Kentucky is a fantastic, often underrated family vacation destination. If you’ve so far passed over Kentucky as a spot for your next trip with the kids, take a look at all the wonderful things that await you in the Bluegrass State. From parks to extensive cave systems to baseball history, this list of things to do in Kentucky with kids will inspire you to plan a trip, or stop the next time you’re driving through the Southeast USA.
Bowling Green is a great central Kentucky city for family fun.
National Corvette Museum
If you’re a car enthusiast, you may already know Corvettes are manufactured in Bowling Green. The National Corvette Museum is right across the street from the plant. Even if you’re not that into cars, don’t count this museum out. It’s very well put together, and there’s a little something for everyone. It’s a great thing to do in Bowling Green with kids.
One of the most popular galleries is dedicated to the sinkhole that happened in 2014, which swallowed eight Corvettes on display. Three of the Corvettes were restored and are on display as well as one Corvette pulled out of the sinkhole and displayed “as is.” You can even see the dirt.
The sinkhole has been repaired/filled, but there’s a small viewing window so guests can see how deep the sinkhole went. There are also a variety of interactive exhibits that cover the science of sinkholes.
Lost River Cave
Take a guided tour and explore this underground cave. Guests will meet at the visitor’s center and walk down a steep hill to the cave’s opening. Your tour guides will lead you into a johnboat, and you’ll sail through the underground cave.
The entire experience takes about 45 minutes. Lost River Cave also has an interactive outdoor play space, walking trails and a gift shop.
Beech Bend Park and Splash Lagoon
This amusement park has rides for everyone, from little kids to thrill seekers. One of the most daring coasters is the Kentucky Rumbler, so if you’re a roller coaster enthusiast, you won’t want to miss this one.
Beech Bend also has a water park with water slides, a lazy river, kid-friendly play/splash areas and more. Beech Bend is more than a theme park – it also has a drag racing strip and a campground.
If you want to add an educational component to your trip to Bowling Green, check out Harden Planetarium, which is located on the campus of Western Kentucky University.
Mammoth Cave National Park
Kentucky is home to the world’s longest cave system – Mammoth Cave. There are several tour options to explore the caves, which you can check out here. Sign up for your cave tours as soon as your plans are firm. The tours book up fast.
There’s a lot to do on the surface, too. With over 80 miles of hiking trails, river trails and various ranger-led activities, you can definitely plan a longer visit and not run out of things to do. The park is perfect for biking, horseback riding and kayaking.
You can go camping inside the park or check the park’s website for current lodging options. The main lodge is currently under construction, but there are other cabins rentals and motel-like spaces to rent. There are also private zipline, horseback and ropes course adventure tours you can book for an additional fee. These activities are not operated by the National Park Service, but the visitor’s center can give you information on available activities in the area.
Cave City is located halfway between Louisville, KY and Nashville, TN. Many people consider Cave City the main “Gateway into Mammoth Cave National Park.” Mammoth Cave is America’s 2nd oldest tourist attraction in the United States, second only to Niagara Falls.
Other things to do in Cave City
There are a lot of big things to love about Louisville, which translates into big things to do. The city is home to boxer Muhammad Ali, the Kentucky Derby, Kentucky Fried Chicken and the famous Louisville Slugger baseball bats. This is a great jumping-off point for family-friendly fun.
Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory
The Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory is both a step into baseball history and a glimpse into the future of the sport. You’re almost guaranteed to see bats being manufactured during your visit, and the gift shop allows you to purchase a bit of Louisville and baseball history to take home with you.
Visit the Muhammed Ali Center
A visit to Louisville wouldn’t be complete without learning about one of Kentucky’s most famous residents. Explore the galleries that tell the story of Muhammed Ali’s career in boxing and beyond.
Kentucky Derby Museum
Every day is derby day at the Kentucky Derby Museum. This history museum has two floors of interactive exhibits, a 360-degree film experience and a guided track visit of Churchill Downs led by one of the museum’s knowledgeable tour guides.
There’s even a cafe and bourbon bar in case you’re looking for an excuse to have a mint julep or sip some Kentucky bourbon.
The Louisville Zoo has over 1,200 animal residents. Guests will delight in seeing gorillas, lions, tigers, penguins, grizzly and polar bears, seals and sea lions, giraffes, pygmy hippos, orangutans, reptiles, hundreds of colorful birds and much more.
Check the zoo’s event page before planning your visit. The purpose for this is twofold: You might find an event you want to get in on and you might note an early closure for a scheduled event. Be prepared.
Louisville Mega Cavern
Louisville Mega Cavern is a unique underground experience. Visitors can zipline and participate in a ropes course underground. If you’re a little less adventurous, there’s a train ride tram tour that shows you the highlights of the cavern.
Kentucky State Parks Near Louisville
Want to get outside and explore a bit? Check out these five state parks near Louisville, Kentucky.
- Big Bone Lick State Historic Site.
- Lincoln Homestead State Park.
- Cumberland Falls State Resort Park.
- Fort Boonesborough State Park.
- Natural Bridge State Resort Park.
- Cumberland Falls State Resort Park is home to Kentucky’s largest waterfalls.
Other things to do in Lousiville:
Lexington is a family-friendly city full of fun things to do for the whole family.
Horse Around at Kentucky Horse Park
Kentucky Horse Park is a horse farm that gives visitors an up-close look at horses and horse racing. There’s an on-site museum, opportunities to ride horses and ponies and even a campground.
Lexington Ice Center and Sports Complex
If you’re part of an active group, Lexington Ice Center and Sports Complex is a great place to burn off energy. They offer a fun and unique combination of ice skating and mini golf.
Newport is a major urban center of Northern Kentucky and part of the Cincinnati metropolitan area, which includes over two million residents. Here’s what to do.
Check out the Newport Aquarium
The Newport Aquarium has sharks, eels, penguins, stingrays, alligators and more.
A great activity to combine with the Newport Aquarium is the Ark Encounter. This is a fun way for kids to experience Bible history. The Ark Encounter experience includes a life-size replica of Noah’s Ark, a petting zoo, zip lines, virtual reality and more. Both activities are located on the Kentucky-Ohio border, so you’ve got the option of staying in Cincinnati.
Daniel Boone National Forest
Thousands of miles connect several Kentucky trail towns that offer various experiences and adventures to explore the Daniel Boone National Forest.
Some of the most popular trail towns are Slade, Manchester and McKee. You can see the full list and check out available activities here.
Slade is the gateway to the famous Red River Gorge, which is a popular spot for hiking, rock climbing and taking in scenic views. Manchester is home to swinging bridges, ATV and hiking trails and a restored Appalachian village, Saltworks Pioneer Village. If you want a unique and rugged adventure, check out the Triple R Ranch in McKee, where you can find guides to set you up with unique camping and horseback riding experiences.