History, Horses & Natural Beauty: 10 Can’t-Miss Experiences in Henderson, Kentucky
By Hayley Hutson
Whether you’re seeking off-the-beaten-path outdoor adventures or a dose of local history, Henderson is where it’s at. A riverfront retreat on the banks of the Ohio River, this charming town is home to abundant green spaces, a lively entertainment scene and award-winning barbecue and craft brews.
Stay for the weekend or spend the day, but don’t miss out on these ten exciting experiences the next time you’re in Henderson.
1. Experience Audubon State Park
With over 649 acres of wilderness, hiking trails and even a museum, Audubon State Park is the perfect place to enjoy a blend of Henderson’s outdoors and history. Hike on six miles of trails that weave through wetlands and a cypress slough. Tour the John James Audubon Museum, which features the world's largest collection of art and artifacts from the famous artist and naturalist. Birders flock to the park to see waterfowl, sparrows and warblers. And if you love golf, perfect your swing on the nine-hole golf course. Stay overnight at the campground or reserve a charming guest cottage for a longer stay.
2. Jam Out at The Elm
If you’re looking for a night of live entertainment, check out The Elm in downtown Henderson. Every weekend, this historic venue (once the iconic Delker’s Carriage manufacturing building) comes alive with music performances and comedy shows. Rock out to bands like 2 Miles Back and The Sellouts. Laugh out loud at open mic night. And if you love local crafts, check out the on-site pop-up market. Fun fact: it’s believed this space is one of the most haunted buildings in Kentucky – so visitors beware!
3. Stroll the Streets of Downtown Henderson
From unique boutiques to local eateries, charming parks and an impressive collection of 19th-century homes, Henderson’s downtown area is a must-visit for history buffs. Admire the historic architecture on the Historic Henderson Self-Guided Tour, featuring stops at local landmarks like the Blackwell-Vaughn House, 1904 Union Bank & Trust, Central Park and the Soaper Hotel.
4. Hike the RiverWalk
Known as the city on the Ohio River but never in it (Henderson never floods despite being a river town), the RiverWalk is the perfect place to see the river up close. Walk along a 2.5-mile walkway that weaves over rolling hills and through downtown – perfect for a sunset stroll. Keep an eye out for the trains passing over the CSX railroad bridge.
5. Cheer On the Ponies at Ellis Park Racing
No trip to Kentucky is complete without horse racing, and Ellis Park delivers. This century-old track hosts thoroughbred racing every summer from July to Labor Day. Feel the thrill of watching and betting on these steeds as they gallop around the track. Feeling hungry? Grab a bite at the Dade Park Grill - indulge on the fried cheese curds or the crispy catfish po'boy. With monthly promotions like T-Shirt Tuesdays, Golden Gamers, and Monster Mash, something exciting is always happening here (like the annual weiner dog races)!
6. Grab an Award-Winning Craft Beer
For a good craft brew, head to Henderson’s Gateway District. Here, you’ll find the Henderson Brewing Company, the town’s first craft brewery that dates back to the 1800s. Relax in the dog-friendly taproom, tour the three-barrel brewhouse or play a game of cornhole while you sip on award-winning beers like the Bridgeview, featuring notes of malt and earthy spice, or The Depot with hints of caramel and toffee – many of the beers are named after historic Henderson taverns.
7. Savor the Flavor of Local Wine
Dive into the local wine scene by visiting one of Henderson’s two exceptional wineries, each offering a uniquely delicious experience. Tucked away on a scenic hillside, Boucherie Winery is renowned for its refreshing fruit wines that are bottled and aged in-house. The European-inspired Farmer & Frenchman Winery & Café overlooks miles of sun-soaked vistas and boasts a signature vineyard-to-table cuisine, as well as three luxurious guest cabins for visitors looking to extend their stay.
8. Birdwatching at The Sloughs
The Sloughs Wildlife Management Area features over 10,000 acres of wetlands, woodlands, open fields, ridges, and observation platforms that are perfect for spotting rare birds. An unmissable destination for birdwatching enthusiasts, photographers, and nature lovers, the Sloughs offers a front-row seat to the region’s diverse ecosystems and wildlife. If you’re lucky, a trip here could yield sightings of rare birds like bald eagles, short-eared owls, and red-headed woodpeckers.
9. Sample Delicious Western Kentucky Barbecue
Henderson is home to finger-licking-good barbecue that packs a flavorful punch, with five restaurants showcasing their unique take on smoked goodness. Love baked beans? Family-owned Thomason’s Barbecue has been serving their legendary recipe for over 60 years. At ChefWhat, you can’t go wrong with the barbecue mac and cheese. For mouthwatering barbecue takeout, Taylor’s Grill on Wheels serves up massive portions of pulled pork across from the riverfront park, while J&B Barbecue is a local favorite for their melt-off-the-bone ribs. Last but certainly not least, Homer’s Barbecue is a trendy spot downtown with brisket you won’t want to miss.
10. Explore Local Art
Henderson’s art scene is essential to the city’s soul, highlighting the region and local talent through thought-provoking exhibitions, galleries and performances. Check out rotating exhibits featuring still photography, digital art displays and more at Gallery 101. Admire regional artwork from the Beaven Art Gallery at the Henderson Public Library and Preston Arts Center. Around town, you’ll find spectacular murals like “Discover Your Nature” featuring local flora and the railroad bridge. And keep an eye out for the collection of Audubon bird sculptures scattered throughout downtown.