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Lexington, Kentucky is known as the horse racing capital of the world, so this is an ideal place to learn about horses and watch a race. But Lexington is also the heart of bourbon country and has some fascinating historical and cultural attractions around town too. So, whether you’re just passing through on a road trip or looking for an affordable vacation destination for the whole family, here are our favorite things to do in Lexington.
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The Kentucky Horse Park is one of the top attractions in this area, with dozens of breeds to see, as well as a museum and art gallery. This facility spans over 1,000 acres and is a working horse farm with stables, tours, shows, and exhibits. You can go horseback riding here, hop on a carriage ride, and even camp at the Kentucky Horse Park. The park is about 10 miles from Lexington and has a visitor center that you can start your trip with. The general admission rate for adults in the summer is $20 and then $12 in the winter season. The KHP Campground is open year-around; however, reservations are recommended in the busy summer season. Shuttles are available in the summer to take campers from the campground store to the park visitor center.
Even if you’re not a big bourbon drinker, it’s fun to visit some of the local distilleries and breweries in town. One highly recommended spot is the Alltech’s Lexington Brewing & Distilling. This is the home of Kentucky Ale, which is aged for up to six weeks in bourbon barrels. It creates both beers and spirits and offers tours on the hour that last about an hour and 15 minutes. Popular spirits here include the Bluegrass Sundown, Town Branch Bourbon, and Town Branch Rye. Other historic distilleries to visit and learn more about the history of Kentucky bourbon are Buffalo Trace, Four Roses, Wild Turkey, and the Woodford Reserve Distillery.
History buffs will want to check out the Mary Todd Lincoln House in Lexington. This was Mary Todd Lincoln’s childhood home and was the first historical location that was restored to remember the first lady of a former president. The home was built in the early 1800s and purchased by Mary’s father. Inside the home, you’ll find antique furniture, décor, and artifacts from the Todd and Lincoln families. You can take a guided tour of the home to learn more about this woman, family, and period in history. Tours are offered hourly between March 15 and November 30 on Mondays through Saturdays and cost $12 for adults. The home is located in downtown Lexington and is easily accessible from other attractions around town.
The Keeneland Race Course is a prime place to try your luck with horse betting or just tour the grounds if there’s no race happening during your visit. This is a historic horse racing arena that dates back to the 1930s and draws in visitors throughout the year. Check the Keeneland event calendar on its website to see what’s going on during your visit. Year-around tours, backstretch tours during live racing events, behind-the-scenes tours during select months are offered. The adult cost for the year-around tour is $10.
It’s easy to get caught up in all the horse racing and bourbon, but there are also some beautiful natural areas in and around Lexington that are worth exploring. The Raven Run Nature Sanctuary is a great example of this, and it’s very close to downtown Lexington. Here you can get some exercise on the hiking trails and walking paths, see many native birds, and learn about the settlers who once lived here in the 19th century. The nature sanctuary is typically open from 9am and between 4:30pm and 7:30pm, depending on the season.
This is a horse boarding and training farm that offers tours to visitors to learn about Thoroughbred horses. It hosts special events and takes guests on guided tours of the facility. However, this is not a place to go horseback riding because the horses that live here are trained exclusively for racing. Ninety-minute tours are offered daily, and only guided tours are allowed. The rate for an adult tour is $15, and you can reserve your spot on the organization’s website.
Many famous people throughout history have lived in Lexington, including the former Kentucky statesman Henry Clay. Ashland is the name of Clay’s plantation, and you can learn about the man who was called the “Great Compromiser” here. Take a guided tour of the 18-room mansion, which lasts for about an hour. From there, you can also check out the permanent Henry Clay exhibit room, the museum store, the garden and walking trails, and a Civil War monument. Guided tours cost $12 for adults and are offered from 10am to 4pm Tuesdays through Saturdays from March through December and from 1pm to 4pm on Sundays from April through November.
It surprises some first-time visitors to Lexington that there’s a great aviation museum here where you can learn about both historical and modern aircraft. The Aviation Museum of Kentucky is located at Lexington’s Blue Grass Airport and has many displays, a library, photos, and artifacts from various periods of air travel. You can walk around both inside and outside to see the displays and then visit the museum’s hall of fame that recognizes the aviation work of Kentucky residents. The adult admission cost for the museum is $8.
Located right in downtown Lexington, Rupp Arena is a sports stadium and event venue that’s home to the University of Kentucky Wildcats. It was opened in 1976 and has 23,000 seats for concerts and other types of events as well. If you visit during the right season, try to catch a game while you’re in town. This is also a great place to watch a live concert, attend a boat show, or even watch professional bull riders!