25 Famous Kentucky Landmarks You Must See

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A state capitol building with a dome roof and a green lawn in front, at sunset
Kentucky brims with many diverse landmarks, like the Kentucky State Capitol

Kentucky is a state full of diverse and beautiful natural landscapes and attractions brimming with historical significance. It's no wonder the Bluegrass State pulls in hundreds of thousands of visitors annually, ranging from couples to families and everyone in between.

Due to the vast number of tourist destinations in the state, deciding where to start can be difficult. To help you out, this list of famous Kentucky landmarks highlights 25 must-see attractions. Places to visit range from national parks to national monuments and historic homes. Continue reading to discover all the must-see sites in KY!

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25 Landmarks in Kentucky

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Kentucky Landmarks Map

A map of Kentucky landmarks. Use the map to explore all of the points of interest.

Kentucky Landmarks Map

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A tree and a hut on green grass against mountains covered with autumn trees
Cumberland Gap National Historical Park is a must-see for every nature enthusiast

Cumberland Gap National Historical Park

The Cumberland Gap is a natural break in the Appalachian Mountains that has allowed for the migrations of elk, deer, Indigenous tribes, and explorers over centuries. Cumberland Gap National Historical Park surrounds the iconic natural landmark and sits on the border of Kentucky, Virginia, and Tennessee.

With sprawling and awe-inspiring views, this national park is a must-see for any nature enthusiast! As you explore the park and follow trails, you'll also discover caves and an array of wildlife.

A river flowing under a pedestrian wooden bridge through a forest
Carter Caves State Resort Park has the highest number of caves in Kentucky

Carter Caves State Resort Park

The Carter Caves State Resort Park is a must-visit for adrenaline junkies and nature lovers alike. When in the area, you can take your pick of caves to explore, as the Carter County region has the highest number of caves of any part in Kentucky!

Once you've obtained a rappelling permit, you can enjoy cascading down the sides of these ancient and beautiful natural wonders. You can also hike some scenic trails here and will find charming lodges and cabins to stay in.

A white paddle steamer with red wheels on a river
The Belle of Louisville is a steamboat that was built in 1914

Belle of Louisville

Built in 1914, the Belle of Louisville is the only remaining authentic steamboat from the great American Packet Boat Era, making a voyage with her a trip back in history! This historic landmark offers cruises and special events all year long.

Along with being a historical experience, taking a river cruise on the Belle of Louisville gives you a one-of-a-kind view of the Louisville skyline. If traveling to Kentucky with kids, the Belle of Louisville even offers a children's cruise.

Ohio River

The Ohio River runs along the northern border of Kentucky and separates it from Ohio, Illinois, and Tennessee. The river is more than 900 miles long and begins in Pennsylvania. It ends when it flows into the Mississippi River along the southern border of Illinois.

The river provides the water supply to most towns and cities in northern and central Kentucky. The river also supplies hydropower to many surrounding regions.

Red flowers and shrubs against a giant gray boat-shaped structure
Ark Encounter is home to a replica of Noah's Ark from the Bible

Ark Encounter

One of the most exciting and unique famous places to visit in Kentucky is Ark Encounter. This biblical-themed amusement park features a replica of Noah's Ark from the Book of Genesis.

The ark is notably the largest timber-frame structure in the world, standing at 510 feet long, 51 feet high, and 85 feet wide. Inside the massive ark replica, you'll find three stories of exhibits relating to Noah, his life and family, and the animals on the ark.

A black statue of a horse and jockey in front of a white building
Churchill Downs is a renowned racetrack that hosts the Kentucky Derby

Churchill Downs

Want to spend a day at the most famous landmark in Kentucky? Then head over to Churchill Downs! The iconic horse racing venue hosts various renowned racing events, including the Kentucky Derby.

When attending a race at Churchill Downs, you can enjoy a stroll in manicured gardens and visit the Kentucky Derby Museum before placing your bets. In the sports world, Churchill Downs is considered a world-famous landmark!

One of the most famous Kentucky landmarks is the Lincoln Memorial and Birthplace
The Lincoln Memorial and Birthplace is one of the most famous Kentucky landmarks

Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park

The Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park is one of the most important landmarks of Kentucky. It notably features the first-ever memorial to Lincoln. This beautiful monument is placed within the sprawling farmland of Abraham Lincoln's boyhood home.

Lincoln would, of course, go on to become the 16th President of the United States and guide the country through the Civil War. Inside the memorial, you can find a replica of Lincoln's birth cabin on the exact spot historians believe it sat over 200 years ago.

A small waterfall streaming down from a cliff into a pool with rocks and greenery
Daniel Boone Forest spans 708,000 acres and features waterfalls and scenic trails

Daniel Boone National Forest

Daniel Boone National Forest features a stunning landscape with geological wonders, steep cliffs, and over 600 miles of trails. The 708,000-acre park was established in 1937 and was officially named after explorer Daniel Boone in 1966.

