America is perhaps best known for providing four inventions to the world: Denim jeans, jazz, bourbon and Kentucky horse racing.

Two of those four creations are the sole property of the Bluegrass State. In fact, a trip to Keeneland, the Kentucky Horse Park or Churchill Downs is as vital as a stop at one of the many distilleries that dot the so-called “Bourbon Trail.” There are also a terrific number of horse farm tours, as well as at least three museums devoted to the history and art of the Kentucky-bred racers.

In fact, all eyes will be on Lexington in autumn 2010, when the city hosts the World Equestrian Games. “That’s the biggest story around here,” says Niki Heichelbech, media and communications manager for the Lexington Convention and Visitors Bureau. “They’ve never been held outside of Europe before, so we’re very excited. And we now have a date — tickets go on sale Sept. 26.”

So, hop aboard your Mustang or climb into your Camaro. Here’s a driving tour through Kentucky’s must-sees:

Beam’s American Outpost & Distillery

The Visitor Center offers an abbreviated look at the bourbon-making process through exhibits that trace the 200-year history of the distilling family. Learn all about the process of creating Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey, which gathers its flavor from the unique limestone deposits found in Bluegrass water, as well as the charred oak barrels used in the distilling process. 149 Happy Hollow Road, Clermont. 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays, 1 to 4 p.m. Sundays (no tastings on Sundays). Free. (502) 543-9877 or www.jimbeam.com.

Claiborne Farm

Whoa, Nelly! Claiborne Farm, which has been in the Hancock family since its founding in the 1800s, is best known as the home of Secretariat, winner of the Triple Crown in 1973. The thoroughbred farm is a favorite of sheiks and other foreign visitors, including Queen Elizabeth II (who’s been here twice). Colts such as Monopoly Pricing and Fear No Darkness prance about with stallions such as Out of Place at this farm, one of the Bluegrass area’s most notable. 703 Winchester Road, Paris. Daily tours at 10 a.m. are free, but available by appointment only. (859) 987-2330 or www.claibornefarm.com.

Keeneland

Keeneland has been called the most beautiful horse track in the world, with its manicured grounds and dogwood-shaded paddock. A dozen Derby winners have been acquired through Keeneland’s September yearling sales, another big draw for serious horse traders and wannabes. Opened in 1936, the course is a National Historic Landmark. Races are held this fall from Oct. 9 through Oct. 31. 4201 Versailles Road, Lexington. Gates open in racing months at 11 a.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays, with post time at 1:15 p.m., $3, reserved seating weekdays $6, weekends $8. (859) 254-3412 or www.keeneland.com.

Kentucky Derby Museum/Churchill Downs

A terrific introductory film, shown on a 360-degree screen that surrounds the main atrium, greets visitors to the Derby Museum. Guests then move on to interactive exhibits, which include the chance to play jockey on a pair of virtual horses. Along the way, be sure to sign up for a walking tour of Churchill Downs, the oldest continuously operated racetrack in America. Tours are conducted on the hour, weather permitting. 704 Central Ave., Louisville. 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays. $12, seniors $11, children 13–18 $8, children 5-12 $5. (502) 637-1111 or www.derbymuseum.org.

Kentucky Gateway Museum Center

The Kentucky Gateway Museum Center is actually a number of museums rolled into one facility. The Kathleen Browning Miniatures Collection is housed in one 3,300-square-foot gallery, featuring miniature homes with historic value including a re-creation of Diagon Alley, from Harry Potter, and Spencer House, the ancestral home of Princess Di. The Regional History Museum includes dioramas, furniture, quilts, weapons and an art collection. And the Historic Research Library includes documents dating back to Colonial times. The changing gallery is exhibiting Trains, Trains & More Trains, a showcase of model trains and railroad memorabilia. 215 Sutton St., Maysville. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays, and 1 to 4 p.m. Sundays. $10, children $2. (606) 564-5865 or www.kentuckygatewaymuseumcenter.org.

