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Featured Events

Jul26

The Red Mile 2015 Standardbred Meet

The First part of the racing meet features the Kentucky Sire Stakes racing series... more
Sep3

Thursday Night Live

Featuring Mercy Men!  Beverages, food from local restaurants and great music by... more
Sep4

7th Annual Lexington Fest-of-Ales

The 7th Annual Lexington Fest of Ales will feature 200 craft beers from around the US and... more
Sep4

Free Friday Night Concert Series "Summer

Enjoy CoraLee & the Townies!  Grab those lawn chairs and come enjoy the music... more
Sep5

Bluegrass Archery Tournament

Yourth 10 + and adults are invited to compete in the inaugural Bluegrass Archery... more
Mar21

Bluegrass Farmers' Market, Inc.

The Bluegrass Farmers' Market is the largest 100% homegrown/produced farmers' market... more
Sep6

Tunes in the Vines

Featuring:  D Jay Rice!  Bring excitement to your Sunday and meet your friends... more
Sep9

Red Barn Radio

Featuring:  Joe LaMay & Sherri Reese & Friends  Enjoy traditional... more
Sep10

Thursday Night Live

Featuring Big Black Cadillac!  Beverages, food from local restaurants and great... more
Sep11

Kentucky Cork & Tap

Featuring Kentucky wineries and vineyards, local beers from Lexington's own breweries,... more
Sep11

Lexington Roots & Heritage Festival

Honoring the Past.  Celebrating the Present.  Embracing the future.  Enjoy... more
Sep12

Renfro Valley Entertainment Center

Featuring:  Special Guest, Gene Watson!  Enjoy great classic country, southern... more
Sep12

Stargazing

Enjoy an astromomy presentation and view the night sky through a variety of... more
Sep12

The Art Museum at the University of Kentucky

Wayne Koestenbaum:  Unfamiliar Grammer, Paintings from 2010-2015.  Bottoms... more
Sep13

Tunes in the Vines

Featuring:  Jeff Barnes Duo!  Bring excitement to your Sunday and meet your... more
Sep14

Keeneland September Yearling Sales

This sale attracts buyers from all over the world.  Spectators welcome!... more
Sep16

Jefferson Street Soiree

The Jefferson Street Soiree is back after the success of its inaugural year and is sure... more
Sep16

Red Barn Radio

Featuring:  Alex Smith!  Enjoy traditional Bluegrass and Bluegrass Gospel with... more
Sep17

Thursday Night Live

Featuring Girls Guns & Glory!  Beverages, food from local restaurants and... more
Sep18

Festival Latino de Lexington

Friday night is tropical night and will include authentic Latino foods, fireworks... more
Sep19

Jim Belushi & the Board of Comedy

An alumnus of Saturday Night Live and Chicago’s famed Second City, Jim Belushi... more
Sep19

Renfro Valley Entertainment Center

Featuring:  Special Guests, Joey and Rory!  Enjoy great classic country,... more
Sep20

Tunes in the Vines

Featuring:  Beyond Apple!  Bring excitement to your Sunday and meet your... more
Sep23

Red Barn Radio

Featuring:  Mountain Music Ambassadors!  Enjoy traditional Bluegrass and... more
Sep24

Thursday Night Live

Featuring The Barrows!  Beverages, food from local restaurants and great music by... more
Sep25

Anderson County Burgoo Festival

Lots of burgoo, music, entertainment and vendors of all kinds.    Held in... more
Sep26

Renfro Valley Entertainment Center

Featuring:  Special Guest, Mickey Gilley!  Enjoy great classic country,... more
Sep27

Troubadour Concert Series - Exile in The

Enjoy Kentucky's legendary rock and country heroes, EXILE, for a full concert inside the... more
Sep27

Tunes in the Vines

Featuring:  The Habit!  Bring excitement to your Sunday and meet your friends... more
Sep30

