Things to do in Danville, Kentucky are assorted. Danville, located on the Wilderness Road that carried pioneers and early settlers into Central Kentucky, is regarded as the birthplace of Kentucky statehood.
Danville, formerly known as Crow’s Station, became a hub of political activity, and you can visit the exact location where the first Kentucky constitution was drafted between 1785 and 1792 in Constitution Square downtown.
Best Things to Do in Danville (KY)
Danville, the home of Centre College, is a lively town full of history and vibrant annual events, all fueled by a thriving cultural scene.
The town is also located on a number of long-distance trails and tourism corridors, such as the Lincoln Heritage National Scenic Byway, which has numerous themes such as bourbon, the Civil War, religious heritage, and Abraham Lincoln.
1. Constitution Square Historic Site
This three-acre park in downtown Danville is where the first Kentucky constitution was written and signed.
The Supreme Court for the District of Kentucky was established in this square.
It was built in 1785 and operated until Kentucky gained statehood in 1792 when it was renamed Crow’s Station.
The property deteriorated over time, although it was named a state park in 1937.
It’s strewn with historical markers, memorials, and restored historical structures including the log cabin courthouse, meetinghouse, jail, and stocks.
The historic post office, the first west of the Allegheny Mountains and built before 1792, is one of the original structures.
The Governor’s Circle, a modern defining feature on the west side, honors each Governor of Kentucky, most notably Isaac Shelby (1750-1826), who was the first and fifth governor.
2. Downtown Danville
Many of the businesses on this list are located in or around downtown Danville.
It is located at the crossroads of Main and Third Streets.
This district begs to be explored on foot, as it is heavily packed with privately owned stores.
The magnificently painted stores and a profusion of frightening architecture may be found here.
The anchor has to be the Boyle County Courthouse (1862), built in the Renaissance Revival style.
It was used as a hospital during the Battle of Perryville, which occurred just months after the structure was finished.
Downtown Danville has an expanding variety of interesting local stores selling antiques, toys, bicycle gear, jewelry, tea, and other items.
A delicatessen, coffee bar, bakeries, pizza, Southern specialties, and contemporary dining are also available.
3. Pioneer Playhouse
Kentucky’s oldest outdoor theater is located here in Kentucky, and its graduates include Jim Varney, Lee Majors, and John Travolta.
Since 1950, the Pioneer Playhouse has introduced Broadway to the Bluegrass.
It was created by Eben Charles Henson (1923-2004), a Danville native who relocated to Manhattan after WWII.
When his father became unwell, Eben utilized his resourcefulness and imagination to create his own theater closer to home.
The Pioneer Playhouse is an artifact in its own right. It was built using 200-year-old beams from a local livery stable and lumber.
It was made from ancient Centre College and Kentucky School for the Deaf structures.
MGM erected the box office as a set for Raintree County (1957), starring Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift. It was shot in Danville and recycled by Henson.
There are usually five performances per season, which are performed outside under the stars and moved indoors on inclement nights.
4. Jacobs Hall, Kentucky School for the Deaf
The Kentucky School for the Deaf, founded in 1823, educates hard-of-hearing and deaf children in elementary and secondary school.
This was the first school of its kind west of the Allegheny Mountains when it was established.
However, one of the driving reasons behind its establishment was General Elias Barbee, a state senator whose daughter was deaf.
The oldest structure on campus is the Italianate Jacobs Hall (1857).
It now houses the superintendent’s office, residence, and a museum for the KSD.
It opens on weekdays and reflects the institution’s past by reproducing a classroom and student dormitory from the mid-nineteenth century.
5. McDowell House Museum
The preserved Federal-style mansion of pioneering surgeon Ephraim McDowell faces Constitution Square (1771-1830).
The home was built in stages beginning in 1795 and was purchased by McDowell in 1802.
Then he erected the current clapboard exterior and the little office behind the back porch.
McDowell made history here in 1809 when he performed the world’s first reported surgical removal of an ovarian cyst.
Mrs. Jane Crawford lived for another 32 years after this treatment was conducted without anesthesia or antisepsis.
You may learn more about McDowell’s work and see the immaculately restored house and pharmacy during a tour.
Both are furnished with period pieces and medical antiques.
