The Ultimate East Kentucky Bucket List

One of my friends from Lexington is coming to visit me for a vacation this summer, so I started thinking of things to plan for her to make her trip to East Kentucky unforgettable. Here’s a list of things that every Eastern Kentuckian (and visitor) should do! Whether you’re bored this summer and planning a staycation, or an adventurous out-of-towner looking for an unusual vacation, get out an explore everything this region has to offer!
Side note: click on each county and it will direct you to their tourism webpage for more fun things to do there!

Knott County

1) Spend a day on Carr Fork Lake


Carr Fork is East Kentucky’s most underrated lake. The lake is a host of many different activities: skiing, tubing, fishing, swimming, camping, hiking, you name it! Pack up a lunch, find a group of friends and hang out on the beach or anchored down by the dam. Don’t have a boat? No worries. The full service marina offers rentals. Call (606) 642-3239 for more info.

Where to eat: Lakeview Dairy Bar is a must! My usual consists of the pizza burger with curly fries and a butter pecan soft serve for dessert. Nothing beats the best ice cream in the world with Knott County’s most magnificent view.

2) Ride around at the Knott County Mine Made Adventure Park

Put the four wheeler on a trailer and head on up to the Mine Made Adventure Park where the Knott County Spring and Fall Trail Rides are hosted every year. Throughout the year other group events are held as well, or you can ride solo. There are over 100 miles of well marked trails that lead you through abandoned mine sites and herds of wild cattle. Camping is also available — so go ahead and make a weekend trip out of it!

Where to eat: Pack your lunch.


3) Go to an event at the Appalachian Artisan Center

The Artisan Center is cool on its own — with a rooftop lounge, displays from local artists, and a School of Luthiery — but their events are a must see! The Artisan Center hosts painting classes, art receptions, and community gatherings in collaboration with the Hindman Settlement School. Check out their Facebook page to see what’s coming up next!

Where to eat: Snacks and/or meals are usually available at their events.

4) Picnic at Camp Nathanael

I’ve always said that Camp Nathanael is one of those places where you feel God’s presence immediately upon entering. The bright fall colors and the beautiful spring blooms are a peaceful background for a time of reflection. Camp offers horseback riding, a swinging bridge, challenge courses, and more. Contact the Camp Nathanael office to see what you can do during your time there — or just stop by briefly for a picnic!

Where to eat: Pack your lunch!

Perry County

5) Cruise Downtown Hazard

This may not be as fun to some as it is to me… However, I think downtown Hazard is one of the most magical places ever. I love imagining what it once was and envisioning what it can be. I picture a quaint coffee lounge and a small town department store. Along the way, I choose which house I would like to live in at Woodland Park while I snack on a Maple Bacon donut from Pantry Shelf. (Seriously guys! These are a necessity.) I roll my windows down and turn the Rolling Stones up as I cruise down Main Street of the town that once held bumper to bumper traffic during our mom and dad’s teenage Friday nights. Can we start doing that again?

Where to eat: After you cruise, head on back out to Giovanni’s Pizza on Highway 80. Sit and talk with locals or people just passing through. Giovanni’s is exclusive to Eastern Kentucky, but take Billy Ray Cyrus’ word for it. It’s good stuff.

Powell County

6) Hike the Red River Gorge

The Gorge is a one of a kind geological area. Kentuckians and non-Kentuckians alike will always mention Red River Gorge as one of their favorite hiking places. It is an East Kentucky staple that cannot be passed up! Here’s a link to a list of official (and unofficial!) trails, along with a brief description of each. My sister and I hiked Chimney Top Rock and Princess Arch, which essentially are just half mile walks. There are also more difficult trails for experienced hikers, such as Indian Staircase. In the area, there is also ziplining, kayaking, camping, challenge courses, and the Natural Bridge Park. The Gorge has something for everyone!

Where to eat: Everyone says that when you go to the Gorge, you need to visit Miguel’s Pizza. And trust me, everyone is right! The laid back atmosphere is exactly what you would imagine would be nestled in the foothills of this chill area. Grab an Ale-8 (made in Kentucky!), order pizza, sit back and relax.

