Lexington is one of the best places in the country to visit. This city offers something for everyone with its rich history and vibrant culture.
You’ve probably heard of Kentucky, but have you heard of Lexington? Perhaps best known as the home of the University of Kentucky Wildcats, Lexington is a great vacation destination for families, couples, and solo travelers. Explore the best things to do in Lexington, Kentucky to experience the latest and greatest attractions and must-see attractions.
It’s so charming, with a historic downtown, and the people are so friendly. It’s a college town, so there are lots of cool things to do for college students and townies alike. So, in honor of my recent trip, I’m going to share with you my favorite places to visit in Lexington, Kentucky.
When you visit Lexington, what are the best things to do? Lexington is the heart of the Bluegrass Region in Kentucky. It’s home to the Kentucky Horse Park, Kentucky Speedway, and Keeneland, and it offers a mix of attractions and activities for the whole family. If you’re visiting Lexington, here are the best things to do while you’re there.
1. Kentucky Horse Park
Kentucky Horse Park
Located at the heart of Lexington, Kentucky, the Kentucky Horse Park is the largest equestrian facility in North America, hosting over 600 days of events each year.
The Kentucky Horse Park is the official off-site museum of the Kentucky Horse Park Association, and it offers all kinds of events and exhibitions for all types of horse enthusiasts.
The Center for Equine Studies offers study and education and features award-winning shows and exhibitions, including the First Annual Keeneland Fashion Day, a Kentucky Derby Spectacular Celebration, and the Kentucky Derby Museum. The Kentucky Horse Park is also home to the Lexus Prix d’Elegance, which has quickly become the premier fashion event in the country.
Address: 4089 Iron Works Pkwy, Lexington, KY 40511, USA
2. Mary Todd Lincoln House
Mary Todd Lincoln House
Mary Todd Lincoln, the 16th First Lady of the United States, was the late President Abraham Lincoln’s wife.
Mary Todd Lincoln is arguably the most famous and fascinating woman of our time. The house where she and her husband lived is a must-see for any traveler.
Not only is the house beautiful and historically significant, but you can actually tour the home and look around the property. Walking through the house feels like you are walking into a documentary or being in Lincoln’s home at the White House.
The Lincoln Memorial The Lincoln Memorial stands on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., and it’s easily one of the most famous landmarks in the United States. Before you even think about visiting the site, though, make sure you check out the Smithsonian Museums and National Gallery of Art (it’s free!) since they’re connected to the National Mall.
Address: 578 W Main St, Lexington, KY 40507, USA
3. Watch a Race at Keeneland
Keeneland is a world-famous Thoroughbred racing facility, which hosts the third-largest Thoroughbred horse race in the world. The Lexington Track is home to the Breeders’ Cup World Championships every year in November.
When you visit, you can take in the excitement of the racing season, learn more about the history of the track, and peruse the equestrian-themed gifts and souvenirs in the Keeneland Shop.
You can also watch thoroughbred racing all day on Friday and Saturday, or catch the live races on Thursday evenings. Keeneland is a great family-friendly activity.
Address: 4201 Versailles Rd, Lexington, KY 40510, USA
4. Festival of the Bluegrass
Festival of the Bluegrass
The Festival of the Bluegrass is the annual weekend-long celebration of the many facets of bluegrass music, founded in 1972 and the oldest free music festival in the U.S.
The Festival of the Bluegrass is a living history museum for fans of traditional bluegrass, as the historical and musical landscape is celebrated with live music, an artisan market, festivals, and a parade, the latter of which began in 1954 as the “Blue Grass Salute.”
Some of the biggest names in bluegrass music will take to the stage, including Grammy-award-winning artists Alison Krauss and Union Station, Lari White and Graham Highway, String Cheese Incident, IBMA Grand Champion Mandolin Player of the Year Sam Bush, and Peter Rowan and Tom Rozum. You’ll also be treated to the talents of up-and-coming artists.
The Kentucky Festival of the Bluegrass is Lexington’s largest and most popular annual festival. This festival, held in May, is centered around the wonderful horse park.
Visitors have the opportunity to interact with various breeds of horses as well as enjoy live entertainment, shopping, and delicious food. You’ll definitely want to bring your family and friends as it is undoubtedly a fun thing to do in Lexington.
