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Lexington Kentucky

My husband and I, along with our 23 year old daughter are planning a week long road trip starting in Lexington Kentucky. We want to see the city and travel up to four hours or so around there. We love the outdoors, taking in good burger joints, vegetarian joints, along with experiencing adventures, tours, and museums. Appreciate any suggestions
Thank you

Posted by
3 posts

Lexington is a college city with not much to do. The nearby attractions are the KY Horsepark and Shaker Village, but I have done neither. The other cities in that radius are Cincinnati, Louisville, Knoxville, Nashville, and Indianapolis. I can help supplement TripAdvisor in Cincinnati, Louisville, and Indianapolis.

There's a lot of overlap in outdoor things in the area. The best by far are the two National Parks: Mammoth Cave (between Louisville and Nashville) and the Smoky Mountains (Knoxville/Gatlinburg). You can spend 2-3 days in the former and 4-5 days in the latter. A hidden stretch break is in Corbin, KY on I-75 between Lexington and Knoxville. It's the home of the original KFC + museum and Cumberland Falls State Park. You can visit caves in southern Indiana (Spring Mill State Park) if you only go north of Lexington.

I am too disconnected from the area to recommend food, but I will recommend Frisch's as a superior alternative to McDonald's, LaRosa's as a superior alternative to other chain pizza, Skyline for Cincinnati chili, and Graeter's or UDF for ice cream. Cincinnati, like Chicago, is probably better known for its fast food. (I am sure both have a real culinary scene.) All of those are Cincinnati establishments that you can find sporadically in Lexington, Louisville, and Knoxville with the exception of UDF.

Posted by
837 posts

Went to college there and grew up down the road. I’d say get out of the city and explore.

Are you looking for horses. bourbon? Distilleries all around. Kentucky Horse Park is nice. Keeneland is an historic racetrack that’s a great day out, but check that they’re running first. Kentucky history museum in Frankfort. Driving Old Frankfort Pike is a bit of ideal horse farm scenery. Woodford Reseve is at the end of the Pike. Like history—Ashland, Henry Clay’s estate is there. Fort Harrod. Mammoth Cave. State resort parks have nice lodging and dining rooms. Bardstown - My Old Kentucky Home plus more distilleries. Canoeing on the creeks and rivers if you’re there in warm weather.

Louisville - Churchill Downs, Slugger Museum, Main Street, Belle of Louisville steamboat (which is on the National Register).

Posted by
287 posts

I lived in Lexington for two years and fell in love with the food there. Ramsay's is a great place for local southern food. Joe B's is a great Italian place. Those are the two that stand out. Ramsay's serves Missy's Pies which are wonderful!!

If you feel up to travelling about 45 mins south, there is a great little artisan town in Berea. Boone Tavern is a nice place to eat lunch or dinner.

In Harrordsburg is the Shaker Village is really fun to explore

Fort Boonsborough is a working fort that is from Daniel Boon.

Red River Gorge is not too far and has great hiking

The burbon trail has grown in popularity in the past few years

Posted by
837 posts

I’ll second the Ramseys and Joe Bolognas recommendations. They’re Lexington institutions.

Posted by
3357 posts

If you’re interested in tours, I took the Toyota Assembly plant tour at Georgetown nearby. It was excellent.

Posted by
34 posts

I would second a couple of things already mentioned.

I did several bourbon tours last month in Kentucky. Woodford Reserve was the best. The tour of the distillery, the tasting room and the general beauty of the area made it a very nice trip.

I also love Shaker Village. They have comfortable rooms in the old Shaker buildings and it is a peaceful country environment for a night's stay.

I'd add if you are history buffs - the Mary Lincoln home in Lexington. The contrast between her childhood and that of Abraham Lincoln's is remarkable.

Posted by
671 posts

About an hour away is Fort Knox. You can't get real close to the gold, but the Patton Museum is open to the public and free.

As previously noted one of the major attractions of that area is the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. Maps are online.

Posted by
2711 posts

Sorry to be negative but Mammoth Cave is really for people who haven't seen a lot of caves. It's not very special.

Posted by
10244 posts

Kentucky road trip: FIRST Question: Is anyone in your party a HORSE PERSON?
If yes, your itinerary might be entirely different than if the answer is no.