Letcher County

7) Spend a day in Whitesburg

Whitesburg is the exact opposite of what you would imagine a town in Southeast Kentucky to be like. Whitesburg embraces their artistic culture with various events hosted throughout the year. Their downtown area has a small bookstore and record store, among other things. On down the road is one of my favorite upscale consignment stores — Annie’s Frugal Finery. Once you’re done shopping, head on up Pine Mountain and stop at one of the remarkable scenic overlooks.

Where to eat: Summit City On Main offers light and delicious cuisine, and also hosts events every once in awhile. Check out their Facebook for more info!

8) Go junkin’ on Antique Alley

You never know what you’ll find! Antique Alley, also known as Route 7, hosts several secondhand and consignment shops. Find a one of a kind piece and use your best Pinteresting skills to revamp it! This link will lead you to the list of shops on Antique Alley.

Where to eat: You will definitely want to eat at Joe’s Drive Inn & Chicken. Locals often call it Joe Packs. Joe’s Chicken is located on Route 7 as well!

Harlan County

9) Kingdom Come State Park

Funny story: Last summer my family and I made the drive all the way to Harlan County to visit Kingdom Come State Park. We had a picnic, visited the overlook, painted their visitor rocks, and rode a pedal boat. We headed back home and found out the next day that Channing Tatum was in Harlan County! So, folks, you never know what you’ll find.

Where to eat: Pack your lunch!


Pike County

10) Shop local in Pikeville

Although Pikeville is home to larger brand stores (Hobby Lobby, Marshalls, etc.), it still holds many local ones as well! Unique Boutique, Rustic Roots, Southern Bliss, Daffodils, and Esther and Esther are a few of the ones I like to visit. No matter where you are it’s always important to shop local!

Where to eat: If you’re going to shop local, it’s important to eat local, too. Bank 253 is located downtown. I haven’t had the chance to stop by yet, but I have heard great reviews! I will definitely be there this summer.

11) Hike the Breaks Interstate Park

The perfect date day! The Breaks has easy access to overlooks for those who don’t want to hike, but also intense trails for those seeking adventure. My boyfriend and I took the Tower Tunnel trail that

connected to Prospectors trail. They were both well marked, but it took us a few hours. The view at the end of the trail is well worth it!


Where to eat: Pack your lunch!

Floyd County

12) See a play at Jenny Wiley Theatre

Jenny Wiley’s summer schedule can be located by clicking on this link. Dress in your afternoon best and go watch some of East Kentucky’s finest perform! Jenny Wiley also offers a Footlights theatre indoors in Pike County.

Where to eat: Lizzie B’s is one of East Kentucky’s most unique restaurants. If you’re a fan of Fleetwood Mac, you will love the music they play there. I can’t name a time I’ve been there without “Dreams” filling the room. My recommendations include their spinach artichoke dip as an appetizer and the Big Island BLT!

Laurel County

13) Buy some knick knacks at the flea market

My sister and I used to get so excited to visit the flea market with our grandparents. Some things never change! You won’t find as many antiques as you used to, but you can still find cool things for a good bargain. And if all else fails, at least get a funnel cake.

Where to eat: If you’re down for about a 30 minute drive, head to Corbin and dine at the first ever Kentucky Fried Chicken! Need I say more?

Breathitt County

14) Visit South Fork

In the middle of nowhere, you’ll find everything.

I visited South Fork for the first time this summer and I have been forever changed. I got very little cell phone service (which I would have enjoyed more if I had warned my mom first that I might miss her calls) and was surrounded by nature. South Fork has an overlook to spot elk, ponds full of fish, and wild horses.

Where to eat: Pack your lunch!


Well, there you go folks! Let me know in the comments what you would add to this list!


11 thoughts on “The Ultimate East Kentucky Bucket List”

  1. Sugarcamp Mountain Trails in Pburg

    Wildfire Designs in Pburg

    At Lizzie B’s you must try the Baja Tacos with Katsu sauce! Spin dip is best!!!

    Paintsville Lake, eat at Floaters for good catfish, ask for extra crispy!

    Shop downtown Paintsville+ Lynette and Laurel, Treasures on Main plus more that are all in walking distance for antiques and new fashion! New coffee shop there, The Coffee Shop, apppears to be awesome but I haven’t personally been!


  2. Thanks so much for promoting Antique Alley , on Rte 7, in Letcher County. 😊


Comments are closed.