A famous destination for horse racing enthusiasts, Lexington, KY, is a charming Southern city with a choice of things to see and do. Visit Keeneland, tour the horse stables at Kentucky Horse Park, take a romantic walk through the Arboretum, or rent a pedal-boat in Jacobson Park. History buffs can tour the childhood home of Mary Todd Lincoln and Waveland State Historic Site. Visitors have a choice of great hotels, wedding venues and restaurants. Other top things to do on your weekend getaway or day trip to Lexington, KY include the Headley-Whitney Museum, the Old Kentucky Chocolate factory, the Aviation Museum of Kentucky and Raven Run Nature Sanctuary.
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This famous and historic horseracing arena attracts visitors year round. Even when races are not in session, Keeneland’s significance and extensive history make it a popular Lexington destination. Horses began racing at Keeneland, one of the top Lexington, KY attractions, in 1936, and since then, annual races have become a traditional event.
Keeneland is also host to practice meets for jockeys and horses preparing for the Kentucky Derby, as well as a series of horse auctions throughout the year. Visitors to Keeneland are able to view the racecourse, visit the indoor facility, and tour the sales complex. Keeneland’s website offers a calendar of upcoming events and ticket purchasing options.
4201 Versailles Rd, Lexington, Kentucky, Phone: 859-254-3412
2. Mary Todd Lincoln House
© Mary Todd Lincoln House
The childhood home of Mary Todd Lincoln, the 16th First Lady of the United States, has been preserved and memorialized, and is now open to the public as one of the top Lexington KY attractions. A unique site, this home has the distinct honor of being the first historical location restored in the name of a first lady.
The home features a collection of authentic artifacts, including furniture, portraits, and decor, from both the Lincoln and Todd families. Additionally, the home provides both guided tours and interpretive information on the families and the lives of the first lady, President Lincoln, and their children.
578 W Main St, Lexington, Kentucky, Phone: 859-233-9999
3. Kentucky Horse Park
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The Kentucky Horse Park is a roughly 1,000-acre facility that is a well-known working horse farm. The park offers visitors the chance to tour the horse stables and facilities, and witness the Horses of the World show, which occurs twice daily. The show includes a variety of rare and exotic horses from all over the globe, with riders dressed in authentic garb. The park also features a historic museum called International Museum of the Horse.
This Smithsonian Affiliate houses an extensive collection of authentic horse memorabilia and interpretive literature. The Park offers a frequently changing calendar of events, ranging from horse races to concerts to other sporting events. Finally, horse riding, carriage rides, and campgrounds are all available on site.
4089 Iron Works Pkwy, Lexington, Kentucky, Phone: 859-259-4200
4.Thoroughbred Heritage Horse Farm Tours
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Thoroughbred Heritage Horse Farms Tours offers visitors a chance to experience the scenic back roads of Kentucky countryside, and it gives them a glimpse into several of Lexington’s most prolific sites. The tour is accompanied by a local professional guide who provides information and insight into the site’s history and contributions to the city, along with the establishment’s relevance to the horse farming community.
If you are looking for fun things to do in Lexington, KY, this is a great place to visit. The walking tour lasts approximately three hours, and travels through the Kenneland Race Course, through an authentic horse farm, past the famous Calumet Farm, and to the filming locations of major equestrian based motion pictures, including Seabiscuit and Secretariat.
1900 Clays Mill Rd, Lexington, Kentucky, Phone: 859-260-8687
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5.Things to do in KY: Lexington Visitors Center
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Located in the core of downtown Lexington, the Lexington Visitors Center is an expansive and comprehensive resource for guests of the city. Staffed with Visitor Information Specialists who are knowledgeable about the history and attractions within Lexington, the center also has a wide section of literature and materials. City guides, attraction guides, and a collection of food, drink, and lodging materials are all present.
Additionally, the center offers educational videos on the surrounding area, known as the Bluegrass Region, which show on five different screens throughout the building. There is also a life-sized blue horse on site, other memorabilia that present excellent photo opportunities, and interpretive educational resources.
401 W Main St, Lexington, Kentucky, Phone: 859-233-7299
6.Raven Run Nature Sanctuary
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This 700-acre nature sanctuary is an expansive green space just outside of downtown Lexington. With a mission to preserve the unique beauty of the Kentucky River Palisades region, the sanctuary manages to illustrate the historical significance of the land while providing open, outdoor space to the people of Lexington. Today, guests can visit Raven Run and utilize the space’s 10 miles of hiking trails and walking paths to cross through meadows and woodlands and pass numerous streams.
The trails take visitors through the scenic and rustic Bluegrass wilderness and deep into Kentucky’s scenic landscape. Additionally, the remnants of 19th century settlers remain scattered throughout the sanctuary, and over 600 species of flora and fauna are known to exist on the grounds.
