Last Updated: July 21, 2022

What Is Kentucky Known For?

Kentucky is quite a stunning southern state of the US with a deep and rich history, stunning nature, great culture, and lots more. But, what is Kentucky known for? That is what we are here to dive into, from the amazing food to the horse racing, Kentucky has quite a lot going on that makes it quite an attractive vacation destination.

Kentucky is full of delicious countryside, rolling hills, magical rivers and waterfalls, bourbon distilleries, and a whole lot more. You will find live music around every corner, a welcoming culture, and you will never be short of something great to do while in this state, so let’s get into the details.

Kentucky Derby

Kentucky Derby

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If there is one thing that answers “what is Kentucky known for?” better than anything else it kind of has to be the Kentucky Derby. The Kentucky Derby is known as the most exciting two minutes in sports and is the oldest running sporting event in the United States, which is saying something.

The Kentucky Derby is the most famous horse race in the world and is held every year on the first Saturday in May at Churchill Downs racetrack. The derby is a 1.25-mile race for only three-year-old Thoroughbred horses and is attended by more than 150,000 people every year.

It is a wonderful event to attend where you can bet on the horses, try great food, and amazing bourbon, hear good music and meet a lot of lovely locals too.

Horse Racing

horse racing

Considering how popular the Kentucky Derby is, it only stands to reason that Kentucky as a state is a little bit obsessed with horse racing.

Horse racing is a deep part of the culture and heritage of Kentucky and has come to be home to some of the top horse breeders and farms on the planet.

In fact, a lot of the best racehorses in the world that ever ran a furlong were born, raised, and trained in Kentucky and they show off their amazing skills at the Kentucky Derby in Louisville every year.

The Kentucky Horse Park says that the reason horses do so well in the state is due to the naturally occurring limestone that packs the grass with minerals which makes the horses about as fit and healthy as possible – you are what you eat, especially in this case!

Kentucky Fried Chicken

Kentucky Fried Chicken

One thing that made sure the entire world has heard of Kentucky that Kentucky is known for is Kentucky Fried Chicken or KFC as we know it better.

This chain that serves up delicious fried chicken with a secret recipe of spices and herbs has over 200,000 stores in more than 100 countries.

KFC actually originated in North Corbin, Kentucky and the first restaurant that was opened in 1952 is still open today. You can’t pass up an opportunity to go to the first ever KFC where Colonel Sanders created what has become a mega-global success as late as in his 60s.

It’s amazing to think that Colonel Sanders created the biggest thing in his life so late in his life and it just goes to show that your dreams and ideas can come to fruition at any time.

Mammoth Cave National Park

Mammoth Cave National Park

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Another thing Kentucky is known for is Mammoth Cave National Park one of the top parks in the Eastern US. Located in central Kentucky, Mammoth Cave national park is absolutely stunning and home to the longest known cave system on the planet, which is quite amazing to see and has made it quite a popular tourist spot.

The caves sit under a place called Flint Ridge which is pretty much a small hill. It is said they were created around 460 million years ago in a time known as the Ordovician period.

Exploring the caves is a geologist’s dream as they are renowned for their amazing features which include huge stalagmites and stalactites which are awesome to see.

You can choose to see the caves in a number of different ways by going on a quick tour over 0.5 miles or doing a longer one that is around 6 miles.

Louisville Slugger Museum

Louisville Slugger Museum

One thing Kentucky is known for around the United States and maybe even around the world is being home to the famous Louisville.

The Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory opened way back in 1996 and is located in Louisville, unsurprisingly! The museum is run by Hillerich & Bradsby who make the famous Slugger baseball bat that everyone loves.

While in the museum you will find some great exhibits about the history of the Louisville Slugger bat and the history of baseball too. You will also get to tour the factory and see how these amazing baseball bats are made.

The Museum and Factory sit right next to Slugger Field, the city’s major league baseball stadium so the bats can go from the factory to the pros in a matter of minutes.

Bluegrass Music

Bluegrass Music

Kentucky is known as the Bluegrass State and this is because the name Bluegrass which describes the amazing genre of American roots music was created in the Bluegrass region of Kentucky.

Bluegrass music isn’t for everyone mind you but it is a lot of fun. It usually involves the banjo being played along with bits of traditional Irish and English music. Over the years, bluegrass has evolved and can also be characterized as neo-bluegrass or country rock.

You kind of have to go and see a bluegrass band play while you are in Kentucky as watching a group made up of instruments like the double bass, banjo, guitar, and fiddle, going full speed is quite an experience.

College Basketball

Kentucky is known for College Basketball too, in fact, it is pretty damn famous for it! The Kentucky Wildcats are one of the best basketball teams to compete in the NCAA Division ever and their legacy still continues today.

The Wildcats have won a total of eight national championships, more than any other team in the history of college basketball despite competing in the Southeastern Conference, one of the toughest in the USA.

