If you are looking for some great things to do this year, Kentucky is the place to be! From horses to bourbon to fried chicken, the Bluegrass State has something for everyone.
There’s so much to do in Kentucky, we tried to make it easier on you by narrowing it down to these 7 great Kentucky events. So pack your bags, read on to learn more about all the great reasons to visit Kentucky this year!
1. The Kentucky Derby
Hands down the most famous Kentucky event is the Kentucky Derby. In fact, it’s one of the top yearly events in the entire country. Held Saturday, May 4 at Churchill Grounds, this is the 145th year that the derby has taken place. It’s much more than just a horse race, it’s an event steeped in rich traditions including getting dressed up in fancy spring fashions.
There are events at Churchill Downs all week leading up to the big day:
- Taste of Derby is an event foodies dream of! It features amazing chefs from all over the country. Come and sample amazing food, great wine, and mingle with horse racing celebrities.
- Dawn at the Downs is held each day of Derby Week and offers you a chance to watch the contenders as they conduct their morning workouts, building excitement leading up to race day.
- Champions Day offers a chance to dive into the history of the derby and meet legendary jockeys and trainers.
- Thurby, the Thursday of Derby Week, has a little bit of everything. 11 races, live music, and of course, bourbon round out this day of celebration kicking off Derby Weekend.
If you’re going to check out Derby Week, make sure take advantage of inside information that all the locals know! Learn more here.
2. Trail of Tears Pow-Wow
For the past 25 years, the Trail of Tears Pow-Wow has welcomed 16,000 guests per year to celebrate the rich heritage of the Native American peoples. This educational event offers a rare opportunity to immerse yourself in the lives and culture of the country’s first inhabitants. Held in September at the Trail of Tears Park in Hopkinsville, events at the Pow-Wow include traditional dance, drumming, singing, arts and crafts, and food.
3. International Bar-B-Q Festival
Held in Owensboro in mid-may every year since 1979, the International Bar-B-Q festival is a chance to try some serious eats! People from all over the world come to show off their amazing bar-b-q recipes. The festival features many different events including a pie eating contest, golf scramble, sock hop, beer plaza, and live entertainment.
4. American Quilter’s Society National Quilt Show
Whether you quilt yourself, or just enjoy beautiful art, the National Quilt Show is a great time. Held in Paducah in late April, this show features a juried exhibit of the most creative quilts in the world! The Merchant Mall will give you a chance to take a beautiful piece home with you. You can also visit the Museum of the American Quilter’s Society, which has extended hours during the festival.
5. Kentucky Bourbon Festival
Kentucky is the Bourbon Capital of the World where 95% of the world’s bourbon is made. Each September you can celebrate the delicious spirit where it originated. Head to Bardstown Kentucky to enjoy the 5-day Kentucky Bourbon Festival.
There’s plenty to do and drink at this amazing festival. From tours of historic Bardstown to black-tie galas to the flower festival, there’s a little bit of something for everyone.
6. Hillbilly Days
This event, held in Pikeville in April, is known as “The Festival with a Heart.” In its 43rd year this year, Hillbilly Days is put on by the Shriners in an effort to raise money for crippled children. People are encouraged to dress as hillbillies and join in the parade.
Hillbilly Days is packed full of fun things to do! The festival features live music, a carnival, and moonshine tasting. The large artisan and craft market gives you the opportunity to leave with something nice created by a local craftsman. The Hillbilly Pageant is sure to get you laughing- or you could compete and prove to the world how much of a hillbilly you can be!
7. World Chicken Festival
Laurel County, Kentucky is the home of the first ever Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant. Each year, Colonel Harland Sanders’ legacy is celebrated with the World Chicken Festival.
This four-day event serves up more goodness than a 20-piece bucket of extra-crispy! The multiple stages host events like music and dance performances, karaoke, and a hot wing eating contest. The Grand Festival Parade rolls through beautiful downtown London while a panel judges each float and awards prizes for the best in each category.
The World’s Largest Skillet churns out amazing fried chicken for festival-goers to enjoy. Operated by volunteers, the skillet has produced over 120,000 fried chicken dinners since it was built in 1992. Be sure not to miss this festival, it’s finger-lickin’ good!
Great Kentucky Events
There are so many great events happening in Kentucky this year. Whether you attend a single event, or truly go the distance and try to hit them all, you’ll have a blast as you take in the rich culture that Kentucky has to offer- and don’t forget about the food!
If you enjoyed learning about these great Kentucky events and can’t get enough of awesome things to do in Middle-America, check out this article on things to do in Missouri. Maybe you can make it a road trip and hit both states!