Kentucky Horse Park/American Saddlebred Museum/International Museum of the Horse

This 1,200-acre working horse farm is surrounded by 30 miles of white plank fencing and features nearly 50 different breeds of all sizes. A daily “Parade of Breeds” showcases the unique qualities of the different breeds and offers the chance for visitors to actually talk with costumed riders and pet the horses. The Hall of Champions pays tribute to the sport’s legends, while the Draft Horse Barn is home to the “Gentle Giants” — the team that pulls the park’s tour trolley. The team includes Belgians, Clydesdales, Percherons, English Shires, Halflingers, Suffolks and Mammoth Mules. The American Saddlebred Museum, located on the park’s grounds, is devoted to telling the story of the breed’s past, present and future. Currently on display: Moments of Merit: Select Pieces of Saddlebred History. Also on the park’s grounds: The International Museum of the Horse, which focuses on the 55-million year history of the species and includes exhibits such as Arte en la Charrería: The Artisanship of Mexican Equestrian Culture. 4089 Iron Works Parkway, Lexington. 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. March through October. $15, $14 seniors, children 7-12 $8, children age 6 and under free. (859) 233-4303, www.kyhorsepark.com or www.americansaddlebredmuseum.org.

Kentucky Thoroughbred Center

This thoroughbred training facility features guided tours of the 1,000-plus stalls, paddocks and grass gallops. The behind-the-scenes tour is billed as “A Day in the Life of a Thoroughbred in Training.” And these folks definitely aren’t horsing around, as the center’s trainers prepare steeds for a dozen tracks around the country. 3380 Paris Pike, Lexington. Tours are offered at 9 a.m. Monday through Saturday. $10, $5 for kids age 12 and younger. (859) 293–1853 or www.thethoroughbredcenter.com.

Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory

Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory pays homage to the Louisville Slugger bat, the official bat of Major League Baseball. Since 1884, Hillerich & Bradsby Co. has turned out these wooden wonders. Highlighting the museum’s recent renovation is the first public display of a Louisville Slugger bat used by Joe DiMaggio during his 56-game hitting streak of 1941, along with a special area where visitors can hold game-used bats from superstars — past and present. 800 W. Main St., Louisville. 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. (No bat production on Sunday.) $10 for adults, $9 for seniors, $5 for ages 6 to 12. (877) 775-8443 or www.sluggermuseum.com.

Louisville Science Center

The Science Center features a $4 million permanent ecological exhibit, The World Around Us, as well as 120 interactive displays and activity stations devoted to all aspects of science. A temporary exhibit, Wild Music: Sounds & Songs of Life, is open through Aug. 31. The IMAX theater is screening Country Music: The Spirit of America, through September. 727 W. Main St., Louisville. 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, 9:30 a.m. to 9 p.m Friday and Saturday. $12 ($15 combo with IMAX); $10 for children 2–12, students 13 to college, and adults 60 and older ($12 combo). 727 W. Main St., Louisville. (502) 561-6100 or www.louisvillescience.org.

Maker’s Mark

The distillery is located on scenic 850-acre grounds framed by magnolias and sugar maples. In the gift gallery, you can buy a small bottle (if you’re 21 or older) and plunk it in the “dipping booth,” creating a customized red wax sealed bottle. 3350 Burks Spring Road, Loretto. Tours conducted Mondays through Saturdays on the half hour, from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Sunday tours conducted at 1:30, 2:30 and 3:30 p.m. Free. (270) 865-2099 or www.makersmark.com.

Shaker Village

Discover America’s largest restored Shaker community, a 3,000-acre National Historic Landmark that once housed
members of the religious society. Your ticket includes a self-guided walking tour through the village, with its 14 restored Shaker buildings and historic craft demonstrations. 3501 Lexington Road, Harrodsburg. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. $15 for ages 13 and above, $5 for children 6-12. (859) 734-5411 or www.shakervillageky.org.

Three Chimneys Farm

Three Chimneys Farm is a contender to win, place or show in any tour of the Bluegrass. Famous residents include the late Seattle Slew, Smarty Jones and the 2001 Horse of the Year, Point Given. (A horsey hint: Call the Lexington Convention and Visitors Bureau at 800-845-3959 and ask for the Lexington Bluegrass Country Driving Tour map. This self-guided tour is designed to be followed at your own pace.) Tours offered Tuesday through Saturday at 1 p.m. and include the stallion complex, breeding shed and mare receiving barn. 1981 Old Frankfort Pike, Versailles. $5. (859) 873–7053 or www.threechimneys.com.