Whether your ideal summer vacation includes exploring forest trails or strolling through vibrant city streets, Kentucky has it all. From large cities like Louisville and Lexington to forest retreats such as Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area, this friendly state boasts plenty of beauty and excitement. Book a stay at one of numerous Kentucky vacation rentals for an unforgettable summer getaway. Check out the top cities and towns in Kentucky.

1. Louisville

louisville skyline
Source: Flickr / The Pug Father

A vacation rental in Louisville provides you with easy access to all the amenities of a big city, including shopping, restaurants, and activities. Visit Churchill Downs to watch a race, or for just a tour to learn more about the Kentucky Derby and the track. Thrill everyone in your family at Kentucky Kingdom, which has roller coasters, a water park, and a variety of other rides. The Louisville Zoo is a perfect spot for a summer afternoon outing, while baseball fans in your party are sure to want to tour the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory. If your timing is right, you can catch the Kentucky Shakespeare festival, or catch a free monthly concert at Waterfront Park.

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2. Somerset

somerset waterpark
Source: cityofsomerset.com

Cooling down in the summer heat is easy in Somerset, which is home to SomerSplash Waterpark. The park has a variety of slides, a lazy river, kiddie play areas, a wading pool, and a wave pool for your entire family to enjoy. After a day or two in the water, head southeast of town to explore the Daniel Boone National Forest, which hosts an abundance of hiking trails, hunting grounds, rivers, and lakes.

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3. Lexington

a horse farm in lexington
Source: Flickr / Anthony

Horses are an important part of the Lexington landscape. See the animals race at Keeneland track, or opt for shows and an equine museum at the Kentucky Horse Park. You can also tour several horse farms outside the city. See a bit of history with a visit to the childhood home of the former first lady at the Mary Todd Lincoln House. Swim with the family at Southland Aquatic Center or Tates Creek Aquatic Center.

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4. Bowling Green

a 1963 grand sport replica at national corvette museum
Source: Flickr / JaseMan

The largest city in southwest Kentucky, Bowling Green is home to the Western Kentucky University and the National Corvette Museum. Channel some of the Corvette’s speed while driving go-karts at NCM Motorsports, or see how the iconic cars are made with a tour of the Corvette factory. Head underground with a visit to Lost River Cave, or beat the heat at Beech Bend Park and Splash Lagoon water park. Take a short drive from the city to visit Mammoth Cave National Park, which has more than 400 miles of underground caves.

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5. Covington

covington
Source: Flickr / Eric Fischer

Located across the Ohio River from Cincinnati, Covington has its own draw in MainStrasse Village. Packed with historic buildings, restaurants such as Bouquet Restaurant and Frida 602, shops, and brew pubs, the German-inspired village is an ideal spot to explore on foot. A monthly bazaar and other events, such as parades and the ‘world’s largest yard sale’, occur throughout the summer. Get in some nature while in town with a visit to Devou Park, which features an amphitheater with summer concerts by the Kentucky Symphony Orchestra, as well as a golf course, lake, and trails.

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6. Newport

historic country house newport
Source: Flickr / Jeff Kubina

Another suburb of Cincinnati, Newport offers a variety of activities to fill your vacation even if you never cross over to the big city. The Newport Aquarium is a favorite with children, while fans of architecture are sure to appreciate the mansions of the East Row Historic District, as well as the Roebling Suspension Bridge. Take a somber moment to learn about the history of slavery at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. Tour the river with BB Riverboats, or pedal around town with a bike from the Cincinnati’s Red Bike bike-share program, which has drop-off and pick-up locations in Newport.

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7. Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area

land between the lakes
Source: landbetweenthelakes.us

Located on the border with Tennessee, the Land Between the Lakes is a wonderful place for nature lovers, hikers, and hunters. Wander the many trails through the area, or get out on Lake Barkley or Kentucky Lake for some fishing or a relaxing boat ride. Rent a boat from Kenlake Marina in Aurora or Lake Barkley Marina in Blue Spring. While in the area, check out the Golden Pond ghost town for a glimpse into the past. A vacation rental in Linton, Canton, Grand Rivers, or other towns on or near the lakes is an ideal home-base to explore the area.

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8. Frankfort

the old state capitol frankfort
Source: Flickr / Lee Wright

The state capital, Frankfort is great place to visit for people that appreciate historic landmarks and architecture. Enjoy a stroll or bike ride around town and see the Old State Captiol, which was completed in 1830, as well as the Kentucky Governor’s Mansion, and the Capital City Museum. Enjoy a more natural stroll at the Salato Wildlife Education Center, which has forest paths prime for viewing animals such as bears, bison, and eagles. Adults can tour the Buffalo Trace Distillery, which is only complete with a sample of the company’s bourbon. A stop at summer music series concert on the Old Capitol lawn is a great way to close out a night in town before heading back to your vacation rental.

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9. Cumberland Gap National Historic Park

cumberland gap
Source: Flickr / Eli Christman

Center your summer vacation around Cumberland Gap for a chance to explore miles of trails, caves, mountain views, and the historic Hensley Settlement on Brush Mountain. The Gap itself is an inspiring narrow pass used for centuries by settlers heading west. Located on the border with Virginia, the park is near numerous towns with vacation rentals. In Middlesboro, stop at Pelancho’s for some local comfort food.

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10. Owensboro

owensboro steel arch brdge
Source: Flickr / Paul Westra

Located on the southern shore of the Ohio River, Owensboro is renowned for its barbecue. Kick of summer in May by visiting the International Bar-B-Q Festival, or get a healthy dose of wings or ribs at one of the city’s other summer festivals or events, such as the free weekly Friday After 5 concerts at the downtown waterfront. Enjoy the summer weather with a stroll through the Western Kentucky Botanical Garden, or head to Smothers park for a picnic or to let the kids play in the extensive playground or water features. Combest Pool and Cravens Pool are perfect places to cool off.

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