The Kentucky state flag is blowing in the wind at the top of a narrow flag pole. The sun sets behind the blue flag, which features a white center circle with two figures and the phrase, “United we stand; divided we fall.”

The Best Small Towns in Kentucky To Satisfy Your Search for Southern Charm

Kentucky Small Towns

by Matt Lyons Posted on May 8, 2024

Evident in its architecture, music, art, and food, the state of Kentucky has a rich history that dates all the way back to the frontier days. And a great thing about the best small towns in Kentucky? They have all the historical charm but with easy access to valued amenities. In fact, many residents can still escape the hustle and bustle of the city without missing out on the fun.

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And speaking of escaping the hustle and bustle, a Kentucky small town is the place to be if you consider yourself an outdoor enthusiast. The state has some breathtaking scenery — it’s home to rolling hills, forests, gorgeous lakes, and rivers. And there are also very interesting landmarks, including Mammoth Cave National Park and the Red River Gorge

With all this in mind, it’s no surprise that Kentucky has experienced some population growth in recent years. If you find that the Bluegrass State is pulling at your heartstrings, too, consider putting down roots in one of these twelve best towns in Kentucky.

Big Cities vs. Small Towns in Kentucky

While Kentucky has been seeing inbound moves in recent years, certain areas like the larger cities have lost residents. Sure, bigger cities in Kentucky like Louisville and Lexington have a more prominent social scene and a wider variety of attractions, but the smaller towns in Kentucky offer a true taste of Southern charm. Other advantages of choosing to live in a small Kentucky town include:
  • Unique natural beauty and cultural offerings
  • Tight-knit communities
  • Affordable housing in certain towns
  • A more relaxed way of life versus the hustle and bustle of a big city

Small Towns in Kentucky — FAQs

Q: What is the most beautiful small town in Kentucky?
With rolling hills and exquisite green pastures dotted with horses and magnificent estates, Berea and Pikeville are often voted as some of the most beautiful places to live in Kentucky.

Q: What is the friendliest town in Kentucky?
Most of the best small towns to live in Kentucky are known for their friendly people — except maybe yesteryear’s Pikeville, where the Hatfields and McCoys gave the word “unfriendly” a whole new meaning. But choosing the friendliest small town in Kentucky is quite literally impossible: Charm and hospitality are baked into the soil here. 

Q: What is the best part of Kentucky to live in?
Of course, the “best” depends on your personal preferences: big city, small town, or wide-open farm country? In Kentucky, though, the choices run the gamut from the vibrant hub of Louisville to the horse country towns around Lexington and the peaceful Southern vibe of the Kentucky hills.  

Q: What is the most hippie town in Kentucky?
Berea certainly ranks high on the hippie list, thanks to its status as the folk arts-and-crafts capital of Kentucky. 

Best Small Towns in Kentucky 

Known for Southern charm, a laid-back lifestyle, and stunning landscapes, small towns in KY are desirable places to live for all walks of life. And while the U.S. Census designates a small town as one with a population under 5,000, we’ve decided to expand that to include towns with a population of up to 15,000. We’ll be sure to clarify if any town on this list has more than 15,000.

Elevated view of the Ohio River and surrounding communities, including the small town of Villa Hills, Kentucky.

Villa Hills is a quaint small town north of Louisville and about 15 minutes south of Cincinnati.
(Source: Sibcy Cline Realtors)

1. Villa Hills, KY 

Situated along the mighty Ohio River, Villa Hills is a quaint small town north of Louisville and about 15 minutes south of Cincinnati. Its riverfront communities, including Rivermist and Amsterdam Village, are family-friendly enclaves with gorgeous views and a quiet, suburban vibe. Along Amsterdam Road, you’ll find locally owned shops and dining options with everything from Southern cuisine to a taste of Kentucky’s spirited history — but you can’t miss the world-famous Skyline Chili, just a quick drive over the river in Cinci. 

Villa Hills' schools have received high ratings for their educational and safety measures, including Villa Madonna Academy, Niche’s No. 3 Catholic school in the state, and River Ridge Elementary School

The town also has a wealth of parks and recreation areas for residents and visitors to enjoy walking, jogging, and cycling trails, and community league baseball and softball are popular every year for kids and adults alike. The Villa Hills Civic Club hosts community events and activities year-round. And since the town is a relatively short commute to both Cincinnati and Louisville, residents have plenty of options nearby for bigger-city fun. 

