18 Things to Do in Lexington KY
By Janet Benoir – October 20, 2023
Lexington, Kentucky wears the title of Horse Capital of the World with pride. Its picturesque rolling hills and world-class race courses make it the ideal destination for equine enthusiasts. But that’s not all Lexington has to offer – it’s also famous for its bourbon, with numerous distilleries situated within the city limits.
While horses and bourbon might be the city’s claim to fame, there is an abundance of activities for visitors to enjoy. From museums and gardens to outdoor adventures and historical sites, Lexington has something for everyone. So, get ready to explore Lexington and discover all the amazing things to do on your next visit.
Keeneland Race Course
At Keeneland, you can experience the excitement of thoroughbred horse racing and sales in a beautiful setting near the Blue Grass Airport in Kentucky. You can witness the grace and power of these exceptional horses up close from the paddock before they embark on exhilarating races.
Enhance your understanding of Keeneland’s rich history and its behind-the-scenes activities by taking a guided walking tour. The Keeneland Library offers a wealth of information about the horses, races, and the surrounding area, adding to the overall horse racing experience you can treasure during your visit.
The Kentucky Castle
You might have heard about the Kentucky Castle, but it’s truly a sight to behold. From the moment you step foot into the castle, you’ll be treated like royalty with a warm welcome, delectable dining, and a host of luxurious features that ensure a memorable stay.
There’s more to this enchanting place than just being a hotel. The castle boasts farm-to-table restaurants, dynamic event venues, and a rejuvenating spa. Year-round events, catered to all ages, are hosted, and spaces can be rented for private functions. Be sure to experience the captivating murder mystery dinner in the ballroom – the excitement is unparalleled.
Kentucky Horse Park
At Kentucky Horse Park, located in Lexington, you can immerse yourself in the world of thoroughbred horses. Venture on a tour that brings you to the Big Barns, where you’ll have the opportunity to meet and interact with these magnificent creatures. Feel free to pet them, snap a selfie, and become acquainted with their names.
In addition, exploring the on-site Smithsonian International Museum of the Horse is a must. This expansive museum showcases an array of images and artifacts that illustrate the enduring bond between humans and horses. Be sure to keep an eye out for upcoming events at this historic venue, as there’s always something captivating happening.
Red River Gorge & Natural Bridge State Resort Park
Located approximately an hour from Lexington, the breathtaking Red River Gorge and Natural Bridge State Resort Park offer a fantastic day trip option for nature enthusiasts. While at the state park, you have the chance to witness the awe-inspiring Natural Bridge, either by hiking the beautiful trail or taking the skylift. The vast Red River Gorge awaits exploration, presenting opportunities for kayaking, canoeing, fishing, and caving on Mill Creek Lake.
The area provides other leisurely pursuits. Immerse yourself in nature by visiting the Historic Nature Center, hiking Henson’s Arch, or venturing into Natural Bridge Cave. Afterward, unwind at the swimming complex, observe the local birds, set up a picnic, or browse the gift shop for unique souvenirs and crafts. To extend your stay, there are cabins available for rent, allowing you to fully experience all that the Red River Gorge and Natural Bridge State Resort Park have to offer.
Mammoth Cave National Park
Mammoth Cave boasts the title of the longest known cave system not only in the United States, but also globally, with over 400 miles of explored territory. This fascinating site has been drawing in visitors for well over a century.
Inside the cave, temperatures tend to remain around 54°F throughout the year. It’s a good idea to bring a light jacket or sweater and wear comfortable walking shoes. The surrounding landscape features rolling hills, deep rivers, and a rich diversity of flora and fauna.
Aviation Museum of Kentucky
Immerse yourself in the captivating world of aviation at the Aviation Museum of Kentucky. This museum offers an extensive array of both contemporary and historical aviation equipment, inviting you to dive deep into aerospace knowledge within its 20,000 square foot space.
Discover aircraft hangars showcasing modern military planes, alongside classic and historic aircraft. Don’t miss the opportunity to admire the iconic A-4 Skyhawk from the US Navy’s Blue Angels. Furthermore, uncover the fascinating stories of Kentucky’s aviation trailblazers, such as Matthew B. Sellers and Willa Brown Chappell, who significantly shaped the industry.
Mary Todd Lincoln House
Immerse yourself in the captivating family home of Mary Todd Lincoln, the esteemed wife of Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States. This historical site offers engrossing experiences for visitors of all ages, even incorporating interactive games tailored for children between the ages of 5 and 9.
Embark on a self-guided tour to delve into the rooms of this striking home. Unravel intriguing details about the Todd and Lincoln families as you navigate through the house, enriching your appreciation for their legacy.
The Henry Clay Estate
Ashland, the historic estate of statesman Henry Clay, spans over 600 acres, encompassing a 19th-century mansion, various buildings, lush gardens, and meandering paths. As you tour the grounds, gain insight into Clay’s life and his significant contributions to the United States.
Marvel at the stunning artistic sculptures scattered throughout the estate, and attend special events held year-round. Don’t miss the seasonal Ginko Tree Café for a delightful meal. With over two centuries of national importance, Ashland holds a special place as one of Kentucky’s most valued sites.
