Lexington, Kentucky, is the epitome of a Southern destination deeply-rooted in traditions and elegance. From the famous equine landscape to world-famous bourbon, you’ll find many things to love about this quintessential location. Here are 23 cool things to do in Lexington, Kentucky, on your visit.
1. Eat Excellent Donuts
North Lime Coffee & Donuts is a great space offering incredible donuts and coffee. Flavors change daily and some of the tasty baked goods even come in a square shape. Try the Cold Brew Cream Filled. OMG…it is mind-blowing!
2. Enjoy a Delicious Southern Meal
Honeywood, at The Summit at Fritz Farm, is a Lexington, Kentucky staple for amazing farm-to-table food in a stylish setting. I love the veggie plate with your choice of three side items. I chose slow-cooked greens, Weisenberger cheese grits, and creamed spinach & mushrooms. I also had a hoecake on the side and saved room for the 10/10 fantastic chocolate banana pudding with peanut granola dessert.
3. View Contemporary Art
As with all 21C Hotels, there are two floors of art exhibits open to the public at the 21C Museum Hotel Lexington. No need to visit a traditional gallery when you can come here, for free, and see some of the 21st-centuries most famous artists’ pieces. Pay close attention to the Kehinde Wiley pieces. His artwork is fantastic!
4. Meet Champion Horses
Watching the award-winning horses at the Kentucky Horse Park’s Hall of Champions was inspiring, educational, and just plain sweet. On my visit, the featured horse was Funny Cide, winner of the 2003 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes. He loved getting his treats, and the tour guide shared Funny Cide’s life story, winnings, achievements, and earnings (a little less than $4 million).
These retired horses go to the Kentucky Horse Park, some through estate wills and some on loan, to enjoy the remainder of their lives not doing a thing but getting attention and treats. They are well taken care of and will melt your heart.
5. Eat an Eggscellent Breakfast
Wild Eggs is a Lexington restaurant with palate-pleasing combinations such as the Buffalo Chicken Omelets, Pumpkin Pie Pancakes (seasonal), and the Mr. Potato Head Casserole. This casserole features hash browns, poblano peppers, roasted mushrooms, queso fundido, onions, sour cream, and eggs the way you like. It is quite a memorable breakfast plate. Wild Eggs’ decor is bright and cheery, a welcome wake-up to start your morning off right.
6. Tour the Mary Todd Lincoln House
The Mary Todd Lincoln House, belonging to her family years before she married President Lincoln (who was at the house), is on display and fully stocked with period furnishings and portraits throughout the 14 room home. There is way more history here than I could have imagined, and I’m so glad to have visited it. An adorable gift shop is out the door you exit from and has loads of cool souvenirs and trinkets. Parking is free behind the house.
7. Sample Bourbon
Bourbon tasting and breweries are perfect opportunities in Lexington, Kentucky. Town Branch Distillery is a local place for bourbon sampling, or you can drive 30 minutes outside of town for Buffalo Trace, the World’s Most Decorated Distillery.
8. Window Shop at The Summit at Fritz Farm
A newbie for me in Lexington is the Summit at Fritz Farm. Here, you’ll find an outdoor shopping, dining, and entertainment complex with lovely grounds, a Whole Foods Market, Origin Hotel, and colorful murals. Parking is free, and the landscape is pristine and exciting. Places that caught my eye were Madewell, Draper James, LUSH Cosmetics, Pottery Barn, and Steel City Pops.
9. Check Out the Murals
See the lovely and impressive murals throughout downtown Lexington and nearby neighborhoods. My favorite pieces were Lincoln, Louis Armstrong, and Lilly and the Silly Monkeys.
10. Have a Helpin’ of BBQ
Have a BBQ lunch from a beloved Lexington institution: Red State BBQ. Choose from your favorites, brisket, pulled pork, pulled chicken, sausage, and ribs, and pair those choices with a tasty side dish like cheese grits, slaw, baked beans, or corn pudding. Of course, cornbread goes wonderfully with your meal, as does a big, cold sweet tea.
11. Shop a Phenomenal Bookstore
If you like bookstores, wait until you see what Lexington offers. At Lexington Green, Joseph-Beth Booksellers is a massive two-story book lovers’ dream store with gifts, a vast selection of books and magazines, and even a top-notch restaurant. The whole lower level is dedicated to kids and had some of the best choices I’ve ever seen. Plus, the store is beautiful!