5. Aviation Museum of Kentucky
Aviation Museum of Kentucky
If you’re a fan of World War II, this museum is for you. This museum houses the National Museum of the United States Air Force collection, showcasing the history of flight. You can explore planes, jets, and helicopters, which are on display.
Plus, it has great interactive exhibits that allow kids of all ages to get a taste of what it was like to be a fighter pilot. This museum also has a rotating display of planes, helicopters, and spacecraft from the NASA space program. It’s worth the drive.
There’s no better place to spend some time than the Aviation Museum of Kentucky. At the museum, you can learn about the history of flight and the many aerospace innovations of Kentucky and southern Indiana.
There’s no shortage of flight-themed exhibits here, and you can check out a Mooney, a Beechcraft, and even a Phoenix.
There’s an interactive exhibit on a mock flight, as well as a real airplane cockpit. There’s an entire wing of the museum dedicated to the history of flight. It’s amazing and I highly recommend it.
Address: 4029 Airport Rd, Lexington, KY 40510, USA
6. Raven Run Nature Sanctuary
Raven Run Nature Sanctuary
If you visit Lexington, Kentucky, you have to stop by Raven Run. This beautifully landscaped, walking nature sanctuary is a must-see. The park’s main trail is a 2.2 mile, paved loop that takes you through woodland areas and along the Ohio River. On top of that, there are also lakes, fountains, and scenic overlooks along the trail.
The sanctuary was created to protect the wild green of the Kentucky River Palisades, while also highlighting the importance and historical significance of the land it occupies.
Raven Run offers a wonderful place to take in the surrounding scenery. It also serves as a great place to get some exercise, if you choose to take the trail. Raven Run offers water sports, camping, biking, fishing, and hiking. There are also over 75 miles of hiking trails located throughout the park. You can find out more about Raven Run Nature Sanctuary here.
Address: 3885 Raven Run Way, Lexington, KY 40515, USA
7. Lexington Cemetery
The Lexington Cemetery is the first national cemetery dedicated to American soldiers of the Revolutionary War. It’s also the only national cemetery built by the federal government. I loved walking the grounds and I really enjoyed learning about the history of the cemetery.
I also really enjoyed the free tour, which will take you through the Cemetery. They have walking paths all through it and beautiful gardens, as well. I’m not a huge fan of tombstones or old history, but I really enjoyed learning more about Lexington’s history and Lexington Cemetery.
Address: 833 W Main St, Lexington, KY 40508, USA
8. Fort Boonesborough State Park
Fort Boonesborough State Park
This is my favorite place to visit in Lexington, Kentucky. Fort Boonesborough is an awesome historical site and it’s about 30 minutes from downtown Lexington. This park is the oldest standing frontier fort in Kentucky and it’s worth a stop. Take a guided tour or you can just walk around the grounds and enjoy some history.
A highlight of Fort Boonesborough in the Lexington Trial: The first railroad bridge in America, built-in 1797, is located nearby. Another great reason to visit Fort Boonesborough is the Green River Turnpike, a historical site that offers a self-guided driving tour of Lexington.
Another great part of Fort Boonesborough in the Historic Walking Tour of Lexington: Spend your afternoon in the historic district of Lexington, Kentucky.
Address: 4375 Boonesboro Rd, Richmond, KY 40475, USA
9. Kentucky Theatre
In the heart of downtown Lexington, is a historical landmark and beautiful venue that plays host to theater, movies, and concerts. This theater was completed in 1922 and was designed by legendary architect Luther C. Poor in the Art Deco architectural style.
At the Kentucky Theatre, there’s a wide variety of events to attend. The Kentucky Theatre features an elegant lobby, fabulous art, and a beautiful and spacious stage.
You can come to watch the Kentucky Shakespeare Festival’s performances in June. They have sold out performances every year, so get your tickets as soon as you can. It’s amazing how they have a company of actors, as well as great art.
It’s also the oldest theater in the nation, opened in 1922, and still runs on donations and grants.