The Red Mile 2015 Grand Circuit

The Grand Circuit is the elite in Standardbred Racing such as the Kentucky Futurity,... more
Oct1

35th Annual Festival of the Horse

Exhibits, concessions, parades, carnival, arts and crafts and 5K run. ... more
Oct1

Thursday Night Live

Featuring Five Below Band!  Beverages, food from local restaurants and great music... more
Oct2

A Night Celebrating The Lyric

Help celebrate the 5th Anniversary of The Lyric Theatre & Cultural Arts Center!... more
Oct2

Keeneland Thoroughbred Racing

No racing on Mondays or Tuesdays. See live Thoroughbred racing at the most elegant race... more
Oct2

Renfro Valley Entertainment Center

Featuring:  Special Guest, Jimmy Fortune!  Enjoy great classic country,... more
Oct3

Perryville Battlefield Commemoration

Battle re-enactments, living history, parade, food and crafts.... more
Oct3

Renfro Valley Entertainment Center

Featuring:  Special Guest, Bobby Bare!  Enjoy great classic country, southern... more
Oct4

The Bourbon Social/Bourbon Brunch

Located in the heart of downtown Lexington at the Bodley Bullock House, enjoy a Kentucky... more
Oct4

The Raven 10K Trail Run

Join the Friends of Raven Run and Lexington Park and Recreation for the inaugural 10 K... more
Oct4

Tunes in the Vines

Featuring:  Midlife Harmony!  Bring excitement to your Sunday and meet your... more
Oct5

The Bourbon Social/VIP Progressive Dinner

This exclusive dinner will only support 50 guests.  Five groups of ten, start times... more
Oct6

The Bourbon Social/Beer, Bourbon & Bacon

Enjoy an eclectic menu and pairing in the historic gardens and lawns of Ashland, The... more
Oct8

Thursday Night Live

Featuring Blind Corn Liquor Pickets!  Beverages, food from local restaurants and... more
Oct9

Renfro Valley Entertainment Center

Featuring:  Special Guest, Will Reynolds!  Enjoy great classic country,... more
Oct9

The Bourbon Social/Keeneland Tailgate

Enjoy the traditional Keeneland Tailgate in a format unlike any other.  In a private... more
Oct9

The Bourbon Social/VIP Pre Event & Cocktail

The Celebrity Guest Chef Ed Lee will create Kentucky Proud hors d'oeuvres alongside a... more
Oct10

Kentucky Guild of Artists & Craftsmen Fall Fair

The Kentucky Guild of Artists and Craftsmen’s Fall Fair is an event you cannot... more
Oct10

Renfro Valley Entertainment Center

Featuring:  Special Guest, Marty Stuart & Connie Smith!  Enjoy great... more
Oct10

The Bourbon Social/Main Event

The 2015 Main Event is an event not to miss!  The celebration will host the best of... more
Oct10

The Bourbon Social/Seminar Series

The 2015 seminar series will host 6 classes teaching, tasting and talking all things... more
Oct11

The Bourbon Social/Distillery Brunch

Located in the heart of the Jim Beam Distillery, guests will enjoy a Kentucky themed menu... more
Oct11

Tunes in the Vines

Featuring:  Keeton Zane Hilton!  Bring excitement to your Sunday and meet your... more
Oct13

Parson Dance Company

Exuberant. Virtuosic. Sensual. These words barely begin to describe the Parsons Dance... more
Oct15

Thursday Night Live

Featuring The Twiggenbury's!  Beverages, food from local restaurants and great... more
Oct16

Liberty Hall - Our Beloved Ghost Tour

Liberty Hall is famous for its Gray Lady and other ghosts said to haunt the house and... more
Oct16

Renfro Valley Entertainment Center

Featuring:  Special Guest, IIIrd Tyme Out!  Enjoy great classic country,... more
Oct16

The Bourbon Chase

An overnight relay adventure.  Teams of runners cover 200 miles of scenic byways... more
Oct16

