Lexington is known as the Horse Capital of the World, and it wears the name proudly. From the world-famous Kentucky Derby to the Kentucky Horse Farm, equestrian sports, specialized horse breeding, and scenic trail rides, Lexington boasts a horse culture like no other place on earth.
There is much more to Lexington than just horses and racetracks, though. It has all the charm of a quaint Southern town juxtaposed with the vibrancy and amenities of a big city.
There’s plenty to keep you occupied here, whether that’s marveling at Greek Revival and Victorian homes, filling up on farm-to-table fare, or taking in some live bluegrass music. And that doesn’t even cover the city’s deep tradition of beer making and whiskey distilling that has been thriving since the 1800s.
With so many things to see and do, filling up your Lexington itinerary can be a real challenge. So we’ve compiled our list of the absolute best things to do in Lexington for you! Stick to these Lexington bucket list ideas, and you’ll be sure to have an amazing time in this wonderful part of the Bluegrass region!
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15 Fun and Unique Things to Do in Lexington, KY
1. Get in the Saddle at the Kentucky Horse Park
The Kentucky Horse Park is a theme park, operating horse farm, and equine competition facility all rolled into one. It’s one of the most popular things to do in Lexington and a must-visit for anyone even remotely interested in horses.
At the park, you can take a horse-drawn carriage ride, watch live equestrian demonstrations, visit the International Museum of the Horse, and even take a behind-the-scenes tour of the park’s working stables. The farm’s Hall of Champions is also home to prize-winning horses that they trot out for educational presentations and photo ops.
If you want a more personal interaction with the horses, the Kentucky Horse Park also offers activities like pony rides and horseback trail rides. There’s also a campground within the property if you’re interested in spending a night or two under the stars.
2. Explore the Trails of Raven Run Nature Sanctuary
Raven Run Nature Sanctuary is one of Lexington’s most beautiful and cherished spots, and escaping here is one of the must-do things in Lexington if you want to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. The sanctuary is a 743-acre woodland preserve with more than 10 miles of hiking trails that wind through forests, along streams, and over meadows.
The trails are well-marked and range from easy to moderate in difficulty, so you can tackle them solo or bring the whole family along! If you want to explore the sanctuary at a leisurely pace, there’s also a scenic loop drive that takes you past all the highlights.
Aside from the trails, there are also a few points of interest throughout the Raven Run Nature Sanctuary. These include a spot overlooking the Kentucky River, the ruins of an old gristmill, and the headstone of Archibald Moore, who was buried here in 1871.
Try to look for the remains of the Prather Homestead as well while you’re there. They were the family who used to own much of the sanctuary during the 1800s, and seeing it is quite surreal!
There’s also a native plant garden inside the sanctuary where you can learn about the different flora that grows in the area. Consider checking if there are programs going on as well. The sanctuary offers seasonal events like the Woodcock Walk, the Salamander Search, and the Owl Prowl.
3. See Beautiful Blooms at the Arboretum
The University of Kentucky Arboretum is a lovely public garden that’s free to enter. It’s open daily from dawn until dusk, and it’s the perfect place to come for a peaceful stroll or a picnic lunch.
The arboretum is home to more than 2,000 species of trees and shrubs, making it one of the most diverse collections in the United States. In addition to all the greenery, there are also streams, ponds, and sculptures scattered throughout the property.
If you want to learn more about the plants in the garden, consider taking a guided tour. The arboretum also offers programs like yoga in the garden and family-friendly scavenger hunts. No matter how you choose to spend your time here, you’re sure to find it relaxing and enjoyable.
4. Step Into the 1800s at the Waveland State Historic Site
The Waveland State Historic Site is a former plantation that dates back to the early 1800s. It’s a close look at Old Lexington’s history and focuses mainly on the life of John Bryan, the plantation’s former owner, and the enslaved people who lived and worked there.
The site includes the main house, which has been restored to look as it did during Bryan’s time. You can tour the antebellum mansion to see the preserved furniture and learn about the lives of the people who lived there.
After exploring the mansion, you can also walk on the grounds to check out the lovely herb and flower gardens. The Waveland State Historic Site also teaches visitors about what the hemp industry was like in the 1850s, so you can get a better understanding of the plantation’s past.
In case you can swing it, we recommend joining one of the site’s events, such as the vintage ball games and Tuesday Tea. These are perfect if you’re looking for unique things to do in Lexington!
5. Attend the Festival of the Bluegrass
The Festival of the Bluegrass is an annual event that takes place in June each year. It’s one of the oldest and most popular bluegrass festivals in the country, and it attracts musicians and music lovers from all over the world. It takes place at the Kentucky Horse Park, so you can also see some of the state’s famous equine residents while you’re there.
