Lexington, Kentucky is one of my favorite places. I’ve traveled all over the world, and as cheesy as it sounds, this city genuinely always feels like home.
When I was a student at the University of Kentucky (go big blue!!), I had the privilege of living in this great town for five years. Even though I now live closer to Cincinnati, I still make it back to Lex frequently.
So, what are the top things to do in Lexington? Here is what I recommend:
The Kentucky Horse Park– Considering that Lexington is called “the horse capital of the world”, this is a great place to get the feel for Kentucky and its love of all things equine. There are shows, tours, museum displays, horseback riding, and plenty of activities for adults and children.
University of Kentucky Campus– Lexington could be considered a “college town”, so the main campus is definitely something you want to explore. I recommend checking out the gigantic William T. Young library, the University Presidents’ home, Sorority and Fraternity row, and the student center area with its wildcat statue. If you want to grab some food, my nearby favorites are Local Taco, Joe Bologna’s, and Tin Roof.
Downtown Lexington / Triangle Park– The city center of Lexington is relatively small, and very walk-able. There are several historic buildings to check out, and the park has a photogenic row of fountains. Love antiques? Check out the fascinating items at Heritage Antiques. If you’re a history lover like me, there are also self-guided tours at Mary Todd Lincoln’s childhood home (I highly recommend!) If you’re hungry, check out nearby Saul Good and Pies & Pints.
Gratz Park– While exploring downtown, head a few blocks over. Adjacent to Transylvania University, it has several (16) stunning historical mansions. The center of the park has a map with a brief history of the homes and their age. If you love old houses, I also LOVE admiring the beautiful antebellum homes on West 2nd Street. Top thing to do in Lexington, Kentucky!
Murals– In recent years, more and more artistic murals have been popping up throughout the city. My favorites are: The gigantic rainbow colored tribute to Abraham Lincoln, The small “Kentucky” mural outside of the Shop Local KY boutique, and the flower mural outside of Hive Salon.
Lexington Distillery District– The once-defunct industrial corridor known as the Distillery District has transformed into a retail, culinary, and entertainment hub. Anchored by the reopening of the historic James Pepper Distillery, producing original bourbon and offering a museum filled with the owner’s collection of memorabilia. Other tenants range from a food truck-turned-restaurant Middle Fork, Ethereal Brewing craft brewery, Crank & Boom ice cream, new music hall The Burl, and Goodfellas Pizzeria housed in the distillery’s former boiler room (info/photo via VisitLEX).
Ashland: The Henry Clay Estate– This home (built in 1809) and property is truly beautiful, and it has important history to go along with it. The historic home of Kentucky statesman Henry Clay (known as “The Great Negotiator”), the estate now offers guided tours.
Scenic Drives– Kentucky horse country is truly beautiful, and the perfect place to go on some slow paced country drives. My favorite stretch of road is Old Frankfort Pike. You can check out old graveyards, beautiful horse farms, and those ubiquitous abandoned barns. Some days you’ll get lucky, and you stop to pet the horses who come up close to the fences! If you get hungry, the small café Wallace Station has so much character!
Horse Country Tour– Home to 150 horse farms, Visit Horse Country offers exclusive horse farm tours, providing access to championship thoroughbred farms (including the only two triple crown winners alive, American Pharaoh and Justify!). One of the most prestigious horse farms available to tour is Claiborne Farm. This is a 3,000-acre, 109-year-old farm that’s been visited twice by Queen Elizabeth herself! (info/photo via VisitLEX)
Keeneland Race Track– If you will be visiting Lexington in the months of April or October, the horse races at Keeneland are a MUST! The grounds are absolutely beautiful, and going to the races is an experience very emblematic of Kentucky.
Tailgating, having drinks, and playing corn-hole out in the fields and parking areas before the races is common. Once you head inside, you can bring your own chair for the lawn, or purchase a seat in the grandstand. Whether you’re a fan of gambling or not, it is the perfect place for people-watching and soaking in the true Kentucky spirit.
Woodford Reserve– While it’s a bit outside of the city, it’s easy to swing by if you’re in the area. One of the most beautiful distilleries on the “Kentucky Bourbon Trail”, this is a fun stop with guided tour options.
Other Lexington Restaurants I Recommend:
Bella Notte – Delicious Italian fare, perfect for a date night!
Josie’s – Ideal brunch location!
Ramsey’s Diner – Southern cooking that makes you feel at home
North Lime Donuts – Craft donuts, need I say more?
Malone’s Steak House – If you’re looking for a fancy dinner and night out, this is the place!
Corto Lima – Inventive Latin American cuisine!
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As always, all reviews and opinions are my own. Should you choose to book any of the hotels/excursions above, I may make a small commission.