10 Tips from Locals: How to Make the Most of a Mini-Vacation in Lexington
The bustling city of Lexington has enough bourbon, beer, culture, and outdoors to keep you busy for a lifetime. However, that can make it tough to figure out what to do when you’re planning a short trip. So how do you plan your trip? We went straight to the source and asked a few local Lexingtonians for the inside scoop on their favorite places.
Here are 10 tips to make the most of your time in the heart of the Bluegrass State.
1. GET IN TOUCH WITH YOUR INNER EQUESTRIAN
The "Horse Capital of the World" is well-known for its equestrian roots, and horse lovers should definitely tour the famous stables and riding grounds at the Kentucky Horse Park. Even if horseback riding is not your pace, there is still plenty to keep you busy. Stroll through the halls of the International Museum of the Horse, the largest horse museum in the world, and learn how horses have helped shape human history from ancient times to the present. Check out the Al-Marah Arabian Galleries, where you’ll find engaging exhibits on the Arabian horse breed.
2. GO ROCK CLIMBING
Water has carved out giant rock amphitheaters and caves that are perfect for climbing. Lexington is less than an hour's drive from the famous Red River Gorge, a scenic climbing and hiking destination. Steep sandstone cliff bands rise out of the dense forest, and climbers come from all over the world to scale the vast walls. Water has carved out giant rock amphitheaters and caves with interesting climbing holds, and whether you’re a seasoned climber or have only gone a couple times, it’s worth roping up there. There are several local guiding companies that are happy to take new climbers out and teach you the basic skills.
3. EXPLORE THE URBAN TRAILS
Take a run across streams and through open meadows. Just outside of downtown Lexington lies the Raven Run Nature Sanctuary, a wonderful preserve offering 10 miles of trails. Go for a run on trails that cross streams and open meadows as you listen to the tune of native birds. This green space is a small piece of Kentucky’s scenic wilderness landscape, preserved for city dwellers to enjoy. Locals also run and walk the Veterans Park Trail, a few miles of winding single track through woods and over streams, as well as several other routes that wind through the city.
4. GO OUT FOR BRUNCH
It’s a little-known secret that the best restaurants in downtown Lexington also serve weekend brunch, an affordable introduction to the finest food in Lexington. Don’t miss Carson's legendary brunch, where you’ll find any omelet imaginable, from their bloody mary omelet to the farmers market omelet. The Lockbox serves up fluffy buttermilk waffles and salmon toast that pair perfectly with craft breakfast cocktails. Fill up on hearty Creole-style comfort foods with a focus on local ingredients at Doodles Breakfast & Lunch. The brunch options in Lexington are practically limitless, so you’ll find something delicious just about anywhere.
5. EXPLORE THE KENTUCKY WILDERNESS
Get an amazing view from the top of the ridge. The 4.2-mile Auxier Ridge Trail in the Daniel Boone National Forest is a local favorite thanks to miles of scenic ridgeline giving way to rolling hills and deep valleys. It’s the best way to get panoramic views without a leg-burning amount of elevation gain. As you hike along the ridge, Courthouse Rock and Haystack Rock come into view, which are both good turnaround points. If you can, take the time to hike one mile to the 65-foot high Natural Bridge at Natural Bridge State Resort Park. It’s a steep trail with a rewarding view of a large rock arch, and if you climb to the top of the arch you’ll have a view of the surrounding forested hillsides.
6. GRAB A PINT OR TWO
It’s impossible to visit every brewery in Lexington without some serious commitment, but if you’re a fan of craft beer, you might as well try. West Sixth Brewing and Country Boy Brewing are big-name breweries, and West Sixth gives tours and often has food trucks on site. For a friendly game of darts with your buddies, go to Ethereal Brewing, and if you’re a fan of cider, try Pivot Brewing.
7. BIKE TOUR THE KENTUCKY BOURBON TRAIL®
Start your bike ride at the Woodford Reserve Distillery. Lexington is part of the famous Kentucky Bourbon Trail®, and one of the best ways to see several top-notch distilleries in the scenic central Kentucky countryside in on two wheels. Make it a loop and start at Woodford Reserve Distillery. Head to the Wild Turkey Distillery, then the Four Roses Distillery, and back to Woodford Reserve for a solid 50-mile bike ride. There’s also nothing wrong with enjoying the scenic countryside by car if you aren’t up for a 50-mile ride. If you only have time for one distillery, go to Maker’s Mark®. The grounds are beautiful and you can hand-dip your own bottle in the signature Maker’s Mark wax.
8. INDULGE IN DELICIOUS BAKED TREATS
No one can walk into Futile Bakery and come out empty-handed, as plates of freshly baked breads, cookies, and pastries beckon even the most disciplined of us. Locals also recommend Martine’s Bakery, famous for its chocolate chip cookies and Nutella brownies that melt in your mouth. If you’re a fan of donuts (and espresso) try the artsy North Lime Coffee and Donuts.
9. KAYAK CUMBERLAND FALLS
Cumberland Falls is beautiful from the water or from afar on land. Located roughly 1 1/2 hour south of Lexington and clocking in at around 70 feet tall and 125 feet wide, Cumberland Falls is known as the ‘Niagara Falls of the South.’ Kayak or whitewater raft through miles of the lush, forested banks of the Cumberland River, soaking up the Kentucky sunshine and beautiful scenery. Rent a kayak from a local guiding company, or join one of the low-key summer rafting trips to take it all in. And be sure to check out the falls from land by taking a hike on one of the viewing trails in Cumberland Falls State Resort Park to be mesmerized by the sheer scale of the falls. Cumberland Falls is also the only place in the Western Hemisphere where you can regularly see a moonbow (a rainbow at night) when it’s close to a full moon.
10. HANG OUT WHERE THE LOCALS DO
One local we interviewed said her favorite bar to hang out in is Best Friend Bar, a hip, eclectic venue that often has a DJ or live music. If she wants a low-key evening, she’ll drink at McCarthy's Irish Bar, a long-time local watering hole with excellent decor and wide selection of beer and spirits. To listen to music, she recommends checking out The Burl, as well as the Distillery District on Manchester Street and Thompson Road is the perfect walkable destination, with a cluster of distilleries, taverns, and restaurants in old historic buildings. For even more ideas of activities in Lexington and to plan your trip, head over to VisitLex.com.
Originally written by RootsRated for Kentucky Tourism.