The Camp Nelson Ghost Hunting Experience

This fundraising event will lead you on an actual ghost hunt on the Camp Nelson Civil War... more
Oct17

Renfro Valley Entertainment Center

Featuring:  Special Guest, Ronnie Dailey & Vincent!  Enjoy great classic... more
Oct18

Tunes in the Vines

Featuring:  The Twiggenburys.  Bring excitement to your Sunday and meet your... more
Oct22

Thursday Night Live

Featuring Tony and the Tanlines!  Beverages, food from local restaurants and great... more
Oct24

7th Annual Kentucky Proud Incredible Food Show

Featuring Celebrity Chef Carla Hall.  Now in its seventh year, the Incredible Food... more
Oct24

Breeders’ Cup Festival Week

Come experience a multi-venue festival spotlighting live music, art, food and other... more
Oct24

Renfro Valley Entertainment Center

Featuring:  Special Guest, Tanya Tucker!  Enjoy great classic country, southern... more
Oct27

Alltech National Horse Show

The National Horse Show is America’s oldest indoor horse show, firmly established... more
Oct27

CP National Horse Show

A week-long championship event held indoors at the Alltech Arena, Featuring... more
Oct27

PumpkinMania

Join Transylvania University for their 5th Annual event as they light hundreds of jack... more
Oct30

Liberty Hall - Our Beloved Ghost Tour

Liberty Hall is famous for its Gray Lady and other ghosts said to haunt the house and... more
Nov2

Ice Skating in Triangle Park

Tis the season for ice skating!  Enjoy 90 minutes on the ice!  Monday-Friday 4... more

Visiting WinStar Farm

by Margaret, Horse Blogger

HORSES, HORSES This is a great time of year to visit a horse farmand WinStar is a great farm to visit!

The farm itself is impressive, and you'll have some pretty scenery onthe drive there. When you ...

more

Horses and Dogs

by Margaret, Horse Blogger

HORSES, HORSES Things have gone to the dogs this week at the Kentucky Horse Park. Of course there are still plenty of horses of various breeds to see (don't missthe Breeds Barn show),but just now ...

more

Camp Nelson

by Stuart, History Blogger

One of Kentucky's most unique--and important--Civil War sites is located just south of Lexington in Jessamine County.

Camp Nelson, established in 1863 on the Kentucky River, was founded as a supply ...

more

Western Dreamer

by Margaret, Horse Blogger

HORSES HORSES Standardbred pacer Western Dreamer is one of a special group of horses at the Kentucky Horse Park.

The Bay gelding--barn name Dreamer--is one of theretired champions in the Horse Park's ...

more

Lots of Ponies

by Margaret, Horse Blogger

HORSES, HORSES Ponies are taking plenty of jumps this week atthe Kentucky Horse Park. They and their riders are participatingin the U.S. Equestrian Federation Pony Finals Championships.

Pony Finals ...

more

Civil War Heritage

Explore the History of the Blue and the Gray in the Bluegrass.

The story of the Civil War in Lexington and the Bluegrass is more than a story of battles. It's a story of strong personalities - of two Presidents, a First Lady, a "lion," and a "Thunderbolt." It's a story of contrasts - here you can visit both the site of a major slave market and a place where African-Americans received the emancipation papers that set them free.civil-war-lexington

And it is a story of ironies - of Union troops camping virtually in the front yard of a Confederate general, and of war dividing the family of a statesman who had devoted his life to preserving the Union. In the Bluegrass, you are at the heart of Kentucky's exciting and diverse Civil War heritage. Of the 54 Kentucky sites included in the Civil War Trust's Civil War Discovery Trail commemorating significant sites where visitors can learn about the conflict, 16 are located in Lexington and the Bluegrass region. And with its central location and easy access to major highways, Lexington is the ideal base from which to mount your own Civil War campaign to explore a state whose citizens supported both sides.

Bluegrass Note: Of the more than 10,000 military actions of the Civil War, 453 took place in Kentucky, more than in Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina or Maryland.

