21 Kentucky Landmarks

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Famous for bourbon, horses and wild natural beauty, the Bluegrass State is a treasure trove of intriguing Kentucky landmarks. Kentucky is the home of Kentucky Fried Chicken, bluegrass music and the Kentucky Derby, where spectators have dressed up since 1875 to drink mint juleps and watch horses race at Churchill Downs.

The state has one of the world’s longest cave systems. And as almost half of Kentucky is covered in forest, the state is one of the USA’s top hardwood producers. Besides Alaska, there are more miles of running water in Kentucky than in other US states. Homegrown heroes and celebrities include Daniel Boone, Abraham Lincoln, Muhammad Ali and George Clooney.

Kentucky Landmarks

Famous Landmarks In Kentucky

kentucky state landmarks

1- Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory

This specialty museum in Louisville’s ‘Museum Row’ is a Kentucky landmark easily identifiable by the World’s Biggest Bat, a 120 feet steel baseball bat that stretches to the sky.

Check out their award-winning factory tour that charts a bat’s journey from a humble wood to a finished professional baseball bat.

Other museum highlights are the big glove sculpture and interactive exhibits like Bud’s Batting Cage, where batters can hit with a replica of legendary Louisville slugger bats used by famous players like Babe Ruth and Derek Jeter.

Hardcore baseball fans will love the gallery full of baseball memorabilia.

Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory is at 800 W Main St, Louisville, KY 40202.

2- Kentucky Horse Park

important landmarks in kentucky horses grazing
Horses grazing in a field at sunset. One of the famous Kentucky landmarks is Kentucky Horse Park.

Whether it is the bluegrass growing in the Kentucky hills that made horse bones stronger and turning them into stellar racing steeds or the earliest frontiersman who brought the horse culture of Virginia to the state, Kentucky is devoted to celebrating the relationship between horses and humans.

At the Kentucky Horse Park, horses have roamed here for nearly 200 years.

The 1,224-acre (495 ha) equine theme park is also a working horse farm and venue for international equestrian competitions.

The park has four museums, including the Smithsonian-affiliated International Museum of the Horse, Hall of Champions, statues and sculptures.

The Parade of Breeds Show, held throughout the year, showcases common and rare breeds of horses.

The park also offers horseback trail riding and a calendar of events.

Kentucky Horse Park is at 4089 Iron Works Pkwy, Lexington, KY 40511.

3- Ark Encounter

Kentucky ark landmark
The Ark Encounter is one of the most impressive Kentucky landmarks. Photo: Ark Encounter.

The Ark Encounter is a full-size Noah’s Ark built to the dimension specified in the Bible.

It is seven-story high, 500 feet (152 m) long, and is an impressive engineering landmark in Kentucky.

Learn the Biblical story of how Noah built the ark and cared for the animals inside.

Tour its three decks filled with world-class exhibits that show how he made this massive structure seaworthy without using modern technology.

Complete your Ark exploration by learning about what happened after the flood and how they fared.

The Ark Encounter is somewhere you could spend all day with the family as there’s a children’s playground, ziplines and the Ararat Ridge Zoo.

Ark Encounter is at 1 Ark Encounter Dr, Williamstown, KY 41097.

4- Muhammad Ali Center

Discover the legendary boxing champion and Olympic gold medalist Muhammad Ali in the boxing ring and beyond.

Muhammad Ali Center is a great place to get motivated and inspired by this Louisville native.

This six-floor museum dwells on every part of the boxer’s life.

It uses interactive displays, interviews, graphics and photos to shine a light on the champion’s character, career and religion.

The champ’s six core principles that governed his life were respect, confidence, dedication, conviction, giving and spirituality.

For a stint of fun, attempt some shadow boxing moves from his famous fights.

Ali fan or not, this museum is a treat.

Muhammad Ali Center is at 144 N 6th St, Louisville, KY 40202.

5- Big Four Bridge

Kentucky landmarks big four bridge lit up at night
The Big Four Bridge is another of the Kentucky landmarks of engineering you’ll be impressed with.

Named after the now-defunct Big Four Railroad, the Indianapolis-based Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago and St. Louis Railway, Big Four Bridge was initially a railroad truss bridge over the Ohio River that connected Louisville, Kentucky to Jeffersonville, Indiana.

