Living in Kentucky my whole life I know a thing or two about how to enjoy your time here. However, I realized I don’t know everything at all. When researching for activities, it made me realize how much living here blinded me to the fun things Kentucky provides for its visitors. Whenever Kentucky gets brought up or I hear people talking about it, I know it probably includes bourbon, horses and basketball. This list will incorporate a few things that consist of horses and drinking, but you will also find more to do with your time while you visit this state.
Buckle in to read my list of 24 things you and your family can do within 24 hours in Kentucky.
6 A.M: Red River Gorge
Begin your early morning by taking a beautiful hike at Red River Gorge. Between the ten hikes that you can choose from, you could spend your entire morning here. This Gorge includes beautiful views of Kentucky’s lush green forests, and it will blow your mind at how amazing it looks. Not only can you hike but you can also zip line after to get back to ground level and continue your day.
“I love going to the Gorge with my friends. It’s such a beautiful place to go when you need to let off some steam,” University of Kentucky junior Anette Henson said.
Red River Gorge also allows for camping, but if you don’t really care to camp, you can always glamp in one of their beautiful treehouses or cabins. That way you get comfort and your taste of the wild at the same time. You also get your choice of easy, advanced or hard trails here at the Gorge for your hikes. Endless opportunities, a perfect way to start any morning.
7 A.M.: Mammoth Cave
The next place to continue your beautiful morning should entail a visit to one of the world’s largest and oldest caves. Mammoth Cave offers a multitude of different types of tours for all types of visitors. If you and your family love history and want to know just that, they offer that option. But if you want some adventure and thrill, you can choose to endure those smaller crawl-space walks to experience cooler things within the cave-like seeing more than 130 wildlife species that inhabit the cave system.
“This cave is so freaking cool. My dad wanted to take my family and I was kind of against it at first because it didn’t seem interesting. I was very much proven wrong; I enjoyed every bit of it,” University of Kentucky sophomore Rico Mendez said.
The cave also doubles as a park. Take a break and enjoy the morning breeze and the fact that rich history surrounds you. Since the war of 1812, Daniel Boone and his people used this cave for their own advantages. In 1924, the Mammoth Cave National Park Association formed and began trying to make this cave a national park. So much happened in American history while this cave naturally formed into this gorgeous wonder, what more do I need to say to convince you to come see this for yourself.
8 A.M.: The Arboretum
After a few hours of walking, you probably want to take a little break. Maybe you want to indulge in a picnic, bask in the early morning sun or take a slow walk to talk about the amazing things you witnessed that morning. Either way, the Arboretum consists of a beautiful walking path and bike trail. When walking the trail, you will notice beautiful botanical gardens filled with different flowers and plants. You won’t regret spending any time here.
“This is right next to the University and it’s the perfect place to study, have a picnic or to just take a walk with a friend and spend some time outdoors. I go here more often than I thought I would,” University of Kentucky senior Regina Ann said.
Invite a friend here to enjoy this beautiful walk with you. Their hours work for everyone since they close later in the evening. If you walk around long enough, you’ll find yourself getting lost within the trail but also the cool statues. So, you get something else to look at to keep your walk interesting and the conversation going.
9 A.M: Ark Encounter
Even if you and religion don’t get along, you should still plan a visit to this place. The history behind this place takes you through Noah’s story in the bible. If you don’t know, basically Noah and his family spent months preparing for this huge storm that planned on hitting earth and swallowing the land and all the animals and humans on it. They built this huge encompassing boat to save the animals on earth. They built this Ark Encounter as a real live replica of the boat, talk about ginormous.
“I grew up very religious and learned that my beliefs are different from my family’s, but we visited this place, and I was floored. Honestly, it was fascinating to relearn and see all the stories told in a modern, visually pleasing way. It made me appreciate this story and religion in a completely different way,” University of Kentucky sophomore Michael Larson said.
The replica stands 510 feet long, 85 feet wide and 51 feet high and it also includes a petting zoo. Religions got nothing to do with it, experience it in all its beauty. The ark took three years to build and opened in 2016. Since then, this experience gets up to a million visitors a year. Come experience the Ark Encounter and see why they get that many visitors.
10 A.M.: Kentucky Horse Park
Finally, horses! At this point of the day, you can now go to the beautiful horse park and enjoy all that they offer. You can start off with a history tour of the horse park and learn how they started. Within the 60,000 square feet of exhibitions, they showcase the history of the companionship between humans and horses. You can also enjoy a live show that they allow the horses to put on if you go during summer, fall and spring.
