Lexington, Kentucky, is located in the heart of the Bluegrass region and is known for its horse farms, rolling hills, and Southern charm. Founded in 1775, Lexington is steeped in history and has played a significant role in the development of the state of Kentucky. Lexington is the second largest city in Kentucky and the 57th largest city in the United States. The popular Transylvania University, which is the oldest university west of the Alleghenies, is located in Lexington, as is the University of Kentucky, which is home to one of the most storied programs in all of college basketball.
The city is famous for its role in the Civil War and the Civil Rights Movement. Visitors to Lexington can explore the city’s history through its numerous museums, historic sites, and landmarks. Some of the most popular historical attractions include the Mary Todd Lincoln House, the Lexington History Museum, and Ashland, the Henry Clay Estate. In addition to its rich history, Lexington is also known for its vibrant cultural scene, picturesque landscapes, and excellent cuisine.
Visitors can explore the city’s unique blend of old and new by visiting attractions such as the Kentucky Horse Park, the Lexington Opera House, and the Lexington Arboretum. Another must-see destination is the Bourbon Trail, which winds through the rolling hills of Kentucky and offers visitors a chance to experience the state’s signature drink, bourbon whiskey, firsthand. Whether you’re interested in history, culture, or outdoor adventures, Lexington has something for everyone and is a must-visit destination for anyone traveling to Kentucky. Below are 15 of our favorite things to do in Lexington, Kentucky.
15. Lexington Distillery District
(image via Lexington Distillery District)
West Sixth Brewing offers free Saturday tours, as well as a taproom and beer garden with rotating microbrews on tap. It has an industrial-chic taproom and a large selection of handcrafted beers. Canned beer and a large selection of unusual hops are available. West Sixth Brewing Company is located in the city’s Smithtown neighborhood, not far from downtown Lexington, Kentucky. Smithtown Brown, one of West Sixth’s beers, is named after neighboring Smith Street and the area of town that has been regenerated thanks to the construction of cafes and shops that cater to a diverse clientele ranging from bike-riding hipsters to yuppies.
14. Greyline Station
(image via Greyline Station)
Grand and historic with its Doric columns and red-brick walls, the Waveland State Historic Site is one of the best-preserved examples of the American plantation era still standing in Kentucky.
It’s set up in a square of greenery on the south-western edge of the city, offering a glimpse at the regal lifestyles lived by those who lived here during the area’s 19th-century.
13. Take a Food Journey Around the City
(image via Blue Door Smokehouse)
No trip this close to the erstwhile Mason-Dixon Line could be complete without at least a sampling of the smoky flavors of the Deep South, which make an occasional appearance on the streets of Lexington. Nowhere is the barbeque smells and smokes better than at Blue Door; a highly-rated, stripped-down American BBQ diner on Walton Ave.
12. Hunt Morgan House
(image via Wikipedia)
John Wesley Hunt, the first millionaire west of the Alleghenies, built the Hunt Morgan House, a Federal Period townhouse in Lexington in 1814. Features of the house sometimes referred to as Hopemont, include a three-story, cantilevered staircase; the garden and walled courtyard; a collection of Kentucky furniture; early 19th-century portraits; and porcelain. The home is part of the larger Gratz Park Historic District in downtown Lexington, which is made up of the city park and many 19th-century homes and mansions.
11. Red Mile Harness Track
(image via Red Mile Harness Track)
The Red Mile in Lexington is a one-mile oval track for trotters and pacers. It’s the second-oldest harness racetrack in the world, with live races from July through September. Daily workouts can be viewed from dawn until late morning at this historic track.
The 1101 Grill provides affordable and satisfying fares. When horse races aren’t occurring at the Red Mile, the facility simulcasts races from around the world on more than 175 HD televisions.
10. Lexington Opera House
(image via Lexington Opera House)
Raven Run is a 734-acre nature sanctuary and outdoor destination with more than 10 miles of hiking trails, a nature center, and a bird blind for nature observation and education. The sanctuary is home to a large variety of birds and hosts an assortment of events throughout the year, including weekly yoga sessions, special programs for little explorers, and organized running events.
Within the sanctuary, the Joe Pulliam Memorial Garden is a Monarch waystation, attracting and supporting butterflies as they make their way across North America.
9. Fort Boones Borough State Park
(image via Fort Boonesborough State Park)
One of the best family-friendly places to visit near Lexington is Fort Boonesborough, State Park. Wonderfully recreated from the original plans, the fort today is a snapshot in time from the 18th century. Kids love the costumed docents as they go about daily life using historical items from the period.
