Lexington is Kentucky’s second largest city and arguably the most interesting and authentic city in the state. Just an hour west of Louisville, Kentucky’s largest city, and just half an hour from the state’s capital, Frankfurt, Lexington is ideally located for exploring the rest of the state.
The surrounding area is rich in local culture, and in addition to the big cities nearby, there are many small-town communities to explore, each with its own unique history and attractions for visitors to visit.
Many of America’s best bourbon distilleries are located within a few miles of Lexington, including the world-famous wild turkey brand. Even if you’re not a big drinker, visiting a whisky factory can be a fun cultural experience that helps you understand how the drink fits into local life and history.
Further afield, there are excellent day trips from Lexington to the nearby National Forest, the birthplace of Abraham Lincoln, and across state borders into nearby Ohio, Indiana, West Virginia and Tennessee Chance.
Louisville is the largest city in Kentucky, about 80 miles from Lexington. This makes it an ideal place for a day trip and a great opportunity to visit the many attractions of this bustling metropolis.
The city is built on the beautiful banks of the Ohio River, and in summer you can even take a classic steamboat ride along the water. It’s a historic place, and Louisville has plenty of museums to get you through the day.
Baseball fans can tour the Louisville Baseball Museum and Factory, see the world’s largest baseball bat, and learn more about the city’s longstanding association with this popular American sport.
There are many wineries in the city, including the Barton 1792 brand. If you’re visiting in May, you might be lucky enough to catch the Kentucky Derby, a world-famous horse race held every year in Louisville.
Frankfurt is about 40 miles away, between Louisville and Lexington. It’s a small city, but despite being a fraction of its two much larger neighbors, Frankfurt is the state capital.
One of the oldest settlements in Kentucky, the city is steeped in local history, from pre-European times to modern times as the seat of state government.
From the elegant design of the grand Reichstag to the charming tree-lined streets of the city center, Frankfurt has a mesmerizing sense of grandeur. This is Kentucky in miniature, a day trip from Louisville.
Lawrenceburg is just a half-hour drive away, and this Kentucky town is perfect for a day trip close to the city.
This is a must-see for bourbon lovers or anyone looking to immerse themselves in true Kentucky culture, as Lawrenceburg is home to the famous Wild Turkey Bourbon.
It was one of the first places Europeans settled in the region and has long been at the heart of the state’s history. Walking through the streets of the center will take you back a hundred years, while a visit to the Wild Turkey brewery will take you through the history of one of the most famous drinks in the country.
While other Kentucky cities may claim to be the state’s most historic cities, Danville can sincerely say this is a city that was here when it all started.
It was one of the first European settlements in the region, with origins dating back to 1784. Danville was at the center of local history and politics for many years until it was replaced by Frankfurt, Louisville, and Lexington in the 20th century.
In Danville, you can see the first state capitol, the first state courthouse, and the first state post office. This is a great day trip for those looking to learn more about Kentucky history.
The town of Versailles is named after the famous French palace and city, sure, it’s not as grand or elegant as the famous French towns, but it delights in its own unique way.
Located 15 miles west of downtown Lexington, Versailles is the center of the state’s bourbon and horse country. You can visit the famous local distillery run by the Woodford Reserve Brand, as well as the many local thoroughbred stables that have produced many award winners over the years.
6. Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park
Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park is a preserve that preserves the birthplace of one of the most famous presidents in American history.
This historic park is located at Shen Springs Farm, where Abraham Lincoln was born and lived until he was two years old. Here you can find an interesting museum that brings to life what the farm looked like when Abraham Lincoln was born.
Along the way, you can also visit Knob Creek Farm, which is also protected within the historic park. This is where Abraham Lincoln moved to when he was two years old, and where he spent the next few years of his childhood.
The small community of Corbin, an hour and a half south of Lexington, is a place of pilgrimage for anyone who likes to eat KFC fried chicken.
This is the home of KFC, and can visit the Harland Sanders Cafe and Museum. Dedicated to the history of fried chicken, the museum tells the story of Colonel Sanders and his fast-food empire that took the world by storm.
You can even dine at the on-site KFC restaurant, which has a history of fried chicken.
8. Natural Bridge State Park
Just east of Lexington, Natural Bridge State Park offers visitors great outdoor activities for a day trip.
This wild landscape and forested area is filled with top-notch hiking trails, allowing you to immerse yourself in the beautiful scenery. The highlight is the natural bridge named for the state park.
This massive sandstone bridge was carved out by the forces of nature, leaving a huge void in the rock. The gap is 20 meters wide and more than 20 meters high, which is breathtaking.
9. Honghe Gorge Geological Area
The Red River Canyon Geological Area is located in the same wilderness area as the Natural Bridge east of Lexington.
With some of the most spectacular scenery in the state, this rocky part of Kentucky is an outdoor paradise for adventure seekers.
You can kayak down the river, hike through forests or climb rocky canyon walls.
10. Daniel Boone National Forest
Daniel Boone National Forest is one of the largest protected areas in Kentucky. The forest is named after Daniel Boone, a pioneer who explored much of the state in the 18th century.
With a land area of 8,500 square kilometers, it is vast and beautiful, spanning most of the eastern part of the state.
Lexington and countless hiking trails offer endless opportunities for day trips. You may have to go back again and again to truly appreciate the scale and beauty of this forest.
11. Indiana National Forest
On the other side of the state, about 150 miles west of Lexington, is the smaller but equally beautiful Indiana National Forest.
Covering about 800 square kilometers, there is plenty of hiking in this forest, and the many bike trails make it a favorite destination for mountain bikers.
12. Three-state peaks
Tri-State Peak, located in the Cumberland Gorge National Historical Park, is a peak more than 600 meters above sea level that marks the boundary of the three states.
This is where Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia meet, and a steep 1-mile trail leads from the base to the summit, where you can get unparalleled views of all three states at the same time.
13. Huntington, West Virginia
Huntington is a city in West Virginia. Two hours east of Lexington.
This busy city has a rich history in the area and is well worth a visit to explore its numerous museums and growing culinary scene. There are beautiful wildlife areas to the north, along the meandering banks of the Ohio River, offering visitors a unique experience of West Virginia’s spectacular landscape.
14. Cincinnati, Ohio
Cincinnati waited at the Ohio border, an hour and a half from Lexington. Located on the Ohio River, the city is one of the largest in the state.
Visit the Cincinnati Museum Center to learn more about the history of the area, before exploring the bustling stalls of the local Findlay Market, a favorite for residents and tourists looking for a treat.
15. Indianapolis, Indiana
Indianapolis, the state capital of Indiana, is a long and fun day trip from Lexington.
It’s a big city and there’s a lot to see and do, from the world’s largest highway to the National Museum and government buildings.
Where to Stay: Best Hotels in Lexington, KY (Kentucky)
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