Here's a guide to points of interest in Lexington and the region.

IN LEXINGTON

A Union Saved, an Estate Divided

"Had there been one such man in the Congress of the United States as Henry Clay in 1860-'61, there would, I feel sure, have been no civil war," said Sen. Henry S. Foote in 1875.

As a Senator and statesmen, Henry Clay (1777-1852), known as "the Great Compromiser," helped postpone war between the states. But after his death his own family would divide along with the Union. As a result of dissension between Clay's sons and grandsons during the Civil War, his beloved Lexington estate Ashland was eventually auctioned. Ashland was also the site of a skirmish following the Battle of Perryville in October 1862.

Today, the Clay family home and 20 acres are open for tour as a National Historic Landmark. Ashland is located east of downtown at 120 Sycamore Road. (859) 266-8581

Home of the Thunderbolt

PDF BoxThe Hunt-Morgan House, at 201 N. Mill Street in Lexington's historic Gratz Park neighborhood, was the family home of Gen. John Hunt Morgan, the daring, and reputedly dashing, Confederate raider known as the "Thunderbolt of the Confederacy." A Civil War museum on the second floor displays swords, saddles, photographs, uniforms and other artifacts from Morgan and his men. (859) 233-3290

The Bodley-Bullock House, across the park from the Hunt-Morgan House at 200 Market Street, served as both Union and Confederate headquarters for Lexington at different times during the war. The house is open for tour by appointment; call (859) 252-8014. Union troops used nearby Transylvania University as a hospital and camped in Gratz Park right in front of the Hunt-Morgan House. According to a Bluegrass legend, Morgan once rode up the front steps of the house, kissed his mother in the entry hall and galloped out the back door--with Union soldiers in hot pursuit.

Bluegrass Note: Morgan and his raiders so fired the public's imagination that schoolchildren on both sides recited poems about them. The Yankee rhyme was: "I'm sent to warn the neighbors, he's only a mile behind/He's sweeping up the horses, every horse that he can find./Morgan, Morgan the Raider and Morgan's terrible men/With bowie knives and pistols, are galloping up the glen." Southern children had a different perspective: "I want to be a cavalryman, and with John Hunt Morgan ride/A Colt revolver in my belt, a saber by my side./I want a pair of epaulets to match my suit of gray,/The uniform my mother made and lettered C.S.A."

The Lincolns Slept Here

Abraham Lincoln's wife, Mary Todd, was born to a prominent Lexington family in 1818. The Georgian house in which she lived from 1832 until 1839 is open for tour, and includes Todd family furnishings and Todd and Lincoln memorabilia.

After their marriage in 1842, the Lincolns visited Lexington several times. Mary Todd's Lexington heritage followed her to the nation's capital: the fact that some of her Kentucky relatives, including several of her half-brothers, fought for the Confederacy, aroused suspicion against Mrs. Lincoln in Washington, D.C.

The Mary Todd Lincoln House is at 578 West Main Street. (859) 233-9999. (Closed in winter.)

Insights into Slavery

Slavery was an important part of the antebellum economy in the Bluegrass, where slaves made up about one half of the population. Essential to the operation of the area's hemp plantations, slaves also were hired out by their owners for factory work and other jobs. Lexington was a major slave market to the Deep South from the 1830s to the 1850s. Original slave quarters at Waveland State Historic Site offer insight into the daily life of plantation slaves in antebellum Bluegrass. 225 Waveland Museum Lane. (859) 272-3611

Cheapside, located on the west side of the Fayette County Courthouse on Main Street, was the site of both slave auctions and impassioned abolitionist speeches. A small park commemorates the site today.

