Heading to Kentucky? Set aside some time on your itinerary to explore all the best things to do in Lexington, KY. Offering a true taste of Southern charm, Lexington is a must-see destination for anyone venturing around the Bluegrass State.
For any trip through Lexington, known as the Horse Capital of the World, a visit to the Kentucky Horse Park and Keeneland is non-negotiable. The heart of the Bluegrass region, Kentucky’s second-biggest city is also steeped in rich history, with top-rated tourist attractions like the Mary Todd Lincoln House and Waveland State Historic Site at every turn.
Tired of searching for what to do in Lexington, Kentucky? Plan your travels with ease with this complete guide to the best places to visit in Lexington, KY!
Must-see places to visit in Lexington, KY
Kentucky Horse Park
Immerse yourself in the world of Equine entertainment at the Kentucky Horse Park. With so much to do, you can tailor your experience to your group; there’s something for everyone at this top-rated Lexington point of interest!
Throughout Kentucky Horse Park, flanked by camping grounds, you’ll find oodles of live horse shows, a prestigious hall of champions, and several equestrian-themed museums to keep you entertained.
Once you have learned all about your trusty steed and worked up some nerve, it’s time to saddle up and give horseback riding a try for yourself.
At only $30 per rider, you’ll hit the trails for a beginner-friendly introduction to riding and—perhaps!—discover a new passion; if you aren’t a horse enthusiast already, you might well be by the time you leave the Kentucky Horse Park!
Raven Run Nature Sanctuary
One of Lexington’s most beloved outdoor activities is a trip to the Raven Run Nature Sanctuary. With over 10 miles of hiking trails to choose from, this pretty nature reserve will wind you through fairytale woodlands, past wildflower fields, up to one of the best vantage points for viewing the Kentucky River—and even to the foot of a small waterfall. No matter your hiking style or proficiency, Raven Run has a trail for you.
Need to beat the summer heat? Bring a bathing suit along and take a dip in one of Raven Run Nature Sanctuary’s springs or creeks. Splashing around here is the perfect way to stay cool in the hot Kentucky sun.
It’s all about making a splash at Lexington’s Jacobson Park! Rent a boat at the marina, settle down on the fishing docks, or hit the splash pad with your kiddos for a day of aquatic fun. There’s also a concession stand selling all-American hot dogs on the reservoir shore to keep you fueled up for all your adventuring..
Of course, if you’re more of a “feet on dry land” kind of traveler, you’ll still get a healthy dose of outdoor recreation at Jacobson Park. Throughout the 216-acre park grounds, you’ll find amenities like a giant playscape, ball courts, and even a disc golf course to keep you active.
Mary Todd Lincoln House
For an adventure steeped in politics and local prestige, be sure to head over to the Mary Todd Lincoln House. Once the childhood home of Abraham Lincoln’s wife, this living museum is the perfect place to learn about American history and the fascinating life of former First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln.
If you’d like to make a day out of presidential tourism, embark on Lincoln’s Lexington Walking Tour. In addition to your stop at the Mary Todd Lincoln House, you’ll also discover locations that were childhood favorites of the first lady and top-secret destinations the couple liked to visit when in Lexington. Best of all, this walking tour is free and self-guided, so you can explore at your own pace.
The permanent collection at the Headley-Whitney Museum is sure to be one of the most unique galleries you’ve ever seen.
Comprised of the personal art collection of collectors George Headley and Barbara Whitney, this art museum experience in Lexington, KY, is one for the books. What’s the prized collection at Headly-Whitney Museum, you ask? A series of elaborate dollhouses handcrafted to capture the likeness of the Whitney estate.
Aside from the works collected throughout his lifetime, George Headley also left a personal legacy to the Headley-Whitney Museum: a collection of jewelry he designed himself. Depending on when you visit, you may also be lucky enough to catch a traveling exhibition showcasing some of Kentucky’s finest new artists.
The Arboretum State Botanical Garden of Kentucky
As far as Lexington’s outdoor attractions go, The Arboretum State Botanical Garden of Kentucky is one of the finest. Stop and smell the roses in show-stopping floral displays such as the fragrance, pollinator, and memorial gardens. You could spend all day perusing the curated flower fields and still not see everything here!
For a true-blue Southern adventure in the great outdoors, plan a daylong trek on one of The Arboretum State Botanical Garden of Kentucky’s trails. The 100-acre property is a brilliant example of Kentucky’s varying landscapes, with hiking trails winding through woodlands, mountains, plateaus, and other native habitats for local fauna.
McConnell Springs Park
Named after one of Lexington’s most prominent settlers, William McConnell, McConnell Springs Park is one of the top-rated parks in the area.
McConnell Springs Park is home to a whopping three natural springs. Hike on down to The Blue Hole, The Boils, or The Final Sink and set up for a picnic by the water. Whether you opt for the deep, turquoise basin, or an underground cave-bound pool, you’ll love listening to the bubbling springs as you snack away.
Before leaving, head down the walking paths to the Bur Oak Tree estimated to be over 250 years old! Spreading shade across the McConnell Springs Park farmstead, this gentle giant is hard to miss.
Ashland, The Henry Clay Estate
If you’re an avid museum-goer, you’ve probably noticed that Lexington, KY, is a prime destination. No exception to the city’s list of wonderful and prestigious museums, Ashland, The Henry Clay Estate is a gem that’s not to be missed.
During your visit to Ashland, you’ll step inside Henry Clay’s main mansion as well as other historical buildings such as the stables, Smokehouse, and Keeper’s Cottage.
Though Ashland, The Henry Clay Estate, is a lovely place to enjoy with its Arboretum, gardens, and era-specific architecture, it also provides a wonderful opportunity to learn about America’s history of slavery and farming in the 1800s.
