12 Exciting Weekend Road Trips From Louisville, Kentucky

by Holly Riddle
Updated March 20, 2023

weekend road trips from louisville ky
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As the largest city in the Bluegrass State, Louisville is the urban hub of Kentucky and is filled with history, horse racing, and bourbon.

However, if you’ve already explored all that Louisville has to offer, or you’re wanting to expand your trip throughout the region for a few days (or maybe you even call this lively city home), you might be looking for some easy weekend road trips from the Derby City.

For your consideration, here are 12 weekend road trips from Louisville that will take you around the rest of Kentucky and beyond.

1. Lexington, Kentucky

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If you’re looking for an extremely easy weekend road trip from Louisville, look to Lexington. This city is a very quick drive away — so quick, in fact, that it’s not uncommon for many residents in both to commute to the other for dinner or an event.

Stay the weekend in Lexington, though, and you’ll see all the charms this slightly smaller city has to offer, from sporting events at the University of Kentucky to the bustling restaurant and bar scene downtown, to luxury shopping and historic attractions.

  • Distance from Louisville: 78 miles
  • Drive time without stops: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Related Read: 7 Unique Places to Stay in Kentucky

2. Lake Cumberland, Kentucky

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Travel southward, right near the Kentucky-Tennessee line, and you’ll find Lake Cumberland. The large manmade lake is a summer haven for travelers from all over the state, as well as from neighboring states like Ohio. You can easily rent a Kentucky cabin on the shores of the lake, for extra privacy and water access. Boat rentals are also relatively easy to come by.

This area of Kentucky is, overall, a little more rural, though, so don’t expect a bustling nightlife scene or plentiful dining and shopping options along the lake. Instead, this is your place to kick back and relax in nature. When not on the water, you can explore caves, go hiking, or visit one of the numerous historical sites.

  • Distance from Louisville: 129 miles
  • Drive time without stops: 2 hours, 30 minutes

3. Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area

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Still easy enough to drive to after work on a Friday, Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area sits on the Kentucky and Tennessee line in the southwest corner of the state. The large plot of forestland does, as the name suggests, sit between two lakes, and you’ll find plenty of water sports and camping opportunities.

Other attractions include the elk and bison prairie, which is a 700-acre enclosed space that visitors can drive through for wildlife watching. There are also historic sites, like a working 1850s farm, and a planetarium. Fishing, hunting, and geocaching are also popular activities. Rent a Kentucky cabin in the area to turn your trip into a wilderness getaway.

  • Distance from Louisville: 198 miles
  • Drive time without stops: 2 hours, 30 minutes

Related Read: 9 Gorgeous & Secluded Cabin Rentals in Kentucky

4. Indianapolis, Indiana

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Louisville sits right on the Indiana border, meaning you’re well within reach of some of the state’s best destinations during a Louisville stay. Plan a quick weekend trip up to Indianapolis to see everything this Midwest city has to offer. If you’re traveling with the family, you’ll especially find lots of fun, including the world’s largest children’s museum, aka the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis.

For sports fans, there’s the world’s largest auto racetrack, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, home of the famous Indy 500 race. Sports fans can also catch a Colts or Pacers game during their visit.

  • Distance from Louisville: 115 miles
  • Drive time without stops: 1 hour, 50 minutes

5. Cincinnati, Ohio

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Follow the river from Louisville eastward and you’ll eventually find yourself across from Cincinnati, Ohio. Just under a hundred miles away, Cincy offers even more big-city fun, with its wealth of events, museums, history, art, culture, restaurants, and more.

You’ll find professional-level sporting events from the NFL’s Cincinnati Bengals and the MLB’s Cincinnati Reds. There’s also a burgeoning craft beer scene in the city, as well as an incredibly well-respected zoo that’s considered one of the best in America. And, if you’re on a budget, you’ll be glad to know that there are tons of free things to do in Cincinnati.

  • Distance from Louisville: 99 miles
  • Drive time without stops: 2 hours, 30 minutes

Related Read: 9 Beautiful Cabin Rentals Near Cincinnati, Ohio

6. St. Louis, Missouri

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Travel westward for about four hours and you’ll find yourself in St. Louis, Missouri. The major Mississippi River city has tons to do, no matter what kind of traveler you are or what you’re into. You have to, of course, visit the Gateway Arch, the city’s iconic landmark that takes you 630 feet above the St. Louis skyline.

