Frankfort, Kentucky, USA town skyline on the Kentucky River at dusk.

The 7 Friendliest Small Towns in Kentucky

From baseball and bluegrass to bourbon and barbeque, Kentucky is known for many things. But friendly communities might just be the defining characteristic here, in the Bluegrass State. Whether you want to discover why Murray was voted the Friendliest Small Town in America or you want to get to know the locals at one of many free concerts in Owensboro, Kentucky will not disappoint. Throughout these seven small towns, visitors will find waterfalls, historical sites, museums, and best of all – lively communities ripe for tourists. 


White gazebo on the water, white pavilion near lake in park.

Murray, Kentucky is a small town located roughly 40 miles from the beautiful Kentucky Lake. According to Murray tourism sites, the town boasts several alluring titles including, Playful City, Friendliest Small Town in America, and Top 100 Best Communities for Young People.

Start a visit to Murray off right by exploring the downtown core where the town’s friendly atmosphere is on full display. While downtown, visitors can participate in a historic walking tour, admire the vibrant murals that line the streets, and shop for local goodies at the downtown farmers market. Murray State University also offers a handful of fun things to see and do including The Doran Arboretum and the Wrather West Kentucky Museum.

Those willing to venture slightly out of town can take the 18-mile drive to Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area where activities like hiking, wildlife viewing, and an active working farm are all on offer.


Scenic aerial view of Central Kentucky countryside near Berea.

A whopping 275 miles from Murray, travelers will find the equally friendly town of Berea, Kentucky. Recognized as the Folk Arts and Crafts Capital of Kentucky, Berea is beloved for its artistic energy and abundance of family-friendly festivals. During a visit here, be sure to stop by the Berea Visitors Center which is housed inside a restored 1917 Railroad Depot and features some of the town's best local art.

Next, performance art lovers will want to visit Spotlight Playhouse to take in a show. In addition to art, there is also plenty of natural beauty throughout town. Hiking enthusiasts can see all Berea has to offer from one of the many hiking trails available including the Bushy Fork Trails at Berea College.

Before arriving in Berea, always check the town's event calendar to see what festivals and events are taking place during your visit. Some annual stand-outs include the Spoonbread Festival and Kites Away.

La Grange

Town of La Grange Kentucky.

Roughly 25 miles from the iconic city of Louisville, lies the peaceful small town of La Grange, Kentucky. Recognized as an ideal spot for small town shopping and vibrant community events, La Grange has a little something for everyone. Rail fans will want to make a stop at the La Grange Railroad Museum where visitors can admire vintage rail cars and model trains.

For a taste of the great Kentucky outdoors, head to The Glen or Wilborn Park where views of the water, walking paths, picnic areas, and nature are on full display. For a fun evening activity, head to the Sauerbeck Family Drive In where movies play every Friday and Saturday at 9:15 p.m. On a hot summer day, nothing beats swimming in the La Grange Quarry. Located just outside of town in Oldham County, KY, the La Grange Quarry features sparkling spring water, snack shacks, equipment rentals, and volleyball nets.

Another worthwhile site located less than 10 miles outside of town is the Yew Dell Botanical Garden –- a nationally registered historic site filled with colorful blooms. 

Horse Cave & Cave City

Entrance to Mammoth Cave in Kentucky.

Appropriately dubbed by the The American Cave Conservation Association as, “a little bit of Smithsonian in rural Kentucky,” Horse Cave, Kentucky is the perfect spot for some underground exploration. While in town visitors will want to check out iconic locations including Hidden River Cave which features the world's longest underground swinging bridge.

While here, don’t forget to pop into the American Cave Museum to freshen up on underground history. Of course a visit here isn’t complete until you see Mammoth Cave National Park. The park features one of the longest cave systems in the world as well as hiking trails, wildlife, and camping opportunities. Animal lovers will also want to visit  Dutch Country Safari Park and the Kentucky Down Under Adventure Zoo.

Before your trip is over, take a short drive to the neighboring town of Cave City where you’ll find places like the Crystal Onyx Cave, the Mammoth Cave Wildlife Museum, and Dinosaur World to explore.


Moonbow At Cumberland Falls State Park In Kentucky.

Corbin, Kentucky is well known as the birthplace of Kentucky Fried Chicken, but this charming little town has far more to offer than delicious deep fried history. For starters, check out all of Corbin’s natural beauty at Cumberland Falls State Resort Park. Here, visitors can engage in a wide array of activities including hiking, birdwatching, camping, mining for fossils, swimming, fishing, and rafting. The park, which is often called the “Niagara of the South,” is also home to a towering 125-foot waterfall set inside an impressive Gorge. Visitors will also find a 1937-era fire tower and the Riverview Restaurant.

For something a little different head to the Pinball Museum where guests can admire and play a large selection of vintage pinball machines and arcade games. 


Frankfort, Kentucky, USA downtown streets at night.

Corbin may be known for its famous fried chicken, but Frankfort, Kentucky is the birthplace of the Kentucky Bourbon Ball – a southern dessert consisting mostly of bourbon and dark chocolate. In addition to sweet treats, Frankfort also offers a slew of outdoor adventures ideal for wildlife lovers and waterfall chasers alike. Spend an afternoon wandering through Cove Spring Park where waterfalls and scenic overlooks aren’t hard to find. The park also features an archery range, 3 miles of hiking trails, wetlands, picnic spots, and plenty of wildlife. Those looking to learn more about local wildlife can visit the Salato Wildlife Education Center where you can learn about and interact with over 40 native species.

Next, stop for a photo opportunity at the Floral Clock before heading out for one last adventure in Leslie Morris Park. Here, visitors will find historic civil war forts, hiking trails, scenic overlooks, and guided tours. 


Owensboro, KY.Tranquil scene at Western Kentucky Botanical Garden. Image credits: Taylor Brunner via Shutterstock

Owensboro, Kentucky is known as the Bluegrass Capital of the World and is filled with friendly, music-loving residents. According to the town's tourism website, Owensboro hosts several free music events throughout the year including summer concerts downtown and the Friday After 5 free concert series. Of course, a visit here isn’t complete until you stop by the Bluegrass Hall of Fame. Here, visitors can dive deep into the history of Bluegrass music and how it helped shape Kentucky.

Next, enjoy a touch of natural beauty at the Joe Ford Nature Park where hiking, picnicking, and educational information are all available. Finish off a trip here with a lovely stroll through the Western Kentucky Botanical Garden.

In Conclusion

No matter which of these friendly small towns you choose to visit, one thing you can always count on is having a fun time in Kentucky. Between the rush of live music and the excitement of exploring underground cave systems, there’s no shortage of thrills to seek in these charming little towns. So the next time you’re in need of a day trip or a weekend getaway, consider exploring Kentucky – you will not regret it.


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