Family adventures in the great Kentucky outdoors happen year round and they’re as varied, thrilling and extraordinary as the state itself.
Families love Kentucky outdoors for everything from hiking in the Appalachian Mountains to sailing on some of America’s biggest manmade lakes.
There is no chance of getting bored by State Parks – Kentucky has 45 of them to keep you interested. Mammoth Cave National Park is home to the world’s longest-recorded cave system. And if that isn’t phenomenal enough, the lovely city of Lexington is known as the ‘Horse Capital of the World’.
Kentucky is also one of only two places on earth where you can witness a Moonbow. Ready to discover the great Kentucky outdoors? Start with a look at what the experts from Kentucky Tourism think you and the kids should not miss in the Bluegrass State.
Discover endless adventures at 45 great State Parks
Kentucky has State Parks all over, from Big Bone Lick in the north to Dale Hollow Lake in the south. There are 45 in total which gives you plenty of scope to add just about any type of outdoor adventure into a Kentucky family vacation.
Whether your kids are up for whitewater rafting, mountain biking, hiking, sailing, caving or climbing, you’ll find a State Park to fit their dreams. And if you want to play for days – or weeks – you’re welcome to do so. Kentucky is known for its State Park resorts and outstanding family accommodations, camping areas, restaurants showcasing superb local produce and picnic areas with sensational views.
Best State Parks to introduce kids to Kentucky outdoors
- Head west to Kentucky Dam Village State Resort Park. Here kids can spot Bald Eagles, mountain bike for miles, play on lake beaches and hike in wild backwoods.
- Alternatively, try Breaks Interstate Park. This is the one for take-your-breath-away whitewater rafting on rapid-rich Russell Fork River.
- You can even see herds of bison year round at Big Bone Lick State Park in northern Kentucky.
- For a historic twist to State Parks, visit My Old Kentucky Home and Lincoln Homestead State Park.
Add countless lakes to your experience of Kentucky outdoors
Kentucky really doesn’t need to boast about its beautiful lakes. They’re almost as famous here as thoroughbred horses and bourbon.
Hundreds of thousands of acres of the state are given over to wondrous stretches of water. And no fewer than three of the country’s largest manmade lakes are in Kentucky.
You’ll find lakes for sailing and swimming as well as watersports and fishing. Several particularly amazing lakes do almost everything. And you’ll even find lakes you can live on for an entire family vacation. Vast Lake Cumberland is known as the ‘Houseboat Capital of the World’.
Best Kentucky lakes for outdoor adventures with kids
- If you rent a houseboat on Lake Cumberland you can enjoy the state’s legendary lake-life 24/7 on a family vacation.
- Visit Grayson Lake and follow in the wake of Shawnee and Cherokee Indians on Kentucky’s smoothest paddling waters.
- At more than 160,000 acres, Kentucky Lake is the largest east of the Mississippi and has two State Parks on its 2,300 mile long shoreline.
- When you want wildlife, make for Nolin River Lake close to Mammoth Cave National Park. It’s sensational for watersports too.
Discover Kentucky’s most famous traditions on horseback
You can’t miss horses in Kentucky. It’s home to the renowned Kentucky Derby. Legendary Churchill Downs is one of the most celebrated thoroughbred racetracks on earth. And the city of Lexington goes by the name ‘Horse Capital of the World’. So there’s no better place to get kids riding for the first time or inspire already keen young equestrians.
Kentucky State Parks offer hundreds of miles of horse riding trails through spectacular countryside. No fewer than 18 certified Kentucky Trail Towns make it easy to put riding at the heart of your family vacation. If you don’t want to saddle-up, take a family-friendly guided tour of beautiful horse farms. And iconic racetracks, horse theme parks and equine retirement farms are also fun for kids.
Where families love to horse around in Kentucky
- Visit the one-of-a-kind Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington. Here 35 different horse breeds take part in daily events and you can learn about all things equestrian.
- Meet the experts at Horse Country Tours and find the perfect riding experience for your family.
- Head to immense Daniel Boone National Forest in eastern Kentucky. This is where over 600 miles of trails are dedicated to horse riding, hiking and cycling.
- It’s said you can tell a lot about people by the way they treat animals. So take kids to the Old Friends Thoroughbred Retirement Home to see how caring Kentucky folks are.
Explore Kentucky outdoors for awesome natural attractions
If you want to fill a family vacation with jaw-dropping natural phenomena, Kentucky is the place to be.
It’s home to the longest-known cave system on earth, which is both astonishing and very explorable with kids. There are waterfalls here so immense they’re known as the ‘Niagara of the South’. And the state’s stunning rock formations range from soaring stone arches to grand gorges.
In the south, families can paddle, swim, fish or even ride a vintage steam train on the most amazing rivers. What’s more, most natural wonders are woven through with history and heritage. And if you want to stay longer you’ll also find Kentucky’s most iconic sites are complimented by a wide choice of local accommodations, good restaurants and fun activities.
Natural phenomena you don’t want to miss in Kentucky
- Visit Mammoth Cave National Park and go exploring. This subterranean world of mighty caverns stretches for a total of 400 miles. Guided tours are almost phenomenal as the caves themselves. And, as they run from 30 minutes to five hours, offer something for everyone.
- One of Kentucky’s most popular attractions, Natural Bridge is a 65ft high sandstone arch with a span of 75ft. It rewards all those who ascend with the most amazing views. And if you take the Sky Lift, it’s almost as much fun to reach as walk across.
- Even in a state famous for wonderful waterfalls, Cumberland Falls are spectacular. Known as the ‘Niagara of the South’, they’re 68ft tall and 125ft wide. Plus, they’re one of only two falls in the world where you can see a ‘moonbow’.
- Kentucky outdoors doesn’t come much greater than it does at Big South Fork. Here 125,000 acres of gorges, forests, rivers and streams forms the state’s favorite family playground. And it’s the place for you, whether you want to canoe, kayak, fish, hike, swim or ride Big South Fork Scenic Railway.