6. Art Center of the Bluegrass
Danville’s majestic former post office building, erected in 1909, is located next to the Boyle County Courthouse.
This has been a thriving center for community art participation since 2005.
It also contributes to the extraordinary depth of artistic talent in the Danville area.
The Art Center curates a changing schedule of shows featuring the work of regional, and national artists throughout the year.
Recent exhibitions in Kentucky have focused on Appalachian art and culture, contemporary abstract art, and quiltmaking.
as well as solo exhibitions by artists such as Wayne Daugherty, Sarah Wiltsee, and David Ray Farmer.
The Plein Air Artists of Central Kentucky has their annual show in August. There are regular juried shows for anything from still lifes to landscapes.
The Plein Air Artists of Central Kentucky has their annual show in August, and there are regular juried shows for anything from still lifes to landscapes.
In addition, the center offers a wide range of arts education programming, including classes for all ages, open studios, workshops, and lunchtime lectures.
7. Norton Center for the Arts
Centre College’s performing arts center, which was opened in 1973, is located on the eastern end of campus and is within walking distance of downtown Danville.
The Norton Center for the Arts is 85,000 square feet in size and has the 1,476-seat Newlin Hall as well as the 367-seat Weisiger Theatre.
The Norton Center has hosted performances by Dolly Parton, Alison Krauss & Union Station, and the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra.
As have toured Broadway musicals and overseas dance and theater companies.
The Vice Presidential Debate was held here in both the 2012 (Biden vs. Ryan) and 2020 (Pence vs. Harris) presidential elections.
8. Perryville Battlefield State Historic Site
The site of Kentucky’s largest Civil War fight is ten miles west of Danville and is worth the short trek. The Battle of Perryville (October 8, 1862) is regarded as one of the bloodiest of the war.
The Confederate victory was a pyrrhic one because Braxton Bragg’s Army of Mississippi was forced to return to Tennessee not long after.
Kentucky, meanwhile, would remain in Union hands for the duration of the war.
The battlefield is mostly intact, spanning 890 acres, and its pivotal events are commemorated with interpretative plaques, cannons, and other monuments.
A three-mile drive tour of the fight is available, as is a thrilling stroll over up to 19 miles of interpretative trails.
The museum and visitor center are located near the original burial sites of numerous Confederate troops.
This portrays the story of the fight using graphics that incorporate photos and firsthand accounts.
9. The Great American Dollhouse Museum
A museum just north of the Centre College campus documents American social history through the lens of dollhouse miniatures.
There are over 200 dollhouses on display, all in pristine shape and outfitted with astounding detail.
The collection is so comprehensive that it provides an exact chronology of the United States, beginning with pre-colonial Native Americans and continuing through the Colonial period, Old West, early Southwest, and contemporary era.
Another fascinating thing to do in Kentucky is to visit a miniature town from the early twentieth century.
Perfectly organized into industrial, residential, and commercial zones, with a Shaker village on the outside.
The third and final phase is a whimsical forested fantasy region inhabited by trolls, witches, and elves, with a walk-in dragon cave.
10. The Great American Brass Band Festival
Tens of thousands of people go to downtown Danville and the Centre College campus in early June for the four-day Great American Brass Band Festival.
The festival, combines brass band performances, a parade along Main Street, and a hot air balloon race.
Picnics, a 5k run, and a variety of other events have been running for more than 30 years and attract musicians from throughout the country and beyond.
The two big days are Friday when there’s a NOLA-style Bayou and Brass festival on the courthouse lawn, and Saturday, which starts with a parade and has non-stop entertainment until 11 p.m.
11. Wilderness Trail Distillery
This family-owned bourbon distillery began in 2012 just southwest of Danville, and its founders are two fermentation experts with decades of alcohol production experience.
Wilderness Trail Distillery is particularly proud of its locally sourced grains, distinctive sweet mash method, low barrel entrance proof, and lack of chill filtration (a process thought to impair the taste).
If you’re interested in the science of bourbon distillation, tours are provided Tuesday through Sunday, when you can explore the distillery’s inner workings and learn about the numerous procedures that define Wilderness Trail’s bourbons.
12. Hemp Highway
Prior to tobacco, the crop usually associated with the Bluegrass Region was hemp, which contributed more than 90% of the US production in 1889.