The 2525 ft (770 m) bridge was completed in 1895 but decommissioned from rail service in 1968. It’s now a bridge for cyclists and pedestrians.

Enjoy a two-mile (3.2 km) round trip across the Ohio River and savour a breathtaking view over the water and the downtown area.

The old railroad bridge is dotted with signage to provide historical information about the bridge so you can history hop while you stretch your legs.

Big Four Bridge is at 1101 River Rd, Louisville, KY 40202.

Also read:

Natural Landmarks in Kentucky

6- Mammoth Cave

famous landmarks of kentucky Image of large cavein Kentucky with stalagmites and stalactites
Mammoth Caves is one of the Kentucky natural landmarks worth seeing.

An International Biosphere Reserve, Mammoth Cave is the world’s longest cave system even though only 405 miles (651 km) has been mapped.

This natural Kentucky landmark is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the central part of the state within Mammoth Cave National Park.

The Karst topography of the cave is stunning, with tunnels, sinkholes and underground rivers.

Several kinds of cave tours are available, including the unique Cleveland Avenue Tour, which highlights the evidence of early visitors to the cave and the Domes and Dripstones tour that takes you through the cave’s natural formations to Frozen Niagara.

It is an excellent landmark to explore if you’re interested in geology, history and science.

Mammoth Cave is in Ollie, KY 42259.

7- Red River Gorge

famous landmarks in kentucky Half Moon Rock at Red River Gorge
Half Moon Rock at Red River Gorge in Kentucky is another stunning natural landmark of Kentucky.

Red River Gorge is an otherworldly landscape of cliffs, waterfalls, caverns, canyons and sandstone arches like the spectacular Natural Bridge.

Nicknamed the ‘Grand Canyon of Kentucky’ for its stunning natural features, the gorge is embedded in the lush Daniel Boone National Forest.

Take a skylift to view Natural Bridge or hike to its base.

For adventure seekers, Red River Gorge is the state’s rock climbing and rappelling destination.

Other outdoor activities include hiking, kayaking, canoeing, camping, fishing and driving the Red River Gorge Scenic Byway.

Red River Gorge is on Robbie Ridge Rd, Stanton, KY 40380.

8- Cumberland Falls

kentucky landmarks Cumberland Falls in Kentucky. Taken with tobacco filter.
Cumberland Falls in one of the stunning natural landmarks in Kentucky.

If you want to catch a moonbow in the USA, Cumberland Falls is one of two places in the country where you have a good chance of seeing one.

With a full moon adorning the horizon and a clear and very dark sky, the water of this ‘Niagara of the South’ forms mists that refract the moonlight to create magical moonbows or lunar rainbows.

Located right outside of Daniel Boone National Park, Cumberland Falls is open 24 hours to allow visitors to experience this exceptional phenomenon.

The moonbow trail hike is a bit strenuous. During the day, the area is famous for scenic hiking trails and horseback riding.

Cumberland Falls is at Cumberland Falls State Resort Park, McCreary Country and Whitley County, Kentucky.

9- Creelsboro Natural Arch

Creelsboro Natural Arch is the historic landmark in Kentucky leading to the Cumberland River.

Also referred to as Rockhouse Bottom, Creelsboro Natural Arch is a 300 million-year-old limestone bridge carved by river erosion over time.

Above the is an Indian burial ground and it’s believed that Indians took shelter under this arch to shelter from the elements.

The natural arch is located on private property, but everybody can access the site without any admission fee.

Creelsboro Natural Arch is near Highway 379 in Jamestown, KY 42629.

10- Big Bone Lick

Big Bone Lick is a 525 acres (212 ha) state park in Boone County and named after the Pleistocene megafauna fossils found in this area.

This park was once the site where large animals like mammoths, sabre-toothed cats, bison, caribou and mastodon came to lick off salt accumulated near the sulphur springs.

Some call this Kentucky landmark the birthplace of American paleontology.

The park offers fun and educational activities for all ages.

You can see a bison herd, tour the museum, learn about Native American history and admire the prehistoric animal replicas in the diorama pit.

Hike the Big Bone Creek Trail and go camping in the camping ground. The park is open year-round.

Big Bone Lick is at 3380 Beaver Rd, Union, KY 41091.

