Are you ready to explore the best things to do in Lexington? You’re in the right spot! Known for horse racing and bourbon, Lexington is a fun city full of exciting and intriguing things to do for all types of travelers. Whether you’re looking for an educational experience, an outdoor adventure, or a city escape, you can find it in Lexington, Kentucky!
Lexington has an interesting history that has lead to a plethora of historical sites and attractions in the city. From the childhood home of Mary Todd Lincoln to the Waveland State Historic Site, there are historical locations all throughout the city. Lexington was also the first city in the United States to host the World Equestrian Games and of course has bred some of the most successful race horses in the world! A trip to some of the horse-centric locations in the city is a must to truly experience Lexington.
There’s so much to do and see! Which of these things to do in Lexington will you do first? Don’t forget to check out some of the best restaurants in Lexington while you are here!
14 Best Things To Do In Lexington, Kentucky
Aviation Museum of Kentucky
More than just a plane museum, the Aviation Museum of Kentucky is one of the most unique things to do in Lexington. This museum has two hangers that are packed with aircrafts from different eras and different purpose. Military aircraft, recreational planes, helicopters, simulators, and more can be found at this museum, including a replica of one of the first quadraplanes!
While at the museum, you can also find military memorabilia, an antique car, plane engines, and a fully equipped aircraft repair shop. You can stop by the gift shop and you can also watch planes take off and land from the nearby airport. The close proximity to the airport is especially fun for young kids as it adds an extra layer of fun to the visit to the Aviation Museum!
The Arboretum State Botanical Garden
If you’re looking for free things to do in Lexington, the arboretum is a must see! A 2.5 mile loop weaves throughout this free Lexington attraction. Pergolas, gazebos, sculptures, and water features are scattered across the grounds of the arboretum and make for a great place to take photos on your travels!
Although the arboretum, and Lexington as a whole is beautiful in the fall, if you really want to see the arboretum when it’s at its best, consider visiting in the spring! Flowers fill the gardens and the trees with beautiful aromatic flowers that are just absolutely stunning! Once you’re finished exploring the grounds, you have a lot of shopping and eating options within a fifteen minute drive. Quick eats, sit down restaurants, shops, and the Fayette Mall are all options in the area!
Mary Todd Lincoln House
The wife of Abraham Lincoln was raised in Lexington, Kentucky. Her childhood home still stands to this day and can be toured by visitors! Mary Todd Lincoln’s behavior and character has actually spurred a lot of conversation. Some claiming that she is one of the most unpopular first lady’s in America’s history. Nevertheless, her family history and how it connects to president Abraham Lincoln and America as a whole is quite interesting.
Today, her home is in immaculate condition. The home is simply beautiful and it’s so cool to see a home that has been preserved all of these years. Along with a tour of her home, you can also take a self guided tour in the area around her home to see locations in Lexington that pertain to Mary Todd Lincoln’s childhood and Abraham Lincoln’s visits to Lexington. There are two printable guides on the homes website that will show you the locations and what path to take to see them all. These walking tours can work well for kids as young as five!
Explorium of Lexington
One of the coolest things to do in Lexington with kids is to visit the Explorium of Lexington! Full of exploration, education, and adventure, the Explorium of Lexington is a children’s museum that’s perfect for rainy or hot days in Lexington. The fun doesn’t have to stop in Lexington when there’s bad weather, just bring your little ones indoors at the Explorium!
The different rooms and exhibits are full of interactive activities and learning opportunities. They have a Bubble Zone where kids can stand completely inside a bubble, Wonder Woods where toddlers can play on Lilly pads and in a fountain, Bone Zone where they can learn about dinosaurs and their bones, and many more!
A visit to Keeneland is arguably one of the most iconic things to do in Lexington. What’s a trip to Lexington without seeing the horse hub for yourself? At Keeneland, the beautifully landscaped grounds are open every day for visitors. Keeneland has a library and a shop for visitors. Aside from exploring the grounds, you can also watch the horses as they do their morning workouts.
If you really want to see the coolest part of Keeneland, stick around to watch a horse auction. It’s not unusual for horses at these auctions to be sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars. In fact, some of them sell for well over a million dollars! With an average sell price of a half a million dollars, Keeneland auctions are a sight to behold! Anyone can attend these auctions and watch the craziness for themselves! Visitors can also visit in the morning hours to watch the morning workouts of the horses!
Raven Run Nature Sanctuary
The Raven Run Nature Sanctuary, has seven trails and a number of features throughout the sanctuary that make this one of the best things to do in Lexington, Kentucky for nature lovers and those who are just simply looking to explore nature while in the heart of the Bluegrass Region!
In the early 1800’s, the area that is now Raven Run was owned by the Prather family. Today, you can still see their homestead on the grounds. The Prather Homestead, Moore Grave, Evans Mill, and the Kentucky River Overlook are all features worth seeing in the sanctuary. The mill use to be a staple in the area where local farmers could bring their corn to be milled. Then, make sure you stop at the river overlook to see the beautiful Kentucky River Palisades below.
Kentucky Horse Park
The Kentucky Horse Park is packed with fun activities for visitors! The park has a campground, The American Saddlebred Museum, The International Museum of the Horse, pony rides, horseback trail rides, and much more. The locations of the park and the many things to do there, make it one of the coolest things to do in Lexington!
The park is famous for their winter event known as the Southern Lights. Every year, the park is filled with millions of Christmas lights and visitors can drive through the park to see them all. At the Southern Lights, you can also eat delicious winter foods from around the world, see Santa, and shop handcrafted goods from local artisans.
