Kentucky

The US state of Kentucky is famous for horse racing, glowing bluegrass meadows, and good old Bourbon Whiskey. But did you know that the beautiful southern state also has great nature adventures to offer? Come and see the most beautiful places in Kentucky and get some tips for traveling and immigrating!

Kentucky facts

Capital: Frankfort
Area: 104,659 km²
Population: about 4.5 million
Location: Southeast USA
Nickname: The Bluegrass State
State animal: Cardinal
Time zone: Eastern: UTC−5/−4 Central: UTC−6/−5

Kentucky: location & population

The US state of Kentucky is located in the southeast of the USA and is officially assigned to the US southern states. There are seven other states bordering Kentucky, namely Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, Illinois, Tennessee, Virginia, and Missouri.

Approximately 98% of Kentucky residents are US citizens, which is well above the national average of 93%. Only about 4% of the residents were born outside the United States. Most immigrants to Kentucky are from Mexico, followed by India and Cuba.

Approximately 19% of Kentucky residents are reported to be of "American" descent. They are followed by groups of Germans, Irish, and English.

Kentucky was a favorite hunting ground of Native Americans, specifically the Shawnee and Cherokee, before European settlement. Today, they make up less than 1% of the population.

The biggest cities in Kentucky

The US state of Kentucky is not exactly known for its vibrant super metropolises. Nevertheless, you will find exciting and economically strong metropolitan areas here. The largest cities in Kentucky, based on population, are:

City Population
Louisville 618,000
Lexington-Fayette 323,000
Bowling Green 71,000
Owensboro 60,000
Covington 40,000
Frankfort 28,000

Climate and nature in Kentucky

Kentucky's location between the warm south and the somewhat cooler north of the USA makes for four distinct seasons and a mild climate that remains fairly stable even in Kentucky's mountainous regions.

Summers in Kentucky are warm, and humidity is high. Especially in the southeast, you will find a humid subtropical climate with a lot of rainfall and average temperatures between 40 °C in summer and - 5 °C in winter.

Winters in Kentucky can be very snowy - especially along the Appalachian Mountains in the east. Strong storms and sometimes tornadoes can occur from March to September. Thunderstorms are also not uncommon in the summer.

Kentucky's scenic nature features forests, hills, meadows, rivers, lakes, and marshlands. Its nickname, "The Bluegrass State," already gives a hint of Kentucky's many meadows of world-famous grasses that bear bright blue buds in the spring.

Nature in the US state of Kentucky can be divided into several regions:

  • Cumberland Mountains - A mountain range, foothills of the Appalachian Mountains.
  • Cumberland Plateau - A forested plateau
  • Knobs Arc - The hilly areas of central Kentucky
  • Bluegrass Region - Wide expanses of meadow bluegrass
  • Pennyroyal Plateau - A hilly area with many caves
  • Eastern Kentucky Coalfield - Rough, mountainous countryside with many sandstone cliffs and dense forests
  • Western Coal Field - A landscape with lots of sandstone, shale, and coal
  • Jackson Purchase - A region of fertile alluvium and sandy hills

Best time to visit Kentucky

The most pleasant time to visit Kentucky is in spring or autumn. The temperatures are then pleasantly mild, and nature shows itself in the most beautiful colors. Between May and September, there is also comparatively little rainfall in Kentucky.

Kentucky in the spring

In the warm spring, the Bluegrass State lives up to its name: blue buds shine everywhere on velvety hills, and the meadows have a fresh scent. The end of April also marks the start of the fifth season in Kentucky: the countdown to "Kentucky Derby," the big gallop race! The Louisville residents are already celebrating heaps of parties and festivals a few weeks before the big event in May, organizing golf tournaments, the Kentucky Derby Festival Marathon, and many concerts.

Kentucky in the fall

By the end of September, the Kentucky climate has cooled down, and in higher regions, the leaves are shining in their most beautiful colors. Golden October is a must-see in Kentucky - especially in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. Use the cool evenings and nights to plan your trip to the next farmers market because the local vegetables are delicious in fruitful Kentucky!

How to get to Kentucky

If you fly from Europe to Kentucky, you will be on the road between 14 and 20 hours with two stops. Bargains can be made on flights from Zurich or Moscow (just over €500). Otherwise, you will usually pay from €600 upwards.

From the Asian, African, or Arab areas, it can take up to 30 hours to get to Kentucky. The cheapest flights usually arrive at the largest airport in Louisville. Airlines flying to Kentucky include Delta Air Lines, Air France, KLM, British Airways, SWISS, and United. The main airports in Kentucky are:

  • Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport
  • Louisville International Airport (Standiford Field)
  • Blue Grass Airport

Flights to Kentucky

Kentucky travel authorization

Remember: If you are not a US citizen or Green Card holder, then you will need a US visa or ESTA to enter the USA.

ESTA – visa-free to the USA

With an ESTA, you can stay 90 days visa-free in the USA. Apply online now!

Kentucky airport transfer

If you took one of the cheaper flights to Louisville International Airport, you'll have many different transfer options once you land. These include:

Taxicab

Right by the exit near the baggage claim area, you will find the cab stand. Louisville airport recommends the company zTrip to take you to your first accommodation. Using the zTrip app, you can get an accurate overview of routes and prices for your ride.

