Horses grazing in a field with blue skies

Your Trip to Lexington: The Complete Guide

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The largest city in Kentucky by land, and second-largest by population, Lexington has a long fascinating history that gives it a uniquely American personality. Foodies, sports fans, history buffs, and liquor enthusiasts alike will be impressed with Lexington's offerings. The hometown of Mary Todd Lincoln, Lexington played an important role during the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. The city also boasts a long history of bourbon making that started before it was even a settlement.

Horses are another major part of Lexington's history and economy, bringing in $4 billion to the state each year. Called the "horse capital of the world," spring and fall bring the animals to center stage with races at Keeneland while true horse enthusiasts can visit one of the many year-round horse farms. That's in addition to a thriving music scene, a robust collection of parks and hikes, and plenty of innovating restaurants reimagining traditional Southern cuisine. Use this guide to plan your perfect Lexington vacation.

Planning Your Trip

  • Best Time To Visit: The best time to visit Lexington is in the fall. Starting in September the heat and humidity start to fade and you’ll be able to enjoy the crisp fresh air. October brings peak fall foliage as well as some of Lexington’s greatest events like Keeneland’s Fall Meet and Lexington’s Oktoberfest. While fall is the best time weatherwise, there are several big events that bring travelers during the rest of the year like the spring meet at Keeneland and a slate of summer festivals.
  • Language: English.
  • Currency: U.S. dollars.
  • Getting Around: While buses are available in Lexington they are mostly used in the downtown and university area. Ride-hailing apps are also popular but wait times can be long during rush hours or popular events. To really experience all Lexington has to offer it’s best to rent a car and parking is easier compared to other major cities. 
  • Travel Tip: Lexington has seen some major development in the past few years and the city layout hasn’t had a ton of time to keep up. The main roads like Nicholasville Road and Man O' War Boulevard get extremely congested during rush hours. Try to plan any travel before or after usual commuting hours. 
A horse race at Keeneland

TripSavvy / Taylor McIntyre

Things to Do

Lexington is famous for two things: horses and bourbon. And the city takes both very seriously! Make sure to experience the bourbon trail that is rich with Kentucky history. And no trip to Lexington would be complete without visiting Keeneland, where you can watch some of the best-trained horses in the world and maybe make some money! (Or lose, depending on your luck).

  • Explore the Bourbon Trail: It’s nearly impossible to visit Lexington without sampling some of the local liquor. There are several tour operators that will take care of the planning and let you enjoy the bourbon trail with ease or you can stay in town and try some hometown favorites like James E. Pepper.  
  • Explore Horse Country: Lexington holds the title of Horse Capital of the World and earned it for a reason. Boasting over 400 horse farms, visitors can get up close and personal with horses and learn about every step of the breeding and training process. You can also try your luck at Keeneland during their fall and spring sessions.
  • Dive into American History: Lexington is home to dozens of museums and historic sites. History buffs can experience pioneer days at Old Fort Harrod State Park or explore Mary Todd Lincoln’s childhood home. The Lexington Cemetery is also nationally recognized as one of the most beautiful arboretums in the country as well as paying respects to famous former Kentucky residents like Henry Clay and General John Hunt Morgan.

To learn about all the options Lexington has to offer explore our other articles that cover the best things to do in Lexington, the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, and the best museums in Lexington.

What to Eat and Drink

Kentucky in general is known for bourbon, and visitors will quickly see that Lexington lives up to the reputation. In Lexington alone, you can find 15 distilleries! There are historic brands like Woodford Reserve as well as new distillers like Castle and Key, Lexington’s first female-led distillery, giving a fresh take on this American classic.

If whiskey isn’t your thing, you’ll still be able to enjoy yourself with new breweries popping up all around Lexington. The once-abandoned distillery district has attracted many newcomers including Ethereal Brewing and Wise Bird Cider. There’s also Town Branch that makes whiskey and 13 different beers.

When it comes to food the city is filled with traditional Southern options that will fill you up and make you feel at home. Indulge in the heart of Appalachian-style comfort food like cornbread and soup beans, or try Kentucky staples like Kentucky beer cheese or a Kentucky hot brown sandwich. But don’t let your taste buds stop at the Southern fare. Lexington has a growing farm-to-table movement that will impress even the pickiest of eaters. Coles 735 Main grows all their vegetables on-site, sources meat from local farms, and even makes their own cocktail bitters in house. You can’t go wrong with any of the entrees but the panko fried avocado starter is a customer favorite. 

For more tasty options explore our articles on the best distilleries in Lexington, the best foods to try in Lexington, and Lexington’s best restaurants.

Where to Stay

The best area to stay in Lexington often depends on the reason for your visit. Downtown is a great starting point for nightlife or exploring the nearby University of Kentucky. It's walkable and offers a wide variety of hotels from the design-focused 21C to more budget-friendly options. Keeneland fans may want to look for accommodation closer to the track. Origin Hotel Lexington offers a horse racing-themed atmosphere just 15 minutes away from the track and is surrounded by several shopping and dining options.

Getting There

There are several ways to get to Lexington. By far the easiest option is flying into the Blue Grass airport that services four major airlines with direct flights from 15 different major cities. The airport sits only 15 minutes from downtown so you’ll be in the middle of the action in no time. There is no Amtrak station in Lexington but there is a Greyhound station that has direct routes to all the surrounding major cities. Lexington also sits at the intersection of several major highways so driving is also a viable option.

Money Saving Tips

  • Lexington is home to more than 100 parks around the city. You can enjoy the natural beauty of Bluegrass country by exploring Raven Run Nature Sanctuary or taking a stroll through the famous Thoroughbred park for free.
  • Lexington has many historical and cultural attractions that offer free tours including The Art Museum at The University of Kentucky and The Loudoun House. Keeneland also offers free hours for visitors who want to watch the morning workouts.
  • You might be tempted to spend money in the gift shop but Buffalo Trace has free tours to learn about the bourbon-making process.
  • Consider biking the Bourbon Trail to save some money on gas, tour costs, or ride-hailing charges.
Article Sources
TripSavvy uses only high-quality, trusted sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial policy to learn more about how we keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.
  1. Kentucky Historical Society. "Explore KY's Abraham Lincoln." Accessed March 25, 2022.

  2. Lexington Visitors Center. "61 Reasons Lexington is the Horse Capital of the World." July 2, 2020.

  3. Lexington Visitors Center. "You Call It a Drink. We Call It a Legacy." Accessed March 25, 2022

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