119 Fun & Interesting Facts About Kentucky

Are you ready to explore a state famous for fast horses, delicious fried chicken, and beautiful music? Let’s pack our bags and head to Kentucky, a place with deep roots in American history and culture. From rolling green hills to lively festivals, Kentucky is full of surprises. So, grab your adventure hat, and let’s discover some cool facts about Kentucky!

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First up, did you know Kentucky is known as the “Horse Capital of the World”? That’s right! People from all over come to Kentucky to see the Kentucky Derby, one of the most famous horse races ever. Imagine seeing those speedy horses racing to the finish line, cheered on by crowds of excited fans. It’s a big celebration where even the hats are famous!

Kentucky is also the birthplace of bluegrass music. This special kind of music uses instruments like banjos, fiddles, and guitars to create a sound that’s all about life in Kentucky. There are even festivals where musicians come together to play bluegrass music under the open sky. It’s like a big, musical picnic!

And let’s not forget about Kentucky Fried Chicken, or KFC for short. This world-famous chicken started in Kentucky, and now people everywhere enjoy its secret recipe. It’s a taste of Kentucky that has traveled around the globe!

Are you excited to learn more facts about Kentucky? From its horse races and bluegrass music to its delicious fried chicken, Kentucky is a state full of interesting stories and traditions. Let’s dive in and uncover all the amazing things that make Kentucky a unique and fascinating place to explore!

Be sure to discover even more interesting facts with our Facts about Maryland and our Facts about Massachusetts.

