Nestled in the heart of Western Kentucky is a town rich in experiences just waiting to be enjoyed. Paducah, Kentucky is a UNESCO Creative City, where a tapestry of cultural gems coexists among the plentiful greenery.
Whether you’re looking to spend a weekend or a week here, Paducah is a particularly special place. No matter your interests, you’re bound to find something (or several somethings) here to suit your needs as a traveler.
Here are 18 things to do in Paducah KY that you and your crew are going to love!
LAND BETWEEN THE LAKES NATIONAL RECREATION AREA
Home to both the Kentucky Dam, as well as one of the biggest swaths of undeveloped forest in the region, the Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area is a natural paradise. With over 300 miles of shoreline, scenic lake areas, and plenty of wildlife to keep an eye on, this green space is perfect for nature lovers and outdoorsy tourists alike.
According to Kentucky Tourism, Land Between the Lakes offers plenty of unique learning opportunities — from the Elk and Bison Prairie to the Homeplace 1850s Working Farm — visitors have much to do. You can even enjoy the Golden Pond Planetarium, self-guided tours, and the Living History Museum as well.
RIVER DISCOVERY CENTER
Educational programs abound at the River Discovery Center. Learn all about how important rivers are for people and wildlife alike. This interactive museum space provides lots of insight into the lives in, as well as above, the rivers’ waters.
TripAdvisor suggests between one to two hours to enjoy exhibits such as EJ’s Otterville, River Habitats, and Hidden Highways. Make sure to make time to experience the Boat Simulator, where you can “captain” a speed boat, a towboat or a Coast Guard vessel.
Some exhibits are geared toward younger visitors, though children and adults of all ages can enjoy a visit to River Discovery Center. A visit here is one of the best things to do in Paducah KY!
PADUCAH RAILROAD MUSEUM
Run by the Paducah chapter of the National Railway Historical Society, the Paducah Railroad Museum preserves the area’s railroad heritage. Check out the collection of artifacts from bygone railway days, or even hop aboard the railroad simulator to feel like you’re really aboard a locomotive.
This museum is open seasonally and is closed every year in January and February.
HISTORIC DOWNTOWN PADUCAH
Called one of the United States’ best and most beautiful Main Streets by Architectural Digest, Downtown Paducah is a dreamy slice of Americana. Sitting beside the Ohio River, the downtown district gives you a glimpse into the Paducah of yesterday.
The Paducah Trolley runs through the area, giving guests easy access to the numerous art galleries, shops, and restaurants along the route.
Take a tour of the “Wall to Wall” murals on Water Street, spend time in the Lower Town Arts District, or see the Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail. Pieces of history are around every corner in Paducah, how many can you find?
Details: Find more murals and a map here
PADUCAH WALL TO WALL
Beside the confluence of the Tennessee and Ohio Rivers, the Wall to Wall murals in Paducah bring thousands of visitors to the town each year. These floodwall murals depict the history of the town for three blocks. According to the attraction’s website, the painting project started in 1996 with the first 20 panels being done by 2001, and the final painting completed in 2010.
Although the murals found here are the most well-known in Paducah, they’re far from the only public art in town. For a more complete list of murals you can check out during your visit, check out this handy link.
NATIONAL QUILT MUSEUM
At Paducah’s National Quilt Museum, the quilting arts are presented to guests through educational programs and exhibits. Guided tours through the museum showcase the location’s many artifacts of quilt preservation, in addition to changing exhibit topics.
The collection numbers over 600 quilts, with 50-60 on display at any given time. The quilts in the museum’s collection date back to 1980, highlighting 47 states, a dozen countries, and 10 of what are considered the Best American Quilts of the 20th Century. Those best quilts include “Ancient Directions” by Alison Goss, “Joi De Vie” by Candy Goff, and “Painted Metal Ceiling” by Anne Oliver.