2. Bellevue, KY

With gorgeous views of the Ohio River and the Cincinnati skyline (see: Skyline Chili), Bellevue is a blend of Southern small-town charm and vibrant city life — not to mention, it’s also the No. 1 suburb in Kentucky for young professionals, according to Niche. Part of the reason for the ranking is Bellevue’s location just across the Ohio River from Cincinnati, giving residents easy access to the city’s job market and cultural options but without the high price tag of living there.

That’s not to say that Bellevue doesn’t have its own charms, though. The riverfront has undergone enhancements, with a growing number of local cafes and shops adding energy to the area. And an ambitious redevelopment plan is in the works, including the downtown district and new upscale Reserve at Bellevue luxury townhomes just a golf cart ride away.

But even with all the changes, Bellevue’s traditional neighborhoods still retain the close-knit feel of a small town, and it’s still an ideal place to move to and raise a family, with lots of recreational opportunities and relatively affordable housing. Tree-shaded streets and picturesque Victorian homes are the hallmarks of Bellevue — particularly East Row, Kentucky’s second-largest historic district, with Bellevue Avenue serving as the main thoroughfare for local boutiques and antique shops. 

3. Hendron, KY 

This quiet, suburban community is located in the picturesque western part of the state. And although it doesn’t have a commercial downtown, like many of the small towns in KY, it’s only about a 10-minute drive to Paducah for a dose of dining, shopping, and cultural attractions. 

One of the can’t-miss restaurants in the nearby Paducah area? That’s Freight House — a favorite for Southern classics created by Chef Sara Bradley, who was a runner-up in two seasons of Top Chef! 

And the largely rural area of Hendron has an abundance of opportunities for outdoor activities. Less than an hour away, for example, is the Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area, with walking trails, picnic areas, and scenic overlooks with views of the beautiful Ohio River. It’s also a popular camping spot in the warmer months. Visitors can tour an authentic 1850s working farm and do some spectacular wildlife spotting on the Elk and Bison Prairie.

The forests and mountains around Berea, Kentucky, in the early morning. A misty fog is approaching beneath a cloudy sky. In the foreground are mowed fields and a long, wooden fence, and in the distance is a large barn.

Gorgeous views abound in Berea, Kentucky, the state’s folk arts-and-crafts capital and home to one of Kentucky’s only liberal arts colleges.
(Source: Michelle Giles Morgan via Facebook)

4. Berea, KY 

About an hour and a half south of the Kentucky capital of Frankfort, you will find this quaint hamlet, home to one of the state's only liberal arts schools, Berea College. From Artisan Village to Chestnut Street, downtown Berea features a vibrant shopping area showcasing antiques, vintage goods, and the working-artist studios that earned Berea the title of Folk Arts-and-Crafts Capital of Kentucky.

Besides the arts, though, the town is known for the 9,000-acre Berea College Forest, which attracts hikers and ecology enthusiasts from all over the world to dozens of hiking, biking, and birding trails that range from leisurely to rugged for every fitness level. 

The 11 elementary, middle, and high schools in the Berea Independent School District are generally rated in the A to B range. And as for crime and security, NeighborhoodScout rates Berea as 36 percent safer than all other U.S. cities. It’s no wonder so many families choose Berea. Plus, besides the gorgeous parks, lakes, and rivers, there are plenty of attractions nearby for endless weekend fun. Check out the Kentucky Ghost Town near Lawton, Kentucky (about 1.5 hours away), for example, home to an old General Store, abandoned limestone mines, railroad tracks, and other sites.

5. Hurstbourne, KY 

Just east of Louisville is the town of Hurstbourne, where you’ll experience small-town Southern charm coupled with the contemporary amenities one would expect in a suburb or small town near Louisville, Kentucky. A notable attraction is the Hurstbourne Country Club, once a 60-room mansion that was the centerpiece of Highbaugh Farms — and today offers an elegant retreat for golfing, tennis, and fine dining. Adjacent to the prestigious Hurstbourne Estates, an exclusive enclave for luxury living, the country club welcomes visitors and members year-round. 

In contrast, but equally charming, is Hurstbourne Acres, a more laid-back community of cozy bungalows and a tight-knit neighborhood vibe. Block parties and festivals are frequent here.