3885 Raven Run Way, Lexington, KY, Phone: 859-272-6105
7. The Arboretum
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The Arboretum is a year round Lexington staple. The University of Kentucky owns and operates this 100-acre space, which features seasonal activities and attractions within the various garden spaces. A children’s garden is located on the grounds, hosting a child sized interactive and educational outdoor activity area.
Additionally, a variety of themed gardens exist and act as both a conservation center and educational resource for visitors and academics. Throughout the year, a variety of family events and attractions are held on site, and they are outlined in a calendar on the arboretum’s website.
500 Alumni Dr, Lexington, KY, Phone: 859-257-6955
8.Things to do in KY: Jacobson Park
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This urban park features an expansive range of attractions and features ideal for city goers looking to experience a lush and inviting green space. On site, Jacobson Park features a large pond that hosts seasonal pedal-boat rentals and provides fishing opportunities. Numerous sporting endeavors are supported here, and the park has open fields, basketball courts, and volleyball nets.
A fenced in dog park allows pet owners to engage with their off-leash companions while separated from other park goers. Finally, open fields, covered shelters, and a sprawling playground provide ample opportunity for families and children to engage in fun activities within the park grounds.
4001 Athens Boonesboro Rd, Lexington, KY, Phone: 859-288-2900
9. Waveland State Historic Site
© Courtesy of ky.gov
Waveland is a historic antebellum plantation home that has been restored and reopened to the public. The grounds of Waveland contain the extravagant main house and with three outbuildings, which include slave quarters, a smokehouse, and an icehouse. The home is now operated daily, and guided tours provide education and insight into the family and enslaved peoples who lived and worked on the grounds of Waveland.
The home and outbuildings have all been outfitted with period era decor and furnishings, and original artifacts help illustrate the lifestyle that would have been typical of the spectrum of occupants who resided here. Additionally, a variety of seasonal events are held on the property, which are outlined on the National Park Service website.
225 Waveland Museum Ln, Lexington, KY, Phone: 859-272-3611
10. Coles 735 Main
© Coles 735 Main
Coles 735 Main is a historic Lexington establishment open for dinner. Renowned for its highly artistic and fine dining fare, the food at Coles is created and designed by executive chef, Cole Arimes. Chef Arimes is known for his imaginative and inventive perspective, as well as his ability to recreate American dishes with global infusion and inspired updates.
The atmosphere at Coles matches the characteristics of the food; the restaurant is refined and sophisticated, providing an elegant and artistic backdrop for guests. Diners are able to sit at the restaurant’s inviting indoor bar, in the classic dining room, or on the charming outdoor patio. The high-end ambience of Coles is elegant but welcoming, providing an intimate and comfortable ambiance.
735 E Main St, Lexington, KY, Phone: 859-266-9000
11.The Aviation Museum of Kentucky
© The Aviation Museum of Kentucky
Located at the Blue Grass Airport of Lexington, the Aviation Museum of Kentucky offers visitors first hand insight into modern and historical aircrafts. Hosting an expansive exhibit arena, the museum contains a series of authentic and replica displays, including both military and civilian pieces. The museum also houses a library, which includes information on aviation history and photos, documents, and artifacts that outline the transformation of air travel.
An onsite aircraft restoration and repair shop is available for visitors who are interested in learning more about how to maintain and repair a historical aircraft. Finally, interpretive information throughout the site provides guests with both useful and fascinating information.
4029 Airport Rd, Lexington, KY, Phone: 859-231-1219
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McConnell Springs is a sprawling nature park located within Lexington city limits. However, the park is best known for its historical significance for the city itself. A group of settlers, led by a man named William McConnell, reached this location in 1775, and developed a small establishment on the banks of the springs. In honor of an early Revolutionary War battle, the site was named Lexington.
The park is now preserved and contains trails reaching two miles long, including a paved half-mile loop. The park is also home to several historical artifacts, including the remnants of historical farm buildings, a dam, an old creamery, and historic stone fences.
13.Pies and Pints
© Pies and Pints
This beer and pizza joint offers guests a high quality selection of dining options for lunch and dinner in downtown Lexington. While salads and sandwiches also adorn the menu, Pies and Pints is mainly dedicated to producing high quality pizzas utilizing locally grown and fresh ingredients. The pizza crust is handmade on site, and the topping combinations are unique and creative. Additionally, a hand-selected variation of craft beer is available, specifically chosen as accompaniments for the pies.
While Pies and Pints is a local chain, it maintains a comfortable and unique feel, with casual but engaging décor that creates an industrial vibe. Brick walls, refurbished wood tables, metal bistro chairs, and twinkly lighting combine to make a space that feels polished but not formal, upscale but comfortable.
