I recently hit the road with my family for a two week journey that took us from Atlanta, GA through Kentucky, up into Ohio, over to Vermont and New Hampshire, down through Maryland and finally back home to good old Georgia. It was a crazy trip with an incredible amount of good food, lots of time with family, a few visits to local touristy places and WAY too much time in the car! When we planned our vacation we had a very detailed itinerary and the first place we were heading was to Kentucky. My husband grew up in the area and there was a concert that he wanted to attend with a few of his highschool friends. Combine that with family in the area and a few Kentucky highlights we really wanted to see and we were excited to make that our first stop!
Must See Places in Kentucky
The first place in Kentucky we wanted to visit was Louisville. We have always been fascinated with horse racing and watch the Kentucky Derby every single year. If you’ve never seen the Kentucky Derby you don’t know what you’re missing! The beauty and power of the horses, the excitement of the race, the Mint Juleps and the giant hats the ladies wear are all so much fun to experience! When we stopped in Louisville, Kentucky we took the Historic Walking Tour of the Churchill Downs race track in addition to the Barns and Backside tour which was just fascinating.
Our guide for the walking tour was full of great information about the history of the Kentucky Derby, pointing out all the winner’s names that were highlighted along the entire tour route. We saw a few horses out training but since summer is the slow season at Churchill Downs there wasn’t any actual racing going on. We got to meet one of the horses that was out stretching his legs which everyone on the tour really seemed to enjoy. Even though there is no actual racing during the summer, Churchill Downs still had over 1000 horses being boarded so there was a ton of activity going on!
The Barn and Backside tour was so interesting and I highly recommend taking it if you are visiting Churchill Downs. Even in the off season, the ‘backside’ of the race track is absolutely hopping with activity. It is a miniature city back there with everything the jockeys, stable hands, and other workers need to live. There are apartments, laundry areas, dining hall, rec room, etc. It really amazed me to see what goes on behind the scenes of a race track!
Don’t forget to check out the Kentucky Derby Museum itself before you leave. The Kentucky Derby and Churchill Downs have an amazingly rich history. There are even a few interactive exhibits for the kids to enjoy. Horses to race, jockey clothes to try on, and touch screens to activate. You can spend hours at Churchill Downs and not get bored!
The other place we visited when we were in Louisville was the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory. Baseball is a classic American pastime and we got to learn about some of the great players in history and see baseball bats being made in the factory. Honestly, I never really thought about how baseball bats were made but the process is amazing….to go from tree to bat takes a mind boggling amount of work!
The museum gave us a look into the history of baseball and some of the incredible people that have played the game over the years. There are also batting cages so you can take a swing or two if you want. Everyone that takes the tour gets a miniature souvenir bat which I thought was a great idea. I am still amazed when I think about the complex machinery that went into making them!
After we headed out of Louisville were were on our way to the Cincinnati, Ohio area. WAIT! Didn’t I say that we were traveling in Kentucky? Well, yes, however Cincinnati is literally over the bridge from Kentucky. Like, I walked out of my hotel that was in Kentucky and walked across a very old, historic, yet fully functional bridge and there I was in Cincinnati! And on the walk across the bridge we enjoyed watching several barges float down river. Fascinating to see how they move coal, scrap metal and an assortment of other supplies down the river.
Since we visit Kentucky every few years to see friends and family, we knew we wanted to stop at Hofbräuhaus in Newport, Kentucky for lunch. If you are ever in the area and are looking for some classic German food I highly recommend this place! We enjoy sitting in the main room with it’s long family style bench seating. You absolutely MUST start your meal with Pretzels And Bier Cheese. Sound crazy? Honestly, I think beer cheese is the nectar of the Gods and I don’t even like beer! The beer flavor is mild but it goes perfectly with the cheddar and is great to dip your salty pretzel in.
Mettwurst, Bratwurst, Sauerkraut, Jägerschnitzel…the food is filling and delicious! We always save room for dessert though and the Windbeutel (Bavarian Cream Puff) is simply to die for! I highly recommend sharing it because it is huge! You will leave Hofbräuhaus full and spending a few hours with family there is easy since the seating is so relaxed.
There is so much to see and do in Kentucky that even though we visit every few years we never run out of things to do. Whether you are into exploring nature and heading underground at Mammoth Caves or visiting one of the museums mentioned above you will certainly never run out of things to do!
What’s YOUR favorite place to visit in Kentucky?