Traveling with family doesn’t have to break the bank. In fact there are many things to do that are totally free. From idyllic state parks to Civil War sites to quirky roadside attractions, a Kentucky native shares some of her favorite free things to do in Kentucky with kids and without.
41 Fun and Free Things to do in Kentucky
1. Visit Abraham Lincoln’s birthplace.
This spot is part of the National Park Service. You and your crew can walk through the cabin where he lived for the early part of his childhood
2. Take a deep breath at the Patriot Peace Memorial.
The peace memorial is very near to downtown Louisville, Kentucky. It was built in 2000 to honor fallen patriots. It sits in a park-like setting, and at night the glow of the building is a site to see on its own.
3. See folk art in Kentucky’s Folk Art Center.
Located on the campus of Morehead State University, this art center is housed in an old grocery store. The best part of this free attraction is that they really have thrown support behind the local artists.
4. Tour the State Capitol Building in Frankfort.
I still have vivid memories of touring the state capitol in middle school. There were series of underground tunnels leading to different areas of the capitol.
5. Pay your respects to Daniel Boone at his gravesite.
While you are visiting the Capitol, head over to the cemetery where Daniel Boone is buried. The view of Frankfort alone is worth the trip. Bonus points if you wear your coonskin cap!
6. Take a ride on the Valley View Ferry.
Most ferry rides aren’t free; take advantage of this state funded trip. Your kids will think it is super cool!
7. Take in the breathtaking views at Kingdom Come State Park
This state park is named after the “The Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come,” by Kentucky author John Fox Jr. There are some fantastic rock formations to see during your visit.
8. Eat a picnic lunch at the edge of Nolin Lake.
Nolin Lake is near Mammoth Cave, so if you time your visit right you can tour the cave (which isn’t free) and then have lunch overlooking the lake.
9. Plan a trip to see a moon-bow at Cumberland Falls State Park.
The mist of the falls create a ‘moon-bow’ at just the right time. There is a schedule of when this phenomenon occurs so be sure to check it out prior to your visit.
10. Re-enact a battle at Perryville Battlefield.
Unfortunately, the battlefield at Perryville was the deadliest in the state during the Civil War. Now it is one of the busiest in terms of tourism.
11. Get some energy out by hiking to the top of Natural Bridge.
The natural bridge is located very close to the Red River Gorge which is a mecca for hikers and climbers alike. The natural bridge is a sight to behold and requires a relatively easy 1 mile hike.
12. Visit working thoroughbred racing stables at Claiborne Farm.
Claiborne Farm is located in Paris, Kentucky and has a very storied history. Not only can you see racing hopefuls you can also pay respects to racing giants who are buried there. Does the name Secretariat ring a bell?
13. Visit Boone Station in Lexington.
Boone Station is the second place Daniel Boone settled after deciding his original settlement has become too crowded.
14. Marvel at the Flood Wall Murals in Paducah.
See the works of world renowned mural artist Robert Dafford, on the flood walls of Paducah, Kentucky! You have to see them to believe them!
15. Visit the Kentucky Dam and let the kids burn off some steam in the open areas.
There is a beautiful beach area and bike patch. Not to mention the river traffic providing a scenic backdrop.
16. Check out the Historic Apple Valley Roadside Attraction.
If quirky is your thing then you need to visit this roadside attraction. Words don’t do the place justice; there is something new to look at around every corner.
17. Get up close and personal with the planes at Aviation Heritage Park.
At aviation heritage park there are military planes on display that you and your family can check out!
18. Bask in the beauty of Blanton Forest State Nature Preserve.
This is the largest old growth forest in Kentucky. It has a trail open to the public for hiking that is 4.5 miles long.
19. Take the dogs (and kids!) to romp at Pioneer Park.
This 43 acre park has a large dog park, as well as hiking trails and sports fields.
20. Walk (or run!) across the Purple People Bridge.
This bridge connects Kentucky and Ohio, you can read a post about what to do while you are in town here.
21. Play on the playground at Old Fort Harrod.
The museum costs to tour but the park and playground are free to the public.
22. Hike one of the trails at Bernheim Forest.
Bernheim is an amazing forest that is privately owned. There are numerous trails and playgrounds all over the forest.
23. Explore one of the many covered bridges of Fleming County.
There is something simply magical about coming across a covered bridge on an old country road.
24. Marvel at the beauty of Tioga Falls.
These falls are very close to Louisville and takes a bit of a hike to get to the falls. Plan to visit in the spring.
25. Go on a free guided Big Blue Traditions tour on the UK campus.
This is a University of Kentucky basketball fan’s dream!
26. Go see how candy is made at Old Kentucky Chocolates and get a taste too!
Nothing is better than a tour of a candy factory with a free taste at the end!
27. Tour the Ale 8 One Plant.
Here in Kentucky, Ale 8 One is the unofficial state drink. It is kind of the unicorn of drinks because it isn’t easily found outside of Kentucky!
28. Stop for a picture opp at Weisenberger Mill.
The old waterwheel makes a great backdrop for a family picture. Make sure to pick up some of the grits while you are there!
29. Tour the 21C Museum Art Gallery.
21C is a hotel in downtown Louisville, but inside of the hotel an art gallery is housed. Don’t expect traditional art in this gallery. The more unusual the better!
30. Get locked up in the historic Scott County Jail.
Now used as the Scott County Arts and Cultural center, this former jail is a fun visit if you are in the area!
31. Check out Toyota’s Manufacturing Plant.
Ever wanted to see the production process at Toyota? This tour takes you through the manufacturing facility and visitors are able to see car magic happen!
32. Hike through the Arboretum in Lexington.
On the campus of UK there is a fantastic arboretum open to the public.
33. Go back in time and visit the Dr. Thomas Walker Historic Site.
Dr. Walker led the first expedition through Cumberland Gap in 1750. He built a cabin, a replica of which stands on the site today!
34. In April, check out the Kite Festival in Lexington.
During the kite festival the skies in Lexington are filled with beautiful kites! You have to see it to believe it!
35. Stretch your legs on the Big Four Bridge.
The big four bridge is a converted railroad bridge that connects downtown Louisville and New Albany, Indiana. At night there is even a light show on the bridge!
36. Hike and make memories, then stop at the playground at The Parklands.
The Parklands are quite possibly my family’s favorite spot to explore nature together. With a trail system that will eventually connect downtown Louisville to the east end, playgrounds and sports fields there is something for everyone to enjoy!
37. Visit the Bluegrass Scenic Railroad and Museum. Tour the museum!
If you have train lovers in your life then this trip will be right up their alley! Just keep in mind that train rides are offered but they do have a cost associated with them.
38. Try out the slides at Smothers Park.
Owensboro has quite possibly the coolest (free!) playground in all of Kentucky. As a bonus it overlooks the river!
39. Stop for pictures in front of the world’s largest bat.
You can find the world’s largest bat in front of the Louisville Slugger Museum! While a visit to the museum isn’t free the photos are.
40. Write on the Before I die…wall in NuLu.
I find this wall to be so very inspiring! There are spaces to write down the things you hope to do before you die and the chance to look at what others would like to do.
41. Relax in the butterfly garden at Panther Creek Park.
I adore butterflies, so to be able to sit among them and relax or read a book would be phenomenal!
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