5 Fun Trip Ideas for Black Families Exploring Kentucky

For Black families wanting to spend time vacationing, a short weekend jaunt or a longer getaway to immerse themselves in sights and sounds, look no further than the state of Kentucky. Whatever the interest, whether arts & culture, historic sites or taking some time to breathe in the fresh air of outdoors, there is truly something for every trip imaginable. Use the tips that follow as a guide for fashioning a trip that will meet both the needs—and interests—on your next or first trip to Kentucky as a collective. 


Exploring arts & culture


For those families who are art lovers and culture aficionados, planning a trip to Kentucky comes full with options. Structure your trip around the various cities in Kentucky, with Lexington and Louisville having the most robust list of places to see and explore. 


In Louisville, there’s the Kentucky Center for African American Heritage. Established to amplify and celebrate the Black heritage in the region, the museum is a glorious collection of contributions from African American artists, educators and historians. Through a number of exhibits, including one of Black women’s history, visitors can learn about enduring contributions that Black people have left in this region of the country. The museum is situated near Old Walnut Street, an area of significance for African Americans as it was a flourishing center of Black business and culture. The Kentucky Center for African American Heritage is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. 


Other places of note in Louisville to visit include Roots 101 African American Museum, Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory, Kentucky Derby Museum, and the Frazier History Museum which are all a part of Louisville’s Unfiltered Truth Collection, celebrating the impact of African American contributions to the city’s history.


Turn this arts and culture trip into a road trip and journey to Lexington roughly an hour and half away—visit the International Museum of the Horse housed within the Kentucky Horse Park. Kentucky is known for their horse heritage and this immersive museum lets guests step into that world of history through exhibits on horse drawn vehicles, the National Horse Show and more.  Also included in this museum is how pivotal African American horse breeders, riders and trainers have been to the thoroughbred racing industry. Look for the current exhibits: Black Horsemen on the Kentucky Turf and Buffalo Soldiers. This museum is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. 


Other places/organizations of note in Lexington to visit: Lexington Visitors Centers (African Americans in the Bluegrass), African American Forum, Inc. 


Taking in historic sites 


Got any history buffs in your family? Kentucky is certainly the right place to take in historic sites that are so particular to Kentucky that they can’t be seen or witnessed anywhere else. If your family is composed of soon-to-be college aged children, turn this vacation into both an educational and information finding experience. Within the state of Kentucky, there are two HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) — Kentucky State University and Simmons College of Kentucky. The former is in Frankfort and the latter in Louisville. HBCUs represent a long legacy of schools that opened for Black people when segregation didn’t permit otherwise. Today, these schools remain as a reminder of Black brilliance and ingenuity. 


Another site worthy of mention for those families who opt to rent a car for their time in Kentucky (highly recommended) is the African American Forgotten Landmarks driving tour in Danville. The tour runs up to five hours if you drive the entire route, but of course you can stop at your leisure. In this driving tour are a collection of churches, cemeteries and freetowns—towns established by and for Black people. The start point is Grayson’s Tavern. There you’ll be given a brochure and sent on your way to get a glimpse into the past, of what has been forgotten and needs to be remembered. 


Eating your way through Kentucky


Kentuckians are known for their unique takes on food and the dishes they can’t live without. And for those who consider themselves foodies or even mildly food obsessed, planning a trip around eating yourself through the state could be a fun way to approach family time. 


Snackers unite on the ultimate Kentucky appetizer perfect for munching—beer cheese. To make beer cheese, sharp cheddar, garlic, the cook’s choice of spices and beer are combined to make a thick dip to be eaten with either veggies (think carrots or celery) or something crunchier like potato chips, pretzels or saltine crackers. You can find it at any brewery or brewpub but for a great one try following the Beer Cheese Trail in Winchester/Clark County.


Other great Kentucky dishes to try: the chocolate walnut Derby Pie (A Taste of Kentucky), brothy soup with meat and veggies called burgoo (Keeneland Lexington) , the creamy cucumber spread Benedictine (The Café Louisville), Kentucky style barbecue (Old Hickory Bar-B-Q) in Owensboro. 


Spending time in the great outdoors 


Take a pause and plan a trip to Kentucky centered around spending time with Mother Nature. Spending time in the Great Outdoors is not only a heart healthy activity but it can provide a greater sense of gratitude, and ultimately melt the stresses of everyday life away if only for a moment. For an extra dose of being one with nature, challenge your family to limit cell phone usage to more deeply connect with nature and one another. 


Throughout Kentucky there are special outdoor treasures to be experienced. Mammoth Cave National Park is one of these. The park, designated as an UNESCO Heritage Site, is the home to the world’s longest cave system, but other activities include camping, walking and hiking trails, fishing and stargazing. Because there is so much to do at Mammoth Cave, it makes it the perfect pick for a multi-day adventure. There are cave tours and ranger led tours through the park as well available upon request. 


Other must see outdoor sites in Kentucky: Greenway Trail (Paducah), Parklands of Floyds Fork (Louisville), Green River Park and Arboretum (Munfordville). 


Focus on relaxation and wellness 


Sometimes you need some family time to get away and usher in mind, body and spirit restoration. Planning a wellness trip throughout Kentucky needn’t be a source of stress either with the plethora of routes to go to ensure you are relaxed once on that plane—or back in your car on the road—headed back home. 


For a full day of zen, there’s Lexington Salt Cave Halotherapy and Wellness. The only Himalayan salt cave in the state, choose from sitting in the salt cave to boost respiratory and nervous system health, an ionic detox foot bath, massages and reiki. Lexington Salt Cave is open Tuesday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday noon to 5 p.m. and Sunday 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. They also take appointments outside of those hours to fit varying needs. 


Continue on the wellness trek and head to western Kentucky to Paducah. This city with a population of 25,000 has become known as a haven of sorts for wellness and health. For a weekend full of wellness and relaxation take your pick from the Elysian Fields Massage & Spa or the Wildhair Studios Rock Shop for a variety of rejuvenating activities to inspire ease. 


Written by Nneka Okona

January 17, 2022