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21 Best Things to Do in Lexington, Kentucky

21 Best Things to Do in Lexington, Kentucky

Lexington, Kentucky, is a city steeped in horse racing history and, as such, is appropriately nicknamed the Horse Capital of the World. But this popular Kentucky vacation destination is home to more than just horses.

Though 450 horse farms surround the community, Lexington is a bustling location with many fun activities.

The historic downtown Lexington area sets the scene for exploring a mixture of art galleries, theaters, restaurants, parks, and charming neighborhoods. Visiting Lexington is perfect for history buffs, outdoor adventurers, craft beer enthusiasts, and anyone looking for a unique adventure. 

For those interested in history, you’ll want to check out the Mary Todd Lincoln House. If you’re looking for outdoor adventures, where do we begin?

The Jacobson Park, Raven Run Nature Sanctuary, and especially the Kentucky Horse Park are all up your alley. For those looking for excellent Kentucky craft beer, you’ll want to check out the Lexington Brewing and Distilling Co. or West Sixth Brewing.

TL;DR

  • Most significant landmark – Mary Todd Lincoln House
  • Best park – Jacobson Park
  • Free activity – Raven Run Nature Sanctuary
  • Activity for kids – Kentucky Horse Park
  • Activity for adults – Lexington Brewing and Distilling Co.
  • Place to eat – Saul Good Restaurant & Pub
  • Nightlife – McCarthy’s Irish Bar
  • Place to stay – The Kentucky Castle

Things to Do in Lexington, Kentucky

1. Jacobson Park

Lake in Jacobson Park

Address: 4001 Athens-Boonesboro Road, Lexington, KY 40509

Jacobson Park offers outdoor explorers 216 acres of park-reserved land nestled in east Lexington. The park has many amenities, including sports courts, basketball courts, a dog park, hiking trails, fishing opportunities, and pedal boats.

So, if you’re traveling with kids on a hot summer’s day, stop by Jacobson Park to splash around on the playground, an interactive water feature for kids, and then head down to the marina to rent a kayak or pedal boat. 

There is so much to do at Jacobson Park that you may spend all day there. So, if you want, bring along a picnic and take a break from exploring and playing, or visit the park’s concession stand, which offers beverages, hotdogs, chips, candy, and popsicles.

No reservations are needed to enjoy the park, and all amenities are available on a first-come, first-served basis. However, if you plan to visit with a large party or want to reserve one of the picnic pavilions, you can do so in advance on the park’s website.

See Related: Things to Do in Williamstown, Kentucky

2. Mary Todd Lincoln House

Mary Todd Lincoln House Architecture
James R. Martin / Shutterstock.com

Address: 578 West Main St, Lexington, KY 40507

Explore the family home of one of America’s most beloved first ladies. The Mary Todd Lincoln House was the family home of President Abraham Lincoln’s wife and features unique items and displays associated with her sophisticated life. Though her life was full of controversy and tragedy, Mary is one of the few women in American history to face these struggles head-on. 

The museum houses several displays and activities that take you on a journey into the life of Mary. The architecture, collections, and beauty of this location make the Mary Todd Lincoln House one of the must-see places while in Lexington. Self-guided tours allow you to explore this historic house at your own pace.

3. Raven Run Nature Sanctuary

Creek at Raven Run Nature Sanctuary

Address: 3885 Raven Run Way, Lexington, KY 40515

Raven Run showcases the natural beauty of the Kentucky River Palisades and displays early Kentucky history. This 734-acre nature sanctuary is dedicated to preserving the area’s natural beauty, and it doesn’t disappoint. The sanctuary is operated by the Lexington Parks and Recreation Department, which means it is open for public enjoyment and free of charge.

Raven Run has more than 10 miles of hiking trails that follow winding streams, beautiful meadows, and breathtaking woodlands. During your hiking adventures, you may encounter more than 200 species of birds that call the park home all year.

Visiting the Nature Center at Raven Run is a must for anyone in Lexington because it houses many hands-on exhibits, information about birds, mammals, ferns, and the history of the sanctuary, as well as Kentucky’s natural and historical past.

No reservations or tickets are needed to visit Raven Run; however, all guests must sign in at the Nature Center before exploring the sanctuary.