Monumental Reminders

More than 500 Confederate and 1,100 Union veterans are buried in the park-like Lexington Cemetery, 833 West Main St. They include Confederate General John Hunt Morgan and John C. Breckinridge. Breckinridge was vice-president of the United States under James Buchanan, unsuccessful Presidential candidate against Abraham Lincoln in 1860, and Secretary of War of the Confederate States of America. (859) 255-5522

Other Lexington Civil War-related monuments include the statue of Breckinridge at Cheapside Park, west of the Fayette County Courthouse, and the John Hunt Morgan statue on the courthouse lawn. Lexington tradition holds that the unveiling of the Morgan statue in 1911 caused quite a local stir because Morgan is shown astride a stallion instead of his well-known mare Black Bess.

Bluegrass Note: Not only were Abraham Lincoln and Confederate President Jefferson Davis both born in Kentucky (less than one year and 100 miles apart), but both spent time in Lexington. Davis attended Transylvania University in 1823 and 1824. Lincoln visited the city several times with his wife, Mary Todd, after their marriage in 1842. You can get a printed walking tour "Lincolns' Lexington" free at the Lexington Visitors Center.

NEARBY AND NOTEWORTHY

The Bloodiest Battle

Perryville, Kentucky, still looks much the same as it did on October 8, 1862. On that hot day during one of Kentucky's driest summers, both Union and Confederate troops were parched and searching for water when they encountered each other at Doctor's Fork Creek. Between 2:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m., 4,211 Union soldiers and 3,396 Confederate soldiers were killed, wounded, captured or missing,giving Perryville the dubious distinction of being Kentucky's largest and most deadly Civil War battle. Perryville Battlefield State Historic Site includes the battleground, museum and a gift shop. The battle is reenacted each year during the first full weekend in October. Perryville is about 49 miles southwest of Lexington. Take either Harrodsburg Rd. (US 68, through) or Bluegrass Parkway to Exit 59, then US 127 to US 68. (859) 332-8631

Battle Plans and a Lion's Hall

The Battle of Richmond in 1862, part of the Perryville campaign, was one of the Confederacy's greatest tactical victories of the war. A self-guided tour brochure and a narrative on CD of the three engagements are available from the Richmond Tourism Department, 345 Lancaster Ave. (859) 626-8474

Also of interest in the Richmond area is White Hall State Historic Site, home of one of Kentucky's most outspoken emancipationists, Cassius Marcellus Clay. Clay was a newspaper publisher, Minister to Russia and friend of Lincoln, and was called "the lion of White Hall" for his fiery oratory. (859) 623-9178. Richmond is about 23 miles south of Lexington via I-75. An alternate scenic route is via Ky. 169 (Tates Creek Road), crossing the Kentucky River via the Valley View Ferry.

In Defense of the Kentucky River

Towering walls of rock prevented easy crossing of the Kentucky River, but Confederate soldiers still managed to cross and recross by ford or ferry, creating havoc for Union Forces. In 1863, African American soldiers constructed fortifications high above the ford and ferry at Boonesboro, entirely by hand. The Civil War Fort at Boonesboro, part of a network of small defensive works proposed by Union Captain Thomas B. Brooks, never mounted permanent artillery. The Civil War Fort is 17 miles from Lexington. Head out Richmond Road all the way to the River. At 1924, turn right and go 1 mile. The colorful murals of the parking lot will be on your left. 1250 Ford Road, Winchester. (859) 527-3131

Capital Collections

The Kentucky Military History Museum on East Main Street in Frankfort includes an extraordinary collection of Civil War weapons, flags, uniforms and other artifacts. The building itself was a Union cartridge factory and supply center. (502) 564-3265

Several other war-related sites are found in Kentucky's capital city. The Kentucky State Capitol Rotunda on Capitol Avenue, includes statues of Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis. Federal reparation payments for war damage actually helped pay for the building. (502) 564-3449

The Old State Capitol, Broadway and Lewis streets in Frankfort, includes some Civil War memorabilia. Another point of interest is the Frankfort Cemetery, with its stately Confederate Memorial and wall memorial to all heroic Kentucky war veterans. 215 E. Main St. (502) 227-2403. Frankfort is about 27 miles west of Lexington via I-64. For a scenic alternative take Old Frankfort Pike and US 60.