Following the Agricultural Act of 2014, industrial hemp production has resumed after being prohibited during the War on Drugs.
At the time of writing, hemp is produced in 73 of Kentucky’s 120 counties, although Danville is the origin of the industry.
A historical sign on the lawn of the Boyle County Courthouse states that Danville is close to the site of Kentucky’s first documented hemp harvest, which dates back to 1775.
This can be the first stop on a free self-guided tour of the Bluegrass Region, where you can leave the interstate behind and explore backroads through picturesque farmland with rolling green hills and quaint stone fences.
This is one of the most lovely things to do in Danville.
There are 14 historical markers in Kentucky, each telling a distinct part of the hemp tale.
13. Millennium Park
Danville’s main public park is located a few minutes northwest of downtown and is a popular area to relax or be active outside.
More than 3.5 miles of trails are available, including a two-mile perimeter loop ideal for a 30-minute stroll or jog.
A pond in the center of Millennium Park is fed by a tiny creek that eventually enters the Dix River, a few miles north of Danville.
Ducks and other waterfowl flock to the pond, and good duck feed is available. Other amenities include baseball fields, picnic shelters, basketball courts, a soccer complex, a skate park, a dog park, and children’s playgrounds.
Millennium Park supports the community by providing several sports and recreational facilities. The park has the picturesque Millennium Lake, where fishing is permitted.
14. Boyle County Farmers’ Market
The historic Constitution Square is the ideal setting for a farmers’ market, which is held every Saturday morning from April through October.
While shopping among the historic buildings, you may get seasonal and locally produced food and ingredients, support local companies, and learn more about where your food originates.
Fresh fruit and vegetables, grass-fed meats, plants, flowers, baked products, freshly roasted coffee, honey, jams and jellies, sauces, handcrafted crafts, organic soaps and balms, and a range of prepared cuisine should be available on a normal Saturday. Live music is usually included as part of the experience.
15. Lincoln Heritage National Scenic Byway
Another incentive to visit the Visitor Center at Constitution Square is to obtain a map of this 70-mile National Scenic Byway through the Central Kentucky Knobs.
Constitution Square, as you can see, is at the east end of this corridor, which marks significant landmarks along US 31 east and US 150 as far as Hodgenville, where Lincoln was born in 1809.
The overriding elements of Abraham Lincoln, religious heritage, bourbon, and history/Civil War bind these locations together.
Along the way, there are eight distilleries, as well as the Perryville Battlefield State Historic Site and the Abbey of Our Lady of Gethsemani, the country’s oldest Trappist Monastery.
14 Best Things To Do & Places To Visit In Kentucky
Kentucky is a fantastic state that is rich with a diverse range of appealing destinations, from entertaining and unusual locales to tranquil and peaceful natural parks, making it one of the best places to visit on vacation.
Still unsure what to do while in the state?
Here are 15 locations to visit and things to do in Kentucky.
1. Cumberland Falls State Resort Park
Cumberland Falls State Resort Park is nestled within the Daniel Boone National Forest, one of Kentucky’s most beautiful vacation destinations.
It’s one of the nicest in the state, spanning 1,657 acres and featuring a campground with 50 sites, a café overlooking the river, a lodge, and a visitor’s center.
While in the park, you can see Cumberland Falls, which arches 68 feet into the air, or Eagle Falls, which is only 44 feet tall but still stunning.
You can take your time doing things like white water rafting, hiking, fishing, biking, horseback riding, moonbow fishing, and more.
Furthermore, there are a number of events that take place throughout the year, so if you’re lucky, you’ll be in the park at the perfect moment to enjoy them.
Overnight Canoe Adventures, Kentucky Hills Craft Festival, Native American Weekend, and Nature Photography Weekend are all fantastic events!
2. Harland Sanders Cafe and Museum
We’ve all heard about Kentucky Fried Chicken, the delicious fast meal that’s become famous all over the world.
But do you know anything about Colonel Harland Sanders, the man behind the KFC obsession?
The Colonel’s first eatery was the Harland Sanders Cafe and Museum.
It’s not like most other KFC locations you’ll find nowadays.
It has a faithful copy of the kitchen where Sanders worked in the 1940s and is packed with historical facts about the cafe’s journey to renown.
