15 Best Things to Do in Richmond (KY)

This historic college town in Central Kentucky sits in rambling green countryside strewn with farms, wineries and places of immense historical importance.

One is the site of Fort Boonesborough, founded by the famed frontiersman Daniel Boone after he and his men crossed the Kentucky River in 1775.

The Battle of Richmond, a Confederate victory, was fought across a big swathe of Richmond and Madison County in August of 1862.

You can wander across a piece of the battlefield and check out the visitor center in a house that was standing half a century before the battle took place.

Last but not least, the Eastern Kentucky University campus mingles with downtown Richmond, and is home to the top performing arts venue in the region, for big-time music acts and comedians.

1. Fort Boonesborough State Park

Fort Boonesborough State Park

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Fort Boonesborough State Park

At the very spot where Daniel Boone (1734-1820) and his party crossed the Kentucky River some 250 years ago is a replica of the settlement they founded.

Open April through October, this is both a well-preserved archeological site and a riveting living history museum. The replica fort has a remarkable level of detail, down to the blockhouses, cabins and period-appropriate furnishings.

To make things a little more real you’ll come across reenactors performing demonstrations of 18th-century crafts and day–to-day skills. There’s a lot of interpretive signage across the site, all informed by the latest archeological research.

The wider park is a haven for birdlife, including nesting wild turkeys, and has plentiful amenities such as a boat launch on the river, a campground, hiking trails, a miniature golf course, a swimming pool and a gift shop.

2. White Hall State Historic Site

White Hall State Historic Site

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White Hall State Historic Site

Couched in the undulating farmland north of Richmond is a home of the planter, emancipationist and U.S. Minister to Russia, Cassius Marcellus Clay (1810-1903).

Clay was born to the businessman and slave owner, Green Clay, who built this house in 1791. That original building was enlarged by Cassius Clay’s wife while he was in Russia, so this 45-room mansion now has a blend of Georgian and Italianate styles.

At White Hall you’ll get to know several generations of the Clay family, including Cassius Clay’s daughters who were active suffragists at the turn of the 20th century.

The house has rare technology for the time, such as indoor plumbing and central heating, and is complete with Clay family heirlooms and period furnishings.

3. Battlefield Park

Battlefield Park

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Battlefield Park

A large parcel of the enormous site of the Battle of Richmond has been preserved, around ten minutes southeast of Richmond on US Highway 421.

With numerous interpretive signs along 2.5-miles of trails, it’s easy to get the lay of the land and understand the course of the battle that happened at this very place 160+ years ago.

At the heart of Battlefield Park is the 1824 Pleasant View home, which served as a hospital following the battle.

There’s a Civil War reenactment in the park in late August each year, as well as a Native American pow wow at the end of September.

4. Battle of Richmond Visitors Center

Battle of Richmond Visitors Center

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Battle of Richmond Visitors Center

For more context on the Battle of Richmond, set a course for this visitors center and museum, located in the historic 1811 Rogers House.

This attraction gives a comprehensive overview of the course of the battle, with the help of a topographical map complete with buildings from the period.

Among the many other exhibits are period costume and furniture, a preserved surgeon’s kit, correspondence, flags, personal items belong to Union general Mahlon Manson (1820-1895) and a host of objects recovered from the battlefield, including horseshoes, cannonballs, musketballs and a wealth of arrowheads predating the battle.

5. Eastern Kentucky University (EKU)

Eastern Kentucky University

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Eastern Kentucky University

Interwoven with downtown Richmond is the leafy main campus for EKU, which is on the old site of Central University (founded 1874). The main landmark is the Colonial Revival Keen Johnson Building, with its fine pediment and cupola.

This was a WPA project from 1939, and standing out front is a statue of Daniel Boone. For years people have been rubbing his left foot for luck, as you’ll see when you get close.

We’ll talk about the fantastic EKU Center for the Arts below, but another public attraction is the Hummel Planetarium, unveiled in 1988 and usually welcoming the public to its theater for pre-recorded shows followed by an enthralling Star Talk presentation.

6. EKU Center for the Arts

Microphone

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Microphone

One of the big attractions on the EKU campus, just a stone’s throw from downtown Richmond is the premier performing arts stage for Central Kentucky.

This top-notch facility was officially opened in 2011 and houses a state-of-the-art 2,000 seat performance hall for concerts, comedy shows, dance performances, broadway shows, talks, political debates and children’s entertainment.

The stellar list of past performers features Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson, Jerry Seinfeld, Air Supply, Chris Tomlin, Styx, Micky Dolenz and many more.

Also look out for compelling exhibitions by EKU departments in the Grand Tier I Lobby on the second floor.

7. Downtown Richmond

Downtown Richmond

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Downtown Richmond

Threaded by Main Street, Richmond’s central commercial district is a U.S. Historic District with 60 contributing buildings. The reference point is the Greek Revival Madison County Courthouse (1849), still the seat of local government.

On your way along Main Street, you could spend a little time reading the information signs and historical markers in front of this landmark.

Befitting a college town, downtown Richmond is as vital as they get, with an exciting roster of restaurants and bars, as well as assorted local stores for bicycles/bicycling accessories, antiques, homewares, books, furniture and fashion.

If you’re inspired by the local architecture, be sure to swing by the Richmond Visitor Center for a map itemizing more than 70 historic residences, churches and civic buildings on the Richmond Downtown Walking Tour of Homes.

