Learn about the Bluegrass Region of Kentucky, by reading Bluegrass Region – An Odds On Favorite by Charlie Spence, WTA Member and Travel Writer. It features a mini, but thorough tour of the destination, plus all you'll need to know to plan your trip including getting there, objective information on places to stay and eat, and things to do. At the end of the article, we've provided a summary of the contact information for your easy reference. Enjoy!
Bluegrass Region—An Odds On Favorite
by Charlie Spence, Travel Writer and WTA Member
Thoroughbreds graze on lush pastures surrounded
white fences that mark the Bluegrass Region.
Photo by Jeff Rogers, courtesy Lexington Convention and Visitors Bureau
Throughout five thousand years of domestication, no animal has had a more
significant impact on the human race than the horse, and nowhere does an
area have a greater impact on the horse than the Bluegrass Region of
Kentucky. Approaching to land at the Bluegrass Airport or driving in on
one of the tree-lined highways, the white fences and manicured pastures of
the horse farms foretell a fascinating visit is in store. You’re arriving
at Lexington, horse capital of the world, noted for producing champion
racehorses, burley tobacco, and fine bourbon.
Whatever your thoughts about bourbon, tobacco, and horse racing, a visit
to Lexington is grabbing an exciting slice of life today and recalling the
lives of Daniel Boone, Mary Todd Lincoln, and Henry Clay.
Louisville might have the Derby, Baltimore the Preakness, and New York the
Belmont Stakes, but Lexington is where all of the dreams of horse racing
begins. Even before those celebrated races began, Lexington was where the
top racehorses were bred, born, trained, bought and sold, officially
registered, retired and buried. In and around Lexington, you will see how
they are made ready for their run to glory.
Before heading out to the farms, visit the Kentucky Horse Park, a thousand
and thirty acres of information, education, and wonder of the world of
horses. As you enter, your first sighting is a bronze statue marking the
grave of the legendary Man o’War. A film, Thou Shalt Fly Without
Wings, introduces you to the world of the horse. Then take a trip
through the International Museum of the Horse. It is the largest and most
comprehensive equestrian museum in the world. From mid-March through
October, twice daily the show ring presents the Parade of Breeds. This
half-hour presentation highlights some of the park’s 40 different breeds.
Now you’re ready to see the actual farms. There are three ways to do this.
Some farms welcome visitors; some do not. Some accept only guided tours.
Guided tour prices are in the $20 to $25 range for three hours. Horse
farms might be just part of the itinerary, so it’s wise to check with the
company for what the tour includes before signing on. For a really
luxurious tour, you have a choice of at least a half-dozen companies that
provide private tours. Prices here range from about $65 to $150.
If you are really the adventurous type, book your own tour—but call ahead.
Access to farms might vary from season to season. Most farms do not charge
admission, but it is customary to tip if a farm representative spends much
time with you.
Horse racing and mint juleps are natural partners in Kentucky, so you’ll
want to see how distillers produce bourbon, the only spirit native to
America. Early colonists made whiskey from rye and used it for a medicine
as well as an aid to well-being. When settlers moved west, corn was
plentiful and by 1775 Kentuckians were making corn whiskey. Distilleries
in Kentucky now produce 95 percent of all the bourbon. Three distilleries
in the Lexington area offer free tours. Whether you are a teetotaler or
enjoy a nip now and then, you’ll find a splash of history tied in with
modern production. Abraham Lincoln’s father reportedly worked at a
distillery owned by a relative of Daniel Boone. There is a lot of walking
and stairs to climb so wear comfortable shoes.
The saga of making bourbon is but one of the abundant historic visits to
make in and around Lexington. This Bluegrass Region was the first to be
settled as colonists began the move west. Waveland State Historic Site is
a pillar in the area’s stories of the past. Family tradition holds that
the Bryan family came through the Cumberland Gap with Daniel Boone, who
surveyed the area for his namesake nephew, Daniel Boone Bryan. A
plantation Bryan built included a blacksmith’s shop, a powder mill for
producing gunpowder, gunsmith shop, grist mill, paper mill, Baptist
church—and, of course, a distillery. Today, Waveland is a living museum
where many personal effects of the 19th century lay
undisturbed, inviting you to observe this segment of the past.
Mary Todd, who became Mrs. Abraham Lincoln, was born in Lexington in 1818,
granddaughter of one of the founders of Lexington. The house on West Main
Street, where she lived until she was 21, is open for tours from 10 a.m.
to 4 p.m. daily except December to mid-March. Mary and Abraham Lincoln
visited here many times. Today, family pieces and period items as well as
Todd and Lincoln possessions are displayed in the Georgian style brick
Another home you will want to visit is Ashland, residence of Henry Clay,
the statesman known as “The Great Compromiser.” U.S. Senator, Speaker of
the house, Secretary of State, and three-time presidential candidate,
Henry Clay lived at Ashland until his death in 1852. You’ll see much
family memorabilia as well as the English parterre-style garden, a
favorite of local artists.
