Endless great fun Kentucky family adventures make easy history lessons for kids and you really don’t have to work hard to find them.
With powerful ties to greats like Daniel Boone, Abraham Lincoln and Muhammad Ali, Kentucky’s history touches on everything from pioneering to the Civil Rights Movement. Some of the most significant Civil War battlefields in the US are right here. The state has its own Lincoln Memorial. And you can retrace the footsteps of early settlers and still gaze at the same unchanged views they saw centuries ago. How do you fit so much history into a family vacation? Start with some of the top heritage experiences Kentucky Tourism highly recommends for kids.
Follow Daniel Boone for pioneering Kentucky family adventures
For history with high excitement and the opportunity to feel like explorers for days, put Daniel Boone at the top of your list of Kentucky family adventures. The 18th century frontiersman and pioneer is best known for blazing the Wilderness Road through the Cumberland Gap that some 200,000 people traveled to reach the Kentucky frontier. Follow all – or a little – of his great wilderness journey for an incredible experience. A combination of fascinating stories, outdoor activities, spectacular state parks, immense forests and awesome views which haven’t changed in hundreds of years, make this one of most fun history lessons ever for kids.
Top Kentucky family adventures in the footsteps of Daniel Boone
- The Cumberland Gap National Historical Park gives you a rare glimpse of what Kentucky looked like to early explorers like Daniel Boone.
- Explore the Daniel Boone National Forest in beautiful eastern and southern Kentucky. It covers an area of over 2 million acres and makes its presence known in no fewer than 21 counties across the state.
- Take a family road trip along the 132 mile Boone Trace and follow the path of early explorers from Cumberland Gap to Winchester – don’t miss the Knox Historical Museum and Fort Boonesborough State Park.
- Visit the Kentucky state capital, Frankfort and go pay your respects to Daniel Boone in Frankfort Cemetery. Not only the pioneer’s last resting place, but also a fine spot for views of the city and the mighty Kentucky River.
Kentucky family adventures in the birthplace of Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln was born in Kentucky in 1809 and although he only lived here until the age of seven, he had strong ties to the state throughout his entire life. So if it’s time for kids to get to know the man who rose from a humble Knob Creek farm to become one of the most admired US presidents, Kentucky tells his backstory in thrilling detail. Just don’t expect dry and dusty history. A lively look at Lincoln’s life is how heritage is expressed in his home state. So kids can look forward to everything from stunning dioramas and civil war interpretations to nature hikes, family activity programs and quite a few life-size Lincolns to add to their selfie collection.
Top Kentucky family adventures on the Lincoln Heritage Trail
- The original Lincoln Memorial is in Kentucky and just one of many reasons to visit the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park in Hodgenville.
- Take a driving tour of Perryville Battlefield to see one of the best preserved Civil War sites in the US. There are almost 20 miles of interpretative walking trails here too.
- Visit Camp Nelson National Monument to see where the destruction of slavery began in Kentucky, and find out about the life of African-American soldiers during the Civil War.
- Tour the excellent Lincoln Museum in Hodgenville. Kids will particularly like the detailed dioramas of key events in Lincoln’s political career. It’s only a few miles away from Lincoln’s Boyhood Home at Knob Creek so you can easily do both in a day.
Explore historic Louisville from baseball bats to riverboats
Louisville is home to the Kentucky Derby, however, that’s far from the city’s only claim to historic greatness. It was front and center during the statewide struggle for civil rights in the 1960s, which puts it firmly at the heart of Kentucky’s powerful civil rights story. Even sporting history isn’t limited to horses, as Louisville is also the hometown of the Louisville Slugger – still the baseball bat preferred by most MLB star players. Muhammad Ali was also born here and the excellent Muhammad Ali Center is one of the city's unmissable attractions. And if you like old-timey experiences: Belle of Louisville is the world’s oldest Mississippi-style riverboat and still cruises out of the city during summer months, plus several iconic downtown hotels even let you weave history into Louisville sleepovers.
Top Kentucky family adventures in historic Louisville
- Kids of all ages enjoy the Kentucky Derby Museum with its two floors of interactive exhibits, 360° movies and choice of guided tours – including a walking tour of world famous Churchill Downs Racetrack.
- Pitch up at the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory to see the world’s biggest baseball bat and find out how iconic Louisville Sluggers are made from start to finish – all kids receive a mini-slugger to mark their visit.
- More than a museum, the Muhammad Ali Center celebrates the life and career of one of Louisville’s most famous sons through interactive, multi-media exhibits, rare archive film and a phenomenal collection of artefacts.
- From its baseball bats to jazz clubs, Louisville has a history of playing so wind up your heritage tour of the great city with some playtime at Kentucky Kingdom & Hurricane Bay. With over 70 rides and attractions, world-beating rollercoasters and an enormous waterpark, this is one of the state’s biggest and best theme parks so leave plenty of time to enjoy.
Kentucky family adventures in historic horse country
Kentucky is horse country and discovering the state’s equestrian history makes some of the best family vacation memories for kids. Start in Lexington, known as the ‘Horse Capital of the World’ and a great base for touring one (or many) of Kentucky’s amazing horse farms. If you’re a family of horse riders, several State Parks are famous for their heritage-rich trails. And there are no less than 18 designated Trail Towns across Kentucky where you’ll find plenty of lodging options, stables, equipment hire and some of the friendliest horse-loving-folk in the entire country.
Top Kentucky family adventures in horse country
- Kentucky’s Horse Country Tours make it easy to explore the state’s historic horse farms, learn about their past and present; discover how thoroughbreds are raised and trained; get up close to cute foals and get talking to the experts who contribute to Kentucky’s equestrian excellence.
- Visit the one-of-a-kind Kentucky Horse Park just outside Lexington for the International Museum of the Horse; lively equestrian displays on the daily; meet ‘n’ greets with magnificent animals, and fun guided rides round the paddock for beginners or trail riding for families who already know their stuff.
- Take a behind-the-scenes tour of the Thoroughbreds Training Center near Lexington and learn about a day in the life of some of the world most exceptional equine athletes.
- Head deep into historic Kentucky at Mammoth Cave Horse Camp. Set in Mammoth Cave National Park - home to earth’s longest-recorded cave system -it’s a top base for trail riding and the perfect combo of horses and heritage for a family vacation.
Time for more historic Kentucky family adventures? Visit Kentucky Tourism for everything you need to help plan your perfect family vacation in the Bluegrass State.