It’s safe to assume that seeing the location where the first KFC chicken was served in all of its 11 herbs and spices is one of the most enjoyable things to do in Kentucky!
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3. Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs
Do you enjoy racing? Come down to Churchill Downs to witness the Kentucky Derby!
It is one of the most well-known and prominent events in the state, and it is a thrilling event to attend.
So, if you happen to be in Louisville on the first Sunday of May, this is an event you should not miss!
If you enjoy gambling, you can put bets or simply watch the thoroughbred horses race by.
Don’t worry if you visit during the off-season; you may still tour the grounds.
You can also visit the Kentucky Derby Museum on-site at any time.
It chronicles the history of the event since its inception in 1875 and contains many fascinating antiques, including objects originally owned by some of the most prominent horse trainers.
It also teaches visitors about horse breeding and training, and an outside cemetery honors past winners.
4. Louisville Mega Cavern
The Louisville Mega Cavern is one of the most beautiful Kentucky attractions.
It consists of 17 miles of man-made caves and tunnels beneath Louisville.
The caverns were originally utilized as a limestone quarry, but mining ceased in the 1970s, and the site stood dormant for a time until being converted into a storage facility.
It is now one of the most popular tourist destinations, particularly for families going together.
Inside, you can learn about the cavern’s operation and its rich history in a variety of methods.
You can take a Mega Zips zipline tour, which is the world’s only totally subterranean zip line course, a Mega Tram experience, or an electric bike trip.
You may also enjoy a 30-minute light show in the cavern throughout the Christmas season!
5. Kentucky State Capitol
The Kentucky State Capitol is located in Frankfort, and many believe it to be one of the top ten most beautiful capitols in the country.
It is a big and sumptuous structure with architecture created by Frank Mills Andrews.
Its most admired opulent feature is most likely its massive marble staircase (and other staircases within).
It actually feels like a rich, lush experience, and you’ll feel as if you’ve left the state!
You can take a guided tour of the capitol building and be amazed by the Opera Garnier-inspired architecture inside.
While you’re there, check out the First Lady Doll Collection!
6. Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory
If you’re looking for things to do in Kentucky, why not celebrate the state’s rich baseball history?
The Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory celebrate the long and colorful history of Louisville Slugger bats, as well as their importance in American sports over the years.
One of the most photogenic artifacts is not within the factory or museum, but rather at the entrance: a 120-foot-tall replica of Babe Ruth’s Louisville Slugger.
After you’ve had your fill of marveling, you may walk inside the factory to learn about how the bats are manufactured, then visit the museum to learn even more!
There are numerous unique displays at the Louisville Slugger Museum.
It houses legendary bats such as those used by Joe DiMaggio during his incredible 56-game hitting streak, Hank Aaron when he hit his 700th home run, and Babe Ruth when he hit 21 home runs in 1927.
You may even grip the bats of Andre Dawson and Micky Mantle!
The museum also features some unusual things, such as a baseball glove composed of 17 tons of limestone, batting cages, and a throwing simulator!
7. Red River Gorge
The Red River Gorge is one of the most beautiful places to visit in Kentucky.
It is located in the Daniel Boone National Forest and contains some of the world’s most famous natural stone arches.
Its sandstone cliffs and distinctive rock formations attract both tourists and rock climbers.
Aside from being beautiful, the Red River Gorge is a designated national geological area.
You can go on a trek, row a canoe, or have a picnic in the area (within Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife restrictions).
Don’t forget to visit the Sky Bridge for a truly unforgettable experience.
Can’t attend the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs?
Then proceed to Keeneland, another important racetrack.
It’s not only one of the state’s most enjoyable tourist attractions; it’s also a National Historic Landmark!
Keeneland was formed in 1936 and has been a key player in the industry and area of thoroughbred horse breeding and racing ever since.
It hosted the Breeders’ Cup in 2015, with triple crown champion American Pharoah taking the top spot.
Keeneland holds races in April and October, so if you’re in the area during those months, stop by to see champion horses work hard from the moment the sun rises.
Horse auctions are also held during this time, and you can eat some of the bread pudding while you watch!