8. Lake Reba Park

Lake Reba Park

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Lake Reba Park

Richmond’s top park is on the west shore of a 75-acre fishing lake on the eastern margins of the city.

Safe to say, there’s a lot going on at Lake Reba, with an 18-hole public golf course, an aquatic center and a family entertainment center, all of which we’ll cover later in this list.

You’ve also got Camp Catalpa and its disc golf course on the east shore. April through October you can rent a kayak at Lake Reba from KY Paddle Adventures, while there’s a public boat ramp and fish cleaning station.

On shore there’s a sizable athletic complex, as well as a 1.5-mile walking trail, a sensational new Universal Playground, a dog park and three shelters that can be reserved.

9. Paradise Cove Aquatic Center

Swimming Pool

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Swimming Pool

This public water park helps to turn Lake Reba into a complete outdoor destination in the summer months.

Among the facilities at Paradise Cove there’s a play pool with four slides, a variety of play features and zero-depth entry.

Two of those slides start at 40 feet above the park. The play pool is accompanied by an eight-lane lap pool and a diving area.

There are numerous shade structures all around the center to help you escape the sun, together with a modern bathhouse and a concession stand with reasonable prices.

10. Chenault Vineyard

Chenault Vineyard

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Chenault Vineyard

In the picture-perfect hills west of Richmond, this vineyard and winery was founded by a husband and wife team in 2016.

The vines are planted on 500 bucolic acres, and when you come to visit, you can walk a 3.5-mile trail as part of the experience.

Chenault Vineyards offers tours and tasting sessions, and the scenery from the patio is breathtaking.

There’s live music most weekends, in a wide variety of genres on the patio during good weather, and this moves inside to the winery’s restaurants for the winter months.

A few wines available at the time of writing were varietals like Cabernet Franc, Riesling and Chardonnay, as well as a choice of blends like the dry red, which is aged for six months in newly emptied bourbon barrels.

11. Deer Run Stables

Horseback Riding

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Horseback Riding

Just off I-75 to the north of Richmond there’s an equestrian facility on 100 picturesque acres. Among the amenities at Deer Run Stables are two outdoor riding arenas and an indoor arena measuring 12,000 square feet.

March through October you visit for a variety of activities (by appointment) including horseback rides along the seven miles of trails, pony rides for kids, hayrides, camping, picnics, bonfires and more.

Guided trail rides last for one hour, leading you through beautiful pasture, grassland, woods and along a stream. Horsemanship lessons are available on the second and fourth Saturday of the month.

12. Adventure Falls

Mini Golf

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Mini Golf

Open in the summer season, this family entertainment center by Lake Reba has a range of attractions for all ages.

The star of the show is the lakefront 18-hole miniature course, with nine holes that are ADA accessible. The course has tricky elevation changes and a lot of water features to test the most skilled putters.

In addition Adventure Falls has eight batting cages with state-of-the-art Iron Mike pitching hands. You can rent helmets and bats when you purchase tokens (one is good for 20 pitches).

Finally there’s a set of three shuffleboard courts located next to the miniature golf course, with sticks and pucks also available for rental.

13. Madison County Farmers’ Market

Farmers Market

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Farmers Market

If you don’t mind the trip there’s a great farmers’ market at the Lowe’s Parking Lot at 814 Eastern Bypass.

This takes place on Saturday mornings, May through November. During the growing season there’s a market at the Carter Building on the EKU campus on Thursday mornings.

The market is where you can discover the rich agriculture all around Richmond, with an abundance of fruit and vegetables May through October.

You can also pick up local specialty foods, baked goods, meats, honey, jams, jellies, preserves, sauces, artisanal cheeses, prepared food, crafts, organic soaps and a lot besides.

14. Gibson Bay Golf Course

Golf

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Golf

The public golf course next to Lake Reba is highly-rated and was listed among the country’s best new courses when it opened in 1993.

Gibson Bay Golf Course has bent grass greens, fairways and tees, with a choice of five tee boxes on every hole, catering for all skill levels.

Something to note about this course is its open layout, which means you have to account for the wind when you pick your shots.

For an additional challenge, the greens are embedded in the hillsides and guarded by mounds and strategically positioned bunkers.

Accompanying the main course is a nine-hole short course, perfect for beginners, with two holes requiring shots across a lake.

15. Richmond Centre

Shopping

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Shopping

Just off the I-75 in the west of Richmond is a large outdoor shopping center with a multitude of big box stores and chain restaurants.

For a quick run down you’ve got branches of JC Penney, Dick’s Sporting Goods, PetSmart, TJ Maxx, rue 21, Bath & Body Works and HomeGoods, to list a small few.

Food-wise there’s Buffalo Wild Wings, Panera Bread, Chick-Fil-A, Olive Garden and Logan’s Roadhouse.

Richmond Centre can also cater to family outings, groups of friends and date nights, thanks to the Cinemark theater, with typical discounts on matinees and Tuesdays.

 

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

  • Fort Boonesborough State Park
  • White Hall State Historic Site
  • Battlefield Park
  • Battle of Richmond Visitors Center
  • Eastern Kentucky University (EKU)
  • EKU Center for the Arts
  • Downtown Richmond
  • Lake Reba Park
  • Paradise Cove Aquatic Center
  • Chenault Vineyard
  • Deer Run Stables
  • Adventure Falls
  • Madison County Farmers’ Market
  • Gibson Bay Golf Course
  • Richmond Centre