The Wildcats are consistently a top-ranked team in the country and the state of Kentucky does a great job of supporting them. You should definitely try and go to a Wildcats game while in Kentucky as the atmosphere is pretty much impossible to beat and you will never forget the experience.

Cumberland Falls

Cumberland Falls

One thing I mentioned that Kentucky is known for at the beginning is waterfalls and one of the most impressive waterfalls in Kentucky is Cumberland Falls.

You will find this waterfall in the heart of Cumberland Falls State Resort Park in southeastern Kentucky. It is a stunning natural area packed full of beautiful hiking trails, amazing forests, and lots more.

The park is a great place for camping, spending the day having a picnic, and of course, seeing the waterfall.

This waterfall drops 68 feet over a sandstone ledge and is 125 feet wide, so you can only imagine the sound and sheer power that you experience when seeing it.

You should also take a look at it at night as it is one of the only places in the world where you can see a moon-bow – a rainbow made from moonlight instead of sunlight.

Hot Brown

hot brown

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One cuisine Kentucky is known for is something called a Hot Brown and it gets its name from being invented at the Brown Hotel in Louisville. The inventor was none other than the hotel’s chef, Fred K. Schmidt and he came up with the Hot Brown way back in the 1920s.

But, what is a Hot Brown? It is an open sandwich made by putting bacon and turkey on toast, then covering it with cheese and Mornay sauce, after which it is baked or broiled until the cheese melts and bubbles.

Fred K. Schmidt came up with it because he wanted to be able to serve up an alternative to their traditional ham and eggs.

Today, Hot Browns are still incredibly popular and are known as the best comfort food around. You can find them all over Kentucky in many restaurants and they are always served at the Kentucky Derby.

Moonshine

Kentucky is known as the moonshine capital of the world, well, not all of Kentucky but this one specific part of it called Golden Pond. Golden Pond gets its name from the long history of illegal whiskey production that has been in Kentucky for years.

Moonshine is simply a form of whiskey that is not aged and made in homemade distilleries, and it is called moonshine because it was usually made at night under the moonlight to be inconspicuous and not get caught.

Moonshine wasn’t always legal in the state but it is now and it is still made in the exact same way as it was before. You should probably try some real Kentucky moonshine while you are in the state.

Jim Beam

Jim Beam

Jim Beam is a name you would have heard before if you like whiskey and it might surprise you to know that it has been around in Kentucky for close to 200 years, and is pretty much as old as the state itself.

Jim Beam is a type of bourbon whiskey, and it is a family-owned business that was started by Jacob Beam back in 1795 and is still in the family today. It all started when the family joined a government subsidy program to grow corn and then started distilling bourbon and selling it after that.

Jim Beam makes a bunch of different bourbons and is one of the best-selling bourbon brands on the planet and sells over 6 million cases of its whiskey every year.

Bourbon

Bourbon

You might be surprised to hear that Kentucky is home to most of the bourbon distilleries on the planet and it is a fact that Kentucky is responsible for 95% of the bourbon on the planet.

It all started in the 1700s when they mixed the great water of the Kentucky River, Ohio River, and other pure water sources with corn, rye, and wheat to make bourbon. Today, there are more than 50 distilleries and you can go on a tour around them, tasting the bourbon on offer.

Ale 8

Ale 8

Image courtesy of Flickr

Ale 8 is another Kentucky claim to fame as it was invented in Kentucky back in 1926 by G.L. Wainscott and it is still a family-owned business today.

Ale 8 is a soft drink packed full of citrus flavors that is hard to place. It could be called ginger ale with a citrus burst if you wanted to label it.

You can find Ale 8 in shops all over the state and in southern Indiana too plus it is a bit of a favorite for those visiting from out of state.

Tobacco

tobacco

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Kentucky grows more tobacco than most states in the entire US as they produce an astounding 200 million pounds of tobacco every year which finds its way into cigarettes. If you have ever smoked regularly, chances are you have smoked some Kentucky tobacco.

The reason that tobacco grows so well in Kentucky is due to the soil and climate which are perfectly suited to a tobacco plant so they grow large and fast which is ideal for tobacco production.

Tobacco from Kentucky is some of the best quality tobacco in the world and this is partly due to the environment but also due to the great care taken in the growing and curing of it by the farmers.

Coal

Kentucky is also home to some of the richest coal reserves in the USA and the state’s Appalachian Mountains have been mined since the 1820s. It ranks around fifth in coal production in the US.

There are around 100 coal mines in the state still being mined that employ close to 10,000 workers but they are slowly declining due to the popularity of natural gas and stricter environmental regulations.

About the Author Roger Timbrook

Roger is a little obsessed with travel. He has been to over 40 countries, broken 3 suitcases and owned over 10 backpacks in 12 months. What he doesn't know about travel, ain't worth knowing!

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