Hurstbourne students also have access to top-quality schools. Even though the public schools earn a C+ rating overall from Niche, individual schools are rated A and A+, such as Dupont Manual High School and Greathouse Shryock Traditional Elementary. A Hurstbourne bonus: The town is close enough to Louisville to allow residents easy access to all the area has to offer.

6. Pikeville, KY 

Pikeville is a beautiful little town nestled in the hills of eastern Kentucky. Steeped in its Appalachian history and heritage, the town is most notable as home of the notorious feud between the Hatfields and McCoys. Visitors can immerse themselves in the legendary battle on a self-guided driving tour through Kentucky’s Pike County and into West Virginia — and along the way experience more of what this rugged area has to offer. 

At the Big Sandy Heritage Center Museum, you’ll learn about the Native Americans and pioneers who once populated the area, and explore even more artifacts from the famous feuding families. More history is on tap as the city celebrates its roots at the annual Hillbilly Days Festival, a lively few days of music, food, and history every spring. 

But Pikeville isn’t just about the past. In recent years, downtown revitalization has created a vibrant hub of dining and shopping — like the Broken Throne microbrewery, taproom, and music venue, where locals enjoy live bands, local brews, and trivia nights.

As far as housing goes, favorite neighborhoods include the family-friendly Southside, with cozy homes, tree-shaded sidewalks, and easy access to Pikeville’s schools and parks, while University Heights is a more trendy enclave adjacent to the University of Pikeville.

Aerial view of Danville, Kentucky, during sunset. Many of the city’s buildings are made of red brick, and the downtown is surrounded by lush greenery.

Danville boasts a beautiful landscape with opportunities for hiking, picnics, and outdoor adventures.
(Source: City of Danville via Facebook)

7. Danville, KY

Tucked away in the rolling hills of the Bluegrass State, Danville is one of the best small towns in Kentucky and is known as the state’s “City of Firsts,” with an eclectic list that includes the first U.S. Post Office west of the Alleghenies, the first capital of Kentucky, the first pharmacy, the first college and law school in the west — and more. History and arts buffs have endless choices to explore, from Constitution Square, the birthplace of the state, to the Pioneer Playhouse, founded in 1950, where “theater under the stars” blends culture and entertainment.

Like most of the state, Danville boasts a beautiful landscape with opportunities for hiking, picnics, and outdoor adventures. The annual Great American Brass Band Festival, which for almost 35 years has taken over downtown for three days in the spring, welcomes musicians from all over the country. And in October, the annual Forkland Heritage Festival & Revue celebrates Kentucky’s Appalachian history and culture with live music, traditional crafts, storytelling, and pioneer demonstrations. 

8. Anchorage, KY

Located in Louisville's East End about 15 miles from downtown, Anchorage is the perfect place for families looking for lots of green space. Large lots and plenty of luxurious amenities are hallmarks of this upscale suburb, once a hub for country homes and summer cottages and now one of the best small towns in Kentucky to live. Today, ranch- and traditional-style homes mingle with some notable architectural styles like Colonial and Italian Mediterranean. 

Nature lovers will thrive in Anchorage. With its distinctive canopy of trees and bright, blooming flowers along the Anchorage Trail, there’s plenty to explore either on foot or horseback. 

And Anchorage foodies can find pretty much anything they want in Louisville, of course. But one local standout is The Village Anchor, with two bars — the Sea Hag and the Anchor Bar — and a restaurant serving eclectic European-inspired cuisine and a massive selection of Kentucky’s signature bourbon. 

9. Park Hills, KY

Families love Park Hills, a Kenton County suburb just across the river from Cincinnati, as do professionals who make the easy 10-minute commute every day. In fact, Park Hills has earned the No. 2 and No. 3 spots in Niche’s 2024 lists of Best Places to Live in Kentucky and Best Suburbs for Young Professionals in Kentucky. 

One of the most scenic areas of Park Hills is along Audubon Road, where homes are set back from the shaded street in a picturesque, serene setting. New development isn’t very common in this well-established area, but a notable exception is Park Pointe, which features upscale, custom, single-family homes that overlook the Ohio River and the Cincinnati skyline. 

And Park Hills lives up to its name, with lots of recreational areas available. Toonerville Trolley Park, for example, has a playground, tennis courts, walking trails, and plenty of green space for picnics and parties. And Devou Park, technically part of neighboring Covington but a favorite for Park Hills locals, is home to an 18-hole golf course and the Behringer-Crawford Museum, where visitors can learn about local history and culture.