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Facts about Kentucky

  1. Kentucky Fried Chicken originated in the Corbin, where Colonel Sanders developed the recipe that would launch one of the biggest fast food chains in the world.
  2. Toyota Motor Manufacturing in Georgetown, Kentucky, is the largest Toyota factory in the US, capable of producing a million cars every two years.
  3. According to one outdated law, Women in Owensboro need to get their husband’s permission before purchasing a hat they fancy.
  4. The thirteen-day siege in 1778 of Fort Boonesborough was the longest siege in the country’s frontier history.
  5. Kentucky’s official nickname is Bluegrass State, and this is the slogan you will see on many of the region’s license plates. 
  6. Muhammad Ali (was a former heavyweight champion boxer and one of the greatest sporting figures of the 20th century) was born and raised in Louisville, Kentucky. The city now has a museum highlighting his life.
  7. Years ago, Fleming County picked up the nickname “Covered Bridge Capital of Kentucky“. Although most have been demolished, a handful still remains in the lightly populated county.
  8. The oldest vice president in the history of the United States is Alben Barkley, who was 71 years old when he entered office in 1949. He was born in Lowes, Kentucky.
  9. Every year, Louisville holds their annual Idea Festival. This unique festival held every fall draws creative thinkers of all ages. 
  10. Federal Park was the home field for the Blue Sox and was built in just 24 days and was the nation’s smallest professional baseball stadium.
  11. Black Mountain is the highest point in Kentucky at 4,145 feet above sea level. People can climb to the summit near Paducah, as long as they sign a waiver beforehand.
  12. Kentucky actually started off as a county in the state of Virginia. The residents did not feel that they were properly being represented by the state though, and in 1792, it became its own state.
  13. The Fort Knox Bullion Depository was completed in December 1936 at a cost of $560,000. The first gold was moved to the Depository by railroad in January 1937. No visitors are permitted into the facility and only one president, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and one Congressional delegation in 1974 have been inside the vault.
  14. The Kentucky Derby is the longest-running horse race in the United States. Derby horses have had names beginning with every letter of the alphabet except “X.”
  15. In 1977, 165 people died in a nightclub fire in Southgate, Campbell County.
  16. The state was torn when it came to slavery issues. At one point, Kentucky passed a law forbidding slaves from being brought into the state for resale in 1833. However, most of the slaves in Kentucky had come from the southern slaveholding states.
  17. The New Madrid earthquakes took place between 1811 and 1812, with the epicenter adjacent to Kentucky in southeastern Missouri. They were the most powerful earthquakes to be recorded in North American history. One after-effect of the earthquakes was the Mississippi River running backward.
  18. In Kentucky, it’s technically against the law to throw flowers, tomatoes, or eggs at public speakers.
  19. The “Louisville Slugger” baseball bat was invented in 1884 in Louisville, Kentucky after Pete “Louisville Slugger” Browning broke his and had a local shop make a new one for him. Today the city is home to the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory, outside of which stands the world’s largest baseball bat.
  20. Kentucky is the second-largest tobacco-producing state after North Carolina.
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  1. Kentucky has one national park: Mammoth Cave National Park. It is the world’s longest cave system, with 400 mi (640 km) of caves. The caves are home to bats, shrimp, salamanders, and more. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site and International Biosphere Reserve.
  2. Kentucky’s nickname is “The Bluegrass State”. Fun fact: bluegrass is actually green. Bluegrass only produces bluish purple buds in spring, which gives it a blue appearance when seen in large fields from afar.
  3. The state is home to 4.5 million people, ranking 26th in the US. It sits between Louisiana and Oregon in population size.
  4. There are 32 National Historic Landmarks in Kentucky, a list that includes a historic steamboat, distillery, and Churchill Downs, the home of the legendary Kentucky Derby horse race.
  5. The Kentucky Derby isn’t just the “fastest” sport. It can also be considered one of the most profitable. 150 million dollars were bet on the Kentucky Derby on the first Saturday of May 2018.
  6. Famous people from Kentucky include explorer and pioneer Daniel Boone, boxer Muhammad Ali, 16th president Abraham Lincoln, actress Jennifer Lawrence, actors George Clooney and Johnny Depp, and musicians Loretta Lynn, Billie Ray Cyrus, and Dwight Yoakam.
  7. On June 1, 1792, Kentucky became the 15th state to join the Union. Of the non-13 original states, only Vermont joined before it.
  8. In 1962, the federal government gave control of certain nuclear energy materials to Kentucky, the first state to be given such control.
  9. Mammoth Cave, located in Edmonson, Hart and Barren counties, is more than 400 miles long. The system was declared a World Heritage site on October 27, 1981. It is the longest cave system in the world, pretty much doubling up second place Sac Actun in Mexico.