During the festival, you can enjoy performances from some of the biggest names in bluegrass music. There are also food vendors, craft booths, and other activities to keep you entertained between sets. Camping is available on-site at the Kentucky Horse Park if you want to make a weekend out of it.
Aside from the performances, part of the festival is a bluegrass music camp designed for children aged 6 to 18. It happens during the week right before the festival, so if you’re traveling to Lexington with kids, this is a great activity to consider.
Whether you’re a bluegrass fan or not, the Festival of the Bluegrass is a great opportunity to experience Lexington’s musical culture. Even if you don’t like bluegrass music, chances are you’ll find yourself tapping your feet along to the tunes!
6. Wander Around the Historic McConnell Springs Park
McConnell Springs Park is a 26-acre nature preserve that’s filled with hiking trails, picnic areas, and historical landmarks. It’s actually where the city of Lexington was founded and named in 1775, so it’s a very important part of the city’s history.
Today, its two-mile trail is the perfect place for a relaxing hike. Dip your toes in one of the park’s natural springs: The Boils, The Blue Hole, and The Final Sink. They look so beautiful against the backdrop of the greenery!
Keep an eye out for remnants of the park’s past, such as old stone fences, a creamery’s foundation, and a rock quarry. See if you can find the Bur Oak, which is the oldest tree in the park at over 250 years old!
There’s no registration required to enjoy McConnell Springs Park, but do be mindful of the guidelines. Remain on the trail at all times, and don’t bring your dogs since they’re not allowed in the preserve.
7. Get Tipsy at the Lexington Brewing & Distilling Company
The Lexington Brewing & Distilling Company is a local brewery that’s best known for its Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale. This award-winning beer is aged in oak barrels that were previously used to age bourbon, and it gives the ale a unique flavor that’s unlike anything else you’ve ever tasted.
Lexington Brewing & Distilling Company has the distinction of being the only brewery on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. That should tell you something about the quality of their products!
In addition to the bourbon barrel ale, the Lexington Brewing & Distilling Company also offers a variety of other beers, ciders, and spirits. They regularly have new releases, so there’s always something new to try.
The company also hosts tastings and tours, so you can learn all about the brewing and distilling process. At the end of the tour comes the most fun part: sampling all the award-winning brews, spirits, and cocktails!
8. Grab a Po-Boy at the Windy Corner Supermarket & Restaurant
Windy Corner Market is a Lexington institution and one you shouldn’t miss when you’re in the city. What sets Windy Corner Market apart is their total commitment to serving and preserving authentic Kentucky cuisine.
We also love how they styled the entire place to look like an old country store, which is exactly what Windy Corner Supermarket used to be! From the reclaimed wood floors to the beadboard covering the walls, it’s a truly charming place to enjoy a meal.
As the name suggests, Windy Corner Market is first, and foremost, a market. In addition to the prepared foods, they also sell local produce, meats, and cheeses. They even have their own line of spices, sauces, and jams.
But the best reason to visit Windy Corner is for their famous Louisiana-style po-boys. These sandwiches are overstuffed with either shrimp, oysters, or roast beef, and they come dressed with lettuce, tomatoes, and pickles. The Windy Corner sauce adds the perfect finishing touch.
Still, be sure to try as many dishes on the menu as you can! Windy Corner Supermarket’s menu is a veritable cornucopia of Southern classics, and you really can’t go wrong with anything. Try the bourbon barrel beer cheese, fried pickles, pulled pork, fried catfish, shrimp and grits, chicken pot pie… we could go on and on. Just come hungry and be ready to enjoy some of the best food in Lexington!
9. Tour the Old Kentucky Chocolate Factory
One of the coolest things to do in Lexington is to tour the Old Kentucky Chocolate Factory. This family-owned business has been making artisan chocolates for more than 50 years, and they offer tours of the factory so you can see how it’s all done. Prepare yourself for the smells because they’re intoxicating!
As part of the tour, you’ll get an inside look at the chocolate-making process, and you’ll even get to sample some of the finished products. The tour ends with a visit to the factory’s shop, where you can purchase chocolates, caramel candies, assorted truffles, and other sweet treats to take home with you.
Not sure what to get? For the full Lexington experience, choose anything with bourbon! The Old Kentucky Chocolate Factory makes all sorts of bourbon-infused treats, including bourbon cherries, bourbon chocolate, and special bourbon truffles.
10. Shop for Local Fare at the Bluegrass Farmers’ Market
One of the best things to do in Lexington is to stroll around the Bluegrass Farmers’ Market, just taking in all of the sights and smells. This homegrown market is held from April through October, and it’s where the very best of Kentucky’s local farmers and artisans come to sell their wares.
