Kentucky’s second-largest city, Lexington, is home to Raven Run Nature Sanctuary and Waveland State Historic Site, and it is in a location that is next to perfect. Situated close to the capital of Frankfort and the state’s largest city Louisville, this city offers incredible opportunities to explore due to its convenient location. There are some lovely small-town communities brimming with history and local culture - a haven for culture buffs. What’s more, the region is also home to some of the best hiking and mountain trails in Kentucky. In fact, some of the country’s best bourbon distilleries also lie within a few miles of Lexington. Clearly, when in Lexington, there’s something for everyone. Check out these top day trips from Lexington, Kentucky.
1. Frankfort, Kentucky
Located 30 mi (48 km) northwest of Lexington lies the capital city of Frankfort, which straddles the Kentucky River. The city is perhaps most known for the majestic Kentucky State Capitol, which is on the list of the National Register of Historic Places. The gorgeous and historic downtown area is Frankfort’s cultural core, complete with charming, Antebellum-style structures, museums, restaurants, and shops. Some of the best attractions to see in this stunning capital city include Salato Wildlife Centre, Kentucky History Centre and Museums, Cove Spring Park, Liberty Hall, and the lovely Floral Clock.
2. Versailles, Kentucky
Located 14 mi (23 km) east of Lexington, the lovely Versailles is home to horses, bourbon and, of course, the famous Kentucky bluegrass. Named for the famous French palace and city of Versailles, this quaint Ketuckian brother is every bit as charming in its own novel way. Day-trippers can visit the famous local Woodford Reserve distillery, which also offers tours that introduce the history of bourbon and their historic barrelhouse. Horse lovers will also love the fact that there are many local thoroughbred horse farms that have produced winning horses over the years.
3. Louisville, Kentucky
Kentucky’s largest city Louisville lies around 80 mi (128 km) west of Lexington. Nestled on the banks of the Ohio River, this historic town is home to plenty of attractions to keep you busy during the day. There are tons of museums, including Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory, home to the world’s largest baseball bat. There are also lots of distilleries in the city, and if you’re in Louisville in the first week of May, you might even be able to catch the world-famous horse race that is Kentucky Derby. Last but not the least, intrepid adventure lovers will have lots of fun at Mega Cavern in Louisville, complete with tours, rope courses, and underground zip lines.
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4. Corbin, Kentucky
Located 90 mi (145 km) south of Lexington, the quaint and tranquil community of Corbin is a mecca for Kentucky Fried Chicken lovers. Home to the iconic fast-food brand, Corbin also houses Harland Sanders Cafe and Museum where you can delve into the history of Colonel Sanders’ historic fried chicken, which is much-loved across the world. Corbin is also a fantastic destination for lovers of the great outdoors. Cumberland Falls State Resort Park houses the majestic 68-ft-tall (21-m) Cumberland Falls. There are tons of activities to do here, such as hiking, white-water rafting, fishing, and even birdwatching. Finally, you can end the walk with a scenic stroll along Engineer Street Bridge & Creek Walk.
5. Daniel Boone National Forest, Kentucky
One of the largest preserved wilderness areas in Kentucky, the 8,500-sq-km (3,282 sq-mi) huge Daniel Boone National Forest lies around 65 mi (105 km) south of Lexington. The gorgeous, verdant forest is dedicated to and named after the 18th-century pioneer Daniel Boone, who explored much of Kentucky. Narrow ravines, sandstone cliffs, and steep forested slopes grace this forest, which offers a host of recreational activities like boating, rock climbing, mountain biking, and hiking in miles and miles of forested trails. In fact, the verdant place is so gorgeous that you need to dedicate a few days to fully appreciate its beauty, which is great since the forest has camping grounds too.
6. Hoosier National Forest, Kentucky
120 mi (193 km) west of Lexington lies the gorgeously verdant Hoosier National Forest. With numerous trails, scenic natural views, and rolling hills, it’s no wonder why this forest is so popular in Kentucky. It is a haven for hikers and mountain bikers, with almost 266 mi (428 km) of gorgeous trails. Expect to see rare wintergreen plants, seasonal waterfalls and streams, and stunning sandstone cliffs as you make your way along the trails.
7. Tri-State Peak, Kentucky-Tennessee-Virginia border
140 miles (225 km) away from Lexington lies the 600-m-high (1,968-ft-tall) Tri-State Peak in the heart of Cumberland Gap National Historical Park, which borders the states of Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia. There’s a marker at the summit which offers panoramic views of all three states at the same time. The marker can be accessed via a steep 1-mi (1.6 km) trail that also has connections with Object Lesson Road Trail and Gap trail. The beginning of the trail is situated about 1.2 mi (1.9 km) from the park’s visitor’s centre.
8. Huntington, West Virginia
130 mi (209 km) north-northeast of Lexington lies the busy, historic city of Huntington in West Virginia. The town is infamously dubbed as ‘Weenie Capital of the East’ for its unhealthy disposition to fast food. That notwithstanding, the charming town is extremely walkable and has an excellent culinary and music scene. Interestingly, it is also home to the world’s largest root beer mug. What’s more, there are also stunning wildlife areas to the north, following the winding banks of the Ohio River, which offer intrepid travellers a fantastic peek into West Virginia’s spectacular landscapes.
9. Covington, Kentucky
Lying 85 mi (137 km) north of Lexington, Covington is famously known as ‘Church City’, because it is home to about 170 churches scattered across the county. These gorgeous churches are a culture buff’s dream, ranging from age-old historical buildings to newer structures, and make for a fantastic opportunity to embark on a walking tour to understand Covington’s history. The town is also dubbed as 'Festival City’, with more than 25 festivals taking place here on an annual basis. Foodies will love the culinary scene here, which has everything from Korean bibimbap to Irish stew.
10. Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park, Kentucky
Located 90 mi (145 km) southwest of the city of Lexington, the protected area of Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park is the preserved birthplace of Abe Lincoln, one of the most famous presidents in the history of the United States. It is also the first memorial to honour this great former president. The park is set on Sinking Springs Farm, which is the place where Lincoln was born and spent the first two years of his life. An extremely interesting museum on the farm depicts what life would have been like when Abraham Lincoln was born. Knob Creek Farm just down the road is where Lincoln lived until he was seven years old. What’s more, both sites offer hiking trails and picnic areas.
Day-tripping from Lexington
Whether you’re the adventurous kind or the laidback leisure lover, Lexington offers the best base to head out and explore the beautiful region which has something for every kind of traveller. Check out these wonderful spots located within a few hours of Lexington, take your pick and make a lovely day of it.
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