Staycationing was a tradition my mom started with Ben many years ago. Every year, in August, Mom would take Ben for 3 or 4 days, to spend time with him and give me time for homeschool planning. She always took lots of photos and put together a scrapbook of their adventures for him to keep.
I love this more than I can ever express. Since losing my mom in November, 2011, Ben has brought up his staycation memories many times and looked through his scrapbooks over and over again. These are precious memories for him and I am very grateful he has such a wonderful way to rmember his Nana.
Many folks staycation to save money. Gas prices are high. Hotel costs are crazy. Money is tight and extravagant vacations are impossible for most. So while summer staycationing was a wonderful gift my mom gave to my son (and ultimately to me), it can also be a great way to build your own family memories when taking a vacation away from home just isn’t possible.
Today, I will share 10 ideas for Summer Staycation destinations within a 2-hour drive of Louisville, Kentucky. If you don’t live near Louisville but will be visiting, these ideas are for you as well. While not everything on this list is a free idea, frugal comes in with the cost savings when hotel and gas expenses are saved by staying close enough to home to be able to visit in just a day.
Mammoth Cave, about 100 miles south of Louisville, is the world’s longest known cave system, with more than 400 miles explored. Early guide Stephen Bishop called the cave a “grand, gloomy and peculiar place,” but its vast chambers and complex labyrinths have earned its name – Mammoth. Your visit can include cave tours, surface hikes, canoeing on the Green River, picnicking, horseback riding, bicycling, camping and more. Admission and other fees can be found here. Be sure to grabe a Junior Ranger booklet while there.
Located just 70 miles from Louisville, this theme park with a ginormous water park also offers free sunscreen and soft drinks to help you stay safe and hydrated. It’s often less crowded than some major theme parks, but fun still abounds. You will love visiting this Christmas-themed park, located in Santa Claus, Indiana. Admission prices and discounts can be found here.
Frankfort is the capital of Kentucky and located less than one hour’s drive away. In the downtown area, you’ll find the current state Capitol, as well as the Old State Capitol, the Kentucky Historical Society (one of our very favorite local museums), and Rebecca Ruth’s Candy Factory (be sure and pay the $2 for the tour). A free trolley tour will take you on an historical tour of the area, showing several historic buildings and the cemetery where Daniel Boone is buried. Find out more information about what you can do on your visit to Frankfort here.
Located about an hour from Louisville, near Salem, Indiana, Spring Mill holds a special place in my heart. It was here, sitting on a log near a babbling brook, that my husband asked me to marry him. Besides getting engaged, you can also explore the park’s four interpretive facilities—the Pioneer Village, Nature Center, Grissom Memorial, and Twin Caves Boat Tour, hike the trails, or saddle up for a trail ride. The interpretive staff also offers a wide variety of public programs, including an extensive special events schedule. Public programs are offered year-round. Click here for program schedules. Find lots of printables for the kids on this page.
Kentucky’s second largest city boasts lots of history and culture. Roughly one and a half hours from Louisville, I would suggest a horse focus for this trip, since Lexington is THE horse capital of the world. Some ideas might include a visit to Kentucky Horse Park and The Thoroughbred Center, or scheduling one of many Kentucky Horse Farm Tours. For a little history, stop by the Hunt-Morgan House, Ashland (The Henry Clay Estate), Mary Todd Lincoln House, or nearby Fort Boonesborough and Old Fort Harrod.
About an hour from Louisville, Lincoln’s Birthplace in rural Central Kentucky honors the humble beginnings of our 16th president, Abraham Lincoln. His early life on Kentucky’s frontier shaped his character and prepared him to lead the nation through Civil War. The country’s first memorial to Lincoln, built with donations from young and old, enshrines the symbolic birthplace cabin. Print the Junior Ranger booklet before you go or pick up a free printed copy there.
Your train-lovers (young and old) will enjoy this train history museum. The Kentucky Railway Museum owes its beginning to a small number of rail enthusiasts who formed a local chapter of the National Railway Historical Society in 1948. In the early 1950’s, the Chapter asked the Louisville and Nashville Railroad for the donation of a steam locomotive to form the nucleus of a railway museum. It’s close enough to Lincoln’s Birthplace to stop by the same day.
There’s plenty to do in small-town Bardstown, Kentucky about 45 minutes outside of Louisville. This historic community boasts the Stephen Foster Story musical production, My Old Kentucky Home State Park, and the Bardstown Civil War Museum. If you can squeeze it into the budget, plan an evening on the My Old Kentucky Dinner Train.
This living history village shares the life and work of the post-revolutionary Shakers. Meet the men, women and children who called this place home for over 100 years. These every day Kentuckians designed architectural marvels, harvested the fruits of the earth, and built a village grounded in the principles of community, ingenuity and sustainability. Shaker Village is located in Harrodsburg, Kentucky, near Lexington, a little less than two hours from Louisville.
Just about an hour from Louisville this state-of-the-art 70,000 square foot museum brings the pages of the Bible to life, casting its characters and animals in dynamic form and placing them in familiar settings. Adam and Eve live in the Garden of Eden. Children play and dinosaurs roam near Eden’s Rivers. The serpent coils cunningly in the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Majestic murals, great masterpieces brimming with pulsating colors and details, provide a backdrop for many of the settings.
Here are 20 more must-see places for the city of Louisville!
Finally, pretend you are visiting Louisville for the first time and take in some of the sites of your very own city. Be a tourist in your own city is the perfect staycation! Some ideas include:
- Kentucky Derby Museum and Churchill Downs
- Historic Locust Grove
- Louisville Palace Theater
- Kentucky Science Center
- Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory
- Louisville Stoneware
- Frazier History Museum
- Louisville Zoo
- Louisville Nature Center
- Louisville Glassworks
- Louisville Mega Cavern
- Cave Hill Cemetery
- Kentucky Show!
- Waterfront Park and The Big Four Bridge
- The Speed Art Museum
- Museum of the American Printing House for the Blind
- Mellwood Art Center
- Muhammad Ali Center
- The Little Loomhouse
- Conrad-Caldwell House and St. James Court
If you enjoyed this article, you might also find Road Trip Kentucky: 10 Summer Field Trip Ideas helpful!