“Come for the horses. Stay for the bourbon, street art, nightlife, food, shopping, architecture, history, craft beer, local coffee shops, music and the friendly people.”
This is the perfect way to describe the beautiful city of Lexington, KY.
Lexington’s history dates back to 1775 when it was named by European frontier explorers in honor of Lexington, MA where the first battle of the American Revolution was waged. The region and now state’s earliest inhabitants, however, were the Paleoindian Native Americans who were believed to come here around 12,000 B.C., many of their descendants still residing in the area.
Lexington’s lore surrounding its spectacular green pastures and pure natural springs stems from its location atop miles and miles of rich limestone bedrock which gives rise to some of the most verdant, plentiful and fertile bluegrass found anywhere in the world. It’s no wonder why the equestrian industry flourished so abundantly here.
One of the most popular places to learn more about the city’s history and legendary equine history is at the Kentucky Horse Park. The property dates back to the late 1700s when a wealthy Colonel from Virginia was gifted with 9,000 acres of land on which he established a thriving farm. Part of that surviving property officially opened in 1978 as the Kentucky Horse Park, today featuring 1,229 acres of inspiring museums, art galleries and some 50 different breeds of horses, and representing the world’s only park dedicated to man’s relationship with horses.
That’s quite a lofty accolade, yet it is aptly reflected in a wide array of other related entities in town including The Thoroughbred Center, one of the world’s premier Thoroughbred training facilities housing some 900-1,000 of these spectacular animals; Keeneland Race Course, an internationally renowned racecourse and the leading auction house for the Thoroughbred industry; and Thoroughbred Park featuring life-sized bronze statues of horses situated as if about to approach the finish line, just to name a few.
Encompassing approximately 322,000 denizens (over half a million throughout the metropolitan area), Lexington offers a small town feel with “big city” amenities, many of them tied to the city and regions’ early roots.
One of the most popular attractions is the Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill. Set on 3,000 acres, this landmark destination encompasses over 30 original buildings highlighted by a historic centre, farm, river, preserve and stable.
At the Mary Todd Lincoln House you’ll learn about the remarkable story of Mary Todd who was raised here and later became the wife of our 16th President, Abraham Lincoln, while the Waveland State Historic Site focuses on the history of the family and slaves who lived and worked at this Antebellum estate in the 1850s.
Like many cities in the south and eastern part of the U.S., Lexington has a great deal of black history. Here you can learn about and embark upon the African American Heritage Interpretive Sign Program. The stops along the way were designed to educate about the people, places and events that played a significant role in the advancement of equality in Lexington from its early slave roots to today. Slave auctions, lunch counter sit-ins, activism, education and more are all a part of the African American story here.
Similarly, the guided and self-guided walking tours of the downtown area reveal a great deal of the history, architecture and personalities that helped transform this pioneer town into a bustling commercial, education and cultural center. The tour reflects both the old and the new including the Bodley-Bullock House, an example of the Federal, Greek Revival, and Victorian architecture and furnishings typical of the 1800s; the Living Arts and Science Center featuring science and art exhibitions and the Farish Planetarium; and the Historic Lexington Courthouse, constructed in 1899 and also the home of the Lexington Visitors Center, among numerous others.
One entity of note is Transylvania University. Founded in 1780 as the 16th college in the country, “Transy,” as the locals call it, it boasts an astounding roster of graduates including Texas founder Stephen F. Austin, abolitionist Cassius M. Clay, Supreme Court justices Samuel Freeman Miller and John Marshall Harlan, U.S. vice presidents Richard M. Johnson and John C. Breckinridge, and 50 U.S. senators, 101 U.S. representatives, 36 governors and 34 ambassadors .
Historic, breathtaking, multi-faceted and boutique with big city sensibilities, Lexington is a wonderful travel destination.