While visiting the estate, try to make time for The Henry Clay Walk. Along this walking path in the back fields, Henry Clay often went to contemplate important matters. It’s well-traveled by those seeking solace and cosmic answers to this day!
Waveland State Historic Site
One of the best places to go in Lexington, KY, for an immersive historical experience is the Waveland State Historic Site. You’ll watch the 19th century come to life all around you as you explore the Antebellum house of Joseph Bryan.
Once you’ve made your way through the homestead, there’s still plenty to do at the Waveland State Historic Site. Depending on the day you visit, you may have the dine while docents in period fashion serve a high tea in the historic mansion or catch a vintage ballgame out on the lawns. Otherwise, you’re free to spend the afternoon perusing the gardens or taking a stroll down the walking paths.
Can’t get enough of Kentucky Equestrian culture? A visit to Thoroughbred Park, a unique sculpture park with an equestrian flair, is a must. Comprised of 12 bronze statues by Gwen Rearden, the park has three main installations depicting various horse-centric scenes: The Meadow, The Track, and The Winner’s Circle.
One of the best parts about a visit to Thoroughbred Park is that you can get up close and personal with these works of art—no waiting behind velvet ropes around here! Snap some photos next to a grazing foal, a racing jockey, and a revered champion and make vacation memories that’ll last a lifetime.
Aviation Museum of Kentucky
Let your imagination take flight at the Aviation Museum of Kentucky. As you’re led through the exhibits by volunteer docents, you’ll picture yourself gliding through the sky in a vintage, single-seater aircraft or climbing up into the cockpit of a military helicopter.
The best part about the Aviation Museum of Kentucky? The museum is located at Blue Grass Airport, making it a piece of cake to start your vacation off on the right foot or end on an exciting note as you prep for your flight home.
Treat your tastebuds to a glass of good ol’ Kentucky bourbon at Bluegrass Distillers. This craft bourbon producer is pushing the boundaries of modern distilling, bottling the first ever blue-corn bourbon, and seeing great success in the market.
Don’t have time to fit a tour and tasting into your Lexington, KY, travel itinerary? Make a quick pit stop at the Bluegrass Distillers retail store. (A bottle of local craft bourbon would make the perfect souvenir to share with your friends back home, no?)
If you want to spend your tourist dollars on something you can feel good about, look out for the distiller’s “Philanthropy Barrel” bourbons, which directly support local charities.
The Lexington Cemetery
While it may not be the first activity to pop into your mind while itinerary building, a visit to The Lexington Cemetery is a can’t-miss attraction. A number of noteworthy people have been laid to rest at the famous cemetery, including famous authors, horsemen, war heroes, activists, and politicians.
Spend an afternoon wandering the rows of headstones to pay your respects and honor the legacy of the likes of former US Vice President John Cabell Breckinridge and 1971 Miss America winner Phyllis George. Keep your eye out for the graves of over 80 prominent figures that made lasting local and global impacts.
Graves aside, The Lexington Cemetery is a lovely place to visit and spend some time outdoors. You’ll love exploring the impressive arboretum spanning a 170-acre estate. You can even take a guided tour to admire the trees, flower gardens, and extravagant water features of this landscape.
The Loudoun House
Architecture buffs need to set aside time to browse The Loudoun House during their Lexington vacation. This historic home is largely accepted as the loveliest Gothic Revival homestead in Kentucky, drawing flocks of tourists to admire its facade each year.
With so much buzz about the home’s exterior, you may be surprised to find out that there’s even more to discover inside the front doors! The Loudoun House now hosts an art gallery with complimentary admission, featuring the work of four Lexington locals.
Hunt-Morgan House (Hopemont)
Consider yourself a history buff? The Hunt-Morgan House (Hopemont) is the perfect Lexington attraction for every amateur historian. The historic house has a hearty reputation as a marvel of early 1800s architecture and offers a glimpse into the life of one of Lexington’s most prominent citizens of the Civil War era.
Roam the halls of this historic estate, once belonging to Thomas Hunt Morgan himself. Part of the Hunt-Morgan House now operates as a Civil War museum. If you’re looking for a quiet place for reflection, take a stroll through the pretty period garden out back.
A visit to the Hunt-Morgan House (Hopemont) will fit into even the tightest of timelines, with guided tours lasting a mere 45 minutes. You can also combine your museum visit with some of the other top points of interest in Lexington, KY, by taking a Lexington West End Walking Tour, also operated by the Blue Grass Trust.
West Sixth Brewing
Don’t forget to pencil in a stop at the original Lexington taproom for Kentucky’s finest craft brewery, West Sixth Brewing. Though their brews are stocked in plenty of local restaurants and shops, visiting their taproom unleashes a menu of experimental brews on a limited release, exclusive to the restaurant.
One of the best things to do in Lexington, KY, a visit to West Sixth Brewing promises a brewery tour that’s anything but ordinary. Of course, you can arrange to be led through the massive keg rooms and guided through a tasting. But you can also trace the beer-making process straight back to the source by visiting the West Sixth farm and hops yard.
West Sixth Brewing promises to be your new favorite it-spot for sampling innovative “cold ones” with your buds. (Next time, you might just have to fly the whole crew down to Lexington, Kentucky!)
University of Kentucky Art Museum
A leading Lexington attraction, the University of Kentucky Art Museum is a must-see for every visiting art lover. After walking through the admission booth to claim your free entry, you’ll be immersed in a colorful and abstract world of creativity.
In addition to exciting events and rotating exhibitions, the University of Kentucky Art Museum boasts a permanent collection of over 4,000 works. Whether you’re most interested in sculpture, painting, photography, or mixed-medium works, you’ll be sure to find a piece that piques your interest here!