Don’t forget to bring a bag because you’re going to want to buy everything! The market has all sorts of seasonal fruits, baked goods, local honey, homemade jams, cheeses, and meats. If you’re looking for souvenirs, you’re going to find plenty as well. From handmade soaps to pottery and woodworking pieces, there’s no shortage of unique gifts to take home with you.
The Bluegrass Farmers’ Market is more than just a place to buy food and gifts, though. It’s also a great place to enjoy live music, grab a bite to eat, and just soak up the vibrant Lexington atmosphere. Prepare to be met with Southern hospitality at its finest!
11. Visit the University of Kentucky Art Museum
The University of Kentucky Art Museum is one of those Lexington attractions you need to visit at least once. The museum is home to a permanent collection of more than 5,000 works of art, as well as rotating exhibitions featuring both local and international artists.
Some of the highlights of the permanent collection include paintings by American artists like William Welsh and Michael Goldberg, as well as French artists like Frank Duveneck. The museum also has an extensive collection of sculptures, prints, drawings, and photography. On top of that, they also have special exhibitions that are always worth checking out.
If you want to dive deeper into the creative side of Lexington, we suggest joining one of the many events and tours offered by the museum. For instance, watch a panel discussion with local artists or take a guided tour of the galleries. There’s also a Family Day event where they offer hands-on art activities for kids of all ages.
12. Spend a Fun Day Outdoors at Jacobson Park
Jacobson Park is one of Lexington’s most popular parks, and you can easily spend an entire day here! You can rent a paddleboat or a kayak to explore the park’s reservoir and have a fun day out on the water. There’s also a playground for the kids, plus a sprayground where they can cool off after playing in the sun.
The park also has several fishing docks that are free to use, though if you’re aged 16 or older, you do need to bring a valid Kentucky fishing license. And if you’re in the mood for some golfing, Lakeside Golf Course is right next door.
We also love how dog-friendly Jacobson Park is! Inside the park is an 8-acre dog park complete with two paddocks, a water station, and benches where you can rest and just enjoy the fresh air with your furry friend.
13. Watch a Horse Race at Keeneland Race Course
Keeneland Race Course is a key Lexington landmark and home to some of the coolest things to do in Lexington. In case you didn’t know, this world-renowned horse racing track is also an auction house!
Throughout the year, Keeneland hosts live horse races, as well as sales of some of the world’s most expensive Thoroughbreds. Watching the participants bid on multimillion-dollar horses is an experience in itself, but if you’re looking for something a little more low-key, you can also enjoy a self-guided or guided tour of the Keeneland Race Course grounds.
A tour of the grounds will give you an up-close look at the jockey quarters, how the morning workouts are conducted, and the stables where the horses are kept. You can also browse the shops, enjoy a meal at one of the restaurants, or just relax and take in the stunning scenery.
If you’re in town when there’s a live horse race happening, we highly encourage you to secure a spot in the stands. There’s nothing quite like watching these magnificent animals race around the track at top speeds, and you can even place a bet if you’re feeling lucky!
14. Drop by the Aviation Museum of Kentucky
The Aviation Museum of Kentucky is located right at the Blue Grass Airport and is one of the best Lexington attractions for aviation lovers. The museum is home to more than 30 historic aircraft, including a Crosley Moonbeam Biplane and a Blue Angels A-4 Skyhawk. Seeing these marvels of engineering up close is an unforgettable experience.
In addition to the aircraft, the museum also has an aircraft repair and restoration facility, as well as a library with an extensive collection of aviation-related books, magazines, and films. You should also drop by the Kentucky Aviation Hall of Fame, which honors some of the most influential figures in Kentucky’s aviation history.
The Aviation Museum of Kentucky offers guided tours, but you’re also welcome to explore on your own. Hop on the flight simulators, check out the interactive display, and pore over the various aircraft equipment and artifacts on display.
15. Try Southern BBQ at the Blue Door Smokehouse
Southern barbecue is a must when you’re in Kentucky, and Lexington’s Blue Door Smokehouse is the perfect place to get your fix. This local spot was founded by a couple of Lexington natives who had one mission: to serve up the best barbecue in town. They definitely succeeded!
They smoke their meats fresh every day, so you’re always sure to get tender, juicy, and flavorful barbecue when you visit. They have all the classics like pulled pork, brisket, sausages, ribs, and chicken, as well as sandwiches, plates, and meat combos for you to choose from. Wash it down with Mexican Coke or Cherry Ale, and you’ve got one of the best meals you’ll ever have!
Still have room for dessert? Order a chess pie or a cornbread cookie sandwich for something sweet. You can dine in, order for carryout, or order online for delivery. And if you want to try your hand at making their signature BBQ, they also sell their very own line of spices and sauces. Be warned: their food is so good they often run out by the end of the day, so make sure to come early!
There you have it! The 15 best things to do in Lexington. What’s your favorite thing to do in Lexington?
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