The Park is in the northernmost part of the city of Lexington and is close to Georgetown. The city of Georgetown is known for the Toyota manufacturing plant that is there, so there are tons of stores and restaurants in the area. This gives you a lot of options for restaurants and stores north of the park, into Georgetown, as well as south of the park, further into the city of Lexington.
The University of Kentucky Art Museum
Located in downtown Lexington, the University of Kentucky Arts Museum is one of the best free things to do in Lexington. The museum itself is located inside the Singletary Center For The Arts. You can find more than 4,800 pieces of art in all forms in this museum, from both American and European origins. Not only is the museum free, but guided tours of the museum are also free. Make sure to book your tours at least two weeks in advance and keep in mind that the museum is closed on Sunday and Monday.
Consider visiting the museum and the Town Branch Distillery back to back as they are less than a ten minute drive from each other. After visiting the museum, you can find many trendy local restaurants just a few blocks away. Try the Kentucky Native Café for drinks and light dishes in open air seating, the Chocolate Holler for sweet treats, or Graze for elevated southern cuisine.
Waveland State Historic Site
The Waveland State Historic Site is a great place to learn about a part of Lexington history. At the site, you can tour the historic home that was owned by Joseph Bryan in the 1800’s, you can also explore the outbuildings and slave quarters. The site makes sure to show its visitors what is was really like to live in the buildings and work on the grounds as both a slave and an owner.
You can visit the museum, shop, and saunter through gardens or hemp on the site. There are also trails and bridges to explore, along with a playground. This is the perfect place for a picnic and travel photos with the stunning landscape in the background! To fully enjoy your time at the grounds, you can take part in a vintage baseball game or a Tuesday tea at the home. For history lovers, this is one of the best things to do in Lexington!
The Lexington Farmers Market
Visiting the Lexington Farmers Market is one of the best things to do in Lexington and is also the best way to buy local while in Lexington. There are markets set up in the city on various days and at various locations, so make sure to check the Lexington Farmers Market website to avoid visiting the wrong location while you’re there.
The most popular market is downtown at the Tandy Centennial Park on Saturdays. It’s open year around and offers tons of vendors and variety of products. You can visit vendors who specialize in growing sustainable garlic, elderberry syrup, beer chase, hybrid vegetables, fermented German and Korean vegetables, and everything in between! One of the best things about the Lexington Farmers Market is that you can find so much more than just the basic fruits and vegetables that you see at most farmers markets!
Make a Stop on The Bourbon Trail
Did you know the beautiful state of Kentucky produces around 95% of the worlds bourbon each year? The fertile ground and ease of growing corn in the state, has lead the state to fame for its bourbon. You can explore part of the Kentucky bourbon trail while you’re in Lexington!
The Town Branch Distillery a part of the Bourbon Trail is just a three minutes drive from the Mary Todd Lincoln house and is near by other attractions in downtown Lexington as well.
The distillery offers bourbon tasting and tours of their facilities. You can purchase a large number of beverages from the distillery.
They of course have bourbon, but they also have hard teas, beers, gin, and other whiskeys as well. Purchases made from the Town Branch distillery make for great souvenirs and gifts for loved ones back home. Don’t forget to check out our post about Visting The Kentucky Bourbon Trail as well as the Best Bourbon Distilleries in Kentucky!
Another one of the best things to do in Lexington for art lovers, this museum represents the lifelong collections of George Headley and Barbara Whitney. Most pieces in the museum are from the early 1930s to the late 1970s. They accumulated their art from auctions, fellow artists, collectors, and from trips around the world. They also have a unique collection of intricate doll houses in the museum.
The museum is off of Old Frankfort Pike near the Donamire Horse Farm. Driving through horse country on your way to the museum is simply stunning and an experience like nothing else. Seeing the beautiful rolling Bluegrass hills scattered with playful thoroughbred horses and multi-million dollar barns is something you must experience while in Lexington!
Red Mile Harness Track
This is one of the most unique things to do in Lexington for those looking to experience the horse related sights in the city! The Red Mile racetrack has been around since the 1800’s. Once you see the red clay on the track, it’s easy to see where the track gets its name. This track has played an important part in horse racing history of Lexington and the world as a whole.
The Red Mile Harness Track is one of seventeen different tracks that are a part of the Grand Circuit. This circuit is for harness racing and is the longest lasting harness racing circuit in the United States, having started in the 1800’s. If you want something to do in Lexington that a lot of people haven’t even heard of before, a visit to the Red Mile is a must!
The Square is one of the best things to do in Lexington, Kentucky for those looking to do some shopping while in the city! It’s a shopping center in a busy part of downtown that has been a staple in Lexington since the 1800’s. With a beautiful interior and a fountain outside, this is a popular place for photographers.
Inside, you will find several galleries, restaurants, and shops to browse through. The Vinaigrette Salad Kitchen is a fan favorite as they offer delicious and fresh gourmet salads served with soups and homemade teas and lemonades. Another fan favorite in The Square is Pies and Pints. This restaurant has been featured on the Cooking Channel and has also been ranked among the best pizzas in America by the Food Network and the Huffington Post. If you love pizza, you can’t miss the opportunity to try a slice for yourself!
Lexington, Kentucky never fails to amaze its visitors. Bourbon, horses, history, natural beauty, and good vibes all welcome you to The Horse Capital of The World. With so many great things to do in Lexington, it makes for one of the best weekend getaways in Kentucky! No matter what you’re looking for, you can find in the beautiful city of Lexington!