Address: 214 E Main St, Lexington, KY 40507, United States
10. The Endless Rooms of The Henry Clay Estate
Source: The Henry Clay Estate
Get your friends together and visit this world-famous Henry Clay Estate. One of the most elegant homes in the United States, the Henry Clay Estate has over 25,000 square feet of stunning architecture, grounds, and furnishings. In addition to the indoor and outdoor living areas and rooms.
The Henry Clay Estate has its own vintage grocery store, artisan shops, and a chic inn. Here, you can wander through the living rooms of the renowned American architect Cass Gilbert and admire original architectural details from the stables to the library.
The Henry Clay Estate is a National Historic Landmark that welcomes visitors from all over the world. As a historic landmark, visitors can tour the mansion at their own pace. You can take a guided tour, walk your own self-guided tour, or do both.
There are so many things to do at the Henry Clay Estate. You can enjoy a horseback ride along the park trails, or explore the gardens and wildlife preserve. You can take a carriage ride through the historic neighborhoods, and visit the museum. The Henry Clay Estate is a family-friendly destination.
Address: 120 Sycamore Rd, Lexington, KY 40502, USA
11. Hunt-Morgan House
Hunt-Morgan House was built in 1811 and is located on Hwy 7-6, just north of Lexington. The Hunt-Morgan House is the oldest building in Lexington, and it was built as a private residence.
The house served as a hospitality home for the second Governor of Kentucky and is the home of Sarah Page Morgan, the wife of famed Daniel Morgan, and the second wealthiest citizen in Lexington at the time of her death in 1861.
A Civil War museum is on-site, and some real antiques from the home’s previous residents are on show – may be due to the fact that a Confederate general formerly lived here as well.
The Hunt-Morgan House is one of the most unique places to visit in Lexington, Kentucky. It’s filled with architectural gems, decorated with treasures from throughout history, and full of beautiful artwork.
Originally a private home, The Hunt-Morgan House now operates as a museum. It is open for guided tours at 3:30 pm and 5:30 pm every day of the week. There is a $6.00 parking fee that covers up to two cars. Unfortunately, the house is only open for visits on Friday.
Address: 201 N Mill St, Lexington, KY 40507, USA
12. University of Kentucky
University of Kentucky
The University of Kentucky is the crown jewel of Kentucky. This is where the Kentucky Wildcats basketball team plays their games. As a UK graduate and rabid fan, I can personally attest that Lexington is the perfect place for a sports fan.
The University of Kentucky is the second-largest university in the country and the most popular school for sports in the state of Kentucky. In fact, this school has so much to offer, they have six venues for athletic events. The Big Blue are the SEC Champions for basketball this year.
This is the largest school in the SEC with an enrollment of 24,000 and it also offers several doctoral programs. The school is within easy reach of the Bluegrass State capital of Frankfort.
The center of campus is home to the iconic Tommy Door Memorial Tower. Students line the street in front of the tower and wave flags during the Big Blue game. The clock tower also holds a special place in my heart as it is the place where I watched my beloved UK Wildcats lose the 2007 National Championship to Notre.
Address: Lexington, KY 40506, USA
13. Waveland State Historic Site
Waveland State Historic Site
Waveland was home to Sarah Palin’s hometown. She went to high school in this town, and her childhood home is now a museum. It’s a perfect place for a guided walking tour to learn about the famous actress and find out about her life.
Make sure to take some time to explore the beautifully manicured lawns that lead up to her house. It’s a wonderful family site to visit, and you’ll learn some fascinating facts about Palin’s life and times.
Surrounded by 13,000 acres of forest, you’ll find the home, The Pillar Room, which was built in 1819. It has served as a meeting room for different organizations, public meetings, and holiday gatherings. You can also take a tour of the grounds and see historic remnants of the mansion, which has been listed as a National Historic Landmark.
Address: 225 Waveland Museum Ln, Lexington, KY 40514, USA
14. Blue Door Smokehouse
Blue Door Smokehouse
You’ll love this family-owned and operated barbecue restaurant! As a Kentucky native, I’m sure you can guess that Lexington is the perfect place to find delicious BBQ. And Blue Door Smokehouse is right in the heart of the community.
