By Jessica Pook
Sitting at the crossroads of several regions of the U.S., Kentucky offers a unique mix of the South and the Midwest that sets it apart from any other state
Heart of horse country
The sound of thundering hooves is common in Kentucky, whether from a horseback riding adventure or a live thoroughbred derby race. Lexington is known as the ‘Horse Capital of the World’ due to its rolling hills and farms where stallions gallop and breeders raise the next champions. In nearby Louisville, the state’s largest city, the iconic Kentucky Derby is staged on the first Saturday in May before a colossal crowd at Churchill Downs.
Taste the state's favourite tipple
Those with a taste for bourbon can sip their way around countless distilleries state-wide. Kentucky is the prime producer of this corn-based whiskey, making 95% of the world’s supply. Famous bourbon makers craft their own particular blends in idyllic rural distilleries, where guests are invited to walk the grounds and see the process in action. Restaurants and bars also celebrate this signature spirit through inventive dishes and specialty cocktails.
Scenery and natural wonders
Kentucky is home to some spectacular outdoor areas, such as Mammoth Cave National Park, the longest cave system in the world with over 400 miles of underground passages. Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley in the southwestern region are great places to kayak, sail and swim, while Lake Cumberland in south-central Kentucky is the ‘Houseboat Capital of the World.’ Cumberland Falls, dubbed ‘the Niagara of the South’ in the southeast, is a magnificent natural wonder while nearby Red River Gorge offers endless outdoor fun such as hiking and biking.
Locally sourced with signature flavours
In a state with so much farmland, locally-sourced produce is on most menus. Louisville serves up talented chefs and bourbon-inspired hotspots; Lexington offers Southern fare ranging from casual to refined dining, and a host of smaller towns celebrate the flavours of the Bluegrass. Food events include Newport’s Great Inland Seafood Festival, the International Bar-B-Que Festival in Owensboro and the World Chicken Festival in London.
Birthplace of Bluegrass
The folk-tinged take on country music known as bluegrass is forever linked to Kentucky – and music-lovers from across the world catch live acts everywhere from intimate front porches and tiny local bars to major events. Performances also accompany exhibits, oral histories, memorabilia and more at Owensboro’s newly renovated Bluegrass Hall of Fame and Museum, which also offers visitors the chance to form their own band.