We’re continually on the hunt for experiences that add richness to our lives. In the spirit of the revival of road trips, we are proud to feature a monthly section featuring destinations within driving distance of Charleston. We feel that our smart and savvy readers will find these trips interesting and entertaining.
Driving a little under three hours west of Charleston takes you to Lexington, Kentucky, the horse capital of the world. While bourbon and horses play a big part in what makes this city so unique, there are plenty of other neat things to get into. Here is what I recommend for your Lexington, Kentucky road trip.
WHAT TO SEE & DO IN LEXINGTON
Lexington’s most visited attraction is the Kentucky Horse Park, an equine theme park with museums, stables, and educational offerings. See and hear stories about Triple Crown, Preakness Stakes, and Kentucky Derby winners. You can even pet the award-winning horses at the Horses of the World Barn and see them at Big Barn and Hall of Champions. There are horse-drawn trolley rides, too. You can learn more about horses at Lexington’s American Saddlebred Museum or Thoroughbred Heritage Horse Farm Tours.
Two historical attractions in Lexington with deep-Southern roots are the Mary Todd Lincoln House, the First Lady’s original home, and Ashland, the plantation belonging to 19th-century Kentucky politician Henry Clay.
Bourbon tasting is popular in Lexington, and you can enjoy it at Town Branch Distillery or Woodford Reserve Distillery (30 minutes west of town), both on the notorious Kentucky Bourbon Trail. Prefer beer? Hit Country Boy, Pivot, Rock House, and Blue Stallion Brewing Company on Kentucky’s Brewgrass Trail.
Lexington’s newer attraction is the upscale Summit at Fritz Farm, a one-stop-shop for shopping, dining, and entertainment. Shop from Draper James, Lush, Vineyard Vines, or Pottery Barn, eat at stylish restaurants or see several Instagram-worthy murals. Fritz Farm is also a perfect place to walk around and enjoy the scenery or people-watch. Sit in Steel City Pops’ courtyard and enjoy the delicious hand-crafted popsicles.
Enjoy more shopping at Lexington Green, home to Joseph-Beth Booksellers, one of the best in the country, or the Fayetteville Mall, with anchor stores like Dick’s, Macy’s, and Dillards. The Square in downtown offers unique stores since the 1880s, including Urban Outfitters and Main Cross Gallery, with local artisans’ original works.
Kid offerings around Lexington include Explorium of Lexington, with science exhibits and interactive art displays, and Kids Place Adventure Playground, with climbing structures and a massive ball pit.
Outdoor offerings include a picnic or renting a paddleboat at Jacobson park Reservoir (where you can also fish), or hiking one of the many trails at Raven Run Nature Sanctuary.
If you visit Lexington in April or October, you can attend Keeneland’s horse races, a National Historic Landmark, where the Breeders’ Cup takes place each fall.
Be sure to check out the 30+ murals around Lexington, including Lincoln, Louis Armstrong, and Man o’War, to name a few.
WHERE TO EAT AND DRINK
For breakfast, Wild Eggs has exceptionally good eats like Strawberry Tallcakes, Mr. Potato Head Casserole, and Mexico City Chilaquiles. Old School Coffee is superb if you feel like a good coffee and pastry or slice of quiche.
Honeywood is my favorite Lexington restaurant for Southern cuisine and creative hand-crafted cocktails. James Beard nominee Chef Ouita Michel does a fantastic job dishing up delectable foods, such as the veggie plate, with a traditional hoecake. Save room for the life-changing banana pudding. Bourbon on Rye serves “pub-grub classics” like Clams Casino, Peri-Peri Wings, and Grilled Gouda Chicken Sliders, and has a full bar menu.
You can’t visit Kentucky and not have BBQ, so Red State BBQ is my pick for pulled pork, all the tasty side dishes, and 10/10 perfect iced tea.
For those wanting a quick meal, Skyline Chili serves up their 3, 4, or 5-way spaghetti, or Cincinnati-style cheese coneys, or Raising Canes (a big draw in college towns) has fresh, never frozen great chicken strips and fries. Pies & Pints (a chain found on Charleston’s Capitol St.) has a Lexington location for gourmet pizza, pork nachos, and great beers on tap.
Satisfy your sweet tooth with handmade chocolates from a beloved favorite, Old Kentucky Chocolates, Caramanda’s luscious cupcakes, or warm and sinfully delicious Insomnia Cookies.
WHERE TO STAY IN LEXINGTON
Lexington’s premier hotel is the 21C Museum Hotel Lexington, conveniently located to many of the best downtown restaurants, boutiques, and Rupp Arena. You’ll enjoy luxury accommodations and a contemporary art museum at the same time. 21C boutique pet-friendly hotels offer free Wifi, a 24-hour fitness facility, an onsite restaurant, artful decor, and modern furnishings.
Another hotel to consider is the Griffin Gate Marriott, an older property with timeless elegance, pool, and golf course, a short detour from the interstate. Those seeking a trendy hotel chain might want to look at the new rustic-chic Origin Hotel at Fritz Farm.
There are also chain hotels at every exit in Lexington and run the gamut from 2 to 4 stars.