When you think Kentucky, you are likely to think "Kentucky Derby" — especially around this time of year. It’s that famous springtime party where all of the best hats come out to play and mid-southern and Appalachian culture takes center stage around the country. Yet Kentucky's most famous annual event is far from all it a visit to the state offers — think bourbon, bluegrass music, and truly splurge-worthy fried food. Here's what else to do around this charming state that doesn't involve a single galloping hoof.
The state is home to more than 20 Bourbon-making distilleries that are currently in working order and offering tours of the facilities. Take a tour and learn about the craft, and then don’t hesitate to indulge in the state’s famous drink, whether at a distillery or bar, on the rocks or as a part of a knockout cocktail.
If time permits a single stop, check out the Angel's Envy Distillery. Or if you want to see as many as possible, get the Kentucky Bourbon Trail Passport, which will give you access to 10 of the finest Kentucky Bourbon distilleries.
2. Wine and beer
Bourbon gets all of the attention in Kentucky, but there are plenty of fine local wine and beer options in Kentucky worth trying, too. Check out Elk Creek Vineyards or Talon Winery & Vineyards for wine options and West Sixth Brewing or Braxton Brewing Company to get you started.
3. Bluegrass music
Live Kentucky bluegrass music is a must-see if you're in the Bluegrass State. The options for seeing live bluegrass performances range from random dive bars to chic concert halls and everything in between. For a festival atmosphere, try the Kentucky Bluegrass & Bourbon Experience in September, or Festival of the Bluegrass in June. For more intimate local shows, follow some of the best bands from this list and check out their live show calendars for when you'll be in the area. It doesn’t really matter how you do it, so long as you leave the state with a connection to the music.
4. The outdoors
Kentucky has no shortage of fabulous outdoors opportunities... and they begin underground. The cave systems in Kentucky are some of the very best, so go down deep into the state to get an otherworldly glimpse into the Kentucky region. Start with Mammoth Cave National Park, where you can explore the longest known cave system in the world. One you’re ready to have some above-ground adventures, make some time for the Daniel Boone Forest, the Cumberland Waterfall, and paddling down one of Kentucky’s nine “wild rivers.”
5. Hot brown
A "hot brown" sandwich is a necessity when in Kentucky. The signature dish is traditionally turkey on toast with a cheesy sauce, bacon, and more — it’s gluttonous, indeed. There are numerous places to get this dish in Kentucky and even a spot for vegetarians to get a taste: You can get a meat-free version at Stella’s Kentucky Deli in Lexington.
6. Ali Center
Muhammad Ali’s state pays homage to one of the greats with the Ali Center. Between the permanent and rotating exhibits, events, and learning opportunities, this is a multifaceted space that can entertain everyone.
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