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Featured Events

Jul2

Life and Liberty Tour

Take an interactive tour of Liberty Hall that explores how the Brown family embodied the... more
Jul2

Old Joe Clark Bluegrass Festival

A New Beginning to an Old Tradition!  Live Bluegrass music, shopping, food and fun... more
Jul2

Thursday Night Live

Featuring The Tim Talbert Project!  Beverages, food from local restaurants and... more
Jul3

Beef, Brats and Brews

They're firing up the grill at the first foodie series of the year.  Start the... more
Jul4

4th of July Festival

The Bluegrass 10,000, in its 37th year: The crank wheelchair division starts at 7:20... more
Jun7

Bleu Plate Walking Food Tours

Meet for a guided culinary adventure with stops at local restaurants and savor the... more
Apr18

Bluegrass Farmers' Market, Inc.

The Bluegrass Farmers' Market is the largest 100% homegrown/produced farmers' market... more
Mar21

Bluegrass Farmers' Market, Inc.

The Bluegrass Farmers' Market is the largest 100% homegrown/produced farmers' market... more
Jul5

Tunes in the Vines

Featuring:  Big Fat Liars!  Bring excitement to your Sunday and meet your... more
Jul6

79th Junior League Horse Show

The Lexington Junior League Charity Horse Show is the first leg of the American... more
Jul9

Lexington Lions' Club Bluegrass Fair

Enjoy Carnival rides, grandstand shows, petting farm, games, food and much more!... more
Jul9

Thursday Night Live

Featuring SixtyFourWest!  Beverages, food from local restaurants and great music... more
Jul9

Traveling Vietnam Wall

Open 24 hours each day starting at 12 pm.  Admission and parking is free for all... more
Jul10

Kentucky Cork & Tap

Premier Wine and Beer Festival featuring local products.... more
Jul11

Ronald McDonald Clown Train

Ronald will entertain as only he can do. He will be passing out free Happy... more
Jul12

Tunes in the Vines

Featuring:  Soljam!  Bring excitement to your Sunday and meet your friends at... more
Jul16

Keeneland Concours d' Elegance

The annual Keeneland Concours d'Elegance will again be held at the beautiful Keeneland... more
Jul16

Thursday Night Live

Featuring Better Off Dead!  Beverages, food from local restaurants and great music... more
Jul17

26th Annual Breyerfest

The weekend celebration is the intersection of the real horse world and the model horse... more
Jul17

Phoenix Fridays

Take it downtown to the heart of Lexington for another series of free outdoor... more
Jul17

Renfro Valley Entertainment Center

Featuring:  Special Guests, Bill Anderson & Jeannie Seely!  Enjoy great... more
Jul18

Renfro Valley Entertainment Center

Featuring:  Special Guest, Earl Thomas Conley!  Enjoy great classic country,... more
Jul18

Sweet Corn Festival

Join Evans Orchard for their annual Sweet Corn Festival!  Craft booths, pony... more
Jul19

Super Sunday

Come out to Douglass Park and enjoy outdoor basketball at its best. Started over thirty... more
Jul19

Tunes in the Vines

Featuring:  Rock Steady!  Bring excitement to your Sunday and meet your friends... more
Jul22

Troubadour Concert Series

His new album, “Happy Prisoner: The Bluegrass Sessions,” is a departure, a... more
Jul23

Thursday Night Live

Featuring Prime Cut Band!  Beverages, food from local restaurants and great music... more
Jul24

The Wizard of Oz

Over the rainbow Dorothy will fly, but beware when the Wicked Witch takes to the... more
Jul25

Kentucky Chautauqua Presents Mark Twain:

Twain was a gifted storyteller, novelist, humorist, lecturer, inventor and riverboat... more
Jul25

Renfro Valley Entertainment Center

Featuring:  Special Guest, Charley Pride!  Enjoy great classic country,... more
Jul26

Red, White and Boom Music Festival 2015

The Red, White and Boom concert and fireworks display will be at Whitaker Bank... more
Jul26