About 35 miles west of Lexington, take a trip back to the Indian-fighting
days as you tour Old Fort Harrod, a scale replica of Kentucky’s first
If you like to browse through museums, antique shops, or arts and crafts
stores, the Lexington region is your cup of bourbon---er, your cup of tea.
Right at the Bluegrass Airport is the Kentucky Museum of Aviation with
aircraft from the 1920s to the present day. The museum has a fully
equipped shop for restoration projects, a library with historic
information, and a gift shop. Photos depict Kentucky's aviation Hall of
Fame. A few other museums include:
Just 45 miles away is
Renfro Valley, country music capital of Kentucky.
This center began in 1939 as network radio broadcasts. Now, the area
offers ten different live shows where you see and hear some of the best
performers of country music.
Mid-March to late November is the best time to visit, as some attractions
are unavailable during the mid-winter months. But whenever you visit, the
Bluegrass Region can take away your blues.
Indian artifacts, giving an insight into
the Indians that inhabited the Bluegrass Region as early as thousands of
Lexington Children’s Museum has seven permanent galleries featuring
exhibits about nature, geography, history, and science.
Alexander T. Hunt Civil War Museum provides a look at Kentucky’s place in
the “War Between the States.” Kentucky was a divided state and many
families were divided.
Medical Museum poses the question “was it medicine or quackery” as you
look at medical instruments and other medical paraphernalia that were
state of the art in the 18th and 19th century.
How to Get There
Bluegrass Airport at Lexington is served by six airlines: ATA Connection,
Continental Express, Delta, Northwest, United Express, and US Airways. You
can check schedules on the airport’s web site:
if flying in, you might want to go to Louisville or Greater Cincinnati
Airport, rent a car and enjoy some of the delightful scenery of Kentucky
as you head for the Bluegrass Region. The drive from Louisville is about
79 miles, from the Greater Cincinnati Airport in northern Kentucky, about
Where To Stay
You have a wide variety of choices for accommodations in the Lexington
area ranging from hotels, motels, bed and breakfasts, and inns. Rates
often change during the different seasons and when special events occur.
A True Inn B&B--in the heart of the historic district within walking
distance to the Mary Todd Lincoln house. Rates about $129.
Marriott Courtyard North offers rooms and suites with rates starting in
the neighborhood of $94, depending on season. Only about eight miles from
the airport, four miles from the Kentucky Horse Park.
Marriott Courtyard South has no suites but, rooms have large sitting
areas. Rates begin at about $105.
Embassy Suites offers bedroom and separate sitting room starting about
Holiday Inn about five miles from Horse Park has 302 rooms, indoor pool
with sauna, rates vary from $72 to $100 up.
Sunset Motel, between Lexington and Georgetown, is not super modern but
offers clean accommodations starting at about $53.
You will also find other
B&Bs, Motel 6, Sleep Inn, Quality Inns, Red Roof
Inns, Sheraton Suites, Ramada Inns, and others, indicative of the numbers
of persons who come to the Bluegrass Region for a myriad of reasons.
can check availability at the
Lexington web site
Then, check rates
and make reservations plus reserving a rental car through
WTA’s Online Travel Booking
Service where deep discounts may apply on hotel rates.
Where To Dine
You will find many fine restaurants as well as the usual assortment of
fast food places. Be sure to try some of the local favorites that include
spoon bread, Derby Pie, Hot Browns and burgoo. During racing season
restaurants become crowded, so call ahead for reservations. Here are a few
of the places to dine:
Malone’s. Casual but upscale, great steaks with entrees $6 to $30.
Parkette Drive-In. A real 1950s drive in featuring “Kentucky Poor-Boy”
burger. Entrees $2.50 to $4.50.
a la lucie. Continental cuisine. Bourbon marinated pork chops a specialty.
Entrees $15 to $25.
Billy’s Hickory Pit Bar-B-Q. Western Kentucky style barbeque. Entrees
$4.39 to $12.99.
Furlong’s. Horse country atmosphere. Cajun cuisine. Entrees $6.95 to
Cafe Jennifer. Regional cuisine like Bourbon-glazed Atlantic salmon.
Entrees $10.95 to $20.00.
Homestead. A 1916 converted mansion. Specialties include caramelized
roasted pork. Entrees $15.50 to $24.50.