Lexington is widely considered the Horse Capital of the World.
As the second-largest city in Kentucky, Lexington offers some of the best equine destinations in the world.
But the fun doesn’t start and end with just horse-themed attractions.
A mix of historical, artistic, and natural locations make for an interesting holiday with lots to choose from.
To help you out in those decisions, we’ve compiled a travel guide for the city.
1. Mary Todd Lincoln House
The Mary Todd Lincoln house is situated right in the center of West Main Street in downtown Lexington.
Made from enchanting Georgian brick, it was built from 1803 to 1806 and used as a tavern and inn.
It wasn’t until 1932 that Mary Todd’s father purchased the building for his family’s use.
Now, the Mary Todd Lincoln House is a historical site, preserved to commemorate this gem of American history.
It is the first historical location that was restored for the sake of a first lady and comes complete with artifacts that truly submerge you in history.
Its rooms retain much of its original photographs and furnishings of its period and its exterior shows off a lovely set of gardens perfect for strolling through.
Mary Todd Lincoln was America’s 16th First Lady, the wife of the late President Abraham Lincoln.
This home where she grew up was visited by her frequently over the years.
It boasts 14 rooms and you can embark on a one-hour tour through them while learning of the life and times of this influential figure.
It goes without saying that the Mary Todd Lincoln House is one of the best spots that Lexington has to offer, and if you’re looking for places to go in the city, make sure you don’t miss it.
Address: 578 W Main St, Lexington, KY 40507, United States
Given the fact that Kentucky is known for its horses, it’s little surprise that one of the tourist attractions that you can find in downtown Lexington is related to this elegant animal.
Keeneland is a professional racing course for horses that is publicly open throughout the year.
Keeneland was founded in 1936 and is as famous as it is historic.
If you take a tour, you’ll get to visit the indoor facility area, check out the racecourse, and even get a look into the sales complex.
Naturally, attending race day is one of the most fun things to do in Lexington.
But while races are one of the main reasons you’d want to take a trip to Keeneland, its many other events and its iconic value mean there’s something you can enjoy here no matter when you visit.
Among the many things that pepper the Keeneland calendar are huge thoroughbred auctions – some of the largest in the United States! – and events dedicated to honoring racing culture and history.
You can check out the Keeneland Kids Club if you have children aged 12 and below, visit the shop to buy horse-themed gifts, browse thoroughbred historical archives, or simply walk through the immaculate grounds!
Address: 4201 Versailles Rd, Lexington, KY 40510, United States
3. Kentucky Horse Park
Kentucky Horse Park is among the top 10 points of interest that you can go to in Lexington, especially if you’re a fan of anything and everything equine.
It’s a fully operational horse farm that is also designed to raise awareness for equine history and culture.
It’s not just one simple park, either – it’s full of different portions that provide fun and varied experiences!
The horse park is home to the Smithsonian International Museum of the Horse, which tells the tales of horse-rearing and its history the way horses have been used in society, and how horse breeds have evolved over the years.
It houses great artifacts like the Calumet Trophy Collection and lists amazing racehorses across time in the Hall of Champions.
On the grounds, there is also the grave of one of the most iconic thoroughbreds – Mon o’ War, with a large and rather opulent statue over it.
The rest of the park has demonstrations of old-timey professions like wagoners, blacksmiths, and harness makers.
Horse shows are also held in the park, with all sorts of breeds ranging from typical workhorses and rarer varieties, and you can even take a ride on a carriage pulled by a horse!
Address: 4089 Iron Works Pkwy, Lexington, KY 40511, United States
4. Raven Run Nature Sanctuary
Raven Run Nature Sanctuary sits peacefully on a southern fringe of the city of Lexington, spanning 734 acres of lush greenery.
A mix of woodland, forestry, and streams wind through the delightful spot, with 10 miles of hiking trails that make for a fantastic sightseeing adventure.
The sanctuary is designed to preserve the wild green of the Kentucky River Palisades, providing a wonderful open space to roam while showcasing the importance and historical value of the patches of land it inhabits.
You might find some remnants left behind from settlers of the 19th century or stumble upon the bird blind where you can observe and learn about the nature of the Bluegrass wilderness.