Tunes in the Vines

Featuring:  TDH4!  Bring excitement to your Sunday and meet your friends at... more
Jul30

26th Annual Ballet Under the Stars

This unique festival allows audiences to enjoy the beauty and grandeur of a professional... more
Jul30

Thursday Night Live

Featuring The Bobby Perry Band!  Beverages, food from local restaurants and great... more
Aug1

Renfro Valley Entertainment Center

Featuring:  All Night Gospel Sing!  Enjoy great classic country, southern... more
Aug2

Tunes in the Vines

Featuring:  Barry Frazee!  Bring excitement to your Sunday and meet your... more
Aug6

Thursday Night Live

Featuring The Big Maracas!  Beverages, food from local restaurants and great music... more
Aug7

Renfro Valley Entertainment Center

Kentucky’s good-humor man (who grew up in East Bernstadt!) has a show that has... more
Aug8

Renfro Valley Entertainment Center

Featuring:  Special Guest, John Anderson!  Enjoy great classic country,... more
Aug9

Renfro Valley Entertainment Center

Featuring:  Special Guest, Merle Haggard!  Enjoy great classic country,... more
Aug9

Tunes in the Vines

Featuring:  Lisa Allen!  Bring excitement to your Sunday and meet your friends... more
Aug13

Thursday Night Live

Featuring Lauren Mink Band!  Beverages, food from local restaurants and great... more
Aug14

Kentucky Cork & Tap

Premier Wine and Beer Festival featuring local products.... more
Aug15

Renfro Valley Entertainment Center

Featuring:  Special Guest, John Conlee!  Enjoy great classic country, southern... more
Aug15

Woodland Art Fair

 ... more
Aug16

Bleu Plate Walking Food Tours

Meet for a guided culinary adventure with stops at local restaurants and savor the... more
Aug16

Tunes in the Vines

Featuring:  Here for the Party!  Bring excitement to your Sunday and meet your... more
Aug20

Thursday Night Live

Featuring Conch Republic!  Beverages, food from local restaurants and great music... more
Aug21

Phoenix Fridays

Take it downtown to the heart of Lexington for another series of free outdoor... more
Aug22

2015 Crave Lexington Food and Music Festival

From the farmers to the chef, Crave is a popular celebration of the cultural and... more
Aug22

Renfro Valley Entertainment Center

Featuring:  Special Guest, Jamey Johnson!  Enjoy great classic country,... more
Aug23

Tunes in the Vines

Featuring:  Dudley Roberts and Steve Gullette!  Bring excitement to your Sunday... more
Aug26

Bluegrass Classic Dog Show

Five days of all-breed conformation, obedience & rally competition. ... more
Aug27

Thursday Night Live

Featuring Kenny Owens!  Beverages, food from local restaurants and great music by... more
Aug29

Moontower Music Festival

Eighteen bands, 2 stages, 2 beer gardens featuring 5 different craft beers and Old 502... more
Aug30

Tunes in the Vines

Featuring:  Alma Gitana!  Bring excitement to your Sunday and meet your friends... more

Carriages and Arabians

by Margaret, Horse Blogger

HORSES, HORSES Two fine equine events are on this weekend at the Kentucky Horse Park. Both of these events are included with general Horse Park admission.

The Carriage Association of America is ...

more

Tank the Fell Pony

by Margaret, Horse Blogger

HORSES, HORSES This handsome black horse is actually a pony. Tank isa Fell Pony and a member of the Breeds Barn at the Kentucky Horse Park.

Bred as pack ponies that could carry 250 pounds, Fell Ponies ...

more

Triple Crown Winner?

by Margaret, Horse Blogger

HORSES, HORSES Is this the year that Thoroughbred racing will finally have anotherTriple Crown winner? While several horses have won both of the Triple Crown's first twolegs (the Kentucky Derby and ...

more

Donuts of Lexington

by Mindy, Cuisine Blogger

National Donut Day is just around the corner, Friday June 5th. Never fear, I am here to help you plan for this joyous occasion and give you the details on some of the best local donut holes.  ...

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. Tours 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: March 2014

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