See Related: Best Places to Visit in the US

4. Kentucky Horse Park

Grazing Horses at Kentucky Horse Park

Address: 4089 Iron Works Parkway, Lexington, KY 40511

Horses have been roaming the grounds of the Kentucky Horse Park for more than 200 years, and today, the park offers many opportunities for people to experience horse racing up close and personal. Each year, the Kentucky Horse Park welcomes more than 500,000 visitors from around the world for live shows, horseback riding, camping, and much more.

Guests can enjoy an exhilarating day at the Kentucky Horse Park by exploring the International Museum of the Horse, the American Saddlebred Museum, horseback riding, or taking the kids for pony rides.

The park offers various tours and demonstrations throughout the year, which guests of all ages enjoy. In addition, the Kentucky Horse Park is pet-friendly, so feel free to bring your furry friend along for the day.

5. Lexington Brewing and Distilling Co.

Lexington Brewing and Distilling Co. Building
image by BionicOne/TripAdvisor

Address: 401 Cross Street, Lexington, KY 40508

The Lexington Brewing & Distilling Co. is nestled in the heart of Kentucky bourbon country, celebrating bold imaginations steeped in history, charm, and excitement. This family-owned brewery is backed by the experience of seven generations of Irish distillers, brewers, and coopers, making this brewery the place in Lexington to grab a pint or two.

Nothing beats the excellence of Lexington Brewing & Distilling Co., and they are proud to take you on a tour and pour your favorite beverages with pride.

You can experience the amazingness behind every pour at this brewery by visiting on your own or exploring the world-renowned Kentucky Bourbon Trail, where you can experience and explore a combination of unique breweries and distilleries. 

If you plan to enjoy a tour or beverage at the Lexington Brewing & Distilling Co. or partake in the activities along the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, make reservations to stay at the Hilton Lexington Downtown, which puts you close to all the activities Lexington has to offer. 

The highly-rated McCarthy’s Irish Bar is a three-minute walk from the hotel for some additional late-night drinks.

See Related: Visiting The Wooldridge Monuments – Mayfield, KY

6. Saul Good Restaurant & Pub

Saul Good Restaurant Outdoor Seats, Lexington, Kentucky
image by Management/TripAdvisor

Address: 3801 Mall Road, Suite 120, Lexington, KY 40503

Since 2008, Saul Good has served unique, eclectic flavors in a casual atmosphere. This restaurant is a favorite among Lexington locals, providing the same high-quality food and service since it opened its doors. 

One of the most popular, savory, and mouthwatering items on the menu is BBQ Chicken Pizza, a cheesy pizza with pulled chicken smothered in their signature, house-made BBQ sauce.

Try to save room for dessert because the peanut butter chocolate tart is a must. Reservations are unnecessary to dine at Saul Good, but you can order online for pick-up or hotel room delivery.

See Related: Best Places to Travel in Your 20s in the US

7. Aviation Museum of Kentucky

Aviation Museum of Kentucky Entrance
image by skpy is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Address: 4029 Airport Road, Lexington, KY 40510

At the Blue Grass Airport, the Aviation Museum of Kentucky features various aircraft, aviation artifacts, equipment, interactive displays, and simulators. The collection continuously changes, rotating in various historic planes, including a rare Crosley “Moonbeam” biplane, a Blue Angels A-4 Skyhawk, and a Wright Flyer I. 

The museum has over 20,000 square feet of space, featuring a library and an aircraft restoration and repair shop. Displays at the museum feature exhibits such as Women in Aviation, as well as others relating to aircraft restoration, the history of flying, and more. 

This museum is the perfect place for families to explore; with plenty of space to run around and exciting exhibits, everyone will love the Aviation Museum of Kentucky. Get your tickets for the Aviation Museum of Kentucky before going and enjoying your self-guided tour. 

8. Ashland – The Henry Clay Estate

Ashland, The Henry Clay Estate Architecture
Irina Mos / Shutterstock.com

Address: 120 Sycamore Road, Lexington, KY 40502

No visit to Lexington is complete without a guided tour of the Henry Clay Estate. Ashland is the perfect historic location to visit and explore to learn more about the intriguing and rich history of the area and one of Kentucky’s most famous statesmen. The estate was Clay’s cherished home for almost a half-century and has been carefully preserved for visitors to explore and discover. 