Other things you can do in the Raven Run Nature Sanctuary include the Joe Pulliam Memorial Garden, which is a stop for monarch butterflies in their migration.
You can also enroll your children in special programs or take part in weekly yoga sessions or organized runs if you’re interested!
Be sure to pop into the visitor’s center at the Raven Run Nature Sanctuary when you first arrive.
You’ll learn more about the sanctuary, the more than 600 species of plants and animals that inhabit it, and the history of the establishment itself.
It’s peaceful, educational, and among the best things to do in Lexington!
Address: 3885 Raven Run Way, Lexington, KY 40515, United States
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5. Aviation Museum of Kentucky
Taking a trip to the Aviation Museum of Kentucky and perusing its many exhibits is a surefire must do in Lexington.
With 20,000 square feet of space dedicated to the wonderful history of flight, the museum is one of America’s most delightful places to visit for aviation enthusiasts.
The museum hosts all sorts of aircraft exhibits, from the likes of Vietnam War-famous Bell Cobra copters to the undeniably cool F-4 Phantoms.
A combination of different aircraft gives you a great glimpse into a mix of classic, old, and modern aviation.
The exhibit arena is as comprehensive as it is expensive, with displays of both replica and authentic variety.
Military, civilian, and commercial aircraft are displayed, and you can learn more about them and the history of aviation in the museum library.
There is also the Kentucky Aviation Hall of Fame that lists all sorts of great figureheads of the state in this industry.
It’s not just permanent exhibits at the Aviation Museum, either.
Traveling exhibitions bring photograph collections, artifacts, models, and more!
All year round, you can also head over to the restoration and repair shop on museum grounds that teach visitors about the repair and maintenance of old aircraft.
If you’re here in the summer with kids from the ages of 10 and 18, you can even enroll them in a camp!
Address: 4029 Airport Rd, Lexington, KY 40510, United States
6. Kentucky Theatre
The Kentucky Theatre, located in the downtown area of Lexington, has been around for almost a century!
It’s been a staple of city-wide entertainment, dating all the way back to “talkies” and showcasing iconic performances such as The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
The theatre is now used as a modern-day cinema.
Though it’s not nearly as luxurious as the economy changes in the place surrounding it if you’re looking for things to see, why not pop into the old theater to catch a blockbuster or indie film this weekend?
Address: 214 E Main St, Lexington, KY 40507, United States
7. Hunt-Morgan House
The Hunt-Morgan House was originally built for John Wesley Hunt, who was the very first millionaire to live to the Alleghenies Mountain Range’s west.
The townhouse was constructed in the year 1814 and called Hopemont at first.
It’s a great way to get a taste of old Lexington and it’s among the best cool things to do in the city.
But where, then, did the house’s name come from?
Well, it originates from one of the many notable people who stayed in the home.
In this case, it was Dr. Thomas Hunt Morgan, the first state resident to win a Nobel Prize.
The Hunt-Morgan House doesn’t particularly feature this illustrious man’s life and times alone, but it has been preserved by a local trust and restored so it can be open to the public.
Within this home, you’ll view three stories perfectly curated to feature period furnishings and decor.
Some genuine artifacts belonging to the home’s prior residents are on display and a Civil War museum lives on site – possibly due to the fact that a Confederate general once lived here, too.
You can also have fun admiring the cantilever staircase, the portraits, and porcelain, or wandering through the walled courtyard and garden.
Address: 201 N Mill St, Lexington, KY 40507, United States
8. Waveland State Historic Site
The Waveland State Historic Site is a picturesque preserve of old Lexington and the plantation era of the United States.
Walls of red brick and Doric columns may be old, but they’re well-preserved and give you a good idea of how grand this part of Lexington once was.
Most buildings here date back to the 19th century when landowners lived opulent lives.
The antebellum mansion is the biggest example of this, with an extremely luxurious main building contracted by three less extravagant outbuildings – one lived in by slaves.
Green grounds, with more slave quarters, an ice house, and a smokehouse, also still stand here now.
The Waveland State Historic Site offers daily tours that will tell you about the lives of the families that lived here and the slaves as their beck and call.