While in Lexington, visiting Woodford Reserve is a must for bourbon enthusiasts. This historic distillery nestled in the heart of Kentucky offers you an opportunity to learn about the history and process of making bourbon. Partake in a guided tour to explore the beautiful grounds, limestone warehouses, and copper stills that give this bourbon its unique flavor.
During your visit, don’t miss the chance to taste some of Woodford Reserve’s finest bourbons. Their tasting sessions allow you to sample various expressions, guided by knowledgeable staff who can explain the tasting notes and differences in each glass. For an unforgettable experience, make a reservation at the distillery’s on-site restaurant to enjoy a delicious meal expertly paired with their exquisite bourbons.
If you’re visiting Lexington and want to immerse yourself in the local scene, a visit to the Four Roses Distillery should be on your list. This famous bourbon distillery offers a unique experience where you can tour the facility, learn about the bourbon-making process, and even sample some of the popular variants.
During your tour at Four Roses, you’ll gain a better understanding of how they craft their distinct bourbon through their time-honored techniques. Additionally, you can enjoy the beautiful Spanish Mission-style architecture that contributes to the memorable ambiance. Don’t forget to stop by the gift shop to purchase a souvenir or a bottle of your newfound favorite bourbon to take home with you.
Lexington Brewing and Distilling Company
Indulge in the flavors of exceptional spirits and beers at the Lexington Brewing and Distilling Company, where the renowned Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale can be found. Savor beverages crafted with the expertise of a passionate brewer with a Ph.D. in solid-state fermentation, ensuring unique and unparalleled tastes.
When visiting this distinguished distillery, established in 1794, you’ll experience a heartfelt greeting indicative of a family-owned business. Despite challenges, the company has persevered in crafting high-quality drinks using natural ingredients. Discover the spacious viewing area showcasing the entire bottling operation, and don’t forget to browse the gift shop filled with remarkable items.
James E. Pepper Distillery
Familiarize yourself with the captivating legacy of this historic, award-winning whiskey label. Knowledgeable tour guides are often present to enlighten visitors about the courageous Mr. Pepper and the persistent efforts to preserve the distillery over the years. Immerse yourself in the past as you explore the vintage artifacts displayed in the distillery museum.
For those interested in purchasable keepsakes, the gift shop is highly recommended with a variety of distinctive items waiting to be discovered. Alternatively, why not experience both the tasting and the shopping during your visit? Whether you decide to savor the rich flavors at the bar or on the patio, your time spent at the James E. Pepper Distillery in Lexington is guaranteed to be a memorable experience.
Old Kentucky Chocolates
Experience pure bliss as you savor the bourbon chocolates crafted at Old Kentucky Chocolates. This esteemed confectionery has been perfecting their candy-making skills for over half a century, delivering remarkable consistency.
Embark on an available tour to witness the fascinating chocolate-making process firsthand. Don’t forget to stop by the gift shop, where you’ll undoubtedly discover a delightful treat to indulge in.
The Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill
Make your way to Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill, where endless opportunities for exploration, dining, shopping, and relaxation await. Don’t miss out on popular attractions like the historic center, the preserve, and the farm—ideal places for both family fun and meeting adorable furry companions.
During your visit, enjoy mouthwatering meals at The Trustees’ Table, featuring fresh, seasonal ingredients harvested from the village gardens. For a comfortable stay, choose from 72 guest rooms at The Inn or opt for a cozy cottage, each elegantly furnished with Shaker reproduction pieces.
Waveland State Historic Site
At Waveland State Historic Site, you will find a captivating 19th-century Antebellum house. As you take a guided tour, you will delve into the daily lives of the family who resided there, as well as the enslaved people who lived and worked at the site during the 1850s.
Your children can enjoy the playground, while others admire the trails and bridges throughout the property. Discover the old Mill House structure, a natural spring, and footbridges, or explore the museum with its array of historic artifacts. Lastly, unwind with a picnic at the tables and grills on the lawn.
Raven Run Nature Sanctuary
During your visit to Lexington, make sure to explore the captivating Raven Run Nature Sanctuary. Alongside the Kentucky River, you’ll have a chance to discover traces of 19th-century settlers if you pay close attention.
As you wander through the sanctuary’s hiking trails, take time to appreciate sights like Evans Mill, the resting place of Archibald Moore at Moore Grave, the historic Prather Homestead, and the spectacular view of the Kentucky River. Keep your eyes peeled for the wildlife that call this sanctuary home.
McConnell Springs Park
When visiting Lexington, McConnell Springs Park is a must-see destination. As the founding site of the city back in 1775, it’s steeped in history and offers visitors a glimpse of natural beauty. Today, the park serves as a hub for numerous special events, making it a significant place of interest.
As you explore the park, immerse yourself in the captivating surroundings. Stroll along the lush vegetation, taking in the fragrant aroma of flowers. Experience the pond wetlands at the grassy slope, the refreshing natural spring, and the quaint, abandoned quarry while enjoying McConnell Springs Park.
Mill Ridge Farm
Immerse yourself in the world of thoroughbred horse breeding and racing at the renowned Mill Ridge Farm. Embark on a tour that begins at the breeding shed and discover how the exceptional landscape contributes to the success of these horses.
Admire the top-of-the-line thoroughbreds as they graze or casually stroll across the picturesque farm. Learn about the comprehensive services provided by Mill Ridge Farm, such as breeding, selling, boarding, consigning, and consulting with expertise in the world of thoroughbred horses.