8 Great Outdoor Date Ideas in Kentucky

In Kentucky, there is no better way to celebrate the seasons or that special someone than by spending your days in nature—together. From leisurely cruises and balloon rides to more strenuous hiking and physical activities, Kentucky has ample opportunities for any couple to get outside, day or night. So when that dinner-and-movie combo grows stale, here are eight great outdoor date ideas to bring some wilderness back into the relationship.

1. HIKE THE BUFFALO TRACE AT BLUE LICKS BATTLEFIELD

The Buffalo Trace, named for a route that follows an ancient buffalo path, measures only 0.15 miles, but it’s an especially sublime path in Blue Licks State Park. As you stroll along with your partner, you’ll share inspiring views of the Licking River, and you might spy Broad-winged Hawks, wood ducks and warblers, while the hollow knock of a woodpecker echoes across the water. Plus, you’ll enjoy the park’s best view of Short’s Goldenrod, a rare wildflower that blooms bright yellow to make the trail even more lively. A member of the sunflower family, Short’s Goldenrod has been deemed critically endangered, and Blue Licks is one of the few places where you can see the plant in its natural habitat.

2. ENJOY A PICNIC LUNCH AT THE ABBEY OF GETHSEMANI

Located on 1,200 acres of land in central Kentucky, the Abbey of Gethsemani is home to more than 40 monks who welcome visitors Monday through Saturday to explore the grounds at no charge. Guests are encouraged to spend the day walking and hiking the public trails west of the abbey, and trail maps are available at the welcome center. To make the date extra special, stop by the farm gift shop and purchase fruitcake, cheese, and fudge made by the monks, and have a picnic after your walk.

3. CATCH THE MOONBOW AT CUMBERLAND FALLS STATE PARK

Cumberland Falls is perfect for an outdoor adventure any day, but if you want to make your date truly unforgettable, go after dark on the night of a full moon. It’s only then that you can see the moonbow—a lunar rainbow created by moonlight instead of sunlight. Moonbows are incredibly rare, and Kentucky is the only place in the Western Hemisphere you can see one. Check your calendar for the next full moon and don’t miss this unique opportunity.

4. PLACE YOUR BETS ON LOVE AT THE ELLIS PARK RACETRACK

For those couples who want to enjoy being outside but aren’t seeking something strenuous, nothing beats Ellis Park on a sunny day. Live racing starts on July 4 and goes through Labor Day, and there’s no admission to the park. Come early, have a few drinks, and, if you’re feeling lucky, put $2 on your favorite horse in each race for an easy, affordable day of outdoor fun.

5. KAYAK THE LICKING RIVER AND STAY AT THAXTON’S CANOE AND PADDLERS’ INN

Perched above the banks of the Licking River, Thaxton’s Canoe and Paddlers’ Inn is perfect for an overnight date. The Inn offers boat rentals, allowing you to do self-guided trips on the gentle Licking River, where you can while away the hours surrounded by undisturbed forest, scanning the sky for bald eagles and great blue herons. To add a little romance, take one of the inn’s guided moonlight paddle tours. Keep in mind, if you stay at Thaxton’s and begin your paddle trips at the inn, you can kayak and canoe daily, free of charge, for the entirety of your stay.

6. "EXPERIENCE THE ROMANCE OF THE RIVER" WITH A BB RIVERBOAT DINNER CRUISE

BB Riverboats in Cincinnati isn’t just for Ohioans: Departing daily from Newport, Kentucky, the two-hour cruise offers one of the most romantic outdoor dates around, where guests can enjoy a delicious meal, live music, and some of the best views the Ohio River has to offer. It’s a perfect way to celebrate a special occasion—or a special someone—this summer.

7. CLIMB, HIKE AND MORE AT RED RIVER GORGE

Occupying a massive 500 miles of terrain, Red River Gorge offers an outdoor experience for all couples, regardless of experience and ability. Perfect for day trips, overnight stays, and weekend getaways, the park has it all: tents and cabins for camping, guided rock climbing trips, and miles of trails to explore on your own. During your trip, be sure to check out the Natural Bridge, a sandstone rock bridge more than 65 feet high and 78 feet long.

8. COZY UP WITH PREHISTORIC BEASTS AT DINOSAUR WORLD

Billed as "prehistoric playground" with fun for the whole family, Dinosaur World will bring out the playful side of you and your date. Located in Cave City and only a short drive away from Mammoth Cave, this outdoor park boasts hundreds of life-sized dinosaur sculptures in natural surroundings, which you can spot among the trees as you travel back in time, following a paved trail through the woods. With tickets under $15 and coolers of outside food and drink welcome, Dinosaur World is an affordable date for you and your partner—and even your dog! Who could ask for a better way to spend a summer day?

Written by Samantha Edmonds for RootsRated Media in partnership with Kentucky Tourism.