The small town of Williamstown, Kentucky, is rooted in history and has a strong sense of community. It’s a family-friendly town with something for everyone to enjoy. Founded in 1820 by William Arnold, the town has become a slice of the past that anyone can visit.
After visiting Williamstown, I feel deeply inspired by the historical significance of the many state parks and museums available in the town.
If you find yourself passing through or planning a trip here, you’ll want to check out the following 15 best things to do. Learn some history, entertain the family, and try a romantic night out with your partner. There’s something for everyone.
Looking for a unique place to stay during your visit to the Ark Encounter? Look no further than St James Cottage! This charming cottage is located just minutes from the Ark Encounter, making it the perfect place to rest and relax after a day of exploring. The cottage has 2 bedrooms, a fully equipped kitchen, and 2 bathrooms, making it perfect for families or groups. You'll also enjoy cable TV and Wi-Fi access during your stay.
Cozy Cabin near Ark! Adam and Eve's Retreat is perfect for couples or small families who want to enjoy a romantic getaway in the woods. The cabin is secluded and private, yet still close to all the attractions of Williamstown. The cabin itself is cozy and comfortable, with all the amenities you need to relax and enjoy your time away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Plus, the cabin is pet-friendly, so you can bring your furry friend along for the vacation.
The Sunrise Inn Williamstown is the perfect place to stay when visiting Williamstown and the Ark Encounter. The hotel is located in the historical district, just a 1-minute drive from the Ark Encounter and 5 minutes from Dry Ridge Outlet Mall. The hotel features a 24-hour front desk, luggage storage, and coffee/tea in a common area. Free self parking is available onsite.
History Walks around Williamstown, Kentucky
We love historic towns for their educational activities, and Williamstown has seen some history. At the end of the downtown corridor, a two-story log cabin stands as a testament to the founding father and namesake of Williamstown. This stop is only one of several that tell a story about how our country was built.
Captain William Arnold fought in the Revolutionary War before settling down in this part of the frontier. When the Arnold family settled, the land was rugged, untamed, and ready to be anything. As a God-fearing gentleman, he built his community around faith and helping others.
Best & Fun Things to do in Williamstown, Kentucky
1. William Arnold Log Home (WALH)
This original and beautifully preserved log home was the actual residence of the city founder and his family. The cabin and grounds are a historically accurate representation of post-Revolutionary War Kentucky. Now it’s held open for guest tours once a week and during the community’s Pioneer Days celebrations.
In the garden, period-accurate plants and medicinal herbs are still grown today. During the celebrations, the local Boy Scouts of America troupe demonstrates the proper harvest and use of those plants.
Throughout the property and the home are educational plaques and information stations to learn more about life on the Kentucky Frontier.
See Related: Best Things to Do in Lexington, Kentucky
2. Historical Sherman Tavern
Fans of 19th Century history and American architecture from the period should check out the Historical Sherman Tavern.
This Friends of Sherman Tavern organization manages the Sherman Tavern, while the local Parks and Recreation District owns and operates the building and grounds.
It does not function as a tavern anymore, but as restorations are completed, the building will be open to the public more often as a base for guides and information about the grounds.
During the Pioneer Days in May, local historians volunteer to educate guests about the old coaching inn and the significance of its location to the economy and rate of settlement in the region. Want to explore Williamstown with a rental car? Find the best one to rent on Kayak.
3. Fort Boonesborough State Park
The settlement, founded by Daniel Boone and his men when they reached the Kentucky River in April of 1775, is still known by the original name: Fort Boonesborough.
The fort itself has been rebuilt as a living history exhibit, with frontier skills and period-costumed historians teaching about the ways of the land and life in the fort. You can also walk some trails, access the boat ramps, and birdwatch from the grounds around the fort.
This treasured piece of American history is approximately one hour south of Williamstown and demonstrates many trade routes used and defended by settlers in the mid to late 1700s.
The fort exhibit includes cabins, blockhouses, functional furnishings, genuine living history reenactors, and archeological findings that are helping fill in the gaps.
4. National Underground Railroad Freedom Center
About 40 minutes north of Williamstown is an education center affiliated with the Smithsonian Museum of American History dedicated to detailing America’s ugly history with slavery and preventing history from repeating itself.
