Located on the border between Kentucky and Indiana, Louisville is famous for its horse racing and love of baseball. The Northern Kentucky city is a top holiday destination and one of the ideal starting points for the best day trips.
From historic attractions to natural wonders, there are plenty of things to do and visit even when leaving Louisville for a single day.
Table of Contents
- 15. Spring Mill State Park, Indiana
- 14. Corydon, Indiana
- 13. Cumberland Falls
- 12. Cave City
- 11. Holiday World
- 10. Tri-State Peak
- 9. Red River Gorge
- 8. Mammoth Cave National Park
- 7. Petersburg
- 6. Lexington
- 5. Cincinnati
- 4. Abraham Lincoln Birthplace Historical Park
- 3. Harland Sanders Cafe and Museum
- 2. Bardstown
- 1. Frankfort
15. Spring Mill State Park, Indiana
Spring Mill State Park and Spring Mill Village can be the first-day trip destinations on your journey. This small historic village features a large inn with a mill, a few nearby caves you can visit, and excellent access to all types of hiking trails.
The Twin Caves and the Bronson Cave are worth visiting here. A small access fee applies to these caves but the benefit is that both are well-kept with plenty of easy access bridges and stairs.
14. Corydon, Indiana
Corydon is only a short drive away from Louisville. This small town has local significance as it once used to be the state capital of Kentucky. You will find this place has been somewhat forgotten but its historic buildings are all in good shape.
Ideally, you will start your Corydon visit in the town center where you can walk and admire from one old building to another. A few quirky shops and a couple of local restaurants also ensure you can stay here and relax in a quiet atmosphere for the whole day.
13. Cumberland Falls
Known as ‘Little Niagra’, Cumberland Falls offer the most impressive natural sight in the entire state. These falls are one of the best day trips for those traveling with small children. There’s plenty of parking and stroller-friendly paths you can walk on even if you’re not an avid hiker.
The falls are also known outside of the state for what is known as a moonbow. It’s one of the few places in the world to offer such sights. Most of those traveling here typically prioritize full moon days as a result.
12. Cave City
Cave City is another small municipality that can serve as the gateway towards the Mammoth Cave National Park. It’s also a town worth visiting on its own. Its historic city center offers an antique shop and a couple of restaurants that have only recently been allowed to serve alcohol.
But most importantly, there’s a nearby Dinosaur World attraction for your family to visit here. For a small town of just 2.000 people, the place can certainly offer a fun day outside busy Louisville.
11. Holiday World
Holiday World is the perfect destination in nearby Santa Claus in Indiana for the entire family. The fun park features one of the tallest rollercoasters in the world and this alone attracts more visitors in Southern Indiana than other attractions. There are a few fun pools to dive into here as well.
Other nearby attractions include the Santa Clause Village. The entire place resembles a vacation hotspot and those coming here even for a day are typically tempted to come back in the future as there are simply too many fun attractions for a single day’s visit.
10. Tri-State Peak
Did you know that there’s a place in the US where you can see 3 states at once? This place is called the Tri-State Peak. This small peak allows you to see Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia.
You only have to hike for a mile to get up there to the border of these 3 states and to admire one of the most magnificent natural sights that also acts as a natural border between these states.
9. Red River Gorge
Natural limestone formations make the Red River Gorge a must-see attraction even if you’re out for a single day. This has been the sight of some of the earliest native Paleoindian civilizations. But it’s also the place where you can go out and explore on your own or see others into extreme sports.
If you want to see rock-climbing fans, you need to head over to The Motherlode area were where plenty of fans of extreme sports can be seen on most days with good weather. For your explorations, you can follow the marked trails to the Sky Bridge or the Rock Bridge. Both of these are naturally-formed rock bridges.
8. Mammoth Cave National Park
If you don’t want to explore Cave City, the nearby Mammoth Cave National Park is the place to go if you’re in the region or if you don’t want to drive more than a couple of hours from Louisville. It’s highly unlikely that visitors can see the true splendor of this cave in a single day. But you can go on a tour to see what the place has to offer.
It might also worth coming with your bathing suits here as swimming is permitted in the region. There are also a few good camping spots for all of those who can stay for the second day of visiting.
Petersburg is only a small town on the Ohio River. But for such a small town, it has 2 attractions that could bring in visitors from all over the country. An old shipwreck initially used by the US Navy then turned into an Ohio river cruiser can be seen here. This ship is already difficult to access with trees growing around it and it seems local authorities are going to let nature reclaim its territory here.
Petersburg is also home to the Creation Museum. Inspired by tales from the Bible, this museum claims it covers all Earth’s history with specific exhibits which include dinosaurs and recreations of The Garden of Eden.