The National Park Service looks after most of the forest and provides clean campgrounds and other amenities for visitors. Whether you want to go birdwatching, hiking, or camping, you can find everything you need within the borders of the national forest.

Natural Bridge State Resort Park

One of the most well-known Kentucky landmarks and tourist attractions is Natural Bridge State Resort Park. The park is home to a sandstone arch that's 65 feet high and 78 feet wide. The park is also home to Devil's Gulch, another renowned natural feature.

Visitors can walk across the arch and enjoy beautiful views of the forest around it. For an even more extensive view of the treetops, ride the Sky Lift to the top of the gorge.

A statue of a horse rider against a building with a "Kentucky Derby Museum" sign
You can learn about the history of Churchill Downs at the Kentucky Derby Museum

Kentucky Derby Museum

As Kentucky's nickname is the Derby State, it's not surprising that there's a museum dedicated to its famous horse race. The Kentucky Derby Museum is located within Churchill Downs, the venue for the iconic horserace.

The museum houses exhibits on the history of the racetrack and the Kentucky Derby itself. You can also book guided tours of Churchill Downs through the museum. A tour and visit to the museum will leave you with a wealth of knowledge on the history of one of the most well-known sporting complexes in America!

A wooden fence winding through green grass surrounded by trees
The Kentucky Horse Park hosts daily horse parades and has equestrian-themed museums

Kentucky Horse Park

The only park of its kind in the world, the Kentucky Horse Park is a working horse farm that also features a collection of museums, a campground, and a horse-showing venue! Visitors can see daily horse parades and exhibitions or book a horseback riding tour.

If you are interested in learning more about horse riding and racing, you'll find a variety of equestrian exhibits in the four on-site museums. You can discover more about the roles horses play in history and see a variety of showjumping and racing memorabilia.

A neoclassical building with a dome roof and green grass and trees in front of it
The Kentucky State Capitol building was built in the early 1900s

Kentucky State Capitol

Located in Frankfort, Kentucky, the Kentucky State Capitol was constructed in 1910 and remains the primary seat of government for the state. This monumental landmark was the fourth capitol building to be built in the city since Kentucky gained statehood in 1792.

The Beaux-Arts style structure features 70 columns and a domed roof covering three floors. Visitors can take tours of the capitol, allowing them to walk the halls of one of the most significant historical landmarks in Kentucky.

A tall red brick building with a giant baseball bat resting on it
Louisville Slugger bats are made by hand at the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory

Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory

A notable sports-themed landmark in Louisville, Kentucky, is the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory. At the museum, you can learn about baseball history and see iconic Louisville Slugger bats being made by hand.

The brand produces some of the best baseball bats in the world, with many Major League Baseball players using their products. A notable feature you have to see at the museum is the Signature Wall, which holds the signatures of every baseball player to use Louisville Slugger bats.

A tall white tower next to a neoclassical building against a partly cloudy sky
Louisville Water Tower Park houses one of the most beautiful water towers in the US

Louisville Water Tower Park

Boasting the title of one of the most beautiful water towers in the nation, Louisville Water Tower Park lives up to the hype. What was once a water company pumping station is now a gorgeous piece of history.

This venue can be rented out for weddings or other special events. You can also tour the on-site WaterWorks Museum to learn about the innovations and advancements the Louisville Water Company has made in the last 100 years.

Mcdowell House Museum, Apothecary and Gardens

The Ephraim McDowell House is one of the more peculiar historic places in Kentucky. While the McDowell House, constructed in 1795, is a classic American beauty full of antiques, there is more than meets the eye.

If walls could talk, these walls could tell countless stories of medical innovations that occurred in the 1800s when the home was Dr. McDowell's residence and office. Notably, the house was the site of the world's first ovariotomy.

Visitors can tour the beautiful home and apothecary. Things to learn about include early medicine in America and the pioneering remedies that led to modern-day American pharmaceuticals. You can end your tour by strolling through the magnificent gardens on the grounds.

The interior of a dark cave with stalagmites on the cave roof
Mammoth Cave National Park has the longest cave system in the US

Mammoth Cave National Park

Mammoth Cave National Park features the longest cave system in the United States. This landmark is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site and International Biosphere Reserve. Those that visit can explore some of the over 400 miles of caves.

You'll also discover trails and lakes for kayaking and boating. Do note that many parts of the park are best experienced after dark. Thanks to the crystal clear night sky and minimal light pollution found here, you can admire a starry night like no other!

Hidden River Cave & American Cave Museum

The Hidden River Cave & American Cave Museum is home to the world's longest underground extension bridge. Those visiting can venture 100 feet below the surface to explore underground rivers and caves with a knowledgeable guide.

You can also see a turn-of-the-century hydropower machine that formerly provided the surrounding towns with electricity and water. After your cave tour, you can visit the American Cave Museum, which houses two floors of exhibits on geology and archeology.