12. Drink a Tasty Coffee
Nate’s Coffee is a Lexington, Kentucky institution. Drink fresh-roasted coffee or enjoy one of their other tasty hand-crafted beverages. Food choices include quiche, homemade pastries, and muffins.
13. Stay in a Luxury Hotel
The premier accommodations in Lexington are at the 21C Museum Hotel Lexington. Located within walking distance to many things in downtown Lexington, the 21C has spacious rooms with elegant furnishings, killer views, and super high ceilings. It is located in the old Fayette National Bank Building and has been revered as one of the Top Hotels in the South by Condé Nast Traveler in 2017 and 2019. I loved having a couch and so many windows (corner king) to see the downtown come alive by light at night.
Lockbox is the 21C Hotel’s onsite restaurant, offering upscale eats in a contemporary setting. Rooms feature free Wifi, a 24-hour fitness center, pet-friendly accommodations, and tastefully decorated rooms.
14. Learn About Henry Clay
Lexington is home to Ashland: The Henry Clay Estate, a regal plantation home built for the lawyer and politician who became known as “The Great Compromiser.” The property is open to the public, and many locals come there to walk, visit with friends, and picnic. Tours of the prestigious estate are offered year-round. Choose from the three tours offered at Ashland: Signature mansion, Traces slavery at Ashland, and a third, including Women’s Voices, the smokehouse, graveyard, and grounds.
15. Admire the Old Courthouse
Adjacent to the 21C Museum Hotel Lexington is the beautiful Old Fayette County Courthouse, a picturesque place with much history. Take a few minutes to stroll around and enjoy the scenery, stories, and people-watching at this 1899 gem listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
16. Visit the Kentucky Horse Park
This beloved attraction, one of the most famous equine parks in the world, will make a horse lover out of anyone. I know because it recently had that effect on me. You’ll find a theme park of sorts at the Kentucky Horse Park, with museums, programming, events, live races, and so much more. There is even a food truck for snacks and lunch since chances are, you’ll be at the park for a long time.
My favorite part was the Big Barn, housing horses from around the world. Elvis and Kaiser, both award-winning Clydesdales (and friends) love any attention you bring their way. Kaiser is highly decorated but doesn’t like to brag about himself.
17. Eat the State Dish
Try a Kentucky Hot Brown at Brontë Bistro, a full-service restaurant inside Joseph-Beth Booksellers. The Hot Brown is a slice of Texas toast topped with ham, turkey, crisp bacon, and tomato, then covered in mornay sauce and cheddar cheese. It is so freaking good, but don’t think about the calorie content.
18. Cheer on the Wildcats
Kentucky basketball is highly desired in the Horse Capital of the World. Come cheer on the blue and white Kentucky Wildcats, the University of Kentucky’s award-winning basketball team. Games are played at Rupp Arena and led by Coach John Calipari.
19. Find the Painted Horses Around Town
You’ll see creatively painted horse statues (Gallopalooza) around Lexington’s streets that are fun to find. There are 82, to be exact. This civic beautification project started back in the early 2000s. You can learn about the horse statue sponsor, artist, and title in this link.
20. See a Concert or Show
Another use for Rupp Arena, in the heart of Lexington’s downtown, is world-class concerts, conventions, and touring shows. This 23,000 seat arena opened in 1976 and has seen the likes of Paul McCartney, INXS, Pearl Jam, and Taylor Swift.
21. Go to a Horse Race
Lexington is home to Keeneland, a dirt and turf horse-racing track that runs in April and October. This National Historic Landmark is a great place to see a live-action horse race and learn all about the art of horse-betting. The Breeders’ Cup takes place here each October (though November in 2020) and the purse can range from one million to six million.
22. People Watch at the Pavilion
The Fifth Third Pavilion at Tandy Centennial Park (formerly Cheapside Park) in downtown Lexington is the ultimate place to enjoy the fresh air, Saturday Farmers’ Market (pre-COVID), and people watch. You will find live music there on Thursdays April through October and fantastic awesome dining choices along the perimeter of this open-air pavilion.
23. Eat Kentucky Candies
Enjoy delicious assorted chocolates from Old Kentucky Chocolates, including Fleur de Sel Caramels, moonshine truffles, gourmet bourbon chocolates, or chocolate-covered potato chips, to name a few.
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