Bluegrass Note: Although as a state Kentucky did not secede, 63 counties did - setting up a Confederate government at Bowling Green in Western Kentucky. A Bluegrass Kentuckian, George W. Johnson of Scott County, was elected first Confederate Governor of Kentucky. Johnson is buried in the Georgetown Cemetery.

On the Road with the Raiders

Col. John Hunt Morgan's forays included 1862 and 1864 battles in and around the small town of Cynthiana in Harrison County. In the 1862 raid the Confederates captured the town, but in 1864, they were forced to retreat, for all practical purposes ending Morgan's raids in the state. A self-guided driving tour of the Cynthiana Battles is available from the Cynthiana/ Harrison County Chamber of Commerce, 201 South Main St. (859) 234-5236

Enlistment and Emancipation

When the Union began to draft African-Americans into the army in 1864, Camp Nelson, located south of Nicholasville in Jessamine County, was the state's most important recruiting station. Thousands of African-Americans and their families traveled to the camp for enlistment - and freedom. The installation also served as a refuge for the soldiers' families. John Fee, a founder of Berea College, established schools and churches for the African-Americans at Camp Nelson. Camp Nelson also was the state's chief center for the issuance of emancipation papers to former slaves. Four thousand Civil War soldiers are buried in the national cemetery located on part of the camp site. A 5 mile trail gives an overview of the supply depot and the northern line of defense. The restored officers quarters are open Tuesday through Saturday, 9-5. (859) 881-5716. Camp Nelson is located off US 27, about 20 miles south of Lexington.

Bluegrass Note: More than 30,000 men left their Kentucky homes to fight for the Confederacy. Twice that many Kentuckians fought for the North, including 20,000 African-Americans, the second-highest number among all the states.

From Pacifists to Pioneers

At Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill, the pacifist Shakers provided food, supplies and medical treatment to troops from both sides. The village's interpretive center includes information about the impact of the war. Every other year the village holds a Civil War weekend with living interpretations of camp life, medical care and other aspects of the era. (859) 734-5411; toll-free (800) 734-5611

Old Fort Harrod State Park in Harrodsburg includes a museum with Civil War artifacts and the cabin in which Lincoln's parents were married. (859) 734-3314 Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill is 25 miles southwest of Lexington via US 68. Continue on US 68 a few miles to Harrodsburg.

Bluegrass Note: Lt. William R. McEntire, a Southern commander at the final surrender of the Cumberland Gap to the Union on Sept. 9, 1863, had an unusual deathbed request. He asked his grandson to return to the gap 100 years after the surrender, stand at the pinnacle and curse the Yankees for five minutes, which the grandson did on September 9, 1963.

Beyond the Bluegrass

Lexington can also be an ideal base from which to explore some of Kentucky's other Civil War sites.

  • The Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historic Site features 116 acres of the farm where Lincoln was born and a granite memorial shrine enclosing a cabin symbolic of the one in which Abraham Lincoln was born in 1809. The park is located in Hodgenville, Kentucky, 83 miles west of Lexington. (270) 358-3137.Take Bluegrass Parkway to US 31E.
  • The earthwork forts at Cumberland Gap National Historical Park were used by both Union and Confederate troops. Of strategic importance to both sides, this pioneer gateway to Kentucky changed hands several times during the war. (606) 248-2817. About 2 1/2 hours south of Lexington via I-75 and US25 E.
  • The National Underground Railroad Museum in Maysville, north of Lexington, features exhibits about slavery and the escape route used by thousands of slaves. (606) 564-3200 or (606)564-4413. About 65 miles north of Lexington via US 68. Open Wednesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. or by appointment.

For more information contact VisitLEX, the Lexington Convention and Visitors Bureau, at (800) 845-3959

By Teresa Day, a freelance writer based in Georgetown, KY.
Updated: July 2015

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