Blue Door Smokehouse has everything you need for a southern picnic. There are traditional Kentucky eats like bourbon brisket, slow-roasted pork loin, and bourbon pecan pie, but there are also unique items such as crispy fried catfish, pickled okra, and chicken biscuits with gravy. Blue Door is a great place to eat, drink, and visit the gift shop while you’re in Lexington.
Go to Blue Door Smokehouse to take a stroll around downtown Lexington, and then take in the sights from the second-floor deck. When you’re done enjoying the weather, head to the gift shop to pick up a Kentucky sweet treat like a bourbon pecan pie or a bourbon pecan pie.
Address: 226 Walton Ave, Lexington, KY 40502, USA
15. Red Mile Harness Track
Red Mile Harness Track
Red Mile Harness Track is home to the Red Mile. This horse racing track offers Kentucky Derby and Triple Crown Thoroughbred racing. It’s also home to the Bluegrass Derby Festival, which offers adult and youth racing events, including the prestigious Longines Kentucky Oaks.
You can watch horses race at the track, or even own one. Owning a horse is a great hobby that has so many benefits, like protecting them from harsh weather conditions, traveling, and being a wonderful activity with your family and friends. Plus, horses are so much fun to watch.
You can bring your own picnic and order from one of the great restaurants in the area for dinner. Keeneland Race Course is right next door, and if you’re lucky enough to visit the Derby Festival and Derby Day, you can attend the races there.
Address: 1200 Red Mile Rd, Lexington, KY 40504, USA
If you’re an outdoor enthusiast or just a lover of flowers, The Arboretum is a must-see. It’s a wonderful place to visit on a sunny day to see all of the beautiful plants and flowers. The indoor flowers are always beautiful, as well. This is a great place to visit during the day, or even in the evening to see the lighting display and the plant gardens.
The Arboretum is well known as one of the must-see places in Lexington year-round.
Owned by the University of Kentucky, this campus covers 100 acres and first opened in 1991. The themed gardens provide space for wildlife conservation and a fun educational opportunity for you.
There are a variety of activities throughout the year that rotates with the seasons, and most are perfect for the whole family. For a calendar of events, visit the Arboretum’s website.
Address: University of Kentucky, 500 Alumni Dr, Lexington, KY 40503, United States
17. University of Kentucky Art Museum
University of Kentucky Art Museum
The University of Kentucky Art Museum is home to the largest collection of fine art by John La Farge in the United States. Each year, thousands of visitors enjoy visiting the museum to see this Kentucky artist’s work.
La Farge loved Lexington and often donated his work to the University of Kentucky. If you can, you should check out this museum, and the whole campus, for free.
18. McConnell Springs
This natural mineral spring is located about an hour outside of Lexington on the outskirts of Versailles. It’s a relaxing outdoor resort that offers a series of man-made waters, each with its own unique flavor and appeal.
It doesn’t matter what time of year it is, McConnell Springs is a must-see attraction. It’s the only natural springs in the state of Kentucky, and it is truly one of the most beautiful places in the Bluegrass Region.
You can find the visitor center at Highway 742, Exit 0. The springs are an important part of Lexington’s history and were used by Lexington’s founder, James “Mad Jack” McConnell, in the 1775s.
McConnell Springs was known for its healing powers, as well as its original white-water rafting. I personally recommend going in late fall or early spring, as the pools are very clean and full of water. McConnell Springs is home to the springs, a natural waterfall, a hiking trail, and two beautiful creeks.
Address: 416 Rebmann Ln, Lexington, KY 40504, USA
19. Windy Corner Market
Source: Windy Corner Market
The Windy Corner Market is located on one of the outskirts of Lexington, but right in the heart of Bluegrass Country. There are numerous authentic, locally sourced foods on the stalls.
Baked goods, fresh salads, chicken fingers, and PO-boy substitutes make up a great selection. At breakfast, the most delicious offerings are savory dishes of American country cooking, Belgian-style waffles, and other dishes are served hot to delight the palate.
A visit to the Windy Corner Market is one of the many fun activities you can find in this Kentucky town and is one of the best things to do in Lexington – especially if you want to get a real taste of local life.
Address: 4595 Bryan Station Rd, Lexington, KY 40516, USA
20. Red Mile Harness Track
Red Mile Harness Track
Take a horse racing tour at the Red Mile Harness Track! Just south of downtown, this gorgeous track is only two miles from downtown and is within walking distance of several popular Lexington restaurants.
