With 2020 marking the Year of Music, Kentucky Tourism is excited to celebrate the state’s musical heritage with its new Visitor’s Guide. Famously known as the “Birthplace of Bluegrass,” Kentucky has played home to a host of legends including Bill Monroe, the “Father of Bluegrass,” and Jean Ritchie, the “Mother of Folk.”
Beyond its namesake, Kentucky’s music traditions can also be traced back to jazz, country and rock and roll. Jazz greats including Helen Humes, Lionel Hampton and Rosemary Clooney all hailed from Kentucky, and other Kentucky born-and-bred musicians include Chris Stapleton, J.D. Shelburne, Loretta Lynn, Sturgill Simpson and Sam Bush, as well as the band, Cage the Elephant.
By showcasing the people, places and festivals that shape Kentucky’s influential music traditions, the Visitor’s Guide makes 2020 the perfect time to discover the diverse abundance of music that can be found across the state. See below for a sampling of the places to visit and events to enjoy during the Year of Music that showcase Kentucky’s esteemed musical history.
Places to Visit
From former churches, like Southgate House Revival to gas stations, including the Kentucky Paveillon at Falls Creek to down-home barbeque joints, like Proud Mary BBQ, locals know that these hidden gems are often the best spots to discover the authentic sounds of the Bluegrass. Additional must-stops on any tour through Kentucky’s music history, should also include:
- Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame & Museum, Owensboro: As the only international museum dedicated to preserving and showcasing the history and artifacts of bluegrass music, Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame & Museum visitors can learn the history of the greats with engaging videos and fascinating stories and try their own hand in the Pickin’ Parlor, where they can play a variety of instruments including mandolins and banjos.
- U.S. 23 Country Music Hall of Fame, Paintsville: The U.S. 23 Highway along the Big Sandy River in the eastern part of the state is the birthplace of country greats, including Loretta Lynn, Chris Stapleton, Tyler Childers and Dwight Yoakam. Featuring 14 exhibits displaying memorabilia from the many music stars who call Eastern Kentucky their home, the U.S. 23 Country Music Hall of Fame is a must-stop for any country music fan. The Hall of Fame also features live bluegrass music and dancing during its Front Porch Pickin’ every Thursday evening at 7 p.m.
- Kentucky Music Hall of Fame, Mount Vernon: Opened in 2002, the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame and Museum was created to bring recognition to Kentuckians who have made significant contributions to the music industry. With over 50 inductees highlighted in the Hall of Fame’s museum, a wide range of artists and genres are represented, including the Backstreet Boys, Florence Henderson, Rosemary Clooney and so many more.
Upcoming 2020 Festivals
With festivals taking place year-round, the Bluegrass State features genres extending well beyond its namesake. From country, blues, rock ‘n’ roll to pop, hip-hop and jazz, Kentucky welcomes a diverse lineup of music festivals that celebrate the state’s musical roots. A few upcoming festivals for 2020 include:
- The Lower Town Arts & Music Festival (LTAMF) is a regional two-day celebration of art, music, food, beer and wine all from a 350 mile radius from Paducah, KY. With a commitment to honoring and presenting the culinary, artistic, and musical talent of the region, LTAMF is a growing premier festival that boasts a family-friendly atmosphere. Taking place in the Lower Town Historic Arts District near Downtown Paducah, the 2020 festival dates will be May 15-17.
- The Big Band & Jazz concert series in the Moondance Amphitheatre marks the return of spring and one of Lexington’s longest running and most beloved series. The audience is encouraged to bring a picnic and let the music wash away their cares every Tuesday starting May 19 – August 25, 2020.
- The ROMP Festival bringsfriends and families together to celebrate the roots of bluegrass. The best of the best play in Owensboro’s 150-acre Yellow Creek Park each year to adoring bluegrass fans. Attendees are encouraged to bring their own instruments to jam throughout the weekend in artist-led workshops. The 2020 festival will take place June 24-27with the full lineup to be announced soon.
- Railbird made its triumphant debut on Keeneland racetrack’s stunning grounds in 2019, marrying the best of music, bourbon and equine culture. Back for 2020, Railbird will continue to elevate the festival experience with culinary delights, world-class performances and an atmosphere singular to horse country. The 2020 festival will take place August 22-23 with the lineup to be announced in the coming months.
- Hometown Rising is a country music and bourbon festival unlike any other. Previous performances at Hometown Rising have included country music heavyweights like Tim McGraw, Little Big Town, Luke Bryan, Keith Urban and more. Guests can also expect a top-shelf lineup of spirits to sample at the ‘Big Bourbon Bar’ – the centerpiece of the festival featuring two dozen hand-selected bourbons from top distilleries. The 2020 festival dates are September 12-13.
- Louder Than Life brings rock and roll to the heart of Louisville with heavy metal legend Metallic headlining the 2020 festival. Spanning September 18-20, the Louder than Life festival wraps up the Kentucky Exposition Center’s explosive festival season.
- Bourbon and Beyondoffers the perfect blend of music, food and bourbon. Over 45 bands will take the stage throughout this three-day festival to celebrate the spirit and music culture of the Bluegrass State. Previous acts have included Foo Fighters, Robert Plant, Zac Brown Band, ZZ Top and so many more. The 2020 Bourbon and Beyond takes place in Louisville September 25-27 with headliners to be announced in the coming months.
- Kentucky’s Edge debuted in 2019 and is back for another year of premier bourbon and music. Hosted by Covington and Newport, the weekend-long festival will feature a campus of venues throughout both Northern Kentucky cities and offer an immersive weekend of great music bourbon, food, shopping and conversation. 2020 dates will be announced at a later date.
For more information please visit www.kentuckytourism.com.
Kentucky offers a world of outdoor adventures, vibrant arts scene, expansive distilleries and micro-breweries, and an explosive culinary scene. From legendary Horse Country and the grandstands of America’s most storied thoroughbred racing tracks to the Kentucky Bourbon Trail®, Kentucky invites you to come and explore. For information, please visit www.kentuckytourism.com. Follow us on social media: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram.