7 Unique Places to Stay in Kentucky

by Holly Riddle
Updated July 25, 2022

unique places to stay kentucky
Photo: The Kentucky Castle

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What comes to mind when you think of Kentucky? Maybe horse racing and the Kentucky Derby, bourbon, or college basketball super-fans?

Well, those things are all correct — but Kentucky’s outdoor recreation is plentiful, varied, and downright amazing, too.

There’s Mammoth Cave National Park, one of the largest, most impressive caves in the world. And then there’s Lake Cumberland, a vacation haven near the Tennessee border that draws tourists from Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois all summer long.

There are quaint towns, rolling green hills and, yes, plenty of bluegrass — after all, it’s “The Bluegrass State.” And even though Kentucky may seem mostly rural, you can still find bustling cities with amenities like luxury shopping, high-end hotels, world-class entertainment, fine dining, art museums, and cool distilleries. Just head to Lexington or Louisville.

If you’re looking for a unique place to stay in Kentucky to avoid chain hotels and budget motels, well, you’re in luck. Check out the places to stay in Kentucky below, all of which are beyond your average hotel or home rental.

Related Read: 8 Gorgeous Place to Go Glamping in Kentucky

1. The Kentucky Castle

The Kentucky Castle
Photo: The Kentucky Castle

Why you should stay: A European-style castle hotel in the heart of horse country.

  • Location: Versailles
  • Minimum stay: 1 night
  • Rates from: $155/night

Every Kentuckian knows “the castle.” Outside Lexington in Versailles (and it’s pronounced “vur-sales,” not “vur-sigh”), The Kentucky Castle has been a staple on the central part of the state’s landscape for decades. Originally a private property, it’s now a hotel, restaurant, spa, and event venue every bit as charming as its name and location suggest. While the exterior boasts a historic castle look, the interior is new and luxurious. Suites are outfitted with elegant furnishings that might seem more at home in a new-build hotel than a castle.

If you don’t want to shell out the cash to stay inside the castle, you can also book a glamping tent or a cabin on the property, which includes an expansive farm. A quick jaunt about the estate reveals a vegetable garden, a mushroom farm hidden in the forest, a truffle orchard, lavender fields, an apiary, and host of animal friends. The castle team plans on expanding the farm operations to include more orchards and water features soon.

If you’re in the area and only want to stop by for a brief visit, you can do that, too, with a reservation at the spa or the farm-to-table restaurant. It’s not just one of the most unique places to stay in Kentucky — it’s one of the most unique places to dine, too. And don’t forget to take a castle tour while you’re here.

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Related Read: 9 Beautiful Cabin Rentals Near Cincinnati, Ohio

2. 21c Museum Hotel Louisville

21c Museum Hotel Louisville kentucky
Photo: 21c Museum

Why you should stay: Sleep in a museum steps from the best restaurants in Louisville.

  • Location: Louisville
  • Minimum stay: 1 night
  • Rates from: $219/night

If you’ve yet to experience a 21c Museum Hotel, you really ought to give this up-and-coming hospitality brand a try. Each hotel is exactly what it sounds like — a museum, with locally and internationally-sourced artwork. The unique place to stay in Kentucky draws both overnight guests and day visitors, but if you have the time, book a guest room for a night. All rooms mirror the artistic vibe in an elegant, refined way.

The 21c Museum Hotel Louisville is one of the brand’s older properties, opening more than a decade ago, and one of its signature pieces of art is an extra-large replica of Michelangelo’s David. Rotating exhibits range from from sculpture to photography and word art to interactive statement art. The museum itself covers more than 75,000 square feet and the galleries (open 24 hours a day) are free to visit.

Don’t miss Proof on Main, the hotel’s restaurant. It’s main draw is the bar, with more than 100 Kentucky bourbons on offer.

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Related Read: 14 Cozy Pet-Friendly Cabins in Kentucky

3. Jenny Wiley State Resort Park

Jenny Wiley State Resort Park
Photo: Patrick Jennings / Shutterstock

Why you should stay: A nature haven in Kentucky’s eastern outdoorsy regions.

  • Location: Prestonsburg
  • Minimum stay: 1 night
  • Rates from: $23/night

Not everyone wants to stay in the city, so if you hear the call of nature while exploring Kentucky, make tracks forJenny Wiley State Resort Park. Eastern Kentucky is an under-credited and under-visited region of the state, and a stay here really shows you what the area really has to offer. That includes amazing natural scenery, breathtaking mountains, and plenty of outdoor fun. Some of the top activities at the park include elk watching, fishing and boating on the lake, mountain biking, and hiking the many trails.

