I am a horseperson. Not a literal horse-person hybrid (although my mom might disagree with that when remembering the behavior of my 12-year-old self), but someone who since age ten has loved horses almost as much as dogs (come on, nothing can compete with dogs). So of course I wanted to visit Lexington, the Horse Capital of the World. And there’s beer there too.
We stayed at the huge campground at Kentucky Horse Park, quiet this time of year, between events. Only the inner loop was open, and no sites had water, but we loved it. It took about 20 minutes to drive into town, but there were a lot of positives:
Bugsy could sit outside in the sun and not worry about neighbors (she’s nervous around strangers).
We could walk B through the park’s rolling cross country fields sprinkled with enormous jumps. Look at the size of that thing!
Our running route took us by the Horse Park’s competition stadium and onto the Legacy Trail, a 12-mile multi-use path that leads all the way to downtown Lexington!
I knew I wanted to do two horse farm tours: one fancy barn with a zillion dollar superstar racehorse or several, and one laid-back barn where we could interact with the horses. The two we chose complimented each other perfectly and gave us a well-rounded Lexington thoroughbred experience.
First up: the fancy barn tour. We visited Ashmore Stud, the home of 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah! Our timing was lucky as he had just returned from winter breeding in Australia. He was gorgeous and goofy, and we got to admire him from behind a barrier while he posed for pictures. Then we toured his beautiful, spotless stable, and saw some other big-time racing sires. Josie, our tour guide, was super knowledgable about the racing and breeding industries. It was a really neat experience!
After–and very much in contrast to–Ashmore, we visited Old Friends Thoroughbred Retirement Farm, home to once-fancy racehorses whose racing and breeding careers are over. The most famous resident is Silver Charm, the winner of the 1997 Kentucky Derby and Preakness. A tour of Old Friends is a very different experience than touring the zillion-dollar breeding facilities: armed with bags of carrots and buckets of treats, the group moves from paddock to paddock making friends with the horses and hearing stories of their former celebrity, sometimes sad fall from glory, and the fortunate circumstances that brought them to Old Friends. Some horses are off-limits to tourists due to personality quirks (such as War Emblem, who likely would have won the Triple Crown if he hadn’t fallen at the Belmont starting gate), but we got to treat and scratch a bunch of residents, most of whom came galloping over to the fence when we pulled up (they’ve learned that tourists = carrots). It was fun to interact with the horses (how many people have patted and fed a Derby winner?), and rewarding to see the care and respect these old guys are given in their golden years.
Lexington may be better known for bourbon, but it has a strong beer culture. As a lover of checklists, I appreciated the Brewgrass Trail Passport for tracking brewery visits; we were only able to visit three breweries while in town, but I counted 14 in the area, so we have more work to do next time. We didn’t fall in love with any of the local beers we drank in Lexington, but had fun trying!
In his pre-visit Lexington brewery research, J was most excited about Ethereal Brewing, and it was our favorite of the three we visited. The taproom is tucked away in the super-cool Distillery District–more about that below–and has an airy inside and a big patio, both of which are dog-friendly. The beer list is widely varied and the beers we tried were our favorite local beers.
West Sixth Brewing is another cool, industrial spot (it’s in an old bread factory), with an especially good pale ale (my area of expertise), and some creative and experimental brews. It’s also dog-friendly, and the company is serious about the environment, sustainability, and giving back to the community.
With a name like Country Boy Brewing, you kind of expect a cozy taproom and a sunny yard, right? Country Boy delivers on both, and we enjoyed a tasting flight of mostly IPAs. The taproom is on the small side and was crowded even during the off-hour we were there, so plan accordingly.
We spotted West Main Crafting Co when we were exploring downtown Lexington, and made it our first stop when we headed out on the town that evening. It has a hip upscale-industrial atmosphere and delicious, creative cocktails. The small plates menu had some tempting options, but we didn’t eat there.
Our after-dinner cocktail bar of choice that night was also one that caught our eye on our earlier downtown walk, housed in a 1865 post office building: The Village Idiot. The bar was super chill when we were there, and they make a good cocktail.
Our first night in town, we chanced upon Middle Fork Kitchen Bar when we visited the Distillery District in search of Ethereal Brewing. We had a fantastic seasonal and creative meal (and cocktails!) at the bar–super good, if a bit slow. They just recently opened, so we’ll cut them some slack. The Distillery District is full of appealing food and drink establishments, and fun outdoor spaces, but parking is limited so you may want to Lyft/Uber there.
The second night, between the cocktail bar visits I mentioned above, we had fabulous sushi at the bar at Buddha Lounge. Yes, fabulous sushi in Lexington, Kentucky, it’s true!
If you like horses, eating, drinking, and beautiful campgrounds, you would enjoy Lexington!