“I love horses, growing up in Kentucky it’s in my nature. I have shown my friends who come from out of state how beautiful this park is and we’ve had so much fun every time we go,” University of Kentucky freshman Trisha Mark said.
If you wanted some more time to kill, on their grounds you can find a pool, tennis courts, bike trails, etc. You won’t need to leave to get food either, the park includes a café and a gift shop. The best part about this park? They allow animals on leashes. Your pets can’t go everywhere like within the museum, but they can go far enough. Stop by the horse park a bit because you might even get to ride one.
11 A.M: Old Friends Thoroughbred Retirement Farms
Yes, I am including another horse farm, but this farm only includes the horses that ran the course of their racing career. Now they get to enjoy some relaxation while their stories get told. While you visit here, you can listen to their stories and meet the retired horses. I will warn you though, don’t dress to impress for these horses and their caretakers. Just show up to listen and understand where they come from and how hard they all worked and continue to work.
“You don’t often get the chance to hear the horse’s side of the story when it comes to their career. So just being able to go and learn what it’s like for them after retirement is neat and the horses are always friendly,” University of Kentucky sophomore Antonio Leek said.
Ever wondered what it means to take care of a horse? Or what a horse farm looks like? Your questions will get answered here. These gracious and beautiful creatures require a lot of care and attention. This experience gives people an insight into what living on a farm could look like if they never grew up on one. Thankfully though, you get to leave when you want at this one and your only job includes possibly feeding the horses.
12 P.M.: Windy Corner Market Restaurant
When it comes time for food, this little restaurant provides visitors with the utmost Kentuckian experience. Near other horse farms, this restaurant stays true to Kentucky roots by buying their produce and ingredients from local farmers. Their menu features classic southern meals like Po boy and Pulled pork sandwiches that come with your favorite sides. Some of those sides include potato salad, coleslaw, pasta salad and more. You will want to take home leftovers like you do at your grandma’s house on thanksgiving.
“I didn’t hear of this place until my friend took me and I loved everything about it. From the food to the outside seating area, you really couldn’t ask for more from a restaurant like this. I plan on spreading the word about this one,” University of Kentucky junior Quin Collins said.
As in their name, you can shop at their market and help yourself to some of the local ingredients they get from the farms around them. You will want to come here simply to buy some of their locally made jams and peanut butter. They even sell soaps and flour, talk about a one-stop shop for all your needs. Come down to this windy corner and find something simple and too good to pass up.
1 P.M.: Aviation Museum of Kentucky
This museum teaches everything you want to know about planes. While you walk around exploring their exhibits, you will see artifacts and replicas of older aircraft and airplane models they showcase. The museum also includes hands-on experiences like their virtual flight deck where you go inside an older aircraft and get to experience all the senses of flying a plane. You can also see the 4D theater experience, one of their many attractions. This jam-packed museum will keep you around for a few hours.
“I’ve never been into planes, but my life changed after visiting here. It was so fun to just experience something you otherwise wouldn’t have unless it interested you already. But for someone like me who doesn’t know anything, this is a great place to start,” University of Kentucky freshman Ryan Sparks said.
If you get to the museum early enough and plan ahead, you can even watch the aircraftmen put on a show for visitors. Kids will beg their parents to stay because of how much they love what they see. In this case, the museum offers a wonderful summer camp. It will keep your kids happy and preoccupied for the summer while you visit.
2 P.M.: Bourbon and Toulouse
Any University of Kentucky student or any of the locals will highly recommend this restaurant. The food at this restaurant allows you to go to the bayou without leaving the state. Between their gumbo and their jambalaya that they make fresh every day, you won’t know what to choose from. Their menu also contains sandwiches and vegetarian options as well ensuring everyone can enjoy this delicious food.
“After class my friends and I made a dash to Bourbon and Toulouse because they were so good and because of that they always sold out of their best food. Which is great for their business but even better for my full and happy stomach,” University of Kentucky sophomore Courtney Rain said.
Don’t wait until the last minute to visit this restaurant. They sell out quickly of their food considering how busy they get. They only got so much to go around between the locals and the college students swarming them every day. Visitors like you will understand exactly why everyone runs here the minute they open once you try their delicious food.
3 P.M.: University of Kentucky
While in town, you might as well take a visit to Lexington’s biggest university. Taking a stroll on the university grounds will give you the best sense of why a lot of students choose to go here. Students that attend love the campus layout and can also enjoy many food cuisines on the grounds. You can also obviously get a great education, especially if you want to get a nursing degree.