YEISER ART CENTER
Founded in 1957 by the Paducah Art Guild, the Yeiser Art Center cultivates a community education around the visual arts. Per the center’s website, seven shows take place at YAC each year, in addition to showcasing pieces from the center’s permanent collection. There are educational classes offered throughout the year for children and adults alike.
Some of the center’s collection highlights include Paul Lorenz’s “Opening with 1300 Lines,” Virginia Black’s “Mary Yeiser Sitting,” Eleanor Segur’s “Wind and Sand,” and Emily Wilson-Wolfson’s “Magnolia.”
WHITEHAVEN WELCOME CENTER
When passing state welcome centers along the highway, it can be fun to see how they vary from state to state. What makes the Whitehaven Welcome Center particularly unique, is that it is the only interstate welcome center that resides within a former privately-owned home.
According to Kentucky Tourism, this unique location is not just a welcome center, rather it is also a kind of museum. Whitehaven Welcome Center preserves furnishings and other artifacts from notable Paducahans, as well as Alben Barkley (President Truman’s Vice President). Additionally, Whitehaven is considered one of the “finest classical revival residential structures in Kentucky,” according to the tourism bureau.
The lobby is open 24 hours a day, though guided tours are available only during certain times. Outside of Whitehaven, there are green spaces to enjoy, as well as a butterfly garden too.
WILLIAM CLARK MARKET HOUSE MUSEUM
Step back in time to the Pioneer era at the William Clark Market House Museum, and see how Paducah would have looked years ago.
The National Park Service says this museum preserves a Paducah that Meriwether Lewis and William Clark would have seen when they visited in 1803, when they partnered with Charles Drouillard to keep on expanding to the West. Per NPS, Clark came back in 1827 to help establish the town, which is said to have been named for Chief Paduke of the Padouca tribe, a sub-tribe of the Chickasaw.
The museum resides in the former public market building that dates back to 1905. Among the artifacts in the museum’s collection is a Parisian vase given to Clark by Marquis de Lafayette as a wedding gift, as well as Paducah’s first motorized fire truck circa 1913.
BOB NOBLE PARK
At 135 acres, Bob Noble Park is a large recreational green space in Paducah. Here is where you can find Lake Gerry B. Montgomery, a public swimming pool, several walking/running trails, playgrounds, and sports grounds.
The park is also where the Robert Cherry Civic Center, the Arts and Crafts Building, and Anna Baumer Community Center can be found. Here is also where guests can find the Children’s Memorial Garden. This garden serves as a monument to the 19 children who were killed in the Oklahoma City bombings in 1995.
FORT MASSAC STATE PARK
Technically, Fort Massac State Park is considered southern Illinois’ first state park, though its 1500 acres span all the way into Kentucky. Perched along the Ohio River, the park is a place visitors love to visit for a variety of reasons. Whether it is to explore regional historic sites, camping, or partaking in seasonal hunting, there is a lot to do at Fort Massac State Park.
Here, guests can also find part of the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail, which further makes the park an excellent stop for history buffs, as Fort Massac once served as an outpost for pioneers. As an outpost, Lewis and Clark stopped here on their journey westward. The nearby Massac Village is where the duo found their newest companion, Drouillard, who had been living there.
CLYDE F. BOYLES GREENWAY TRAIL
A casual 5-mile trail, the Clyde F. Boyles Greenway Trail can be found spanning parts of Paducah. According to the town’s website, the trail was established in 2001 as part of the estate of the Boyles family. The trail was named for Clyde F. Boyles by his wife Lanelle Boyle, for the purpose of establishing a walking/biking trail.
The trail connects four Paducah area parks: the Perkins Creek Nature Preserve, Noble Park, Schultz Park, and Stuart Nelson Park. Eight specific Trailways can be found on the trail, from shorter treks, like the .88-mile Inner Roadway Loop by the lake, or the 1.13-mile Outer Roadway Loop, to the full 5K (3.1 miles) trails.
PURPLE TOAD WINERY
Though building began in 2008, the dream that became Purple Toad Winery began in 1998. Since officially opening in 2009, Purple Toad has become Kentucky’s most awarded winery.