Lexington is a Kentucky city full of history. From nature attractions to impressive art galleries, it certainly offers a lot for those visiting for only a day. You can start your visit here at the Kentucky Horse Park. This is one of the most important sights in the history of the state as it celebrates the relationship between humans and horses. You can learn everything there is about some of the rarest types of horses here.
After your horseback riding experience, you can head over to the Kentucky Art Museum. This museum holds a special place in the hearts of the locals as it is believed to be the home of the most important art collection in the city. There’s no admission fee to the museum which means you will have a few interesting educational hours you don’t have to pay for even when traveling with children.
Located in Ohio, Cincinnati is one of the top destinations for all of those who want an urban adventure away from Louisville. This place can be seen as one of the top attractions for those into history, sports, shopping, and arts.
One of the best views of the city can be found at Carew Tower. Built-in 1930, this tower offers excellent views of the Great American Ball Park which you can visit next. This baseball stadium is one of the finest in the state and it’s always worth visiting on match day.
The Cincinnati Zoo can be an alternative 1-day visiting spot in the city. This is one of the largest zoos in the country and it could be the only attraction you get to see in a day. However, this zoo is highly praised for its animal conservation programs and those visiting it don’t regret seeing and learning more about endangered species.
4. Abraham Lincoln Birthplace Historical Park
President Abraham Lincoln was born at Sinking Spring Farm and raised at Knob Creek Farm. The memorial site here is a must-see for all of those interested in US history. There are multiple attractions to see here and the historical park is where most tourists are headed.
Rangers here can be friendly and they can inform you on how Abraham Lincoln grew up on these farms with his family. The original Lincoln wood cabin is long gone. But there’s a new cabin that was erected to resemble the place of Lincoln’s birth. Some claim the new cabin used some of the logs from the original cabin.
This attraction is a must-see for all of those who need to put a finger on the humble beginnings of one of the greatest presidents of the country. The Knob Creek Tavern can be a place to stop for refreshments while visiting the area.
3. Harland Sanders Cafe and Museum
Located in the city of Corbin, the Harland Sanders Café and Museum is a must-see for all of those who love to travel and who also love food. These are the original KFC restaurants or the place where the empire began.
The location is now a museum but it also has a small kitchen where you can order the famous chicken that went on to become a world phenomenon. Colonel Sanders was here with the first KFC back in the early 1940s and he went on to build what is still known as the most famous chicken-based fast-food restaurant chain in the world.
You need to know that this place looks more like a museum than a modern KFC restaurant. Some of the exhibits here show just how much the place has evolved in time to become what it is today. From the classic coffee cups you see here to the paper cups seen in the restaurants today, stories of progress and heritage are seen all over this museum.
Bardstown is an old Kentucky town that has surpassed its limited size and population to become world-renowned as the capital of bourbon. This is believed to be the birthplace of Jim Beam, a brand that also went on to become a world leader in its field, similar to KFC.
The town also hosts the Civil War Museum of Bardstown. This is one of the largest Civil War museums in the country and it needs to be on your radar. There are about 8.500 square feet to explore at this open-air museum.
My Old Kentucky Home State Park is also worth visiting while in town. This place was associated with the song with the same name by Stephen Foster. The artist was known for their anti-slavery music and songs.
Frankfort is the state capital of Kentucky. This small city of just over 20.000 residents is one of the oldest European settlements in the state and it still holds the political and administrative role of the state. It’s the place where you can spend a day walking and visiting important Kentucky attractions.
The first couple of attractions you have to check out here include The Old State Capitol and the New State Capitol. Both are impressive to see and they can be admired in person for a few memorable photos.
Kentucky Governor’s Mansion is also worth visiting in Frankfort. Some parts of this mansion resemble the architecture of the Versailles as it has been built in the same Beaux-arts style.
You can finish the day visit here by walking the rather historic Corner in Celebrities Historic District in the Northern part of the city. This neighborhood is known as the place where many important celebrities used to live and the architecture of their homes attracts visitors each day with sunny weather.
Alternatively, Frankfort can also be the gateway for outdoor sports and adventures. Elkhorn Creek is known as one of the most representative places to go bass fishing in Kentucky. You can organize a day of fishing here. Multiple camping spots along the river also make it the ideal bass fishing destination for the weekend for those who aren’t willing to travel too far out from Louisville.
Frankfort is easily accessible from Louisville by car. You can stop by to see some of these attractions on your way to Lexington. But it can also be a day trip from Lexington if you’re planning to visit the entire state of Kentucky within a week.