By: Sandy Katz - Mar 30, 2016
Lexington is in the heart of the Bluegrass Region , the second largest city in Kentucky and Horse Capital of the World. It is famous for horses, bourbon, tobacco and Southern Hospitality. The Bluegrass region is renowned as the world’s largest equine “nursery”. Hundreds of horse farms surround Lexington , giving this modern city a park-like setting.
The Virginia farmers who settled the Bluegrass Region brought their love of fine horses with them. The first Thoroughbred was brought to Lexington in 1779 and within a year there was horse racing on Main Street. The 1789 census counted more horses than people.
One of the outstanding attractions of the Bluegrass Region is Kentucky Horse Park which is Lexington’s premier attraction. This facility is the first park in the world devoted exclusively to horses and features a museum, films, walking farm tours, racing trophies, exhibits, horse-drawn tour and a daily parade is held in spring through fall.
A bronze statue of the great race horse “Man O’ War” greets visitors to this 1,200 acre park and working horse farm that celebrates all aspects of the equine world.
At International Museum of the Horse, a Smithsonian affiliate, you can learn the history of the horse and explore the history of the relationship between man and horse through colorful engaging exhibits.
What a thrill to see the statue of Secretariat, Legendary Thoroughbred Champion 1970-1989. Secretariat, a chestnut colt of imposing size and beauty, was the outstanding Thoroughbred of the last half of the 20th century. He set new track records in every race including 1973 Triple Crown: the Kentucky Derby, The Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes.
There are many opportunities in Lexington to visit horse farms. Three Chimneys, founded in 1972 is a private horse farm which is on 2,300 acres of pristine farmland along beautiful Old Frankfort Pike. It is home to 11 world-class stallions including many top Thoroughbreds including Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew and 1997 derby winner Silver Charm.
How these retired studs are treated shows the respect for equine greatness at this stallion complex!
One of the most impressive historic homes in Lexington is the Mary Todd Lincoln House. Built in 1806 as an Inn, this property became home to politician and businessman Robert S. Todd in 1832. Mary Todd, his daughter, was born in Lexington on December 13,1818 and moved to Illinois in 1830. There, she met and married Abraham Lincoln. The Todds moved away after Mr. Todd died in the 1849 cholera epidemic. Mary brought Abraham Lincoln and their children back to this house.
This late-Georgian style brick house is the site of the nation’s first shrine to a First Lady. This 14-room house museum was restored to reflect the social elegance of Mary Todd Lincoln and contains period furniture, portraits and family heirlooms.
It is said that during visits to Todd house, Abraham Lincoln loved to spend time in his father-in-laws extensive library.
Next we visited Ashland, The Henry Clay Estate’s 20 acres which is preserved as a National Historic Landmark. Inside the house are Clay family furnishings and possessions. In addition to being a brilliant statesman, Henry Clay was also an influential “gentleman farmer” in early Lexington.
The mansion exists today on original Ashland site built in 1856 and has been the home of four generations of Clay’s descendants. Currently the mansion serves as a museum, housing an extensive collection of Clay family items and authentic pieces indicative of the era in which Clay and his descendants lived.
The most famous libation of Kentucky is bourbon. The tour of Buffalo Trace Distillery was a memorable stop on the Bourbon Trail where you can explore 200 years of history. It is the world’s most award-winning distillery. They hold the title of the oldest continually operating distillery in America, remaining operational even during prohibition-for “medicinal” purposes. A trip to Buffalo Trace offers visitors a taste of history and of course, fine bourbon.
The distillery sits on 130 acres in the heart of bourbon country with four centuries of architecture represented on site with beautifully manicured grounds.
Fabulous Freddie was our sensational tour guide providing us with a unique look at the bourbon-making process and in its own historical prospective. Tours are complimentary all year-round.
Alltech’s new $9.2 million dollar Town Branch Distillery earned gold at Whisky USA and the World Spirits Competition in Germany as well as platinum award in the International “SIP” competition.
One of bourbon’s most distinctive qualities comes from the limestone water. The name Town Branch commemorates the body of water that currently runs under Lexington and upon which the city was founded.
Kentucky may be best known for bourbon, but there’s also a prospering wine industry.
Today, wineries dot the state and now offer a wide variety of experiences-from wine tasting and concerts, to theme dinners, art shows and family-friendly events.
At Equus Run Winery, founded in 1998, we strolled through lush vineyards, learned how Kentucky vintners are continuing the ancient craft of winemaking and was treated to a wine tasting opportunity.
Kentucky has a very long history of growing grapes and making wine. Vineyards and wineries are becoming a major force in agra-tourism in the last 10 years.
Though known as birthplace of bourbon, Lexington is into the craft beer movement, too. West Sixth, Country Boy and Alltech are brewing up tantalizing local beers.
The variety of breakfast options included- Shakespeare & Co. where you feel you will be entertained by Shakespeare at any moment. Middle Eastern-style cuisine dominated the menu.
Doodles was a New Orleans inspired restaurant serving everything from dirty shrimp and grits to grilled biscuits dripping with Bubba Sue’s honey.
Want to be seen by horse people, politicians and the well-heeled, dine at Dudley’s on Short.
The Village Idiot was the gastro pub that puts a modern twist on comfort food. How about truffle mac & cheese and duck and waffle.
Dinner at Jonathan at Gratz Park features chef Jonathan Lundy, culinary ambassador for Bluegrass who provided an authentic Kentucky dining experience in the heart of horse country.
You must order Chilean Sea Bass at Heirloom Restaurant!
Country Club’s casual atmosphere was very homey specializing in delicious smoked meat sandwiches.
Dinner at Jean Farris Winery & Bistro has an emphasis on healthy produce from their gardens creating dishes such as spring pea mousseline and striped bass or buttermilk panna cotta.
When you dine at Coles 735 Main, order the mushroom encrusted beef or try roasted beet and macadamia crusted goat cheese with blood orange vinaigrette.
IF YOU GO
Lexington Tourism: www.visitlex.com
Lexington CVB 800-845-3959; 859-233-7299
Lexington’s Bluegrass Region Tourism 800-225-8747 www.bluegrasskentucky.com
Kentucky Tourism: 1-800-225-TRIP www.kentuckytourism.com
Accommodations: Gratz Park Inn 859-231-1777; 800-752-4166 www.gratzparkinn.com
Attractions: Mary Todd Lincoln House 859-233-9999 www.mtlhouse.org
Buffalo Trace Distillery 800-654-8471 www.buffalotracedistillery.com
Ashland, Henry Clay Estate 859-266-8581 www.henryclay.org
Three Chimneys Farm 859-873-7053 www.threechimneys.com
West Sixth Brewing www.westsixth.com
Country Boy Brewing 859-0554-6200
Town Branch Distillery 859-255-2337; www.kentuckyale.com/town-branch
Equus Run Winery 859-846-9463 www.equusrunvineyard.com
Kentucky Horse park 859-233-4303 800-678-8813 www.kyhorsepark.com
The Village idiot 859-252-099 www.lexingtonvillageidiot.com
Shakespeare & Co. 859=367-0411 www.shakespeareandco.us/restaurant.php
Jonathan at Gratz Park 859-252-4949
Doodle’s 859-317-8507 www.doodlesrestaurant.com
Jean Farris Winery & Bistro 859-263-9463 www.jeanfarris.com
Country Club 859-389-6555 www.countryclubrestaurant.com
Dudley’s on Short 859-252-1010 www.dudleysrestaurant.com
Heirloom 859-846-5565 www.heirloommidway.com
Coles 765 Main 859-266-9000 www.coles735main.com