“Being able to show my beautiful, big blue campus to my family and sometimes friends from out of town when they visit me or vice versa is something that makes me very proud. Not only does it inspire them to want to go to school here with me, but I get to show something that’s become a huge part of my life,” University of Kentucky junior Leigh-Anne Simpson said.
If you want to know more about the school and education, schedule a self-guided tour on their website so you can walk around and experience the campus yourself. If you want someone to tag along so you don’t get lost, you can sign up to do a tour with students. They volunteer their time to make sure future students can feel comfortable on campus and prepare for what they will walk into. You’ll most likely take a visit to the student center and see that not only can you get Starbucks coffee, but you can also get school supplies and all types of UK memorabilia to wrap up your trip.
4 P.M.: Institute 193
Take a trip to this art museum and dive deep into the modern art culture of the south. They pride themselves on collaborating solely with local and southeastern musicians, writers and artists to showcase their artistries. They let the artists put on performances, screenplays, lectures and so much more. They knew the artists they collaborated with needed a space where they could wholeheartedly express their truths without limitations. Lexington didn’t know it needed a museum like this until it got one.
“They’re a little weird, but I’m not mad about it. We don’t have much like this in Lexington and it’s a standout. Most people I talk to don’t know what or even where this place is, and I am happy that I get to show them. It doesn’t get the recognition it deserves,” University of Kentucky freshman Micah Darrell said.
Their exhibits usually last a few weeks leaving you with plenty of time to catch the most recent one. This museum allows visitors to see a different side of Lexington. It brings a modern outlook and feel to a town whose reputation doesn’t really speak of art. Take a trip here to experience an outlook on what Lexington could look like in the future.
5 P.M.: Greyline Station
Don’t get confused by the name, this station no longer hosts trains like it used to back in the day. Now, this station hosts multiple stores and restaurants for the locals and visitors of Lexington. It helps everyone get a little taste of something different when they go shopping here. They also host events, and you’ll get to see different pop-up shops depending on when you go.
“Since we just moved into our new dorm, we were looking for plants. We heard about Greyline station and wanted to check it out. We got so much more than plants when we went there, the food was great and so were the variety of stores. When we get the chance, we’ll go back,” University of Kentucky freshman Elle Fuson said.
Stop by one of their food vendors that go by the name Bjuiced. On their menu, they offer acai bowls, which you will not find in many places in Lexington. Of course, juice will make an appearance on the menu as well along with some fruit bowls. Once you get your fill of fruits and juices explore what else greyline station offers because you will find quite a bit.
6 P.M.: The Summit
Recently new, you can’t go wrong by taking a little visit over to the summit. With a beautiful shopping area and more delicious restaurants, you get basically everything you need here. Why not stay here as well? You can indulge in their hotel that sits above one of their businesses and enjoy the gorgeous view. A very fun shopping center to take your friends and family.
“I live near the summit and it’s perfect for me to go there. They have Whole Foods, a workout facility and places to eat and shop. It’s literally a one-stop shop for me to get almost everything I need done that day. I love it,” University of Kentucky senior Macy Reiner said.
Go to one of the fancy restaurants like J. Alexander’s to enjoy a juicy steak or a delicious pizza. While you wait for your table why not walk around. Enjoy shops like Athleta, Bath and Body Works, Fabletics and more. Once you finish your walk and finally get to eat, it’ll make sense why people love the summit.
7 P.M.: Pinot’s Palette
You can always go right with a little paint and sip. Take a seat and a sip and enjoy getting creative while someone teaches you how to paint. Pinot’s Palette offers different sessions at different times and in each session, you will paint something different. You get to choose what you want to paint depending on when you go and if you don’t want to go in person, that works just as well. They also offer online sessions either live or already recorded. At that point, you just need to follow the instructions, go at your own pace, and sip away!
“My friends and I love to do this when we get off work. It’s such a fun girl’s night out where we can just relax and let ourselves enjoy the moment, even if we suck at the art! And honestly, that’s the best part because we can make fun of each other, and a loving memory is created,” University of Kentucky junior Gracie Hail said.
When you walk in, you get bombarded with beautiful artwork made by the artist and some past visitors. Eventually, you come to the painting room and it just looks beautifully messy and fun. Located in the same room as the painting session, you will see the bar. Pinot’s Palette visually shows you how much of a good time you will endure that night.