  10. Transylvania University, located in Lexington, is the oldest university that is west of the Allegheny Mountains. The school was officially chartered in 1780, and despite never growing into a huge school, it remains extremely selective.
  11. Anyone driving on I-75 has seen the water tower with “Florence Y’all” on it. While it has turned into an iconic feature of the city, with a local festival in its name even, it was originally meant to be an advertisement for the Florence Mall. The city prohibited advertisements that high, forcing a quick change in the text.
  12. Louisville is constantly being pronounced in different ways around the world. The most common way locals say it is “looavull” or “luhvul.” Anything else is going to get weird looks.
  13. Cumberland Falls is the only place in the Western Hemisphere where a person can spot a moonbow. This unique rainbow is formed from light bouncing off the moon during the night time. Every full moon (and near full moon nights), the moonbow can be seen.
  14. The locals consider Owensboro to be the BBQ Capital of the World and when it comes to barbecue, mutton is often the preferred choice of meat. Owensboro also holds an annual International BBQ festival each May, but the famous BBQ this region is known for is available any day of the week.
  15. Kentucky is the birthplace or the origin of bourbon. The bourbon industry in Kentucky grew and generated over 20,000 jobs with an annual payroll of $1 billion.
  16. The man behind the brand, Duncan Hines, was born in Bowling Green in 1880. This famous native son built his fortune as a traveling salesman. 
  17. Duncan Hines is much more than a brand of cake mix. He eventually self-published a list of his recommended restaurants that he called Adventures in Good Eating. It was this start that led him to producing food products, including cake mixes for home kitchens.
  18. Governor William Goebel is the only acting governor in the United States to be assassinated. He was shot in front of the state capitol in Frankfort during a protest in 1900.
  19. Kentucky also has the greatest length of navigable waterways and streams in the continental 48 states. 
  20. Kentucky features the two largest man-made lakes east of the Mississippi River and the nation’s most productive coalfield.
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  1. In 2006, a Comair flight crashed near Lexington, killing 49, with a single person surviving.
  2. The Black Patch Tobacco Wars took place between 1904 and 1908 in Kentucky and Tennessee. Local dark tobacco producers from the “Black Patch” area fought against the American Tobacco Company (ATC), which had a monopoly.
  3. Forest land occupies 48% of Kentucky, and Kentucky is the 3rd largest provider of hardwoods in the country.
  4. Every Corvette in the world has been manufactured in Bowling Green since 1981. This manufacturing facility has produced over 1 million Corvettes since its startup. On June 1, 1981, the first Corvette was rolled out of the assembly line at the plant.
  5. The city of Lexington, KY, is home to the Jif peanut butter production plant. This plant not only produces 15 different types of peanut butter, but they are also the largest peanut butter production plant in the world. 
  6. The Kentucky Derby is held on the first Saturday in May. In the United States, it is known as “The Most Exciting Two Minutes In Sports” or “The Fastest Two Minutes in Sports” in reference to its approximate duration.
  7.  In March 2020, Kentucky senator Rand Paul was the first member of the US Senate to get COVID-19.
  8. Bluegrass is a grass species native to Europe and Asia that was introduced to Kentucky by European settlers in the 1700s.
  9. Black Mountain is the highest point in Kentucky, at 4139 ft (1262 m). The Mississippi River is the lowest point, at 257 ft (78 m).
  10. Barren County is the best place for agriculture as it has some of the most fertile soil in the country. At one point, the county was dubbed “rural America’s best place to live” by Progressive Farmer magazine.
  11. John Bibb of Frankfort, Kentucky, developed Bibb lettuce.
  12. Daniel Boone played a major role in the settlement of the area, which lay west of the 13 colonies. 
  13. Daniel Boone first sighted the Kentucky region in June 1767, then built the Wilderness Road through the Cumberland Gap in 1775. Within 25 years, 200,000 people entered Kentucky in this way.
  14. Kentucky’s all-time highest temperature was 114°F (45.5°C) on July 28, 1930 in Greensburg. The lowest was -37°F (-38.3°C) on January 19, 1994 in Shelbyville.
  15. Kentucky has its own version of Stonehenge, created by a resident of Munfordville after he searched the land for large stones.
  16. The only other city in Kentucky with more than 100,000 people is Lexington, with 300,000 people.
  17. The state has more miles of river than any other besides Alaska, around 90,000 miles worth in total.
  18. Fruit of the Loom (founded in Rhode Island) and Papa John’s Pizza (founded in Indiana) are today headquartered in Kentucky.
  19. The Tulip tree is the state tree of Kentucky.
  20. Bluegrass music officially took off thanks to Bill Monroe, born in Rosine. His unique style of playing string instruments, with quick picking and wailing, launched a new genre that is still popular in certain pockets of the United States.