If you love the sound of horses, so it will feel like heaven visiting Lexington, Kentucky’s Red Mile Harness Track. The track is the only one in the world to hold the Triple Crown of Harness Racing. It’s been a tradition for over 30 years. So, if you want to see some great horses, or get your driver’s license, this is the place to visit.
Address: 1200 Red Mile Rd, Lexington, KY 40504, USA
21. McConnell Springs
McConnell Springs is an idyllic place to spend a summer afternoon. It’s one of the first places I go to when I visit Lexington. Couples can stop by on a hot summer day for a swim, then check out the water park. McConnell Springs is truly a place for the whole family.
It’s definitely a hidden gem! It’s only a 15-minute drive from downtown Lexington, and it’s a gorgeous place. There are so many things to do at McConnell Springs that you won’t know what to do first.
There’s a waterfall with a short, hike-a-bike trail, a free baby picnic area, an area for the kiddos to wade in the creek, and even a zero-depth wading pool for kids. There’s a playground for kids.
22. Headley Whitney Museum
Headley Whitney Museum
In the heart of downtown Lexington, Headley-Whitney Museum is free and full of cultural exhibits and activities for all ages. There are photos, artifacts, and information about Lexington’s history, its famous residents, and it even houses one of the most beautiful art museums in Kentucky.
You’ll love exploring this museum, and it’s the perfect place to take your date if you both are into exploring the cultural history. Headley-Whitney is open year-round, and it’s only a block away from the main attraction: the Capitol Building.
This free attraction has a fantastic history that dates back to 1968 by Lexington, Kentucky locals Barbara Whitney and George Headley, and it features tons of fun, hands-on activities for all ages.
Address: 4435 Old Frankfort Pike, Lexington, KY 40510, United States
23. Lexington Zoo
There are too many zoos in the U.S. to list here, but if you’re looking for things to do with kids in Lexington, Lexington Zoo is the answer.
Lexington is home to the finest zoo in the country. The Lexington Zoo features a wide variety of habitats including rainforests, swamps, prairies, and deserts.
I recently visited the Lexington Zoo, and I have to admit, I wasn’t expecting much. Of all the attractions in Lexington, the zoo was the only thing I’d heard of, so when I was there, I was underwhelmed.
Then I saw all of the animals, and I was floored. They’re beautiful, and I was so impressed that I felt like I needed to include them in this list. The zoo is right in the heart of downtown Lexington, so there are loads of fun places to visit.
There’s a park right next to it that offers lots of great spots for families. There’s even a historical graveyard right next to the zoo. It’s a beautiful spot, and there’s so much history there.
24. Old Friends Thoroughbred Retirement Farms
Lexington is brimming with horse-related tourist attractions.
One of these is the Old Friends Thoroughbred Retirement Farms, which is still regarded as one of the best things to do near Lexington!
This is where retired thoroughbreds retire to spend the rest of their lives in peace and comfort.
Michael Blowen, a former Boston Globe critic, founded the Old Friends Thoroughbred Retirement Farms as a charity organization in 2003.
After learning that a Kentucky Derby-winning horse had ended up in a Japanese slaughterhouse, Blowen was inspired to open the farm.
Unfortunately, after a horse is too old to compete, this is still a regular fate for many winning horses.
Over 150 retired racehorses live in three Blowens locations, including the Old Friends Thoroughbred Retirement Farms — and many of them were legendary in their day!
They offer the best-guided horse farm tour. For visits and guided walks, you must make a reservation in advance, with each walk including carrot treats to feed the horses!
25. West Sixth Brewing
Another famous Lexington brewhouse, West Sixth Brewing, serves as a reminder of Kentucky’s brewing sector.
It’s a hipster-Esque and incredibly cool distillery that serves up amazing cocktails and style.
Who says you have to go out late at night for fun drinks?
As the name implies, West Sixth IPA is the major attraction of West Sixth Brewing.
It’s an intriguing Kentucky classic because of the quad-hop ingredients.
Still, you’ll get to see the distillery’s taproom, which is decorated in an industrial-chic style and serves a variety of handcrafted booze.