8 P.M.: Kentucky Theater
You can go to any of the newer theaters around Lexington and you will enjoy it just as much as any other regular theater. But none of them will feel the same as going to the Kentucky theater. If you ever feel the need to watch The Rocky Horror Picture show, come here because most likely you’ll see it on the marquee playing. Along with playing many old classic movies, they keep up with the times and play recently released movies as well. You get more bang for your buck when you visit and watch a movie here.
“I’m a movie buff, I’ve seen so many classic movies. The only place that consistently plays those types of movies is this theater. I love the ambiance of watching an older film knowing I’m in an older theater. Something about it just can’t be beaten,” University of Kentucky sophomore Bobby Prichard said.
When you first arrive, you still only see one person standing in the box office located near the outdoors. Talk about old school right? Well, it doesn’t stop there. Once you step foot inside you get transported back to the 1950s with its grand foyer design and the marble flooring. After getting popcorn in your old school bucket, you go inside the theater and see the lack of reclining seats. You’ll get a huge screen and rows of chairs that resemble a time long ago. Go to this theater for the atmosphere and stay for the movie you decided to watch.
9 P.M.: Infinity: Rooftop restaurant and Bar
Also new to Lexington, you won’t see this anywhere else in this town and that makes them unique. Any local you talk to will tell you that Lexington needs exactly this to spice it up and for people to enjoy their enticing downtown views. With handcrafted cocktails, American cuisine served and a view for a meal, I don’t think you can beat this place.
“I remember when I heard about them first opening and I couldn’t believe it! My boyfriend took me on a date there and it was definitely one for the books,” University of Kentucky junior Melissa Ray said.
If you want somewhere to wear your finer clothes, you can do that here without fear of people wondering why you look so nice. You can wear the clothes that make you feel your best. While eating fine dining, enjoying the company around you and (what everyone goes there for) the view. You and your friends can live it up for one night and that starts or ends here.
10 P.M.: Comedy off Broadway
Ready to laugh your butt off? Because you will. Everyone talks about going to Comedy off Broadway. They of course invite comedians to perform their bits and stand-ups, but they also give people the chance to get on stage and enjoy an open mic night. So, whether you want to sit and laugh or try your hand at making others crack up, you should stop by Comedy off Broadway.
“I love to laugh; you can ask anyone that. We’re always on their website looking for who they have next and sometimes we just go to enjoy the night. Have a laugh and a few drinks, it’s great,” University of Kentucky junior Eric Lowell said.
Make sure to buy your tickets in advance because most nights here get rowdy in the best way possible. After the night of laughter, your stomach will hurt. These comedians will make you almost choke on your spit from their shows. The recipe for a goodnight includes a few chuckles here and there.
11 P.M.: The Distillery District
You can pick and choose where you want to start first once you hit the distillery district. Barhop in closer proximities. Of course, a few restaurants scatter the area to feed the alcohol but for the most part, you and your friends will find yourselves in front of a drink at another bar. Basically, a shopping center of drinks, pick your poison and where you want to start first because a long time will go by before you see the starting line again.
“You will find a lot of people here whether they want to eat some food or drink a bunch of drinks. But it’s just fun to hang around and see the different options and just enjoy the atmosphere,” University of Kentucky freshman Aimee Sanders said.
When you finish drinking and need a little more sustenance, visit the food places around. Places like Goodfellas feed your hunger with the biggest pieces of pizza. If you want some more and something a little sweeter to match that savory, stop by the Crank and Boom Ice Cream Lounge. You can choose just some regular ice cream and get your fill for the night. Or you can keep it spicy and choose from ice cream cocktails or boozy floats. Whatever you end up choosing, coming here will leave any ice cream hater wanting to try what you got.
12 A.M.: The Burl Arcade
Pop on over to the Burl Arcade and play some games while in the area. In The Burl Arcade, you will stumble upon many old-school games. I’m talking Pac-man, Pinball and over 30 more different types of games. Did I mention that they also put on shows? I know, crazy but when you go to their website you can click on their ‘shows’ tab. Then a list of artists will show up that will show you when they perform, what time and how much tickets cost.
“Talk about good old fashion competition and fun. I am glued to these gaming machines when I come here, the live performances are just a bonus. I’m very happy a place like this exists here,” University of Kentucky senior Darren Love said. So, while you play your old school games, a performance might go on right before your eyes. How can you beat playing your video games with your headphones in on a bigger scale? You can’t. Mostly indie rock artists perform here. A few artists like Mojo Thunder and Cut Worms, and don’t worry if you don’t know them. After watching their performances here, you’ll never forget them.
