15 Best Things to Do in Independence (KY)

Along with Covington, Independence is one of the two seats of Kenton County and is where the Northern Kentucky metro area meets peaceful rolling countryside.

So while this fast-expanding town is little more than 20 minutes from the Covington riverfront, Independence is a place with a rural feel, with a big helping of agritourism destinations close by.

As well as a craft distillery, wineries, a pumpkin patch and an award-winning dairy farm, there’s also many acres of beautiful parkland both within the town’s limits and in neighboring towns.

1. Boone County Distilling Company

Boone County Distilling Co.

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Boone County Distilling Co.

You’re never far from a bourbon distillery in this corner of Kentucky, and there’s a great one right here in Independence.

While the Boone County Distilling Company is a relatively new operation, opened in 2015, it takes inspiration from Kentucky’s rich distilling heritage and has revived the name of a long-defunct distillery that was once the largest in the state, kicking out four million barrels a year at the height of production in 1897.

You can learn about the original Boone County Distilling Company on a tour of the new, small-batch facility, with a 500-gallon still (The Bear) and small bottling line.

Your knowledgeable guide will happily field any questions you might have, and of course there’s a guided tasting experience helping you identify the nuances between the likes of bourbon and whiskey distilled from rye mash.

2. Memorial Park

Playground

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Playground

On almost 26 acres, this central, well-appointed space is surrounded by several city departments, as well as an abundance of big box stores and chain restaurants along Madison Pike.

If there’s a community event going on in Independence, be it the Christmas Walk, Farmers’ Market or Fourth of July Celebration, it will go down at this park.

Beyond that, Memorial Park is ideal if you need time out from your day or are in the mood for a picnic. For parents, the playground here is one of the best in the town, with separate equipment for younger children.

3. Middleton-Mills Park

Fishing

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Fishing

One of many sprawling public parks around Independence is this 100-acre combining wooded trails with up-to-date sports facilities.

If you’re here to get away from civilization for a while there’s a network of interconnecting unpaved trails in the lush forest on the park’s south side.

On the north side, across the maintenance road, you’ll find Middleton-Mills Park’s sports amenities, whether you’re here for baseball, soccer, sand volleyball, football or to fish in the two ponds, regularly stocked with catfish and trout.

4. Atwood Hill Winery

Atwood Hill Winery

Source: Atwood Hill Winery & Vineyard / Facebook

Atwood Hill Winery

South of Independence, this sixth generation farm dates back to 1918, and had traditionally been devoted to tobacco and livestock.

That changed in the mid-00s, when the vines were planted at Atwood Hill. These have since matured and produce a rich harvest of Vidal Blanc, Cayuga and Chambourcin grapes, as well Cynthiana Norton, an American variety.

At the quaint winery you can relax with a glass of one of 14 different wines, admiring the perfect view from the porch or relaxing under the pergola.

On the menu are dry wines like the Atwood Reserve (Vidal) and KY Barrel Red (Chambourcin aged in bourbon barrels), semi-sweet like the Vidal Blanc and Concord varietals, and a lineup of fruit wines.

5. Ed-Mar Dairy

Ed-Mar Dairy

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Ed-Mar Dairy

In the very southwest of Kenton County is a family-owned farm that has produced high-quality milk for four generations.

Over the last decade, Ed-Mar Dairy has added cheesemaking to its skills, crafting raw-milk varieties like Banklick Cream, similar to a Cotswold, and the American-style Kenton County Colby.

No antibiotics or hormones are used in production, and Ed-Mar’s cheeses are now available across the area, at wineries, restaurants and local farmers’ markets.

You’re free to visit the farm for a tour, meeting the herd of Holsteins and finding out about their diet and the milking process at Kentucky’s first robotic milking facility. There’s also an optional hayride trip around the farm.

6. Wolsing Trails & Wetland

Wolsing Trails & Wetland

Source: The Kenton Conservancy / Facebook

Wolsing Trails & Wetland

Banklick Creek bends through this part of Northern Kentucky for almost 20 miles before flowing into the Licking River at Covington.

You can explore a peaceful stretch of the watercourse at this linear park donated for conservation in 2006 by Independence resident George Wolsing, 1922-2013. Wolsing Trails & Wetland is a blissful parcel of nature, with a delicate wetland habitat in the southwestern corner.

In spring the preserve is carpeted with wildflowers, while there’s an informative tree trail identifying 19 different native tree species.

7. Doe Run Lake

Lake

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Lake

Just north of Independence is an unfrequented place of real natural beauty, with a 50-acre lake wrapped in dense hardwood forest.

There are more than eight miles of connected trails in the parkland around Doe Run Lake, including the Doe Run Lake Trail, which hugs the shoreline.

This is just under three miles long, and has a wide, graveled path on the north shore and a narrow dirt track on the south side, which can be impassable after wet weather.

If you’re here for fishing you can catch largemouth bass, channel catfish and flathead catfish (limits apply and only trolling motors are permitted on the lake).

8. Lincoln Ridge Park

Disc Golf

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Disc Golf

Next to Banklick Creek, this 80-acre park has more than its fair share of recreation facilities. The most prominent of these is the highly-rated, 24-hole disc golf course, which attracts people from across the Cincinnati metro area.