You say 4 hours and I assume you mean a total day trip of 4 hours, which is do-able. If you mean 4 hours one way, that's too much, you will see more of the road and inside of the car than you will see the things you came there to see and do.

Home-basing in only Lexington with a 7-day trip doesn't give you a good look at the many sights in the western half of the state. Based on our trips there, I'd suggest 2 home bases with half of your time in each. See my subsequent posts for things to do if you split your home basing between Lexington area and Louisville area.

BTW, re Mammoth Cave prior post, I've been in a lot of caves and have to enter a dissenting opinion here. I think they made Mammoth Caves a National Park for a reason. Last time we were there, we went back a 2nd day for a 2nd ranger-guided tour, it was that good.

Mammoth Cave, due its location, makes a better day trip for someone home basing around Lexington, say like Bardstown. On our Kentucky trip, we home based for 5 days in the Lexington area, did some horse stuff there; then homebased for the other 5 days at Bardstown, south of Louisville.

Posted by
10244 posts

Re Fort Know: I would check to see how much armor/tank stuff is really left at the Patton Museum. I was stationed at Fort Knox in the old days and the Armor/Main Battle Tank/Patton Museum was good at that time, when Fort Knox was the Army's Armor Center.

But then they reorganized the Army and moved the Armor School to Ft. Benning, when they did that I don't know whether they moved the Patton Museum stuff to Ft. Benning.

In addition, you'll have to be prepared to jump through some hoops in order to be cleared onto the military base. It's like other military bases, if you're not activity duty or retired military, you have to be prepared to show passports (maybe DL's suffice), proof of car insurance (which you may not have with a rental car), etc. They do a background check on you, which depending on the size of your party, may take 1/2 hour or longer.

Posted by
10244 posts

You might want to visit a bourbon distillery, or not, depending on your drinking preferences. There's one major distillery that's located in a dry county, so they can make the bourbon there but they can't give you a taste or sell their product.

Posted by
10244 posts

On our Kentucky trip we home based at both Lexington and also at Louisville.
If you do home base in the Louisville area, even if you're not into horse racing, a visit to the museum at Churchill Downs we found interesting. If you're there during the racing season, you can even go into the track and bet on your favorite horse.

Posted by
10244 posts

We also found My Old Kentucky Home interesting, at Bardstown.

And you can see Lincoln's birthplace, and a separate home where he spent some of his younger years, before the family moved farther west. Google it to see the location, it's in the same general area as when you're driving south of Lexington down toward Mammoth Cave, somewhere around there.

Posted by
10244 posts

There's also some Daniel Boone sights in various parts of Kentucky. Places he lived, and he's buried at Frankfort Cemetery, easier to reach if you're also home basing in the Louisville area. Boone's grave is a pretty atmospheric place in northern Kentucky.

Near his grave are the graves of Civil War General Simon Bolivar Buckner, and his son Simon Bolivar Buckner II, the latter being the highest ranking American officer killed in action in WW2. Afficionados of the Battle of Okinawa will know the story, I put in time on Okinawa and have been to the spot where the son (yes, he's actually the son, not the grandson, of his Civil War father) is buried.

Near the grave of Kentucky's favorite son, Daniel Boone.

Posted by
10244 posts

Also, there are a couple (or more) good college basketball teams in Kentucky, although we found that their arenas/practice areas we're not all that open as touristic sights. But you can buy (or not) team apparel. But don't wear the wrong team apparel in the wrong part of the state. :-)

Posted by
837 posts

Mammoth Cave is called mammoth for a reason. If you’re looking for awe-inspiring formations, you won’t find many there. If you want to be inspired by the sheer size of the length and breadth of the space underground, then you’ll be impressed.

Lincoln’s birthplace is Hodgenville.

Posted by
2413 posts

I stayed in Versailles for a few nights and if my memory serves me correctly, we visited a Mary Todd Lincoln childhood home in Lexington. We also visited Ashland, the Henry Clay estate. This was in the late 90's so my memory is vague, but there was one more in the area that I think was a distant Boone relative's home? And yes, also went to the Shaker Village, which was interesting as well. The countryside is very pretty, but it was a one visit state for me.