1 A.M.: Ole Hookers Bait and Tackle
Yes, another bar but they don’t just serve alcohol. Every Wednesday they host a Bingo night. If you know how to finesse your way through bingo, then you’ll enjoy your evenings here. Also, word on the street says that if you don’t try their key lime pie you will feel remorse about it. So, this bar offers a variety of things to keep you occupied this late at night.
“When you step foot in this bar, the first thing you need to do is ask about the key lime pie. It is to die for and if you don’t get it, you will miss out on some of the best pie you will ever have. I can’t get enough of it,” University of Kentucky senior Keisha Reid said.
Sit around and enjoy yourself a few beers or bourbon as well. You know they’ll provide all you need when it comes to your drinking desires. But also, take in the rare atmosphere that this bar brings to visitors. You won’t find many bars like this one around Lexington.
2 A.M.: Soundbar
Ready to dance? Because you will as soon as you step foot into the Soundbar. Forget about the drinks for a second, the music will give you the adrenaline you need to stay in high spirits. They play all sorts of different types of music but know how to keep it modern and fun. If you go towards the back of the bar, you will then find a serene sitting area with a bunch of tables and seats. Take a break if you need to and you will want to once you see the pretty and calming outdoor area they provide.
“Once the weekend hits and I’ve finished all my classes for the week, I’m ready to party. Since this bar isn’t too far from campus, my friends I usually just walk there and sometimes we can spend our entire nights here,” University of Kentucky freshman Tori Merrell said.
In that outdoor area, they decorate it with subtly bright string lights around the fence. Then you can sit down on the wooden benches and enjoy wonderful conversations with other people. It won’t matter who you talk to, you’ll find a friend in most people here. Whether you choose to sit and talk or dance and sing, this place will keep you in a happy space.
3 A.M.: Raven Run Nature Sanctuary
Now, the real fun can begin. At Raven Run you can spend your night here sat by a campfire with friends and enjoying the natural sounds around you. You can also once again rest and reminisce on your day and the things you experienced. One of the best places to set up camp, tell some spooky stories and maybe even fall asleep to the peacefulness around you.
“I used to go camping here a lot when I was a kid. So, my roommate and I try to go on the weekends sometimes and just take a break from life. it really reminds you to be grateful of the things you have and get to experience,” University of Kentucky freshman Juliana Brown said.
You know what else you can do around a campfire? Make s’mores! Making s’mores around the fire with your family or friends gives you the feeling of a little kid again. Nothing like something sweet and sticky to make anyone happy. They don’t call it a sanctuary for nothing
4 A.M.: Phoenix Park
While almost everything closes, you might still look for somewhere to continue your night. Within the downtown area of Lexington, you can take a walk through this park and contemplate where to go next. You’ll see some lovely fountains and really the whole downtown area. You will either experience a quiet walk or you will encounter other night owls winding down for the night just like you.
“I just know, I’ve made a walk a few times past this park on some of my crazier nights. It always brings me back to reality though and I really love that about this area,” University of Kentucky senior Danielle Harris said.
When you walk along this park, you really get to soak up the nightlife of Lexington. Not a lot of people know about it, but if you stay out late enough, you get to experience this city in a completely different way. You get to see people in ways you usually don’t, and you might even make a friend. Whatever you end up doing, remember to take in your surroundings because of the uniqueness you’ll find in this city.
5 A.M.: Tolly-Ho
Finally, you can end your night here at one of the best late-night spots in town. Every college student and local knows it and loves it for the greasy, delicious and savory foods located on their menu. The classic American diner but with their own signature twist called the Ho Burger. Don’t worry, a Ho burger consists of just your normal burger ingredients. But the burger gets that special name thanks to the owners that started this all.
“After a party, there is no better place to end your night than Tolly-ho. They have anything you could want and need if you’re drunk or hungover. The staff is always really friendly and fun as well. I know my friends and I love it here,” University of Kentucky junior Evan Taylor said.
Bob Holopeter and Bob Tolley, these two men with a love for burgers created the burgers’ name and the restaurant known as Tolly-Ho. When ordering your delicious burger, just know you got those two to thank for their sense of humor. Since it will most likely be your first time going here, make sure you let the staff know because they will give you a special surprise. Then you’ll realize that some things never change and as a visitor, you wouldn’t want them to change with restaurants and humor like this.