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7 Best Small Towns in Kentucky to Visit in 2024

If you’re looking for a quiet retreat from city life, Kentucky’s small towns offer natural beauty with rolling hills, rivers, lakes and lush forests, appealing to nature lovers. These towns are steeped in historic charm and offer visitors modern amenities. It’s no wonder that visiting the Bluegrass State has become popular. Moreover, these cities provide a refuge from the urban hustle and bustle that haunts people in big cities. For those planning a 2024 vacation, here are seven of the cutest small towns in Kentucky to visit and notable events to attend.

Bardstown

Lux Row Distillery on the Bardstown Distillery Tour.
Lux Row Distillery, part of the Distillery Tour in Bardstown, Kentucky.

Bardstown, also known as the Bourbon Capital of the World, is a welcoming small town in Nelson County. As the nickname indicates, the city is home to at least six bourbon distilleries, such as Heaven Hill Bourbon Experience. In September 2024, Bardstown will host the Kentucky Bourbon Festival. It’s a three-day event featuring 50 Kentucky distilleries where visitors can taste and purchase some of the country’s best bourbon. Besides the drinks, popular attractions in Bardstown include a tour of the city’s historic district with notable attractions such as the Oscar Getz Museum of Whiskey History, the Old Talbott Tavern, and My Old Kentucky Home State Park.

Berea

East Pinnacle Lookout near Berea, Kentucky.
View of Berea from the East Pinnacle Lookout in Kentucky.

Located on the Cumberland Plateau, Berea is the mecca of Kentucky’s arts and crafts scene. This is evident in the range of arts festivals and vibrant annual events, perfect for visitors in 2024. In July, the city hosts the Berea Craft Festival, showcasing handicrafts from at least 110 artists. Berea is also gearing up for Kentucky Hardcore in May 2024, a heavy metal and hard rock extravaganza worth attending.

Outside the bustling city, nature lovers love the 3,400 acres of forest and hiking trails, making Berea one of Kentucky’s Trail Towns. Located in the private woods of Berea College is the Indian Fort Mountain Trail System, which is perfect for outdoor enthusiasts. The routes vary in length and are open to hikers all year round.

Danville

The Boyle County Courthouse in Danville, Kentucky.
The Boyle County Courthouse in Danville, Kentucky.

The city of Danville is located in the heart of Kentucky, allowing for day trips to surrounding popular attractions such as Shaker Village. When visiting Daville in 2024, tourists can tour the new Luca Mariano Distillery or enjoy a tasting at the Wilderness Trail Distillery. Those not interested in drinking can visit the Glass National Art Museum to view beautiful glassworks or see a performance at the Norton Center for the Arts. Meanwhile, music lovers should plan their trip between May 30 and June 1, 2024, as the city is set to host the 34th annual Great American Brass Band Festival. The free concert, held on the grounds of Center College, promises three days of excellent music performances.

Paducah

The commercial district in downtown Paducah, Kentucky.
Buildings along the commercial district of Paducah, Kentucky. By Farragutful – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons.

Paducah is a historic river town on the banks of the Tennessee River and a UNESCO-designated Creative City for its cultural creativity and diversity. For visitors who want to get a taste of this culture, there are several options such as the Maiden Alley Cinema and Gallery, the Clemens Fine Art Center, the Market House Theater and the Yeiser Art Center. At these places you can explore exhibitions, attend a live theater show or enjoy a performance by the Paducah Symphony Orchestra.

The National Quilt Museum is another popular tourist attraction, showcasing endless quilt designs, techniques and history. While these locations are available year-round, Paducah hosts the McCracken County Fair in Carson Park. It is a week-long summer market in June with fairground rides, children’s activities, live entertainment and a horse show.

Frankfurt

View of the Kentucky River running through Frankfort, Kentucky.
Aerial view of the Kentucky River running through downtown Frankfort, Kentucky.

Frankfort is the capital of Kentucky and is located in Franklin County. There are many reasons to visit this city; it has a rich history and abundant natural beauty. The Kentucky River flows past Frankfort and is a paradise for water activities such as kayaking, fishing, boating, canoeing and swimming. Alternatively, visitors can spend the day at Cove Spring Park. It is a 250-acre park with streams, waterfalls and trails for walking, hiking or biking. Every year, Frankfort gears up for Frankfort Craft Beer Week, and 2024 is no different. The event starts on September 30 and ends on October 5. The festival celebrates Michigan Craft Beer, delicious food and the city.

Harrodsburg

The Mercer County Judicial Center in Harrodsburg, Kentucky.
The Mercer County Judicial Center in Harrodsburg, Kentucky.

Harrodsburg is Ketucky’s oldest city and the first permanent American settlement west of the Appalachians. The city was founded in 1774 by James Harrod and has since become a source of historical monuments. Old Fort Harrod State Park is one of the city’s most famous landmarks. The park is home to a full-size replica of the fort built by James Harrod in 1774.

Other prominent locations in the park include the Mansion Museum, the Lincoln Marriage Museum, and the George Rogers Clark Federal Monument, all of which offer a journey into the past. In 2024, the city will celebrate its anniversary and host the 250th Harrodsburg Celebration to commemorate the occasion. The festival lasts four days and starts on June 13. The event promises city tours, live music, a parade, food and drink vendors and historical programs.

Maysville

Washington Opera House in Maysville, Kentucky.
The historic Washington Opera House in the city of Maysville, Kentucky. In photo by Greg Hume (Greg5030) – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons.

Another river town, Maysville, is located along the banks of the Ohio River. There are countless things to do and see in Maysville, starting with a visit to Cummings Nature Preserve. It is a 110-acre area of ​​hiking and walking trails that outdoor enthusiasts will love. There is also a picnic area and playground where families can spend a wonderful evening in Kentucky. For indoor fun, the Washington Opera House is perfect. It is one of the oldest theaters in the United States, is on the National Register of Historic Places, and regularly hosts live performances. If you’re visiting in June, attend the annual Maysville Uncorked Wine and Art Festival, which celebrates the region’s wineries, bourbon, and beer.

Conclusion

When planning your upcoming vacation in 2024, don’t forget to consider Kentucky. It is a hospitable state with undeniable hospitality, warmth and charm. Each of the cities mentioned above promises an unforgettable experience. You can plan your trip around events like Frankfort’s Craft Beer Week or Bardtown’s Kentucky Bourbon Festival. No matter when you visit these seven cutest small towns in Kentucky, there are beautiful locations and fun outdoor adventures.