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  1. Vanceburg is the only city south of the Ohio River with a monument dedicated to deceased Union soldiers. Despite being south of the Mason-Dixon line, the Union had a stronghold on Lewis County.
  2. The Mega Cavern is one of the more unique limestone mines in the United States. It has a number of support structures that actually qualify it as a building (largest in Kentucky). From tours to storage, the area has a number of uses throughout the year.
  3. Fort Boonesborough, located in Richmond, was established by Daniel Boone and his men in 1775. This fort became the second settlement in the area that was to become the state of Kentucky.
  4. A traditional Derby dessert is the Kentucky Derby Pie, which is filled with walnuts and chocolate chips. The rich and buttery treat is traditionally enjoyed on Kentucky Derby days.
  5. Kentucky has two national monuments: Camp Nelson (a Union Army station in the Civil War and recruitment center for African American Union soldiers) and Mill Springs Battlefield (where the Union won a battle in 1862).
  6. The official state motto is “United We Stand, United We Fall.”
  7. The official tourism slogan for Kentucky is “Unbridled Spirit”, but there has been an enthusiastic effort to replace it with “Kentucky Kicks Ass.”
  8. The state is officially called the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Of the four states called commonwealths, Kentucky is the only one that wasn’t one of the original 13 colonies. (The other three “commonwealth” states are Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.
  9. The capital city of Kentucky is Frankfort. It is home to a mere 28,600 people, making it the 4th smallest state capital, after the capitals of Vermont, South Dakota, and Maine.
  10. Colonel Harland Sanders founded Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) in the 1930s during the Great Depression. He began selling his homemade fried chicken from the Shell gas station he ran just outside the town of North Corbin, Kentucky.
  11. The display of the Ten Commandments in two state courtrooms in Kentucky was ruled against by the US Supreme Court in 2005.
  12. Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president of the United States, was famously born in Kentucky, but so was the other commander of the Civil War, Jefferson Davis. Hodgenville and Fairview, respectively, were their birthplaces. And interestingly, they both were born in log cabins.
  13. Patty and Mildred Hill collaborated to write the tune to Happy Birthday. Although it took years for it to really take off, Happy Birthday is now one of the most well-known songs in the English language.
  14. The city of Florence was officially incorporated in 1830, but before that time it had been known by the Native American names of Polecat and Pow-Wow because this area was where Native Americans came to exchange their furs.
  15. Georgetown, Kentucky, is home to the largest Toyota manufacturing plant in the world. This plant is the first completely American owned Toyota vehicle plant and is home to the Camry, Lexus ES 350, and Avalon.
  16. On August 14, 1936, the last legal public hanging took place in Owensboro, Kentucky.
  17. Ancient people were most likely living in the Kentucky area from 12,000 years ago, but remains going back that far have yet to be found.
  18. There’s even a Bourbon County in Kentucky, while the Barton 1792 Distillery in Bardstown features the world’s largest bourbon barrel (tours no longer offered). The town also has an annual Bourbon Festival and is considered the “bourbon capital of the world.”
  19. There are several theories about the origin of the state’s name. Some believe that Kentucky is derived from the Wyandotte word kentahthe, which means “land of tomorrow”, or the Iroquois word kentake which means “meadow land”.
  20. The state was once known as Cantuckey, Kentucke, and Kaintuckee during the early pioneer times.
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  1. The Cherokee, Chickasaw, and Shawnee were the original inhabitants of Kentucky. Today, indigenous people represent only 0.2% of the population.
  2. The state had four different governors in a span of less than three months between December 1899 and February 1900.
  3. The War of 1812 was particularly tough on the state of Kentucky. Out of the roughly 2260 American deaths, more than half of them were from the state. It is estimated that 64 percent of Americans killed in the war were Kentuckians. It is often called the United States’ “forgotten war”.
  4. The World Peace Bell, which is one of the largest free-swinging bells in the world, is displayed in Newport, Kentucky.
  5. Daniel Boone, the legendary frontiersman, is buried in Frankfort. His grave is still a popular tourist destination.
  6.  A lot of states have cities named Washington in honor of the first president of the United States, but Washington, Kentucky was the first.
  7. Kentucky has the highest population of elk in the eastern part of the United States by far. With more than 11,000 elk currently roaming the state, the number is expected to continually increase after only being reintroduced to the state in the 1990s.
  8. Kentucky’s most famous uprising happened in August 1818, with 55 to 75 slaves arming themselves and attempting to escape to freedom. 