Red brick storefronts in the quaint downtown of Midway, Kentucky, on a clear summer day.

The small town of Midway is a great place to escape the hustle and bustle of the big city.
(Source: Midway, Kentucky via Facebook)

10. Midway, KY 

Stroll through Midway's Main Street, and you'll be transported back in time by horse-drawn carriages and beautiful architecture that lines the tree-lined boulevards. The small town of Midway is a great place to escape the hustle and bustle of the big city for Kentucky’s rolling hills and flourishing fields — and a good dose of Southern railroad-town hospitality. 

But what this Kentucky hamlet is known for is thoroughbred racing. Right in the middle (natch) of the Bluegrass State’s horse country, Midway has been home to multiple champions through the years from farms including the renowned Three Chimneys and Lane’s End. For an amazing behind-the-scenes look at the business, schedule a tour of Midway’s spectacular Horse Country.

People who love exploring nature on their own two feet — or wheels! — will also find plenty of things to do in Midway. A highlight of the gorgeous public green space around town is the 28-acre Walter Bradley Park, with picnic shelters, a dog park, and four miles of trails, including the Creek Walk, a mile-and-a-half trek along Lee’s Branch.

11. Wilder, KY

Another of Kentucky’s Cincinnati suburbs, Wilder provides residents all the benefits of the city — but with peaceful, rural Kentucky just on the outskirts of town. The housing landscape offers an equally diverse variety, from single-family homes to contemporary apartments, many with views of the rolling hills of the Bluegrass State. Families have space to spread out, and young professionals can find the convenience and low-maintenance lifestyle they’re looking for. At the Aspen Pines Apartments, for instance, residents have a 24-hour gym and other resort-style amenities, plus views of the Cincinnati skyline. 

Like most of the best small towns to live in Kentucky, Wilder has beautiful parks and recreation areas. Residents can fish and boat on the Licking River — a tributary of the mighty Ohio — and walk, bike, and picnic along the Licking River Greenway Trail

In addition to all the dining options of Cincinnati, Wilder foodies have lots of local mainstays to choose from. Knotty Pine on the Bayou, for one, is a family-owned waterfront restaurant that’s been around for 50 years, serving Southern-inspired seafood and Cajun specialties. And in the way of entertainment, you can’t get much more intriguing than Bobby Mackey’s Music World, a country music concert venue renowned as “the most haunted nightclub in America.”

12. Beechwood Village, KY

Like many Kentucky small towns near Louisville, Beechwood Village provides a nice blend of urban amenities with suburban convenience and quiet, with homes on well-established, tree-lined streets that have been around for 50 years or more. And while styles range from Cape Cod to ranch and colonial, plenty of Beechwood Village homes have been updated — so there’s no need to worry that moving to one of the best small towns in Kentucky has to mean going back in time! 

The restaurant scene doesn’t require time travel, either. Locals love Señora Arepa, a Venezuelan-inspired eatery, and rave about the service as much as the food — just be sure to make a reservation and arrive early to find parking. Lots of other options in the area include the usual national chains you’ll find in any ‘burb plus some charming locally owned spots and hopping nightlife in downtown Louisville. (Pro tip: For date night, go to Silvio’s.)  

A young woman is smiling as she takes a phone call by the entrance to her PODS portable moving container. The container is partially loaded with moving boxes, pillows, and a bike.

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Plan Your Big Move to a Small Kentucky Town With the Help of PODS

The toughest part of any move is figuring out how to get everything there. Luckily, PODS can help. They’ll deliver a moving and storage container right to your driveway. From there, you can pack everything up on your own time. And once you’re ready, PODS will take it to your new home in Kentucky. One of the best things about PODS: One month of storage is included with every move.

Editor’s note: For ease of reading, monthly rental prices were rounded to the nearest $25 and home values were rounded to the nearest $100.

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Villa hills is not by Louisville it is 10 minutes from Cincinnati
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There,s more to ky, than just the eastern half
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You left out Edmonton in Metcalfe County. I moved here in 2006 from Miami, Florida - where I was born in 1941, and raised. It is lovely, quiet, well-behaved small city. People here don’t throw trash out of their car windows; the yards are always neatly mowed and edged. People are polite and friendly. I love it here. Linda Tillman
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