Kentucky has a wealth of landmarks and points of interest to appeal to and entertain the most diverse group of travelers and visitors. Here is a ‘short list’ of the highlights:
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Churchill Downs (Louisville)
Opened in 1875 in Louisville nearly 100 years after the first race course was constructed in the state, Churchill Downs has earned a stellar reputation as the home of the Kentucky Derby the "most exciting two minutes in sports." The race course, which currently covers 147 acres and seats 51,000 (although during the Derby, attendance can reach 165,000), is steeped in the history and tradition of thoroughbred racing. Churchill hosts racing fans and visitors from all over the world during two meets, spring and fall. Churchill is also home to the Kentucky Derby Museum, which interprets the history of the Kentucky Derby and Churchill Downs.
Muhammad Ali Center (Louisville)
The Muhammad Ali Center is the newest Kentucky jewel overlooking the banks of the mighty Ohio River. Located in downtown Louisville, the center is an international cultural and educational facility that chronicles the life of Muhammad Ali through exhibits. The center shares Ali’s ideals on personal growth, humanitarianism and his desire to bring the peoples of the world closer together through respect, understanding and hope. The Center combines exhibition space, classrooms, library and archives, retail and meeting space, and the use of the latest information and communications technology to give visitors a non-traditional museum experience.
Kentucky Horse Park (Lexington)
Kentucky Horse Park is the only park in the world dedicated to man’s relationship with the horse. Established in 1978, the park is home to the International Museum of the Horse and the American Saddlebred Museum. The Horse Park also features the Rolex Kentucky 3 Day Event, the largest annual equine competition at the park, and one of only six three-day events in the world that are ranked at the highest level (four stars). And in 2010, the Kentucky Horse Park will host the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, the largest equine sporting event ever held in the United States. The occasion will also mark the first time the games have been held outside of Europe.
Keeneland Race Course (Lexington)
Since 1936, racing fans have traveled to Keeneland Race Course in Lexington, KY the heart of Kentucky’s Bluegrass region. Keeneland features spring and fall meets, featuring the Blue Grass Stakes (a prep for the Kentucky Derby) in the spring, and the Breeder’s Cup at the fall meet, as well as the legendary Keeneland Sales. The racetrack was also the setting for much of the filming of Seabiscuit, the 2003 movie about the great thoroughbred champion. With perfectly manicured grounds in the midst of central Kentucky thoroughbred horse farms, Keeneland offers a unique and wonderful visitor experience.
The Shakers played an important role in American religious history, developing the longest lasting communal society. The Shakers had two communities in Kentucky. Pleasant Hill, located in central Kentucky, is the nation’s largest restored Shaker Community. The community features 3,000 acres of preserved farmland, 34 restored buildings and over 25 miles of rock fences representing the most extensive collection remaining in Kentucky today. The Shaker Museum at South Union interprets a separate Shaker community, which lived on the site from 1802 until 1922. The Shaker legacy is found not only in the furniture and historic buildings that remain, but also in their ideals of equality, peace and love.
Newport Aquarium (Newport)
The Newport Aquarium located at Newport on the levee on the banks of the Ohio River in Newport is one of the latest jewels added to Kentucky’s attractions. The aquarium is a state-of-the-art facility featuring thousands of aquatic animals from around the world living in one million gallons of fresh and salt water. Opened in 1999 and named the top aquarium in the Midwest in the 2004 Zagat Survey’s U.S. Family Travel Guide, the Newport Aquarium is an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), a leader in global wildlife conservation.
Maker’s Mark Distillery (Loretto)
Kentucky has been supplying the world’s bourbon for over 200 years. Established in 1805, Maker’s Mark Distillery is the oldest working bourbon distillery in the nation on its original site and has been named a National Historic Landmark. Maker’s is also one of the smallest distilleries, crafting bourbon in batches of less than 19 barrels. The bourbon manufactured here features a handcrafted process from the selection of grain to the hand dipping of the bottles in a wax seal. Visitors here can experience the master craft of bourbon making at its finest.