Period furnishings, decorations, and artifacts make for curious things to observe on your way through the main mansion and the buildings near it.
Special events like Derby Day Breakfasts, baseball games, costumed exhibits, and Tea Tuesdays add to the special attraction of the site.
As far as Lexington attractions go, it’s very much worth the trip for historical significance!
Address: 225 Waveland Museum Ln, Lexington, KY 40514, United States
9. University of Kentucky
The University of Kentucky began its life as the Agricultural and Mechanical College, opened by John Bowman in 1865.
Its current name was only gained in 1916.
But how can a university be one of Lexington’s top spots?
Well, it’s home to the University of Kentucky Art Museum, which has a permanent collection that regularly changes exhibits, featuring many forms of art including photographs, sculptures, prints, paintings, and many more.
In fact, the art museum is thought to house the finest collection of art in Lexington.
The mix of subversive, classic, and contemporary works here makes it fascinating to peruse.
Workshops and touring shows are also held once in a while, and permanent collection entry is completely free.
Some other interesting spots on the university grounds are the Buell Armory, the Rupp Arena, and a bookstore.
The Rupp Arena is especially interesting since it is the home of the state basketball team, the Kentucky Wildcats!
Address: 101 Main Building, Lexington, KY 40506, United States
The Arboretum is well-known as one of the must-see spots in Lexington all year round.
Owned by the University of Kentucky, this space spans 100 acres and first opened its doors in 1991.
Themed gardens provide a conservation space for fauna and a fun educational opportunity for you.
All sorts of activities are held throughout the year, rotating with the seasons, most of which are perfect for the whole family to enjoy!
Check out the Arboretum’s website to view its event calendar.
Address: University of Kentucky, 500 Alumni Dr, Lexington, KY 40503, United States
If you have more time to explore, Louisville is not too far! Located about 80 miles from Arboretum, here are some of the best things to do in Louisville, KY!
11. McConnell Springs
McConnell Springs is a beautiful rush of wilderness and thick greenery that decorates the fringes of Lexington along the north.
It is named after William McConnell, a frontiersman who used this area for his and his compadres’ camp in 1775.
The group arrived here at the beginning of the American Revolution and named the beginning of this settlement after a Massachusetts town, also called Lexington.
This is what led to the founding of the city we know now!
In terms of stuff to do, McConnell Springs boasts historical significance that provides an air of importance to this serene location.
Remnants of a dam, farm buildings, stone fences, and even a creamery can also be found scattered throughout the vicinity.
Ash trees, brooks, two miles of hiking trails, and springs all make McConnell Springs an awesome place to head to when you want to take in some sights for sore eyes.
Address: 416 Rebmann Ln, Lexington, KY 40504, United States
12. Lexington Cemetery
Lexington Cemetery is the final resting place of over 60,000 people and has existed for over 150 years.
Just north of the city’s downtown area, it’s the best place for tourists who like spooky or melancholy places.
Sure, a trip to a cemetery isn’t exactly something you may consider among the fun things to do in Lexington, but the cemetery’s history and its grounds make it worth a visit.
Among the most interesting features in this cemetery are resting places for Kentucky VIPs and Icons like golfer Gay Brewer, city founder and frontiersman Levi Todd, basketball coach Adolph Rupp, and Ernest P. Worrell actor Jim Varney.
There is also an effigy here that is on the National Register of Historic Places: a Confederate Soldier Monument.
The grounds are carefully kept with tulip blooms, crab-apple trees, and magnolias.
Some special water features also add to the somber but sweet atmosphere that the cemetery has as a whole.
Enjoy a little stroll here as you respectfully look at the graves or even go on a walking tour that takes you through the metal plate graves across the 170 acres of the grounds.
Address: 833 W Main St, Lexington, KY 40508, United States
13. Red Mile Harness Track
The Red Mile Harness Track is just one more of many horse-centric things in Lexington, Kentucky.
So if you love all things equine, taking a trip to this one-mile long, oval-shaped Lexington track is something to add to your list of what to do.
The Red Mile Harness Track is actually one of the world’s oldest harness racetracks – the second-oldest, in fact.
Live races are held in the months of July, August, and September, but workouts are held every single day all the way from dawn to late morning.