Combined with that there are more than two miles of trails, many acres of open space for games and relaxation, as well as baseball fields, football fields, horseshoes, three shelter houses, playgrounds and two fishing ponds.

Lincoln Ridge Park is also the venue for regular stargazing events, hosted by Kenton County Parks and Recreation.

9. Kenton County Golf Course

Golf

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Golf

A big chunk of western Independence is occupied by this 36-hole golf complex, made up of two 18-hole courses.

The first of these is The Pioneer, which was the first course at this site, with mostly gentle slopes on the front nine and then increasingly hilly terrain on the back nine.

In an unpredictable, rambling landscape, The Willows is a tough test for any golfer and has a slope rating of 137. If you need to get some practice in, there’s a driving range with a bucket of 85 balls costing $12 at the time of writing

10. Fourth of July Celebration

4th of July Celebration Fireworks

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4th Of July Celebration Fireworks

It’s a given that a town called Independence should go all out for its Fourth of July Celebration. Usually held on the closest Friday and Saturday before (or on) July 4, with most of the events and attractions located in Memorial Park.

For a taster, there are carnival rides and games, live music at the Donna Yeager Amphitheater, a cruise-in car show and plenty of food and drink options.

On Saturday afternoon there’s a three-mile parade through the city concluding at Memorial Park and kicking off the afternoon’s festivities when it arrives. And then after sunset there’s an awe-inspiring fireworks show.

11. Independence Skateway

Roller Skates

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Roller Skates

Independence is one of those increasingly rare towns with a thriving roller skating rink. This is also unusual for its quick blue resin flooring, as opposed to a wooden surface.

Known for its cheerful, family-friendly atmosphere, the Independence Skateway has affordable admission and skate rental, and is ideal for children’s birthday parties.

If you have bigger kids or teens and need inspiration for weekend activities, Friday Nights are “Teen Night” here, while Saturday night is Family Night, with free drinks and popcorn for groups of four or more (including at least one adult).

12. Independence Farmers’ Market

Farmers Market

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Farmers Market

Bordering miles of open countryside, Independence has a slew of small-scale producers contributing to an excellent farmers’ market.

This takes place on Saturday mornings, May through October at the Senior & Community Center in Memorial Park.

For an idea of what to expect, there are normally vendors for a changing array of farm-fresh produce, as well as eggs, plants, breads, pastries, jams, jellies, honey, wine, artisanal candy, seeds, cheeses and grass-fed meat products.

13. Benton Family Farm

Sheep

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Sheep

This nearby farm, in the same family since 1941, is known for launching the agritourism industry in neighboring Boone County after first opening to the public in 1991.

The historic farmhouse here dates back to 1901, and is purportedly haunted, welcoming brave visitors during spring through fall. Meanwhile fall is time for Pumpkin Days, when you can come to this 5th-generation farm for authentic rural activities.

You can ride a horse, take a hayride to the pumpkin patch, groom the barnyard animals, and try time-honored skills like shearing a sheep or milking a cow.

14. Christmas Walk

Christmas

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Christmas

On the first Saturday in December, Independence gets together for a day of festive activities, mostly centered on Courthouse Square and Madison Pike.

The Christmas Walk has been a local tradition for more than a quarter of a decade now, and involves a 5k run, a craft show, ice sculptures, costumed characters, a live nativity, a petting zoo, open houses, a beer garden, live music and much more.

The signature events are the tree-lighting ceremony just after sunset, followed by a lighted Christmas parade and then the Christmas Walk, from Independence Christian Church to the Senior & Community Center in Memorial Park.

15. Brianza Gardens and Winery

Brianza Gardens and Winery

Source: Brianza Gardens and Winery / Facebook

Brianza Gardens and Winery

An easy drive south of Independence, in the idyllic green hills of Northern Kentucky is a vineyard that was planted in the early 2010s and opened in 2015.

Brianza Gardens and Winery has more than 3,800 vines, for grape varieties that do well in Kentucky’s climate. These are Aromella, Marquette, Noiret and Vignoles, with Chambourcin and Vidal Blanc grapes sourced from a property nearby.

You can come to Brianza Gardens and Winery to tour the property, including a stunning set of perennial gardens with more than 60 cultivars.

To sample from a spectrum of award-winning wines, tasting sessions offer a flight of three wines, but you can also order by the glass or bottle. Local cheeses, summer sausage and pretzels are available as an accompaniment, and there’s normally live music on weekends.

 

Where to stay: Best Hotels in Independence, Kentucky (KY)
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15 Best Things to Do in Independence (KY):

  • Boone County Distilling Company
  • Memorial Park
  • Middleton-Mills Park
  • Atwood Hill Winery
  • Ed-Mar Dairy
  • Wolsing Trails & Wetland
  • Doe Run Lake
  • Lincoln Ridge Park
  • Kenton County Golf Course
  • Fourth of July Celebration
  • Independence Skateway
  • Independence Farmers’ Market
  • Benton Family Farm
  • Christmas Walk
  • Brianza Gardens and Winery