401 W Main St #106, Lexington, KY, Phone: 859-231-7437
14.Clawdaddy’s, Lexington, KY
This downtown establishment is open for lunch and dinner, providing Lexington diners with a variety of east coast inspired dishes. Founded by transplants from Maine, Clawdaddy’s is famous for its authentic Maine lobster rolls served in house baked rolls and smothered in a tasty secret sauce.
This trendy eatery is casual and bright, with metal, bistro style chairs and benches adorning a small interior dining space. The restaurant also has several additional seating arrangements outside. Guests order at the counter and can select from a variety of Maine shellfish, sides, and drinks to accompany their roll.
128 N Broadway, Lexington, KY, Phone: 859-258-2529
15.Things to do in KY: The Hunt-Morgan House
© The Hunt-Morgan House
Originally built in 1814, the Hunt-Morgan home was initially given the name Hopemont, and belonged to the first millionaire who lived on the west side of the Alleghenies Mountain Range. After its founding, the home would continue to house historically notable citizens, including a Confederate Army general and Dr. Thomas Hunt Morgan, the first Kentucky resident to win a Nobel Prize.
Preserved by a local preservation trust, the home has been restored and is now open to the public. The interior features historic and period decor and furniture, along with genuine artifacts pertaining to the home’s previous residents. Additionally, the building houses an on site Civil War museum.
201 N Mill St, Lexington, KY, Phone: 859-233-3290
© Institute 193
Institute 193 is an innovative contemporary art gallery in Lexington, striving to fill the cultural void in the United States outside of major metropolitan areas and foster a trend of showcasing cutting-edge art in mid-sized American cities. The gallery is open to the public Wednesdays through Saturdays during the morning and afternoon hours, showcasing unique exhibitions by emerging and mid-career artists, with a focus on artists and projects that highlight the American South's vibrant cultural landscape. In addition to regular exhibitions, which are showcased every several months, the gallery also presents live musical performances, art lectures, film screenings, and other public special events.
193 North Limestone Street, Lexington, KY 40507
© Triangle Grill
Located within Lexington’s Hilton Hotel, this eatery is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but closes down for a short period in the mid afternoon. Triangle Grill offers a standard American menu whose classic dishes are infused with influences from a modern perspective.
The eatery is emblazoned in bright, explosive colors, and vibrant artwork adorns the walls. While the restaurant might be considered upscale, it manages to maintain a low-key atmosphere. The furnishings and décor provide a classy ambiance, and the mood is casual and welcoming.
369 W Vine St, Lexington, KY, Phone: 859-281-3773
© Headley-Whitney Museum
Founded by local Lexington citizens George Headley and Barbara Whitney, the Headley-Whitney Museum features an array of artifacts and objects for guests to admire. Because Headley spent his life working as a jewelry designer, the museum is filled with his handiwork and collections. Additionally, dollhouses, miniatures, and bibelots, designed and crafted by Whitney, are also shown.
Through showcasing these works, the museum hopes to preserve and showcase the couple’s talent and contributions to the artistic landscape. The location also contains an expansive library, shell grotto, rose garden, and a series of rotating exhibits. The museum provides a gift shop for patrons to purchase souvenirs, and it also hosts educational workshops and seasonal events.
4435 Old Frankfort Pike, Lexington, KY, Phone: 859-255-6653
19.Tolly Ho Restaurant
© Tolly Ho Restaurant
This 24-hour establishment is ideal for a casual meal any time of the day. Featuring an authentically American diner menu with touches of Southern influences, the restaurant is a particular favorite among young people. Bright blue walls, counter service, and a youthful energy make this restaurant especially popular.
A small on site gift shop offers Tolly-Ho insignia and gifts along with small treats and snacks. The casual interior features basic furnishings and University decorations, and the restaurant has self-serve and self-clear service.
606 S Broadway, Lexington, KY, Phone: 859-253-2007
20.Azur Restaurant, Lexington, KY
© Azur Restaurant
This modern restaurant features a creative lunch and dinner menu along with a diverse cocktail list and an entire bourbon menu. With meal offerings made from fresh produce and locally grown ingredients, the restaurant boasts an experienced culinary team known for developing unique and innovative menu selections. Azur possesses a European flare with a modern feel and tasteful touches of classic elegance.
The trendy furnishings center around windowed walls that lead out onto an expansive patio seating area. A vast bar stretches across the restaurant, creating an open and vibrant ambiance.
3070 Lakecrest Cir #550, Lexington, KY, Phone: 859-296-1007
21.Old Kentucky Chocolates Tour
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One of the most well known makers of chocolate, the Old Kentucky Chocolate factory invites visitors to participate in a tour of its factory grounds. The tour provides guests with the opportunity to travel behind the scenes and experience the cooking, molding, and packing process Old Kentucky utilizes to create and sell their treats.