Paraphrased, this organization stands to promote social justice and inclusive freedom for all, basing every last action on the principles of the Underground Railroad.
During the 1700s to the late 1800s, slavery was a normal part of Kentucky life, and enslaved Black Americans lived and died at the whim of their often barbaric masters. Even (the extremely few) free black Kentuckians were at risk of being dragged into slavery against their will.
The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center seeks to educate generations, young and old, on the cruelest parts of humanity and how brave men and women from every race and creed tried to buy freedom for those enslaved.
Organizers and historians proposed this modern homage to the countless victims of slavery and those lost in their fight for freedom in 1994, and the opening celebration occurred in 2004.
Since day one, the mission has never altered.
5. General Butler State Resort Park
Head over to General Butler State Resort Park on the 2nd weekend of every May to watch the Highland Games at Kentucky Scottish Weekend.
Highland Games are a traditional Scottish sporting event – kind of like a mini Scottish Olympics – and can be found all over the world. If you’ve never been to one, Williamstown’s is one of the best in the south.
It’s worth staying for the whole of this marvelous cultural sporting event, and there’s no better place than General Butler Lodge.
A beautiful hall, nestled in the idyllic peace of a protected state park, this resort lodge offers visitors a place to rest between outdoor activities, a tour of the original 1859 home, meeting and conference spaces, and more.
This brick federal-style building was originally home to the Butler and Turpin families.
Outside the walls of the main building, you’ll find mini-golf, kayaking, canoeing, paddle boats, bird watching, and plenty of space to play and enjoy the weather.
This location also provides an outdoor kitchen and lodging options for overnight stays. Discuss your rental needs with the guide inside the main building, and learn what this hidden treasure offers.
See Related: Famous Historical Landmarks in the USA
6. Frank Webb Memorial Park
Frank Webb Memorial Park is a community park in Williamstown and offers plenty of outdoor fun for the whole family or if you’re traveling solo.
There are grassy areas for you to relax, play games, or enjoy a nice picnic with fresh air. The park has bathrooms for you to use and paved walking paths. It’s a great space when you need peace and quiet.
7. Shaker Village
When members of the Shaker movement emigrated from New York to Kentucky prior to the Civil War, they made their home in what they call Pleasant Hill. This Shaker Village provided an area where Shakers could live a peaceful, celibate life with racial and sexual equality, free from prejudice.
After the Civil War, the community started to disband. By 1910, the community closed its doors. Restoration began decades later, and it’s now a top historical site you can visit when in Kentucky.
You can see reconstructed versions of the community in which they used to live in. The village features preserved 19th Century architecture and is truly a unique site.
See Related: Visiting The Wooldridge Monuments – Mayfield, KY
Family Entertainment in Williamstown, Kentucky
As tempting as it is to indulge your historian soul when traveling through the area, sometimes the kids need to get out and stretch their imaginations and legs. Just as often, mom and dad need a break too! Here are some of the top family activities in Williamstown, Kentucky.
8. Williamstown Family Fun Park
This outdoor fun park is located in Williamstown and features outdoor activities for individuals ranging in age from toddlers to adults. An entire 18-hole mini-golf course stands ready for a family putt-putt break.
Two obstacle courses for different age groups provide a physical challenge for kids and adults alike. The zipline course is a favorite of older kids and adults, while the chutes and ladders course for younger children brings the cherished board game to life!
9. The Ark Encounter
Noah’s Ark is one of the earliest biblical stories told to children in the Christian faith. The creators of The Ark Encounter had the drive to take this monumental myth to a whole new level. The life-sized vessel at this attraction is built to the specifications documented in the bible.
The Ark Encounter is the largest timber-built structure in the US, standing 51 feet tall and over 550 feet long. Inside this timber-built structure, you’ll discover just how big the Ark was supposed to be, how Noah would have struggled to fit 2 of EVERY animal, and strives to answer many other pressing questions.
10. Ararat Ridge Zoo
This attraction is sister to The Ark Encounter and shares the same grounds. In partnership with the historians who worked on the Ark Project, the Ararat Ridge Zoo is home to animals of all shapes and sizes.