  9. Over 10 million barrels of bourbon are aging in Kentucky, more than two for every person in the state. The drink was first distilled there in the late 1700s. Over 95% of bourbon is produced in the state.
  10. Kentucky is 40,408 mi² (104,656 km²) in size, the 14th smallest state of the US. It is between Tennessee and Indiana in terms of size.
  11. The radio is credited by some to Guglielmo Marconi, but Nathan Stubblefield of Murray actually invented it three years before the claim by the Italian.
  12. Mother’s Day can trace its origins to Henderson. Back in the 1880s, a teacher named Mary Wilson is credited for recognizing her mother on that day. Since 1916, it is an official holiday.
  13. Kentucky has many lakes, but only three major lakes are natural. The rest were man-made throughout the years.
  14. Despite claims by others, Kaelin’s restaurant in Louisville stands by being the first to serve cheeseburgers in 1934.
  15. Kentucky became the first southern state to pass a comprehensive civil rights law in 1966.
  16. On March 11, 1829, drillers discovered oil on a farm near Burkesville. They were initially boring for salt brine. The discovery of oil led to the establishment of the oil industry in the state of Kentucky.
  17. Dogs had a special place among early indigenous tribes in Kentucky; they were often buried with their owners, such as at the Indian Knoll site in western Kentucky.
  18. Traffic lights were invented by former slave Garret Morgan, who was from Paris, Kentucky.
  19. Kentucky is home to the US Bullion Depository in Fort Knox, a huge fortified vault containing 4,580 metric tons of gold bullion, over half of the country’s total reserve.
  20. The Kentucky state flag has the state seal on a blue background, surrounded by sprigs of goldenrod, the state flower. The seal shows a pioneer (some believe Daniel Boone) and a statesman (some believe Henry Clay) embracing.
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  1. The abbreviation for Kentucky is KY.
  2. Other unofficial nicknames are “Corn Cracker State”, “Hemp State”, and “Tobacco State”.
  3. Kentucky is also home to a giant fork (called “Fork in the Road” in Franklin), the cow with glasses in Guthrie, and a huge replica of the biblical ark called Ark Encounter in Williamstown.
  4. The first commercial oil well in the country was in 1818 in McCreary County, Kentucky.
  5. Thomas Edison first introduced the public to the electric light bulb at the 1883 Southern Exposition, held in Louisville. According to some sources, more than 4,500 light bulbs were used to illuminate the exhibition at night, which constituted the largest display set of Thomas Edison’s recently invented incandescent lights.
  6. Covington’s Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption has a lot of eye-catching displays and architecture, but none bigger than their rendition of the Council of Ephesus. It is the largest hand blown glass window in the world, spanning 24 feet wide and 67 feet high. A total of 82 stained glass windows are in the church.
  7. Covington’s Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption has a lot of eye-catching displays and architecture, but none bigger than their rendition of the Council of Ephesus.
  8. Covington’s Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption is the largest hand blown glass window in the world, spanning 24 feet wide and 67 feet high. A total of 82 stained glass windows are in the church.
  9. The capital, Frankfort, got its name because it was where Stephen Frank was killed, and people later forded the river (Frank + Ford).
  10. The largest city in Kentucky by far is Louisville. It is in the state’s north, with part of the greater metropolitan area spilling across the Ohio River into southern Indiana. It is home to 633,000 people (metro 1.4 million), making it the 29th largest city (43rd largest metro area) in the US.
  11. Middlesboro, Kentucky is the only city to be built inside a meteor crater in the US.
  12. The first permanent settlement in the region, Fort Harrod (later Harrodstown, then Harrodsburg), was constructed by James Harrod in 1774.
  13. Man o’ War, one of the most recognized Kentucky-bred horses of all-time, never actually raced in the state of his birth.
  14. When KY became the 15th state, it was the first in the western frontier.
  15. The Louisville Slugger Museum in Louisville is considered to be one of the best baseball museums in the world outside of Cooperstown. The huge replica bat attached to the museum itself is 120 feet tall and weighs 68,000 pounds.
  16. According to the law, if you take a turtle, snake, crocodile, or lizard with you to a religious service, you can get a fine of up to $100.
  17. The first female sheriff in Davis County history was Florence Thompson. In fact, she was in charge of the last legal hanging in Kentucky.
  18. The oldest horse race to be held continuously in the world is the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs in Louisville. In fact, it’s the most famous and first leg of the Triple Crown (the other two legs are in Maryland and New York State).
  19. Kentucky has 120 counties, the 4th most of any state.

Do you have even more interesting facts about Kentucky? Share them with us in the comments!

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