350 thousand people. The next biggest city in Kentucky is Lexington, with just over 325 thousand residents.
It's actually called the "Commonwealth of Kentucky"
The state may be most commonly referred to as 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 3 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, united 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, united 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.
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.
Middlesboro is built in a crater
In Kentucky, you can find a 3-mile-wide crater caused by a meteor 300 years ago. 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. To this day, it's the only town constructed inside a meteor crater.
Weird Facts About Kentucky
The highest temperature on record was 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 is made with cream cheese, cucumbers, onion, hot pepper, and hot sauce. 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.
Traffic lights were invented by a Kentuckian
Anyone who has ever been on the road is very familiar with traffic lights. However, did you know that this life-saving technology was invented by a Kentuckian?
Garrett Morgan of Paris, Kentucky invented the first version of the modern traffic light after seeing an accident. The patent was published in 1923, after which traffic was changed forever.
Post-It notes were invented 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, they were only produced in Kentucky. A scientist for 3M combined his frustration for his page markings falling out and his temporary adhesive to create the sticky notes we know today.
You can only remarry the same person 3 times.
Sometimes it takes a few tries to make things work out in a relationship. However, in Kentucky, you better make sure of the 3rd time try.
According to state law, you can marry (and divorce) the same person a maximum of 3 times. There's no record as to how many times this law has needed to be enforced.
Scary Facts About Kentucky
Waverly Hills Sanatorium 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 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 is 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 with the intent of turning 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 and was, for a time, the only tuberculosis hospital in the country.
Camp Taylor was hit by a flu epidemic
Camp Taylor was a much-needed army training camp located around the Louisville area. The camp took a mere 90 days to construct and was immediately put to use.
In 1918, one of the worst flu pandemics in history hit Kentucky and claimed lives across the state. Camp Taylor was hit particularly hard. So many lives were lost to the flu that the camp is now considered one of the most haunted places in the state.
Drivers hear ghosts in the Nada Tunnel
Nada Tunnel is also known as the Gateway to The Red River Gorge, and it's located along route 77. The tunnel is known for its uniquely natural-seeming structure, but that's not all.
For as long as the tunnel opened in 1910, this 900-foot stretch has inspired some interesting stories. Drivers have claimed to hear ghostly whispers while passing through the tunnel.
Historical Facts About Kentucky
President Abraham Lincoln was born here
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 Larue County, Kentucky in 1809. Lincoln and his family lived in the state until the future president was 5 years old. Then they moved to Indiana.
Louis Jolliet and Hernando de Soto were the first explorers
Every state in the US became territory after explorers and settlers found their way to the area. Louis Jolliet is credited with being the first European explorer in what is now 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 settlement
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. James Harrod constructed Fort 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 original founder.
It was home to the longest siege in the frontier
There are many historical facts on Kentucky, but one of the most important takes place in 1778. Though the Revolutionary War was raging, there were other conflicts around the new country, as well.
The Siege on Boonesborough was the longest siege in Amerian frontier history. The siege lasted 9 days and was led by Shawnee leader Chief Blackfish. At the time, Boonesborough was a new settlement and the siege was an attempt to cause the settlers to leave the land.
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 not only gave the state a say in governmental affairs, it also granted Kentucky independence.
People have lived in Kentucky for 14 thousand years
Kentuckians are proud of their state, but the history of the current Kentucky population is quite short. According to historians, the first people to call modern-day Kentucky likely found their way to the area 14 thousand years ago.
At that time, people were largely nomadic 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. There are over 30 types of goldenrod, all of which grow within Kentucky's borders.
The tulip tree is famous
Kentuckians love nature. So it's no surprise that 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.
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 4144 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 2 hours.
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 special?
Kentucky's soil is particularly fertile and diverse. This allows a large array of crops to grow well. It also means that the soil is full of nutrients that take much longer to deplete when compared to the soil in other areas.
The Kentucky Derby is one of the most profitable sports
The Kentucky Derby may just take up one weekend a year, but it's one of the most profitable annual sporting events. As a horse race, it generates millions in revenue from multiple sources.
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. That not only makes it the biggest sporting event in the state but also a driving force in its overall economy.
How many of these facts did you already know? Were you surprised by any of the entries on this list?
Clearly, Kentucky is a well-rounded and very interesting state with a lot of trivia worth learning. It wouldn't be surprising if reading a few of these facts have made you want to start planning a trip to the Bluegrass State for yourself!
However, don't think you've learned everything about this great American state. These 50 facts barely scratch the surface. There's plenty more to learn. Hopefully, this list has given you some inspiration to do some Kentucky research for yourself!
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