Purple Toad tastings and tours take place daily throughout the day, when guests can enjoy samplings of the award-winning winery’s libations. The winery does not take reservations nor do they serve food, though guests are welcome to bring their own food to enjoy.
Come enjoy some of their fan-favorite wines, including Black & Bruised, Blackberry Lemon, Black Peach, and Tropical Sangria.
DRY GROUND BREWING COMPANY
Craft beer lovers must make a visit to Kentucky’s first craft brewery, Dry Ground Brewing Company, which was opened in 2014 in a historic Coca-Cola plant.
Dry Ground offers traditional brews, as well as their own hard cider concoctions for guests to enjoy. The brewery, which is open daily with varying hours, is handicap accessible as well.
SILENT BRIGADE DISTILLERY
For a different form of libation, Silent Brigade Distillery is a bourbon maker. The distillery uses local grain to create its bourbon, using the copper pot distilling method.
Tours and tastings are held at the distillery, with occasional live music for guests to enjoy as well. Their award-winning bourbons can be purchased online or on-site. Some of their libations include Apple Pie Moonshine, Blackberry Moonshine, Chocolate Coconut Moonshine, Kentucky Moonshine, straight Bourbon, and Pina Colada Moonshine.
Seasonal delights can always be found at Paducah’s Freight House restaurant. The cuisine here is sourced from local farmers within at least a day’s drive. Further, the restaurant calls itself “the most exclusive farm-to-table dining experience in Western Kentucky.”
Sustainability is top of mind for Freight House, so guests can be certain that their dining experience is kind both to themselves, as well as to the Earth.
Some of their local partners include Capriole Goat Cheeses, Love Shack Farms, KY Bison Co., Feather’s Country Ham, Kight’s Pecan Farm, and Kennameade Farms. Freight House’s chef/proprietor Sara Bradley was runner-up during Season 16 of the popular show, Top Chef. She opened the restaurant in 2015 with the tagline “food is more than just eating.”
KIRCHHOFF’S BAKERY AND DELI
“Bread is one thing that unites us all,” reads Kirchhoff’s Bakery and Deli’s website. This family-owned Paducah staple is a community favorite for bites both big and small.
Kirchhoff’s Paducah roots date back to 1873, when Franz Kirchhoff opened the bakery after immigrating from Prussia. What began as a small endeavor, blossomed into a regional leader in baked goods until 1957. The family tradition was reinvigorated in 1996, when great-grandson Louis Frank Kirchhoff acquired the Market Square property once again and reopened the bakery.
Although known for their bread and baked goods, Kirchhoff’s also serves sandwiches, and other deli classics, in addition to salads, soups, and desserts.
Kirchhoff’s is open Tuesday through Saturday, with rotating daily specials to enjoy each day. Their beloved holiday tradition specials are also something to try if you’re in Paducah during the holiday season. Grab some gingerbread, shortbread, or Kirchhoff cookies to fuel your adventures.
Paducah’s historic riverfront is a piece of the town’s legacy, as well as a peaceful place to enjoy the nearby waterfront.
According to the site’s history placard, this is where you will see the Tennessee River flowing into the Ohio River, and where George Rogers Clark’s 1779 army landed to defeat the British who arrived nearby.
The scenic Paducah Riverfront is home to festivals throughout the year, the “Wall to Wall” murals, and even steamboat dockings.
MORE INFORMATION FOR YOUR TRIP TO KENTUCKY
- YOUR KENTUCKY VACATION
- LOUISVILLE: 23 Outstanding Things To Do In Louisville: Bourbon Country
- BOWLING GREEN: 13 Things To Do In Bowling Green KY Your Family Will Love
- LEXINGTON: 26 Fantastic & Fun Things To Do In Lexington KY
- BEST OF KY: 25 Best Things To Do In Kentucky You Can’t Miss
WHERE TO STAY IN PADUCAH KY
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