Inside Ashland is a small cafe and plenty of exhibits featuring the life of Clay and others who lived and worked on the property. Historic displays include the history of Ashland, women of Ashland, a greenhouse, gardens, and more. 

A guided tour of the Henry Clay Estate is the best way to enjoy this beautifully maintained historic site. Book your stay in Lexington to enjoy everything this fabulous city offers. The Hyatt Regency Lexington is about ten minutes from the Henry Clay Estate and is the perfect central location for all your explorations.

9. McConnell Springs Park

Address: 416 Rebmann Lane, Lexington, KY 40504

McConnell Springs Park is a 26-acre natural area in the historic springs where the city of Lexington was named. The landscape at McConnell Springs Park was carved by the water-dissolving rock, including limestone, that created sinkholes, caves, springs, and underground streams.

The park is also the only known site in Fayette County where a series of artesian springs appear at the surface, disappear underground, and reappear. 

The park is home to two major natural springs, the Blue Hole and the Boils, which are must-sees when exploring the area. Other features at McConnell Springs Parks include the Final Sink, Preston’s Cave, and more than two miles of hiking trails. 

No admission tickets are needed to explore McConnell Springs Park; however, preregistration is required if you want to participate in some planned activities. The park’s website contains information about upcoming events and programs and how to register.

See Related: Things to Do in Elizabethtown, Kentucky

10. Third Street Stuff & Coffee

Third Street Stuff & Coffee Interior

Address: 257 North Limestone #1, Lexington, KY 40507

Third Street Stuff & Coffee has been named the “Best Lexington Coffee Shop” by Business Insider. It has become a staple of the Lexington community, offering great cups of coffee. This quaint coffee shop is colorful and helps make Lexington so unforgettable. 

In addition to the fabulous coffee and treats, Third Street Stuff & Coffee showcases and sells unique, colorful items. Local artisans handcraft many of the items on display, and they’re for sale at this shop, making this one of the town’s most unique and must-see locations. 

No reservations are needed when visiting Third Street Stuff & Coffee. Visit their website for additional hours, menus, and special event information. 

11. Old Kentucky Chocolates

Kentucky Store with Old Kentucky Chocolates
Baileycombs13, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Address: 450 Southland Drive, Lexington, KY 40503

Lexington is more than the Horse Capital of the World. This pasture-filled community is home to many fabulous chocolate companies, including the famous Old Kentucky Chocolates. Since the first Bourbon Chocolate was created in 1964, Kentucky has inspired chocolatiers to express their creativity and mastery through various decadent chocolate creations. 

Discover why so many Lexington locals and visitors visit Old Kentucky Chocolates annually. This location offers a mix of chocolate creations, including Bourbon truffles, cherries, chocolate-covered potato chips, and all your favorite classic chocolate candies. 

12. Waveland State Historic Site

Waveland State Historic Site Building
ehrlif / Shutterstock.com

Address: 225 Waveland Museum Lane, Lexington, KY 40514

Waveland State Historic Site has everything Lexington visitors want when exploring Kentucky’s history. This historic site offers access to the entire estate, featuring hiking trails, playgrounds, gardens, picnic areas, and more. The location is also known as the Joseph Bryan estate and still has several original buildings, including the smokehouse, ice house, and slave quarters. 

When visiting Waveland State Historic Site, the top things to do are tour and explore the historic mansion, visit the gift shop, enjoy Tea on Tuesdays, and stroll through the grounds. The museum has many historical artifacts, documents, and information about the estate and Kentucky’s history. Guided tours are available, or you can explore the grounds independently.

Plan by getting a complete list of hours and activities before your visit. Upon arrival, purchase your admission tickets to the Waveland State Historic Site at the gift shop. 

See Related: Best Vacation for a Group of Friends

13. University of Kentucky Art Museum

University of Kentucky Art Museum Entrance
image by Gene R J/TripAdvisor

Address: 405 Rose Street, Lexington, KY 40508

As part of the University of Kentucky’s College of Fine Arts program, the University of Kentucky Art Museum displays and encourages an understanding and appreciation of art. Displays showcase art from diverse cultures and historical periods, giving Lexington visitors a thorough look into the world of art. 

