Lexington is a midsize college town that has emerged from the shadows of its big sister, Louisville, to become a bona fide destination in its own right, popular among foodies, spirits aficionados and those looking to dive headfirst into its Southern culture.
Heading to eastern Kentucky? Here are some ways to get a feel for the Horse Capital of the World.
Go Mural Chasing
More than 100 brightly colored walls decorate the buildings throughout Lexington; some are easy to find, others tucked away from plain sight. Embark upon the city’s official Mural Challenge to see how many you can find, like the 60-foot-tall rendering of Abraham Lincoln, who was born nearby in Hodgenville and married to a woman from Lexington, or the Stockyard Commons illustration with its funky cattle, chickens and pigs decorating the wall.
Sample the Local Libations
The Bourbon Trail weaves its way through the area, but you don’t even have to leave Lexington’s city limits to experience the distilling culture firsthand.
Alltech Lexington Brewing & Distilling Co., which joined the trail in 2012, sits right in the heart of Lex and was the first new distillery built in the city in more than 100 years — but it’s not only a distillery; it brews beer, too. Chase your Town Branch Bourbon with a pour of Kentucky Ale and leave the premises one happy traveler.
Or if you want to try all the bourbons in a single stop, head to Belle’s Cocktail House for one of the most prolific selections in town, or visit Justins’ House of Bourbon (from the owners of Belle’s) to find the perfect bottle to take home with you.
Hit the Brewgrass Trail
Lexington may be known for bourbon, but it’s the Brewgrass Trail that’s leaving locals tipsy with excitement. Fourteen stops currently populate this craft brewery draw for thirsty travelers, from the longtime favorite Country Boy, which serves up punny brews like Cougar Bait and Shotgun Wedding from its new Georgetown facility, to Rooster Brewing up in Paris, Kentucky.
The pub-crawl concept has also arrived in Lexington with the Thirsty Pedaler, a safe way to travel among the breweries by way of a 16-passenger bike. Not a beer lover? Kentucky’s first cider brewery, Pivot Brewing Co., is a great alternative.
See the Thoroughbreds Rendered in Bronze
Even if you aren’t visiting Lexington during Keeneland’s racing season (April and October), you can still take a trip back in time through its equine heritage thanks to the 2.75-acre Thoroughbred Park, divvied up into five distinct areas depicting racing greats and their jockeys in human-sized (and horse-sized) statue form.
See a UK Sporting Event
Even if you aren’t a fan of the Big Blue — or an SEC enthusiast in general — there’s no denying that the energy at any University of Kentucky event is palpable. Get swept up in the excitement and attend a basketball game in Rupp Arena or cheer along with the crowd at Kroger Field during football season.
Explore Lexington’s History
For history buffs, Lex has centuries’ worth to share, particularly through tours of four of its historic homes.
The Mary Todd Lincoln House is the first house museum dedicated to a first lady, but there’s also Ashland, the Henry Clay Estate, an 18-room mansion with expansive grounds, walking trails and monuments; the Hunt-Morgan House (aka Hopemont) built by John Wesley Hunt, the first millionaire west of the Alleghenies; and Waveland State Historic Site, one of Kentucky’s most well-preserved antebellum homes, which was constructed by a grandnephew of Daniel Boone and completed in 1848.
The Lexington Visitors Center sells a Historic Homes Ticket to all four properties for $25, and the ticket is good for a year.