You have a few accommodations options when visiting Jenny Wiley State Resort Park. There’s an actual lodge and while it’s small, there’s a lot to love about it. With views of Dewey Lake, the pet-friendly lodge has a restaurant serving up signature Kentucky dishes like fried catfish. If you want a little more privacy, though, you can rent a cottage or you can head to the campground, which has more than 100 sites. There’s also a separate campground only accessible via water, if you’re traveling with your boat in tow.

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Related Read: 8 Magnificent Red River Gorge Cabins with Hot Tubs

4. The Brown Hotel

brown hotel ky
Photo: The Brown Hotel

Why you should stay: Historic opulence in downtown Louisville

  • Location: Louisville
  • Minimum stay: 1 night
  • Rates from: $184/night

Ask any Kentuckian to name one of the state’s most historic hotels, and you’re likely to hear them nameThe Brown. A gorgeous luxury hotel in downtown Louisville, The Brown is a Historic Hotel of America and a high-end experience. It boasts Georgian Revival architecture and a lobby bound to make any traveler’s jaw drop.

And the location is nothing to scoff at either. You can easily reach a handful of Louisville theaters and historic spots on foot. However, The Brown’s biggest claim to fame is likely the Hot Brown, a Kentucky favorite invented at the hotel’s restaurant in the 1920s. It’s an open-faced turkey, ham, cheese, and bacon sandwich, baked until golden and covered in a creamy sauce. It’s a staple of Louisvilles culinary scene.

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5. The Grace Airstream

The Grace Airstream kentucky
Photo: Airbnb

Why you should stay: Hotel amenities with a camping feel in a retro camper near Louisville.

  • Location: Louisville
  • Minimum stay: 2 nights
  • Rates from: $105/night

With this unique places to stay in Kentucky, you get to enjoy the camping experience while staying minutes away from the offerings of Kentucky’s largest city. Progress Park is an Airstream resort that offers glamping in renovated vintage Airstreams. Each one sleeps up to six guests, though you’d be more comfortable with a few less

The Grace Airstream at Progress Park features minimalistic farmhouse-style decor, with rough wood finishes and lots of bright and airy furnishings. It has everything you need for a comfortable stay, from a fridge and microwave to a small-but-useable toilet. You’ll share shower facilities and the beach area in front of your rental with the other nearby trailer, making it convenient for larger groups who want to book both spaces.

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Related Read: 11 Amazing Airstream Airbnbs Across the U.S.

6. Cliffview Resort

Cliffview Resort kentucky
Photo: Cliffview Resort

Why you should stay: Lux forested cabin resort near Red River Gorge’s outdoor adventures.

  • Location: Campton
  • Minimum stay: 2 nights
  • Rates from: $160/night

Red River Gorge is Kentucky’s premier outdoor adventure destination and Cliffview is generally considered the region’s premier resort. Less than an hour’s drive from Lexington, the resort has log cabin-style rooms. Snuggle up under a quilt and watch the leaves fall from your window in autumn, or kick up your feet on a rocking chair on your wrap-around porch in the summer; the resort is a great getaway year-round. But, of course, if you’re traveling to Red River Gorge, you’re not going to want to spend the entire trip in your guest room.

In addition to actual gorge, you’ll want to check out both Natural Bridge State Park and Daniel Boone National Forest. You may be surprised to learn the range of activities around here, from hiking and biking to paddling through underground caves or climbing in slot canyons.

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Related Read: 9 Gorgeous & Secluded Cabin Rentals in Kentucky

7. Buffalo Springs Distilling Company

Buffalo Springs Distilling Company kentucky
Photo: Airbnb

Why you should stay: A taste of history on the Bourbon Trail.

  • Location: Stamping Ground
  • Minimum stay: 1 night
  • Rates from: $139/night

This Airbnb property is a dream come true for any whiskey or bourbon fan, though it’s one of the best unique places to stay in Kentucky even if you prefer mocktails to cocktails. Located on the Bourbon Trail, Buffalo Springs Distilling Company shut down this location in the 1970s after more than two centuries of operation. You’ll sleep in one of the few still-standing historic buildings on property. Since the place is small, the guest count is capped at two.

The old distillery gatehouse, with its historic stone exterior, now features an appropriately themed small bedroom, kitchen, and living space. The property makes subtle nods to its distilling past with vintage Buffalo Springs signage and marketing posters on the walls.

You’re less than 30 minutes from some of the other stops on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, including Buffalo Trace Distillery and Wild Turkey.

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