The tour brings visitors right to the edge of the table where goods are being crafted, allowing them to get an in-depth perspective into the crafting and handiwork that goes into creating each of the dozens of products sold on site. Additionally, a knowledgeable guide, who provides background and shares stories surrounding Old Kentucky’s past, leads each tour. The tour finishes with an “I love Lucy” moment where guests are able to taste a sample directly off the conveyer belt.
Southland Shopping Center, 450 Southland Dr, Lexington, KY, Phone: 859-278-4444
22.Dudley’s On Short Restaurant
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Open during the week for lunch and dinner and on Sunday for brunch, this classic Lexington restaurant is located in the heart of the downtown business district. Now housed in a bank, the restaurant is a favorite among upscale business diners. The menu provides classic American fine dining options and a comprehensive wine list.
The restaurant features a horseracing theme, yet it manages to maintain an upscale atmosphere. Diners can enjoy the classic appearance in the restaurant’s formal dining room, at the bar, or on the seasonal rooftop patio.
259 W Short St #125, Lexington, KY, Phone: 859-252-1010
23.The Merrick Inn, Lexington, Kentucky
© The Merrick Inn
This romantic restaurant is known for its Southern charm and contemporary Southern dinner fare. A staple of Lexington’s classic and traditional food scene, the Merrick Inn is a picturesque location known for sweeping green lawns and sprawling covered patio.
The menu offers a selection of Southern classics that have been enhanced by modern updates. The ambiance is sophisticated, and the establishment’s refined air and high quality food partner together in perfect elegance. While the bar dining area features a more relaxed vibe, the entire restaurant leans towards sophistication, including the formal dining room and outdoor patio area.
1074 Merrick Dr, Lexington, KY, Phone: 859-269-5417
24.Ceiling Clock and Foucault Pendulum
© Ceiling Clock and Foucault Pendulum
This three part artistic venture resides within the main atrium of Lexington’s Central Public Library. Donated by a local philanthropist, the library rotunda now hosts the world’s largest ceiling clock, a Foucault pendulum spanning five stories high, and an expansive frieze detailing the horse history of the Bluegrass region. The frieze itself details a number of historically remarkable horse breeds, along with eight Lexington based jockeys who have won the Kentucky Derby.
A regional masterpiece, the set is known worldwide for its unique structure, technology, and artistic success. Visitors are able to view the structure and engage with interpretive literature detailing the process of development and construction for the piece.
140 E Main St, Lexington, KY, Phone: 895-231-5500
25 Best Things to Do in Lexington, KY
- Keeneland, Photo: Courtesy of volga river - Fotolia.com
- Mary Todd Lincoln House, Photo: Mary Todd Lincoln House
- Kentucky Horse Park, Photo: Courtesy of fototrips - Fotolia.com
- Thoroughbred Heritage Horse Farm Tours, Photo: Courtesy of annaav - Fotolia.com
- Things to do in KY: Lexington Visitors Center, Photo: Courtesy of jackienix - Fotolia.com
- Raven Run Nature Sanctuary, Photo: Courtesy of vividec - Fotolia.com
- The Arboretum , Photo: Courtesy of Juliet Photography - Fotolia.com
- Things to do in KY: Jacobson Park, Photo: Courtesy of venars - Fotolia.com
- Waveland State Historic Site, Photo: Courtesy of ky.gov
- Coles 735 Main, Photo: Coles 735 Main
- The Aviation Museum of Kentucky, Photo: The Aviation Museum of Kentucky
- McConnell Springs, Photo: Courtesy of jackienix - Fotolia
- Pies and Pints, Photo: Pies and Pints
- Clawdaddy’s, Lexington, KY, Photo: Clawdaddy’s
- Things to do in KY: The Hunt-Morgan House, Photo: The Hunt-Morgan House
- Institute 193, Photo: Institute 193
- Triangle Grill, Photo: Triangle Grill
- Headley-Whitney Museum , Photo: Headley-Whitney Museum
- Tolly Ho Restaurant, Photo: Tolly Ho Restaurant
- Azur Restaurant, Lexington, KY, Photo: Azur Restaurant
- Old Kentucky Chocolates Tour, Photo: Courtesy of goodween123 - Fotolia.com
- Dudley’s On Short Restaurant, Photo: Courtesy of ivanmateev - Fotolia.com
- The Merrick Inn, Lexington, Kentucky, Photo: The Merrick Inn
- Ceiling Clock and Foucault Pendulum, Photo: Ceiling Clock and Foucault Pendulum
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of Henryk Sadura - Fotolia.com