Shuttle bus

Louisville has some of the best hotels in the USA. Many of them offer shuttle service to and from the airport. All hotel shuttles start at the baggage claim level on the west side of the terminal. To find out if your hotel offers a shuttle, it's best to make a quick call there.

Public Transportation

Transit Authority of River City (TARC) buses will take you to and from Louisville Airport. You can find schedules at the airport information desk or at www.ridetarc.org.

Other options

Louisville International Airport has nine car rental companies waiting for you to become a customer. Ask your airline about a combo deal that may save you money. Cab alternatives Lyft and Uber also have a permanent spot at the terminal: You'll find them on the west side on the baggage claim level.

National Parks and natural wonders in Kentucky

Kentucky has one national park and 45 state parks. Have a look at the most beautiful places in the Bluegrass State:

Mammoth Cave National Park

Mammoth Cave National Park is one of the most popular destinations for nature lovers in the USA. This bizarrely beautiful place is home to the longest cave system in the world. Every year, the explored part of Mammoth Caves grows by more caves and winding tunnels. So far, there are already more than 640 km of caves to explore. Mammoth Cave National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and an International Biosphere Reserve. Tip: Be sure to book a guided tour before you arrive because the cave tours are in high demand. A hike in the rustic forests around the caves is also highly recommended.

Cumberland Falls State Park

Cumberland Falls State Park is quite small compared to most famous national parks in the USA, but you will find enchanting hiking trails that will lead you to a variety of rushing waterfalls in pristine nature. Cumberland Falls is not a place for mass tourism, and visiting this park is free of charge. Stay at the beautiful Cumberland Falls State Resort or pitch your tent at the Cumberland Falls Campground.

Daniel Boone National Forest

You'll be enchanted by the beauty of this gigantic forest area that stretches across the state: the Daniel Boone National Forest holds great views and fantastic hiking trails through the rocky terrain. Along with the myriad of routes, there are many opportunities to camp, swim, climb and linger by stunning waterfalls. Natural Bridge State Park, the main part of which is in Virginia, also begins here.

Natural Bridge State Park und Red River Gorge

In the more northern part of the Daniel Boone National Forest, you'll find Natural Bridge State Park, a surreal stretch of forest with many natural rock arches, gorges, and legendary hiking trails. The Red River Gorge forest area around the bizarre rock formations is a peaceful, pristine place with many hidden surprises. Stay in a rustic cabin in the woods, camp by the river, or simply stretch out your hammock under the stars.

Top 10 sightseeing highlights in Kentucky

The following places in Kentucky are must-sees and deserve to be on your travel list:

  • Mammoth Cave National Park
  • Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory
  • Kentucky Horse Park
  • National Corvette Museum
  • Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park
  • Muhammad Ali Center
  • Daniel Boone National Forest
  • Creation Museum
  • Keeneland Racecourse
  • Kentucky Derby Museum

Kentucky city highlights

Kentucky's big cities and small towns are an exciting mix of college towns, sports hotspots, arts, culture, and great food. Our Kentucky city highlights are:

City highlights Louisville

Apart from the famous horse racing track, where the Kentucky Derby takes place every year, the southern beauty Louisville also delights with its historic preservation district, Old Louisville, which is full of beautiful Victorian mansions. Take a scenic cruise on the Ohio River, stroll through pretty parks, or visit one of the many museums.

These are the places you shouldn't miss in Louisville:

  • Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory
  • Kentucky Derby Museum
  • Churchill Downs
  • The Big Four Bridge
  • Muhammad Ali Center

Accomodation in Louisville

City highlights Covington

Covington is one of more than 40 closely spaced cities known as Northern Kentucky. The beautiful town is known for its historic districts as well as the vibrant downtown business district. Art fans will also get their money's worth here, as there are many art galleries and even an entire Arts District.

These are the places you should see in Covington:

  • John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge
  • Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption
  • Behringer Crawford Museum
  • Devou Park
  • MainStrasse Village

Accomodation in Covington

City highlights Bowling Green

The college town of Bowling Green is located in southern Kentucky and is best known for the production of the Chevrolet Corvette. With more than 17,000 students, Western Kentucky University is part of Bowling Green's beloved downtown area, along with many historic homes. There's also an old cave in the middle of town that you can visit.

These are the places you should see in Bowling Green:

  • Lost River Cave
  • National Corvette Museum
  • Historic RailPark & Train Museum
  • NCM Motorsports Park
  • Western Kentucky University

Accomodation in Bowling Green

City highlights Covington

Covington is one of more than 40 closely spaced cities known as Northern Kentucky. The beautiful town is known for its historic districts as well as the vibrant downtown business district. Art fans will also get their money's worth here, as there are many art galleries and even an entire Arts District.

These are the places you should see in Covington:

  • John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge
  • Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption
  • Behringer Crawford Museum
  • Devou Park
  • MainStrasse Village

Accomodation in Covington

Road trip in Kentucky

A road trip through the US state of Kentucky can be incredibly exciting - for example, on an "Abandoned Places" route, on which you visit abandoned buildings and entire ghost towns. But be careful: many places here are said to be haunted!

