Kentucky Festivals: A Celebration of Music, Bourbon, Cuisine, and Equestrian Excellence

K.C. Dermody

Written by Justin Mewse

April 2024

Kentucky boasts a myriad of renowned attributes – its horse racing prestige, warm southern hospitality, and globally acclaimed bourbon. Yet, amidst these notable features lies a thriving music and festival scene, often overlooked but deeply ingrained in the state’s cultural fabric.

Horse race at Churchill Downs - Kentucky Tourism

Music: Harmonies in the Heartland

From the hills of bluegrass to the rhythms of rock and roll, Kentucky’s musical legacy runs deep. Birthplace to icons like Loretta Lynn and Bill Monroe, the state’s rich musical tapestry comes to life at festivals throughout the year, drawing enthusiasts from around the globe.

Forecastle Festival, an esteemed event in Louisville, unfolds along the picturesque Ohio River, featuring headliners like Jack Johnson. Equally enticing is the Bourbon & Beyond Festival, a fusion of bourbon and music, boasting stellar acts such as John Mayer and Foo Fighters while showcasing Kentucky’s distillery prowess.

Beyond the urban sprawl, Owensboro hosts the ROMP Bluegrass festival, an ode to the genre’s roots and branches. Meanwhile, the Festival of the Bluegrass at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington offers a blend of music, camaraderie, and bourbon, embodying Kentucky’s vibrant spirit.

Jerusalem Ridge Bluegrass Festival in Rosine - Kentucky Tourism

Bourbon: Toasting to Tradition

No Kentucky festival is complete without a toast to bourbon, the state’s beloved spirit. Bourbon enthusiasts flock to events like the Kentucky Bourbon Festival and Bourbon & Beyond, where master distillers share their craft and visitors indulge in tastings of the finest Kentucky bourbons. From small-batch artisanal blends to iconic distillery tours, these festivals offer a spirited celebration of Kentucky’s distilling legacy and the artistry behind every bottle.

Lexington Bourbon Review - Kentucky Tourism

Cuisine: A Culinary Journey

Kentucky’s culinary scene is a tantalising blend of Southern comfort and innovative flair, showcased at festivals throughout the state. From savoury barbecue to indulgent bourbon-infused dishes, food festivals like the Kentucky State BBQ Festival and the Bourbon County Secretariat Festival delight taste buds with a smorgasbord of flavours. Locally sourced ingredients, farm-to-table fare, and traditional Southern recipes take centre stage, inviting festival-goers on a culinary journey through the heart of Kentucky cuisine.

Caves, Lakes & Corvettes, regional cuisine - Kentucky Tourism

Equestrian: Racing to the Finish Line

As the horse capital of the world, Kentucky’s equestrian festivals are legendary affairs, celebrating the grace, speed, and majesty of thoroughbred racing. Events like the Kentucky Derby Festival and the Kentucky Three-Day Event showcase the state’s equestrian prowess, drawing spectators from around the globe. From the thundering hooves of racehorses to the precision of dressage performances, these festivals embody the spirit of Kentucky’s equine heritage and the thrill of the racetrack.

Kentucky Derby, Louisville - Kentucky Tourism

Explore the Best of Kentucky With These Recommended Tour Itineraries

From June 2023, British Airways will be flying five days a week direct from London Heathrow to Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG) – so you’ll now have even more time to explore the Bourbon Trail!

15-Day Sips, Sights And Sounds Of Kentucky

Delve into the history of bourbon, Bluegrass, local cuisine and Kentucky-born heroes including Muhammad Ali on this road trip of discovery.

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  • Enjoy the Bluegrass music scenes of Owensboro and Renfro Valley
  • Take a walking-foodie tour in Lexington
  • Follow the the Country Music Highway
  • Visit Bardstown – first settled in 1780 and known as the Bourbon Capital of the World
  • Explore the UNESCO Creative City of Paducah and see the colourful Lower Town Arts District
  • Visit the birthplace and homestead of the Father of Bluegrass, Bill Monroe, in Rosine

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  • 14 nights accommodation
  • 14 days car hire
  • Return International flights
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15-Day Bourbon, Bluegrass & Horse Country

Embark on a journey to explore distilleries, bluegrass music and the horse culture in Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio and Indiana.

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  • Catch a horse race at one of Kentucky’s renowned racetracks
  • xplore the beauty of the Daniel Boone National Forest
  • Visit Mt. Vernon, nestled in the foothills of the Cumberland Mountains
  • Frequent the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame
  • See the thoroughbred horses at Darley at Jonabell Farm, where Kentucky Derby winning stallions have been bred
  • Spend time at one of Kentucky’s most revered distilleries: Buffalo Trace

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  • 14 nights accommodation
  • 14 days car hire
  • ABTA & ATOL protected

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15-Day Kentucky & Tennessee By Motorhome

Explore the best of these scenic, neighbouring states at your own pace while enjoying many adventures along the way.

From £2,825pp
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  • Spend time at the “Niagara of the South,” in Cumberland Falls State Park
  • Explore Newport, Kentucky – the gaming predecessor to Las Vegas
  • Enjoy hiking, trails and caves, paddling and kayaking at Carter Caves State Park and Cave Run Lake
  • Step back in time at the Shaker Village in Pleasant Hill
  • Take a Belle of Louisville sightseeing cruise
  • Experience boating and fishing on the 5,100-acre Rough River Lake

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  • 4 nights hotel accommodation
  • 10 days C25 motorhome rental
  • Return international flights
  • ATOL protected

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14-Day Historic Trails & Blue Ridge Mountains

From colonial settlements and Civil War sites to the magnificent Blue Ridge Mountains and stunning Great Smoky Mountains, this mid-South U.S. tour features historic sites, spectacular scenery, and fun experiences all along the way.

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  • Enjoy a fascinating visit to the Kentucky Horse Park
  • Visit the Lincoln Museum and Sinking Spring Farm, to see where the nation’s 16th president, Abraham Lincoln, was born
  • Learn about the production of the finest Kentucky Straight Bourbon, and enjoy a tasting
  • View the green pastures, white-board fences, and the columned estates of Kentucky bluegrass country – backdrop for the movie Seabiscuit
  • Expert Tour Director-Led Trip

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  • 13 nights accommodation
  • 10 breakfasts
  • Full escorted tour itinerary and excursions
  • Coach
  • Tour Director
  • ABTA & ATOL protected

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Cape Newagen sunrise - Visit Maine

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