For more activities, check out simulcasted races or eat at one of the restaurants onsite.
Address: 1200 Red Mile Rd, Lexington, KY 40504, United States
14. Old Friends Thoroughbred Retirement Farms
Lexington really is chock-full of horse-themed tourist attractions.
The Old Friends Thoroughbred Retirement Farms is just another one of them, and it still holds up as one of the top things to do in Lexington!
This is where retired thoroughbreds go to live out the rest of their days in peace and enjoyment.
The Old Friends Thoroughbred Retirement Farms was opened by Michael Blowen, a former critic for the Boston Globe, as a nonprofit organization in 2003.
Blowen was moved to open the farm after finding out that a Kentucky Derby-winning horse wound up in a Japanese slaughterhouse.
Unfortunately, this is still a common fate for many winning horses once they are too old to race.
Over 150 different racehorses, now retired, live in three different locations attached to Blowens organization, including the Old Friends Thoroughbred Retirement Farms – and many of them were iconic in their time!
You need to reserve a spot in advance here for visits and guided walks, with each walk coming with some carrot snacks to feed the horses!
Address: 1841 Paynes Depot Rd, Georgetown, KY 40324, United States
15. Headley-Whitney Museum
The Headley-Whitney Museum was created in 1968 by Lexington, Kentucky locals Barbara Whitney and George Headley.
Headley was a jewelry designer and Whitney was a crafter, and their handiwork is showcased all throughout the museum.
The museum is primarily meant to showcase and commemorate the great creations of this couple.
Bibelots, dollhouses, and miniatures by Whitney and jewelry by Headly are on display throughout.
Artistic innovation and talent have a fun meaning at the Healey-Whitney Museum, and a rose garden, library, and shell grotto add to its appeal.
Some rotating exhibits make the rounds of the museum seasonally.
Workshops and events – often for children – also shift in and out during the year.
A gift shop for little trinkets is a lovely place to stop by.
Overall, the Headley-Whitney Museum is one of the city’s more fascinating places to visit.
Address: 4435 Old Frankfort Pike, Lexington, KY 40510, United States
16. West Sixth Brewing
Once more reminding you of the brewing industry of Kentucky is another great Lexington brewhouse: West Sixth Brewing.
It is a rather hipster-like and remarkably cool distillery that serves up great drinks and style.
Who says you need to go out at night for some exciting drinks?
West Sixth IPA is definitely the main attraction of West Sixth Brewing – as its name suggests!
The quad-hop ingredients used make it quite an interesting Kentucky staple.
Still, you’ll get to check out the distillery’s taproom – brimming with industrial-chic design – and many homemade booze offerings.
Basically, if you’re looking for what to see and are a fan of alcohol and good drinks, this is a great place to head to.
Another interesting West Sixth Brewing feature is the Pay It Forward Forter, with cocoa undertones.
There is also a bubbly beer called DankeChain that is meant to be reminiscent of Oktoberfest.
As a community brewery, the establishment also offers events that cater to locals regularly.
Address: 501 W 6th St #100, Lexington, KY 40508, United States
17. Lexington Visitors Center
Still not sure what places to see while you’re in this Kentucky city?
Head over to the Lexington Visitors Center!
The informational building is packed with resources for visitors to the area.
Visitor Information Specialists are eager to help those who visit and can offer lots of materials and literature about attractions, accommodation, food, and more.
While you’re here, learn more about the Bluegrass Region that surrounds the city.
You can also stop by the view memorabilia, like a life-sized blue horse, and lots of photo op spots.
Address: 215 W Main St Suite 75, Lexington, KY 40507, United States
18. Institute 193
Institute 193 is one of the more modern of Lexington attractions.
It’s a contemporary art gallery that showcases some innovative forms of culture and artistic expression in ways that reflect the Lexington of today.
This part of Kentucky is sadly lacking in cultural showcases, so Institute 193 fills that void well.
Open for public viewing from Wednesdays to Saturdays in the mornings and afternoons, Institute 193 boasts exhibitions from artists in their early- or mid-careers.
Typically, exhibits focus on the cultural landscape of the south.
Every once in a while, you’ll be able to catch extra events like film screens, musical performances, and art lectures.