In the fall, drive along the Daniel Boone National Forest to Red River Gorge and enjoy the perfect glow of Indian summer.

Even without a specific theme, you won't get bored on your way from one waterfall to the next on a Kentucky road trip. There is so much to see! By the way: For the famous Kentucky Bourbon Trail, you better leave the car behind. Cheers!

Instagram hotspots in Kentucky

Kentucky is packed with spectacular photo opportunities! Who wouldn't think of their Instagram account right away? Here are our top 5 Instagram hotspots in Kentucky:

  • Pine Island Double Falls
  • Natural Bridge State Resort Park
  • Suspension Foot Bridge (Red River Gorge)
  • Lexington Cemetery
  • Mammoth Cave National Park

Food highlights in Kentucky

Anyone who doesn't immediately think of KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken) when they hear the name "Kentucky" must be a vegetarian. In fact, the origin of the world-famous fast-food chain lies here in the Bluegrass State - more precisely in the small town of Corbin.

The second most famous product is whiskey. 90% of all Bourbon Whiskey consumed in the world comes from Kentucky. During the legendary Kentucky Derby, visitors traditionally sip a refreshing "Kentucky Mint Julep" made from Bourbon, sugar syrup, mint, and crushed ice.

But the Bluegrass State also has much more to offer in the way of culinary delights. Try some of the following treats when you're in Kentucky:

  • Kentucky Derby Pie — Rich dessert with chocolate and walnuts
  • Kentucky Bread Pudding — Wonderfully soft bread pudding with Bourbon sauce
  • Bourbon Balls — Confectionery with nuts, Kentucky Bourbon, and chocolate
  • Burgoo — Mixed stew with meat, vegetables, and Worcester sauce, served with cornbread
  • Hot Brown Sandwich — Sourdough toast with poultry meat, tomatoes, bacon, and the special "Mornay Sauce" made with butter, cheese, and Tabasco.

Another culinary celebrity is the Benedictine dip. This pickle made from cucumber and onion juices, cream cheese, and green food coloring is served with many snacks such as raw vegetables or crackers.

Kentucky fun facts

We bet you haven't heard these exciting facts about the US state of Kentucky yet:

  • There are more bourbon barrels in Kentucky than people.
  • The names of the racehorses at the Kentucky Derby are often hilarious. Whether it's "Geisha Moon Bug," "Where's the Beef?", "Odor in the Court," "Whatamichoppedliver," or "ARRRRR" - commentators and spectators alike have a lot of fun with it.
  • The traditionally extravagant hat fashion at the Kentucky Derby has also made the race world famous. Originally, only the women wore the sometimes absurd creations made of objects, flowers, and fantasy shapes on their heads. In the meantime, male visitors also join in.
  • Cumberland Falls is the only waterfall in the world that regularly features a moonbow.
  • "Thunder Over Louisville," the opening ceremony for the Kentucky Derby Festival, hosts the largest fireworks display in the world.
  • Bluegrass isn't really blue. It's green. Only in spring do the cyan-purple buds glow, making the meadows and hills shimmer in blue.
  • No one quite knows how to pronounce Louisville. That's why the Louisville Visitor Center makes fun of the many different variations in its window display: loo-a-vull, luh-vul, lewis-ville, loo-a-ville and looey-ville. Most residents of the city pronounce the name as "loo-a-vull" or "luh-vul."

Moving to Kentucky

It's just so beautiful in Kentucky! Understandable if you want to stay here right away. Our tips for living and working in Kentucky might help:

Working in Kentucky

Kentucky is a great place for experts and employees in the automotive industry, as it has manufacturing plants of Toyota, Ford, and General Motors, which are considered reliable employers.

In addition, agriculture, manufacturing, mining, and services are among the major industries in Kentucky. Healthcare and education are also in constant demand here.

Major employers in Kentucky also include the likes of UPS, Fruit of the Loom, and tech giant Lexmark.

Living in Kentucky

Good news: Living in Kentucky is really cheap compared to many other places in the USA! The cost of living is 21% lower than the American average. This also refers to real estate prices and rents.

Life in Kentucky is ideal for nature lovers as well as architecture and horse fans and promises good food, hot-humid summers, and cool sporting events (e.g., basketball, baseball, horse racing, and football).

The only drawback: there is little public transportation. Greyhound Line buses serve the major metropolitan areas, but many towns are neglected by them. So you'll almost certainly need a car if you move to Kentucky.

Come to Kentucky with a Green Card

A Green Card is the only visa that allows you to live and work in the USA indefinitely. The easiest way to get the highly coveted US immigrant visa is through the Green Card Lottery, in which the US government gives away 55,000 Green Cards every year.

You can apply for the lottery in parallel, even if you are already trying to get a Green Card through a job. Applying for the Green Card Lottery only takes a few minutes, and, if you're lucky, it will save you years of battles with US authorities and potential employers.

Apply today! We have our fingers crossed for you

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