The art museum houses over 5,000 objects, including permanent displays and temporary exhibitions. Additionally, guests can enjoy educational programs where they get a closer look into the art, its role in American history, and how it impacts our world.

Admission to the University of Kentucky Art Museum is free, but all guests will be prompted to check in and register at the front desk before entering.

14. Keeneland

Paddock lanes and a thoroughbred racehorse at Keeneland
Danita Delimont / Shutterstock.com

Address: 4201 Versailles Road, Lexington, KY 40510

Founded in 1936, Keeneland’s mission is to continually invest in industry and help preserve the tradition of Thoroughbred racing. This location was intended to be a special place to symbolize the best that Thoroughbred racing has to offer. Plus, being in the heart of Horse Country, Keeneland is in the best position possible for its mission.

Keeneland is the perfect place to visit and explore, especially when wanting to learn more about Thoroughbred racing and its impact on the local community. For an entertaining and informative experience, this horse farm tour and Keeneland Racecourse visit is perfect for the whole family.

When you want to experience and enjoy all the amazing things Kentucky offers in the Lexington area, make plans to stay at The Kentucky Castle. This location is down the road from Keeneland and a perfect place to spend your getaway.

15. Kentucky Theatre

Kentucky Theatre Entrance
Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock.com

Address: 214 East Main St, Lexington, KY 40507

The Kentucky Theatre is dedicated to continuing the best traditions Kentucky is known for, including supporting independent films, scheduling its Summer Classics series, hosting midnight showtimes for the Rocky Horror Picture Show, and more.

In addition, the Kentucky Theatre is the place to visit when wanting to see a historic landmark theater and admire its fascinating architectural qualities. 

This theater features classic and new movies, providing a unique show calendar, including curated film festivals, musical programming, and the Kentucky Film Festival.

16. Hopemont

Hopemont Building
image by Management/TripAdvisor

Address: 201 Mill Street, Lexington, KY 40507

Hopemont, also known as the Hunt-Morgan House, is a Federal-style residence built by John Wesley Hunt in 1814. Wesley was the first millionaire west of the Alleghenies, and his historic home is now a part of the Gratz Park Historic District.

The Blue Grass Trust for Historic Preservation saved the home in 1955, and it has since been restored to its original Federal appearance.  This historic home is also the location for the Alexander T. Hunt Civil War Museum, which is set on the house’s second floor. 

Visit the Blue Grass Trust’s website for additional information about visiting the Hunt-Morgan House, including hours of the museum and booking guided tours.

See Related: Best Unknown Places to Visit in the US

17. Lexington Public Library

Lexington Public Library Interior
Nagel Photography / Shutterstock.com

Address: 140 East Main St., Lexington, KY 40507

While a visit to a local library doesn’t usually sound like a great vacation idea, the Lexington Public Library’s Central Branch, however, includes a hidden gem making it an exception: this library houses the world’s largest ceiling clock.

Set inside the rotunda of the Central Library, the world’s largest ceiling clock is on display with its five-story Foucault pendulum in a setting that depicts the history of the horse in the Bluegrass. The pendulum moves based on the Earth’s natural rotation and gravitational pull, creating unique swaying movements. 

Built in 2001, this display, completed with terrazzo flooring, a frieze, and a pendulum, complements the look of the ceiling clock, which features Roman numerals, chimes, and lights. In addition, the perimeter of the clock has a series of 60 horses painted based on photographs taken in 1872 by Eadweard Muybridge. 

Admission to see the clock, the frieze, and the Foucault pendulum is free. Visit the Lexington Public Library website for additional information about hours of operation and how to see this fascinating display that is truly a work of art.

18. Red Mile

Red Mile Scenery

image by J3nCary/TripAdvisor

Address: 1200 Red Mile Rd, Lexington, KY 40504

Discover what the excitement of Standardbred harness racing is all about by visiting the iconic Red Mile Racetrack. This Lexington attraction is the home of the Kentucky Futurity, one of the three jewels of the Trotting Triple Crown.

As the second-oldest harness racing track in the world, Red Mile Racetrack has continued its racing legacy since 1875. 

The Red Mile Racetrack, named for its one-mile-long red clay track, hosts harness racing, simulcasting, and pari-mutuel gaming terminals, creating a unique, exciting, and dynamic entertainment destination.