For more amazing European Landmarks, read:

Historic Landmarks in Kentucky

landmarks of kentucky Old Kentucky farm with sunrise and blue sky.
An iconic scene of an old Kentucky farm at sunrise.

11- Churchill Downs

Home to the world-famous Kentucky Derby, Churchill Downs is a thoroughbred race track and a significant landmark of Kentucky.

The most exciting time to visit the state is during the Kentucky Derby when the atmosphere is electrifying.

Watch the trumpeter in red coat summoning the horses before each race while you sip a mint julep, the Derby’s signature cocktail.

At other times of the year, a visit to Churchill Downs is still worthwhile as you can tour its historic grounds and the race track, visit the museum and watch the 360-degree movie.

Churchill Downs is at 700 Central Ave, Louisville, KY 40208.

12- Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park

historical landmarks in kentucky Abraham Lincoln's birthplace national historical park vintage line drawing.
A vintage drawing of Abraham Lincoln’s birthplace, which is one of the famous landmarks in Kentucky today.

Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park was the first Lincoln memorial in the USA, constructed between 1909 and 1911 to commemorate the birthplace of America’s 16th president.

A replica of Lincoln’s actual birth cabin is preserved inside a neoclassical Memorial building on the traditional site of the farm where Lincoln was born.

The architect who designed the memorial building included symbols from Lincoln’s life, like 56 steps to represent his 56 years on earth, and 16 windows and 16 rosettes as a reminder that he was the 16th president.

Visit the Sinking Spring at the foot of the hill to see where Lincoln probably tasted his first drink of water.

Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park is at 2995 Lincoln Farm Rd, Hodgenville, KY 42748.

13- The Waverly Hills Sanatorium

This early 20th century Tudor Gothic Revival landmark in Kentucky sits on a hilltop in southwestern Jefferson county.

With a mysterious air and suspected paranormal presence in its dark halls, staircases and corners, it has the reputation of being one of the most haunted places in the state.

The sanatorium was constructed in 1910 to house patients suffering from the white plague or tuberculosis, a prevalent disease in the area originating from the bacteria that bred in the wetlands around the Ohio River.

It closed down in 1961 after antibiotics were discovered and a TB treatment was found.

After many failed attempts to repurpose the building, it was converted into a haunted house and is the perfect place to go on a spine-chilling ghost tour.

The Waverly Hills Sanatorium is at 4400 Paralee Dr, Louisville, KY 40272.

14- Old Louisville

louisville kentucky landmarks statue of Louis XVI with blue sky
The statue of Louis XVI in downtown Louisville is one of the historical landmarks in Kentucky to see.

Old Louisville is one of the city’s first residential areas and a charming 1200 acre (485 ha) neighbourhood of Victorian houses.

Experience the grandeur of Louisville’s Gilded Age in the castle-like structure of Conrad-Caldwell House, which had of all the latest innovations of its day.

Learn the history behind the colour pink at Pink Palace, with its French Chateauesque inspired architecture and its colourful brothel past.

Complete your walking tour by visiting the heart of this historic district – Werne’s Row, with its row of nearly five similar styled Chateauesque mansions.

It has one of the most diverse and impressive collections of Victorian homes in the country.

Old Louisville is at 1340 S 4th St, Louisville, KY 40208.

15- Belle of Louisville

Celebrate Louisville’s unique relationship with the Ohio River aboard this 107-year-old authentic paddlewheel-propelled Mississippi River-style steamboat.

A beloved waterfront icon of the city, the steamer has been cruising the water since 1914 and is considered the most widely travelled in American history.

Now it is a floating National Historic Landmark that offers scenic cruises that will take you on a laid-back journey into the era of the 19th and 20th century when steamboat transportation was gradually revolutionizing the country’s river.

Check out its characteristic features like hog chain trusses, multiple fire-tube boilers, and the engine room.

Belle of Louisville is at 401 W River Rd, Louisville, KY 40202.

16- Crescent Hill Reservoir

Crescent Hill Reservoir is a historical Kentucky landmark where engineering meets art.

Back in the day, the reservoir of Crescent Hill could filter and store 110 million gallons of water.

Right from its inception, the High Victorian Gothic-styled Gatehouse and the reservoir was a tourist attraction, mainly because of its German castle looks.