Basically, if you’re searching for something to do and are a fan of nice beverages and alcohol, here is the place to go.
The Pay It Forward Forter, with cocoa undertones, is another unusual West Sixth Brewing specialty.
There’s also DankeChain, a fizzy beer that’s designed to remind you of Oktoberfest.
The brewery, as a community brewery, hosts activities for locals on a regular basis.
26. Breakout Games – Lexington
Breakout is one of the fun group activities you can do in Lexington. It isn’t your typical outing or experience—for its folks who would prefer to solve puzzles than watch others enjoy all the fun.
Build your group, you and your pals will have 60 minutes to escape your chosen adventure by breaking codes, solving puzzles, and pursuing clues in several rooms that follow distinct storylines.
It’s half problem-solving, part adrenaline rush, and all-around enjoyment!
27. Central Kentucky Tours
Exploring the heart of the Bluegrass with Central Kentucky Tours is something you will love doing with a group of friends. It is an official sponsor of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail!
They are a private tour company that specializes in bourbon tours, horse farm tours, and other tailored trips that highlight Central Kentucky’s top attractions.
They’re based in Mercer County, Kentucky, and we frequently collaborate with local hotels in Lexington and Central Kentucky to provide tours to their visitors.
They have pick-up spots in Lexington, Kentucky, and Harrodsburg, Kentucky, as well as customized tour pick-up locations.
Best Time to Visit Lexington
Usually, the best time to visit Lexington is in October. The weather is mild, and it’s a great time to visit for fall foliage. The more challenging times to visit Lexington are from late July to late September and from mid-March to early April. It’s peak tourist season, and it’s not uncommon for Lexington to be very crowded.
Things To Do In Lexington KY This Weekend
Take a Guided Tour of The VMI Museum
On the Virginia Military Institute (VMI) campus, the VMI Museum is housed in Jackson Memorial Hall. The museum tells the tale of Virginia’s oldest museum and the country’s first state-supported military academy, as well as the history of the 19th and 20th centuries, the Civil War, and Stonewall Jackson House.
The VMI Museum collects, protects, interprets, and shows VMI’s heritage, which is represented by a collection of 15,000 artifacts.
Explore The Shenandoah Valley at Luray Caverns
The Shenandoah Valley, a presentation of thematic elements highlighting our region’s Shenandoah culture, is located on our grounds at Luray Caverns.
It houses artifacts and their histories from the 1750s to the 1920s in chronological sequence.
The Shenandoah Heritage Village is included in the basic admission ticket to Luray Caverns.
The Luray Caverns, the Car and Carriage Caravan, Shenandoah Heritage Village, and the Luray Valley Museum are all included in the General Admission price.
Tickets can be purchased in advance online or on the day of the event.
Lexington Ice Center
The Lexington Ice Center and Sports Complex is a great place for the entire family to have a good time.
There’s something for everyone here, with two indoor rinks, three gymnasiums, and 54 holes of outdoor Biblical-themed miniature golf. A fun place for the kids and family.
Public skating times are available on their website.
Skate rental and 60 minutes on the ice are included in the ticket price of $15.
Weekend Getaway at Red River Gorge, Lexington KY
The Daniel Boone National Forest’s Red River Gorge is a stunningly beautiful spot. Natural stone arches abound in the area, as do strange rock formations and beautiful sandstone cliffs. The United States Forest Service has designated the Red River Gorge as a national geological area.
The Red River Gorge in Kentucky is famous for its rock climbing, but it’s also popular camping, hiking, and backpacking destination.
Red River Gorge, this side of the Mississippi’s best-kept family vacation secret! For long-lasting family enjoyment, book a lovely cabin.
Hello, I am Molly Martin. I am from California and have been working in a company that manages money for wealthy people for the past 6 years and decided to leave my job because it wasn’t doing anything for me other than making me feel stuck. So now after going on a trip around the world that made me feel empowered and coming back things weren’t as they used to be at work or anywhere else so I want to change everything again. I left my job six years ago because I wanted to do something for myself and then went on a 3 month trip around the world which not only helped me realize how much more there was out there but also made me feel empowered because it was different than what everyone else does!