A bronze cutout of a man sitting next to a firepit with a brown shelter behind
You can learn about the ice age at Big Bone Lick State Park

Big Bone Lick State Historic Site

Big Bone Lick State Park got its name from the ice age mammoth bones unearthed within the grounds. When visiting, you can learn more about the ice age and the significant role the park's native sulfur springs played in attracting woolly mammoths.

Due to its rich history, it is easy to see why Big Bone Lick State Park is one of the most famous tourist attractions in Kentucky. If interested in visiting, the park is open year-round and features hiking trails, a museum, campgrounds, and a miniature golf course.

A neoclassical white building with deciduous trees in front of it under a blue sky
The Old State Capitol was the seat of government in Kentucky from 1830 to 1910

Old State Capitol Building

The Old State Capitol Building is located in Frankfort, Kentucky, and was the seat of government for the state from 1830 to 1910. Today, the historic landmark has been preserved and restored to look as the building would have in the 1800s.

Those that visit can stand where politicians grappled with decisions and laws that shaped America's political, economic, and social climates. You can also take a guided tour to discover more about Kentucky history and politics.

A civil war era cannon on green grass
Kentucky's most destructive Civil War battle took place on the Perryville Battlefield

Perryville Battlefield

One of the most historical places in Kentucky relating to the Civil War is the Perryville Battlefield. This 745-acre site saw Kentucky's most destructive and deadly battle of the Civil War, the Battle of Perryville, which took place in October 1862.

Today, the park is a fascinating attraction where visitors can learn more about the battle and its effects on the Civil War as a whole.

You can also walk 19 miles of trails to immerse yourself in the nature surrounding the battlefield. In addition, there's a museum featuring Civil War artifacts and stories from the battle.

Waverly Hills Sanatorium

The Waverly Hills Sanatorium is one of the unusual historical sites in Kentucky. Opened in 1910, it was predominately used as a hospital for tuberculosis patients until it closed in 1961.

Today, it is known as one of the most haunted places in the US. The building was also added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1983.

If you dare to visit the Gothic Revival-style building, you can take a daytime or nighttime paranormal tour. These tours allow you to explore the now abandoned sanatorium and hear ghost stories.

An aerial view of a forest with orange and green treetops
Red River Gorge Geological Area is filled with stunning native plants and wildlife

Red River Gorge Geological Area

Red River Gorge Geological Area is a beautiful forested natural park with an extensive canyon system, sandstone arches and towers, and lookouts with 360-degree views. It is also brimming with wildlife and native plants.

Visitors come year-round to experience this area's beauty. Popular activities here include hiking, camping, birdwatching, and canoeing. Backwood campsites are open to the public for recreational use as well.

A shallow waterfall within a rocky cliff covered with autumn trees
The stunning Cumberland Falls attracts a significant number of visitors every year

Cumberland Falls State Park Resort

Nestled within the Daniel Boone National Forest is Cumberland Falls State Park Resort. This beautiful location is home to the 68-foot-tall Cumberland Falls and 44-foot-tall Eagle Falls.

Cumberland Falls offers a unique waterfall experience as it is one of just a few waterfalls to provide moonbow views during a full moon. Moonbows are beautiful rainbows formed when water sprays hit the moon's light.

With stunning scenery day or night, it is no surprise that this park pulls in a massive crowd of visitors throughout the year!

Zachary Taylor House

Another of the beautiful historic sites in Kentucky is the Zachary Taylor House, which was constructed in 1790. The landmark was the childhood home of Zachary Taylor, an army general and 12th President of the United States.

Today, the Zachary Taylor House is a private residence on the National Register of Historic Places and is not open to the public.

However, you can visit the Zachary Taylor National Cemetery, located about half a mile from the home. Within the cemetery is a mausoleum and memorial for the Taylor family.

A red brick house with a black roof and window shutters on a tree-lined street
The Mary Todd Lincoln House is a 19th-century historic house with 14 bedrooms

Mary Todd Lincoln House

Another notable home in Kentucky to see is the Mary Todd Lincoln House. This house-turned-museum was the childhood home of Mary Todd Lincoln, wife of Abraham Lincoln, and the 16th First Lady of the United States.

Located in Lexington, the 14-bedroom home was constructed in 1803. Mary lived there from 1832 to 1839. Today, the residence is decorated as it would have been in the 1800s. As you explore, you will get an idea of what life was like for an upper-middle-class family in the 19th century.

In Summary

Kentucky has something to offer every type of tourist, from outdoor adventures to unique and unusual attractions and iconic national monuments. No matter what you choose to do and see on your Kentucky vacation, you won't be disappointed!

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Written by Sara Sabharwal

SaraSabharwal FORMER WRITER Sara Sabharwal is a poetess, writer, and avid traveler. Whether she is traveling locally or globally, her ambition is to collect and tell the world's stories one location at a time.

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