9. Ashland: The Henry Clay Estate
Another National Historic Landmark in Kentucky is the Ashland Henry Clay Estate, a plantation estate.
It was the residence of Henry Clay, a well-known Kentucky statesman, and his family until his death in 1852.
The property is situated in the midst of many other upper-class residences, and it is one of the greatest ways to gain insight into the lifestyles of upper-class citizens in the nineteenth century.
Entering the mansion requires a nominal admission fee and takes you on an hour-long tour of the Federal architecture and subtle Italianate embellishments.
Visitors learn about Henry Clay’s life and history, and you can even take a Candlelight Tour during the holiday season!
Look inside the carriage house, inspect the privy, observe the expansive and well-kept grass and hedges, and take in the view.
If you’re looking for free things to do in Kentucky, this is a wonderful place to start!
10. Breaks Interstate Park
Breaks Interstate Park is essentially known as the unofficial Grand Canyon of South America.
It contains the deepest gorge in the east part of Mississippi, spanning the border between Virginia and Kentucky.
Daniel Boone was the guy responsible for its discovery, and it is currently a popular tourist destination!
You can stay in one of the lodges, go rafting, or simply enjoy the novelty of being so close to the state boundary.
It’s an excellent location for wildlife lovers!
11. Mary Todd Lincoln House
The Mary Todd Lincoln House is one of the areas of interest that you must see while visiting the best attractions Kentucky has to offer.
Mary Todd Lincoln, the wife of 16th President Abraham Lincoln, is buried here.
It was originally erected as a bar and inn before being purchased by the Todds in 1832.
The house is now open to the public.
From April to November, tours are available for groups and private sessions, and you can enter and explore the intriguing home – now a museum – and its fourteen exquisite rooms.
Personal belongings from the Lincoln and Todd families, as well as period furniture and decor, are on display.
12. Natural Bridge
The Natural Bridge is one of the most picturesque spots in Kentucky.
It is located near the famed (and previously covered) Red River Gorge and is part of the Natural Bridge Park, which is free to access, making it one of the best free things to do in Kentucky.
The Natural Bridge measures 65 feet tall and 78 feet long.
The towering sandstone arch is very amazing and not too difficult to reach.
But it’s not only the bridge that’s entertaining; the entire park is enjoyable!
Hiking trails such as the Original Trail to the Bridge and the Sand Gap Trail, which extends 7.5 miles via a logging road, are available.
Do you want to stay in the park?
You have the option of staying at a seasonal campground or renting a room or cottage at the tranquil Hemlock Lodge.
You can also avoid walking entirely by taking a paid sky lift over the National Bridge.
13. Oscar Getz Museum of Whiskey History
The Oscar Getz Museum of Whiskey History is located in Bardstown, Kentucky, which is widely regarded as the world’s bourbon capital.
The museum is filled with antiques from the collection of Oscar Getz, a Chicago liquor executive.
Originally, he bought a distillery and filled it with collectibles, whiskey treasures, and memorabilia.
His whiskey-themed collection eventually grew so enormous that he wanted to turn it into a private museum – but his wife flatly refused!
So he chose to fund the restoration of a seminary in Bardstown, and the 200-year-old structure became the Oscar Getz Museum of Whiskey History.
The Getz family has maintained entrance free and open, making a visit here one of the most enjoyable free things to do in the neighborhood.
It houses artifacts, records, images, and information about American whiskey and its extensive history across the country’s various eras.
While you’re here, you can see George Washington’s still, Abraham Lincoln’s liquor license, a large number of precious whiskey bottles, and some antique collector bottles for sale.
There are no samples supplied, but if you’re in Bardstown this weekend, you simply must stop by!
14. Fort Knox
Fort Knox covers 109,000 acres and is one of the most well-known army posts in the United States, not just in Kentucky.
It is the location of the Army Human Resources Command, the United States Bullion Depository, the Accessions Command, and other organizations.
You can’t get inside the fort’s gold depository, and you won’t be able to see the 5,000 tons of gold stored there.
However, you can take a picture there and visit one of Kentucky’s most interesting attractions: the General George Patton Museum.
Within this museum, you’ll find a weapon collection developed by none other than Leonardo da Vinci, a display of the Remembrance Walls, education exhibits, and even Veteran Appreciation Day festivities.