Address: 193 N Limestone, Lexington, KY 40507, United States
19. Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour
Believe it or not, Lexington and its state are known for their bourbon.
This tour comes with “passports” that show you some great itineraries that lead you to points of interest on the bourbon trail.
Some distilleries you’ll see along the way are The Old Pogue, Corsair, Wilderness Trail Distillery, and Willett Distillery.
Though not all of these places are within the city, the tour is fun enough that it’s worth the extra mileage!
Address: 614 Shelby St, Frankfort, KY 40601, United States
20. Festival of the Bluegrass
When considering what to do in Lexington during an early June visit, why not visit the Festival of the Bluegrass?
After all, isn’t this state the home of bluegrass?
The Festival of the Bluegrass is probably one of the biggest festivals for the genre in the world, combining all the wonders of honkytonk, folk violin, banjo, and more.
The Festival of the Bluegrass is run by locals from Lexington and from the rest of the state.
It’s a fairly intimate sort of festival with just one stage, some workshops for music and banjo, and a good lineup of bluegrass acts from both American and other countries.
Arts and crafts, fun magic shows, and horse processions are also often staples of the festival.
It’s a good option for entertainment and exciting musical events without the pressure of overwhelming crowds.
Address: Lexington, KY, United States
Exploring other parts of Kentucky? Why not check out some of the things to do in Bowling Green?
21. Thoroughbred Park
For equine enthusiasts, something to add to your bucket list of sites in Lexington, Kentucky is Thoroughbred Park.
The park spans 2.75 acres and has a very interesting role in preserving history in Lexington: it’s dedicated to thoroughbred horses and their history!
Across the park, 13 statues of horses stand, often depicted grazing or racing, and children are allowed to touch, climb, and stroke them each in turn.
There are also 42 plaques across the park that honor important people in the history of the thoroughbred industry, including President George Washington and Queen Elizabeth II.
Don’t forget to bring a camera with you to take advantage of the great photo ops!
Address: 100 Midland Ave, Lexington, KY 40507, United States
22. Old Kentucky Chocolates
Old Kentucky Chocolates is one of the world’s most famed chocolate-makers.
The factory provides delicious tours throughout its facility, and these tours are easily among the most fun things to do in Lexington!
When you go on a tour of this factory, you’ll learn some behind-the-scenes secrets of how chocolates are made here, from the cooking to the molding and to the final packing process.
You’ll get to watch the detailed craftsmanship that goes into making each delicious Lexington treat and even sample a bar of chocolate or two right off the production line!
For families with kids or for chocolate fanatics, taking a trip to this wonderful chocolate and candy factory is a surefire must do.
The historical background provided by guides mixed with the interesting chocolate-making process is a great mix of education and excitement.
If you want to, you can even buy some of their products at the factory!
Address: 450 Southland Dr, Lexington, KY 40503, United States
23. Henry Clay Estate
Looking for more things to do in downtown Lexington with a little history involved?
The Henry Clay Estate is a great option for something to do in the area!
A huge Italianate home with two wings and surrounded by greenery and forest, it is a testament to old Lexington.
It gives you an idea of the feel of Kentucky and how it developed over the years.
In 1811, the New Madrid Earthquake caused this plantation to be completely rebuilt eventually in the middle of the century.
This rebuilding added Greek Revivalist style and opulence with touches of European influence.
If you head here, you can walk through the grounds of Fir and ash and take a tour of the home’s interior.
You should also check out Civil War monuments on the property or learn about the Clay family and its history and ancestry.
Address: 120 Sycamore Rd, Lexington, KY 40502, United States
24. Windy Corner Market
The Windy Corner Market sits on one of the outskirts of Lexington – but right in the Bluegrass country’s heart.
Its stalls hold countless completely locally-sourced, authentic local meals.
Bakery goods, fresh salads, chicken fingers, and Po-Boy subs make for a great selection.
The most delicious offerings come with breakfast: hearty plates of American countryside cuisine, Belgian-style waffles, and more are served hot and ready to tantalize the tastebuds.
Visiting the Windy Corner Market is one of the many fun activities you can find in this Kentucky city, and it’s one of the best things to do in Lexington – especially if you like getting a true taste of local life!