19. West Sixth Brewing

West Sixth Brewing Interior
image by Management/TripAdvisor

Address: 817 East Market Street, Lexington, KY 40508

Kentucky beer tastes better, and West Sixth Brewing has been offering Lexington’s best beer since 2012. Set in a 100-year-old building called the Bread Box, this location was once the home of the Rainbo Bread Factory and is a historical gem you do not want to miss.

West Sixth Brewing takes pride in knowing its craft beer has positively impacted the community and is the finest craft beer in the area. West Sixth’s brewing masters craft various beers, including the original West Sixth IPA.

This brewery is the perfect place to enjoy a tour, see how they craft the beer, and then gather with friends for some great beverages. Visit West Sixth Brewing for additional tour information and to make reservations for your craft beer experience.

See Related: Most Beautiful & Best Vacations in the US

20. The Lexington Cemetery

Lexington Cemetery Trail and Trees

Address: 833 W Main St, Lexington, KY 40508

Since 1849, the Lexington Cemetery has been a historical landmark, operated entirely by a private non-profit organization. However, the overall beauty of the cemetery is the biggest attraction, bringing people from around the world to Lexington to admire its historical significance that documents the area’s social, military, political, and environmental history. 

The cemetery covers 170 acres and is home to more than 74,000 internments, and it will continue to accommodate internments for the next 100 years. 

The Lexington Cemetery offers more than a beautiful final resting place for those buried there. It is a place of wonder and breathtaking landscapes filled with many species of flora and fauna.

To share the area’s history, the Lexington Cemetery is open for self-guided and guided tours. Visit the Lexington Cemetery for additional information about tours and hours of operation.

21. Kentucky Children’s Garden

Kentucky Children's Garden Scenery
image by JackLandKY/TripAdvisor

Address: 500 Alumni Dr, Lexington, KY 40503

The Kentucky Children’s Garden is set at the University of Kentucky, offering a two-acre garden designed to share joy and promote a curiosity for nature and plants among children.

The park is best suited for children between the ages of two and six and their families. The best thing about this garden is that it represents the best of Kentucky’s landscapes through natural and man-made landscapes and gardens. 

Themed gardens at this attraction include butterfly, vegetable, and transportation gardens. The Kentucky Children’s Garden also features a fishing pond, nature center, observation point, and more.

The gardens offer children a way to play and expand their emotional, physical, and social development. Plus, this garden is a lot of fun to explore. 

The Kentucky Children’s Garden is open seasonally, starting on April 1 each year. Tours, programs, and operating hours are weather permitting; more details can be found on their website.

Tours in Lexington

1. Walking Food Tour Downtown Lexington Top Recommendation

Enjoy a walking tour filled with mouthwatering food and local history. Pass by places such as the Symington Building, Phoenix Park, and The Square on your way to five stops with delicious bites at each. Learn about Lexington's colorful characters like Colonel Sanders, James B. Taylor, and Jim Porter while discovering unique foods like Buzz Buttons and freshly baked breads from local bakeries.

2. From Lexington: Horse Farm Tour & Keeneland Race Track Visit

The horse industry is an integral part of Kentucky's culture and history. Spend an unforgettable day in Lexington’s Bluegrass Country, exploring the beautiful Kentucky countryside. Visit famous horse farms and enjoy a tour of the magnificent Keeneland Race Course. Learn about the history of the equine industry in Kentucky as you visit thoroughbred horse farms to learn about the horse's training and breeding. Enjoy a tour of the historic Keeneland Race Track, where you will explore filming locations of Secretariat, Seabiscuit, and Dreamer.

3. Lexington: Ashland Henry Clay Estate Ticket with Guided Tour

Come explore the 18-room mansion of Ashland while learning the story of Kentucky's most famous statesman. The tours at Ashland Historic Site provide a deeper context to Henry Clay's legacy and American History. This site is managed by the National Park Service, which offers fascinating tours that tell the story of this important piece of American political history.

FAQ

What is Lexington known for? 

Lexington, Kentucky, is best known for being the world’s Horse Capital due to its illustrious horse breeding and training facility history. Additionally, the region is home to the University of Kentucky and other cultural and historical museums and attractions.

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