There are camel rides and a petting zoo that you and your family can experience as you learn more about the theories of how Noah would have fit and cared for all the animals on the Ark.
Beyond the opportunity to learn about the animals and watch them, you can participate in scheduled animal encounters and hear more theories about how the animals could have survived after the mythical flood.
One of the most beloved encounters is the Kangaroo Walkabout. At select times, you and your family can join the kangaroo mob within the exhibit without barriers, and guides and keepers will be with you for safety.
11. Newport Aquarium
God and Noah apparently only had to worry about land animals. What about the sea creatures? The Newport Aquarium is home to thousands of sea creatures and marine animals just waiting to teach you about their ecosystems and how you can help preserve the natural balance. Nearby Newport is located just across the river from Cincinnati, and this adventure isn’t far from Williamstown.
One of the newest exhibits at the Newport Aquarium brings you up close and personal with the sharks. Shark Ray Bay Theater is a collection of high-density acrylic tunnels that allow you to walk through the waters of the sharks. Enjoy the adrenaline of the first-ever Shark Bridge, where you can walk directly over the shark tank.
It is essential to know that the animals you’re viewing are treated humanely and that their captivity is for education and conservation. The Newport Aquarium is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, holding them to the highest care and exhibition standards.
12. Salato Wildlife Education Center
Kentucky is known for its brilliant balance of nature, and it can maintain and teach about the importance of protecting our environment through programs and education centers like this.
Not only can you learn about the wildlife growing in the local region, but you can also indulge your curiosity about conservation through hunting and fishing, and so much more.
The Salato Wildlife Education Center offers lessons and exhibits focused on pollinators with the Living Bee Tree, Snakes of Kentucky, Alligator Snapping Turtles, Bald Eagles, Bobcats, Monarch butterflies, and several others by season. The Best Western Parkside Inn is the nearby accommodation where the wildlife center is located.
Outside of the learning center, you have access to four miles of hiking trails, two lakes for fishing if you’ve got your license, and picnic shelters for family gatherings, pausing for lunch, or celebrating something special.
See Related: Best Mancation Destinations Around the World
13. Screaming Eagle Aerial Adventures
Screaming Eagle Aerial Adventures is a must-try for adventurous folks while in Williamstown. You’ll find this activity at the Ark Encounter. You’ll have the option to go ziplining and participate in aerial courses and freefalls.
If you want a complete experience at Screaming Eagle, you should book a tour where you can do all three activities. They’ll provide you with all the equipment you need and will safely help you through the steps for each adventure.
14. Creation Museum
The Creation Museum is a fainting museum in town that allows you to walk through biblical history, see botanical gardens, a planetarium, a zoo, and more. Some of the most popular exhibits you can walk through here are the Garden of Eden, Allosaurus, and the Flood.
The Garden of Eden exhibit features recreations of Adam and Eve and the animals in God’s own garden. You’ll see them naming the animals, and you can learn more about this biblical story.
Allosaurus is their life-sized version of an Allosaurus and is one of seven exceptionally preserved dinosaurs of this species in the entire world.
Finally, the Flood exhibit teaches you how a massive pre-historic flood left layers and layers of rock and fossils for present-day humans to find. You’ll learn more about how the fossils ended up in all corners of the world.
BONUS! Romantic Attractions in Williamstown, Kentucky
One last stop for the traveling newlyweds, anniversary celebrators, or a self-loving solo traveler is a must if you’re making your way without tiny hands to hold in Williamstown, KY.
15. Elk Creek Vineyards
Nestled among the hills, just 35 minutes from Williamstown, Elk Creek Vineyards offers a prize-winning selection of fine wines and a delicious cafe that serves wines, sandwiches, pizzas, and salad to visitors most days.
When you’re looking for a unique stay that is warmly accented with delicious wines, look no further than the Elk Creek Hunt Club & Resort.
There are a variety of lodging options for your romantic getaway.
The Lodge at Elk Creek Bed & Breakfast is a beautiful lodge with 15 rooms and additional packages available. Add a massage package or a girl’s night out to the package to spice up your weekend. During hunting seasons, you can add guided hunts to your reservations too.
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