Besides the 130-year-old stone buildings with brilliant detailing, Crescent Hill Reservoir also has a beautiful grassy sloping lawn to picnic or enjoy a relaxing stroll around the serene reservoir.

Take a tour of the Gatehouse to learn about its architectural and social significance.

Crescent Hill Reservoir is at Reservoir, Louisville, KY 40206.

17- Burke’s Distillery in Loretta

landmarks in kentucky Mint Julep cocktail with bourbon, ice and mint in glass on black background
Mint Julep cocktail with bourbon, ice and mint is a drink to try while Burke’s Distillery is another of the historical landmarks in Kentucky to visit.

Kentucky is the World’s Bourbon Capital, so a distillery visit is a must-do to understand the importance of this corn-based and barrel-aged amber potion that the state is known for.

Burke’s Distillery in Loretta is a historical stop that features prominently on the American Whiskey Trail and the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.

Build-in 1889 by George R. Burks, this distillery is now a National Historic Landmark.

After a change of ownership, it still produces Maker’s Mark, a popular Kentucky bourbon.

After a tour of the facility to see how bourbon is made, from distillation to bottling, round off your visit with some bourbon tasting.

Burke’s Distillery is at 3350 Burks Spring Rd, Loretto, KY 40037.

18- Fort Boonesborough

Step back in time to the Revolutionary War when Americans fought to break free from British colonialists and move west to claim new lands.

Daniel Boone’s trailblazing foray into Kentucky carved the historical ‘little road’ or Boone’s Trace.

Fort Boonesborough was the final stop on this trail where the frontiersmen led by Daniel built a camp by the shore of Kentucky River on 1 April 1775.

Later a settlement was established and a fort was erected for the settler’s protection.

It is believed that this is where the origin story of Kentucky lies.

Now visitors can stroll the original fort site, soak up a frontiersman life from the 1700s at the replica fort, or camp at the campground to get the feel of the past.

Fort Boonesborough is at 4375 Boonesboro Rd, Richmond, KY 40475.

19- Ashland, Henry Clay’s Home

kentucky historic landmarks Engraved by W.J Hubard and published in ''National Portrait Gallery of Distinguished Americans'' in 1834.
Henry Clay (1777-1852) was a lawyer, politician and orator.

Ashland is the 19th-century mansion and plantation of Abraham Lincoln’s political mentor and Kentucky’s celebrated statesman, Henry Clay.

A champion of controversial issues, he ran for a presidential campaign thrice and came close to becoming the president.

During the plantation’s glory days, Ashland was spread across 600 acres (240 ha) and had nearly 60 slaves working at this historic estate.

During the New Madrid earthquake, the building was damaged and later rebuilt by Henry’s son, James B. Clay.

Now it is open for tours where visitors can walk the ground, see several sculptures and gardens and get a glimpse into Clay’s political career and his passion for agriculture.

Ashland is at Henry Clay House, 303 Henry Clay Blvd STE 100, Ashland, KY.

20- Louisville Water Company Pumping Station

A peek at this elaborate neoclassical architecture with Doric columns and Corinthian portico will not reveal what hides within.

You will be mildly surprised that this is not at all a Roman temple complex overlooking the Ohio River but is the oldest ornamental water tower in the world.

A National Historic Landmark, Louisville Water Company Pumping Station is a fascinating feat of engineering built in 1860 to save the city people from consuming tainted water that gave them cholera.

With steam engine pumping and later Riverbank Filtration process, water quality improved so much that in 2008, Louisville’s water won the award for ‘The Best Tasting Tapwater in the Country’.

Louisville Water Company Pumping Station is at 3005 River Rd, Louisville, KY 40207.

21- State Capitol Building

kentucky historical landmarks State Capitol Building at sunrise
The State Capitol Building in Frankfort is one of the historical landmarks in Kentucky to see.

For landmarks in Latin America, see:

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Christina Pfeiffer Travel Writer
Christina Pfeiffer is a writer, photographer and video blogger based in Queensland, Australia. She has lived in three continents and her career as a travel journalist has taken her to all seven continents. Since 2003, she has contributed travel stories and photographs to mainstream media in Australia and around the world such as the Sydney Morning Herald, CNN Traveller, The Australian and the South China Morning Post. She has won many travel writing awards and is a full member of the Australian Society of Travel Writers.