You’ll also find lots of museums, a great live music scene (with plenty of blues on tap), and amazing barbecue. Like Cincinnati and Indy, St. Louis offers a selection of professional sports teams too, including the Cardinals and Blues. If you’re in town, be sure to catch a game so you can see just how passionate this city is for its hometown teams.

  • Distance from Louisville: 260 miles
  • Drive time without stops: 4 hours

Related Read: 9 Fun & Free Things to Do in St. Louis, Missouri

7. Nashville, Tennessee

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Prefer to travel south? Head to Nashville, Tennessee. This southern city has been rapidly growing in popularity over the last several years, thanks largely to its country music scene, which offers must-visit attractions like the Grand Ole Opry and the Country Music Hall of Fame. But Nashville is so much more than just country music.

There are quite a few historic attractions in the area that are worth checking out, like the historic Vanderbilt campus and the Union Station Hotel, which is built into an old train station from 1900. The city also has a booming food and brewery scene that’s only been amplified further by sleek new hoteliers (like W, Virgin, and Conrad) opening posh pads in town with restaurants helmed by celebrity chefs.

  • Distance from Louisville: 176 miles
  • Drive time without stops: 2 hours, 40 minutes

Related Read: 8 Impressive Glamping Spots Near Nashville, Tennessee

8. Daniel Boone National Forest, Kentucky

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If you’re looking for a weekend getaway that’s all about nature, consider Daniel Boone National Forest. Situated just west of the Appalachian Mountains, the rugged terrain stretches across 21 eastern Kentucky counties and more than 2 million acres. When visiting the forest, you’ll have plenty of options to pick from when it comes to places to set up camp and explore, as there are more than 250 recreational sites within the forest’s borders.

Visitors come from all over to see Kentucky’s famous stone arches (which, by the way, the state has more of than any other eastern state) and Red River Gorge, and to hike Kentucky’s longest trail, the 300-mile Sheltowee Trace National Recreation Trail.

  • Distance from Louisville: 169 miles
  • Drive time without stops: 3 hours

Related Read: 9 Incredible Kentucky Treehouses For a Southern Getaway

9. Columbus, Ohio

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If you’ve already seen and experienced Cincinnati and want to check out some of Ohio’s other cities, try Columbus. Most notably, visitors travel from all over to catch an OSU football game, and being able to watch a game in Ohio Stadium is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

But Columbus is so much more than just football. The Short North district offers up lots of shopping and dining, and the historic German Village is loaded with cafes, bookshops, and lounges, all surrounded by historic homes and cobblestone streets. Columbus is a unique destination because it’s a large city that feels like a small town.

  • Distance from Louisville: 206 miles
  • Drive time without stops: 3 hours

10.  Knoxville, Tennessee

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Another popular Tennessee destination, especially for those seeking a convenient weekend getaway from Louisville, Knoxville offers all the city amenities you might want, but then also a very heavy helping of history – and it’s all nearby some great outdoor adventure, from water sports (think paddling and white water rafting) to hiking to wildlife watching.

In downtown Knoxville, you’ll be able to spot 1800s history, thanks to the Market Square district’s historic architecture. Meanwhile, the James White’s Fort is a reconstructed 18th-century cabin that dates back to the Revolutionary War.

  • Distance from Louisville: 247 miles
  • Drive time without stops: 3 hours

Related Read: 11 Exciting & Unique Places to Stay in Tennessee

11. Asheville, North Carolina

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While this road trip might not be all that doable on a short weekend, if you have a long weekend or plan to leave earlier in the day, you can definitely make this longer road trip work — and if you’ve never been to Asheville, North Carolina, the drive is well worth it.

Asheville is well known for its quirky character, arts scene, hip local breweries, and more. Plus, all the while, you’re within easy reach of outdoor fun in the nearby North Carolina mountains.

  • Distance from Louisville: 360 miles
  • Drive time without stops: 5 hours, 45 minutes

12. Memphis, Tennessee

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Lastly, another longer road trip that’s more suitable for long weekends, a trip to Memphis, Tennessee, is a must for anyone who considers themselves a true music fan. Aficionados of Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, or any blues, soul, or rock ’n roll legend, will find something to love here.

From live music venues to music-centric museums, you can plan a music-themed itinerary that’s sure to thrill. When you’re finished exploring Beale Street, be sure to check out the Bass Pro Shop pyramid (it’s weird, but it’s a landmark), as well as the city’s great barbecue.

  • Distance from Louisville: 384 miles
  • Drive time without stops: 5 hours, 45 minutes

Related Read: 9 Beautiful Swimming Holes in Tennessee to Beat the Summer Heat

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