In addition to the fort, the state park also has a giant pool with a splash pad area for children, an ideal place to cool down on those hot, humid Kentucky summer days. The park also has a miniature golf course, walking trails, a museum, and a 166-site campground.
8. Go to Watch Keenland Race
(image via Keenland Race)
Keenland which is founded in 1936 is a professional racecourse open to the general public, with grounds elegantly decorated.
As a key player in this industry, Keenland hosts a number of huge thoroughbred auctions throughout the state at various times throughout the year. Other notable attractions include the track’s historical archives, which include thoroughbred records, an equestrian gift shop, and the Keeneland Kids Club for children aged 12 and under.
7. Visit the Lexington Cemetery Graves
(image via Lexingtonky.com)
Lexington Cemetery is more than 150 years old, with over 60,000 interments. The cemetery is located on the city’s northern outskirts. There are notable people’s graves in the cemetery, which include: Gay Brewer who is a golfer, Adolph Rupp who is the basketball coach, and one of the frontiersmen and founders of Lexington, Levi Todd.
6. Dance at the Festival of the Bluegrass
(image via Festival of the Bluegrass)
The people of Lexington tend to host parties that are some of the best. Among these parties include the Festival of the Bluegrass. Early June is the time for the Festival of the Bluegrass, a music and art festival featuring banjo, folk violin, and honkytonk.
It’s an affair with an intimate single set-up run by the local families of Kentucky. There’s a banjo on site for travelers with children in the tow, and workshops on music, plucking, strumming, and rhyme techniques.
5. Mary Todd Lincoln House of History
(images via Wikipedia)
The Mary Todd Lincoln House of History is a beautiful Georgian brick on the heart of West Main Street was firstly built in the early part of the 19th century. It was firstly a settlement for the earlier people of Lexington, and later became the home of a lady named Mary Todd Lincoln who was the wife of the then President and became the First Lady of the United States.
4. Saddle up in the Kentucky Horse Park
(image via Kentucky Horse Park)
As the home of horse racing in America, Kentucky Horse Park takes pride in celebrating and making awareness of the relationship between humanity and everything equine.
It hosts the Smithsonian International Museum of Horses. This location follows the evolution of horse rearing and the uses of various horses in the equine community. Here you can learn of the early years of the caliphates of the Arabs to the horses of regal and Victorian England carts.
3. Have Tea or Coffee at Third Street Stuff & Coffee
(image via Third Street Stuff)
Third Street Stuff & Coffee is fun, quirky, and colorful. It’s a hippy art and psychedelia circa 1969. This place is focused on building and helping the community with all its different drinkers.
Between the graffiti-clad walls and the art-decoesque crooked tables, it’s nice to drink the brews of the house. The beans are usually hand-picked of the fair-trade roasted variety. Frequently, the indoor venue opens for live music! So, be ready to get on your feet. The team here always seems to have a smile to give to their customers, and are restless to make sure everyone feels welcomed.
2. Take a Walk in the Henry Clay Estate’s Endless Rooms
(images via Henry Clay Estate)
The Henry Clay Estate double-winged Italianate majesty has beautified the South-Eastern streets of Lexington since the early part of the 1800s. After the earthquake of 1811 in New Madrid, the historic plantation was renovated entirely, with the touches of European grandeur and decorations of the Greek Revivalist.
Today, the home is surrounded by swathes of fir forests and green ash which will truly give you the deep feelings of the heritage of Lexington and Kentucky.
1. Get an Eagle-Eye View at Kentucky Aviation Museum
(image via Kentucky Aviation Museum)
The Aviation Museum of Kentucky is an excellent destination for all aviation enthusiasts and fans of aerial views. The Kentucky Aviation Hall of Fame is located here, and it pays tribute to the industry’s local legends.
There are also wonderful and stunning photographic collections of old and modern airplane relics.
The Blue Grass Airport in Lexington, Kentucky is home to this museum. The company was founded in 1989 and was opened to the public in April of 1995. It has a library, a restoration, repair shop, and over 20,000 square feet of exhibit area. It’s a fantastic place to start or end your tour in this magnificent city.
As you can see, Lexington has a lot to offer everyone. If you are looking to do more in the surrounding area, check out other weekend trips from nearby Lexington, Kentucky.
These areas are perfect for a quick day trip or a long weekend getaway. Explore our favorite things to do or peruse some pre-built itineraries.