Location: Louisville, Kentucky
Rate: Varies depending on the event
The Kentucky Derby is much more than a two-minute horse race. It's a two-week festival that converts the whole city of Louisville to a party. The celebration starts with Thunder Over Louisville, a huge fireworks show, and continues with countless activities. In the weeks following, there is a hot air balloon festival, lots of parades, free concerts, fair food, carnival rides, a mini-marathon and much more. Get to every event early — with tens of thousands of people visiting all at once, it can take a while to find a parking spot.
Location: Downtown Owensboro, Kentucky
Rate: Free admission, food and some activities extra
Every second weekend in May, the city of Owensboro is overrun with the sight, sounds and smells of barbeque. The local barbeque masters all show up and battle to have the best recipe, so you know the food is going to be delicious. Several stages provide entertainment, and there's a carnival area for the kiddos. There are also several activities you can participate in, like eating contests, pageants, relays, a keg toss and a 5K marathon. Work off all that great food you ate by strolling through the car show and arts and crafts show.
Location: 4089 Iron Works Parkway, Lexington, KY 40511
Rate: $10-$45 for one-day admission, $95 for a four-day pass
This is the oldest bluegrass festival in the state, and it's a long one. The Festival of the Bluegrass lasts four days in June, and you can buy a pass for just one day or for all four. If you want to keep the party going for the whole four-day weekend, set up camp at the campgrounds located right next to the stages. At this festival, you'll hear some old-timey bluegrass music along with some fresh, new sounds.
Location: Downtown London, Kentucky
Rate: Free admission, charge for food and activities
Laurel County, Kentucky is the home of the first Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant. As a way to honor that part in the history of delicious fried chicken, they host the World Chicken Festival every year on the last full weekend in September. Make sure to get your chicken dinner from the world's largest skillet — it's over 10 feet wide and cooks up to 600 chicken quarters at once. With all that chicken cooking at the same time, you won't have to wait long for yours!
Location: Bardstown, Kentucky, various locations
Rate: Varies depending on the activity
Kentucky is the bourbon capital of the world, and that is demonstrated wholeheartedly during the six days in September that are the Kentucky Bourbon Festival. Enjoy bourbon tastings and a black tie ball, as well as parades, a hot air balloon show, live entertainment and much more. If you have a chance, take one of the historical tours of Bardstown — you're almost guaranteed to learn something interesting you didn't know.
Location: Downtown Pikeville, Kentucky
On the surface, Hillbilly Days looks like a bunch of fun and games. While it is that, it's all for a really good cause. Shriners from all across the United States and Canada get together for the three-day celebration to dress a little silly and raise money for crippled children. It's quite a sight to see when the streets of Pikeville fill up with people dressed as hillbillies. You'll find food and crafts, along with a huge carnival the whole family will love.
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