Address: 4595 Bryan Station Rd, Lexington, KY 40516, United States
25. Blue Door Smokehouse
If you’re a food fan, the Blue Door Smokehouse is one of the places to visit you just can’t miss while you’re in Lexington, Kentucky.
If you’re anywhere close to the Mason-Dixon Line, the Blue Door Smokehouse provides the delicious taste of the deep south.
The smokehouse is a relaxed diner for American BBQ and is extremely highly rated.
Aside from the much-loved smoked sausage and pulled pork, you definitely shouldn’t miss the Hot Brown.
This dish is a sliced brisket sandwich, with the beef tender and stacked, charred just enough around the edges, and carefully balanced with pickles and onions.
Other southern staples are served at Blue Door Smokehouse, and you can always order their chocolate fudge brownies for a sweet dessert treat.
If you’re in the area this weekend, it’s almost a crime not to drip in.
Do note that the diner is only open at night on Fridays and Saturdays and on all other days, it closes at 3 pm.
Address: 226 Walton Ave, Lexington, KY 40502, United States
26. Jacobson Park
Jacobson Park is an urban park that is great for sightseeing tourists and for Lexington, Kentucky locals.
There are so many different things to see that there’s something for just about anyone and everyone.
It covers 216 acres, filled with a mix of greenery and modern features.
Among the things you can enjoy in this Kentucky park are pedal-boat rentals available seasonally, fishing opportunities for those with licenses, and a large pond for other water activities.
For more sports activities, consider the open fields, volleyball nets, and basketball courts!
If you come here with furry friends, there’s a well-fenced dog park.
For children, there’s a playground.
And, of course, for the whole family, there are covered shelters and open fields to wander through, have picnics in, and enjoy the break from the rush of the city.
So what are you waiting for?
Address: 4001 Athens Boonesboro Rd, Lexington, KY 40509, United States
27. The Monroe Moosnick Medical and Science Museum
The Monroe Moosnick Medical and Science Museum is one of the most unique things to do in Lexington.
This makes it one of the best for those who want something slightly more unorthodox and fun for their trip.
It’s open only by appointment, so arrange your trip in advance!
The museum is named after a late chemistry professor from Transylvania University who worked at the institution for an impressive fifty years.
It’s packed with medical instruments and paraphernalia that date back to the 1700s and 1800s.
Though they look extremely out-of-this-world and resemble something from science fiction now, they were the peak of modern medical technology back in their time.
A lot of the instruments are accompanied by features designed to teach you some basic concepts of physics, chemistry, and biology.
These features include botanical diagrams and anatomical models.
A lot of these were purchased between the years 1820 and 1850 in places like Paris and London, then brought to Transylvania University for the medical students.
One of the most interesting pieces at this museum is a life-sized wax figure called Medical Venus, which is a dissectible female figure made by casting 200 cadavers for tissue and organ models.
Another interesting piece is a hairball from a buffalo’s stomach that spans 14 inches.
The hairball was given to Transylvania University by Mary Todd Lincoln’s youngest brother, George Rogers Clark Todd.
Address: 300 N Broadway, Lexington, KY 40507, United States
28. The World’s Largest Ceiling Clock
It’s likely that you had no idea that the world’s largest ceiling clock lives in Lexington, specifically in the Central Public Library of Lexington.
Though it’s unusual, it’s a definite must-see.
The clock is essentially a huge work of art that sits in the atrium of the building.
It was donated by a Lexington philanthropist.
It features a five-story Foucault pendulum, complete with a frieze that showcases figures of horse history and even eight jockeys, all Lexington locals.
Despite its obscurity, this ceiling clock is still considered among quintessential Lexington attractions thanks to its cool and unusual structure, artistic value, and fun interpretive meaning.
Address: 140 E Main St, Lexington, KY 40507, United States
Start Planning Your Trip To Lexington
Termed as one of the most beautiful places in the US, Lexington is full of fun and enticing locations that are sure to interest you.
There’s basically something for everyone, and many of its best spots are good for the whole family.
Whether you’re visiting today, tomorrow, this weekend, or further in the future, you can be sure that a trip to Lexington, Kentucky will be full of excitement!