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Featured Events

Nov21

21st. Annual Southern Lights

The 21st Annual Southern Lights includes a self-guided four mile journey through a... more
Nov7

Unified Trust Company Ice Rink

Tis the season for ice skating!  Enjoy 90 minutes on the ice!  Monday-Friday 4... more
Dec26

Holiday Candlelight Tour

Enjoy live music on a self-guided tour of the mansion and refreshments in the Keeper's... more
Jan23

Guys and Dolls

Presented by Broadway Live & The Opera House Fund.  Bustling with gamblers,... more

Merry Christmas

by Margaret, Horse Blogger

HORSES, HORSES Santa Claus stopped by the Kentucky Horse Park to visit with some very special horses and their riders: the Horse Park's Mounted Police Unit, headed by Captain Lisa Rakes.

In ...

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Almost Christmas

by Margaret, Horse Blogger

HORSES, HORSES The big draft horses that pull the trolleys at the Kentucky Horse Park look as though they are ready for Christmas. These sturdy Clydesdales and Percherons are favorites with the Horse ...

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Greentree Tearoom

by Mindy, Cuisine Blogger

The Greentree Tearoom is a hidden little gem here in Lexington, KY. Tucked away on West Short Street sits this adorable little green house, that is home to an antique shop and a tea room. 

The ...

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Quick & Easy Quiche

by Mindy, Cuisine Blogger

Happy Thanksgiving Lexington! I wanted to share the quick and easy quiche that I prepped for the Good Day Kentucky Thanksgiving Day Segment that you can prep ahead of time before you have guest ...

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The Breeds Barn

by Margaret, Horse Blogger

HORSES, HORSES Things are quieter now at the Kentucky Horse Park since it began operating on its winter schedule. That means that the Horse Park is open Wednesdays through Sundays, 9AM-5PM, and ...

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Downtown Lexington

Check out The LexWalk Audio Tour iPhone App!

Enjoy Sightseeing, Dining, Shopping and Entertainment in the "City in the Park"

Unless otherwise noted, phone numbers are in the 859 area code.

Lexington has been called "the city in the park" because of its location at the center of hundreds of beautiful, park-like horse farms. But the nickname also seems an apt description of the cosmopolitan yet casual atmosphere of the downtown area. 

PDF BoxLexington offers a charming blend of big-city amenities and small-town friendliness. Before, after and between meeting sessions at the modern Lexington Center convention complex, you'll find plenty to see and do. Beautiful historic office buildings, churches, and homes; many of Lexington's finest restaurants, specialty shops and galleries; and major performance and sports arenas are within easy and safe walking distance.

A variety of excellent accommodations are convenient to the convention center and downtown attractions, including the Hilton Lexington/Downtown (369 W. Vine St., 231-9000) and Hyatt Regency Lexington (401 West High St., 253-1234); the elegant and historic Gratz Park Inn (120 W. 2nd St., 231-1777); and The Lyndon House (507 N. Broadway, 420-2683).

For a street map of the central downtown district in PDF file format click here.

Bluegrass Note: One of the best ways to tour the historic downtown area is by horse-drawn carriage. The Lexington Livery Company offers tours nightly, weather permitting. Call 259-0000 for reservations or catch a carriage at the corner of Broadway and Main after 7:30 p.m. Charge for a one hour tour is $70 for four people.

Attractions Old and New

Looking at downtown Lexington today, it's hard to imagine a town of log blockhouses and cabins, or the sight of horses racing down Main Street, but both were part of the city's early history. Lexington was Kentucky's first big city - a bustling commercial, education and cultural center by 1800. Take a walk in the historic neighborhoods near Lexington Center, or along Main Street, and you'll find architecture spanning over 200 years. A few attractions of special note:

  • The Mary Todd Lincoln House, adjacent to Lexington Center at 578 W. Main St. was a girlhood home of the First Lady, a member of a prominent early Lexington family. Guided tours are given Monday through Saturday, mid-March through November. Admission charged. 233-9999.
  • The Hunt-Morgan House, northeast of the convention center complex at 201 North Mill St., was built in 1814 by Kentucky's first millionaire, John Wesley Hunt. The house includes the Alexander T. Hunt Civil War Museum with items relating to Hunt's grandson Confederate General John Morgan. Guided tours are available Wednesday through Sunday, April through mid-December. Admission charged (253-0362). While in the historic Gratz Park neighborhood you might also want to stroll the campus of the oldest college west of the Alleghenies, Transylvania University, Third and Broadway. At 178 N. Mill St. you'll pass the 19th century law office of Henry Clay, the famous U.S. Senator and one of early Lexington's prominent citizens.
  • If you brought your family along (or are just a kid at heart), a must-see attraction is the Explorium of Lexington (Lexington Children's Museum), located in The Square, a complex of 16 restored 19th century commercial buildings at Main and Broadway. The 14,000-square foot museum features a variety of hands-on activities, from an "archaeological dig" to giant soap bubbles. Open Tuesday through Sunday year round. Closed on Mondays. Admission charged. 258-3258.
  • That 30-story glass office building towering over Main Street is Lexington Financial Center ("Big Blue" to locals) and the city's tallest building.

downtown-lexington-kyFor self-guided downtown walking tour options, contact the Lexington Visitors Center, 401 W. Main St. 233-7299. For an entertaining guided walk, contact Lexington Walking Tours at 825-8702. Ask about their "Creepy Crawl." Caroline Hackworth operates Historic Downtown Walking Tours with guided walking tours of downtown Lexington by appointment. Learn about the history of downtown as reflected in historic commercial buildings, churches and homes. Call 321-5897. Yvonne Giles leads walking tours of the East End that depart from the historic Lyric Theatre. 280-2218.

Bluegrass Note: Getting to and from downtown Lexington is easy. Blue Grass Airport is about a 10-minute drive away (as are those famous horse farms, golf courses and major attractions such as the Kentucky Horse Park).

Shopping

Whether looking for high quality men's and women's clothing, decorative accessories, artwork, fine jewelry or distinctly Lexington souvenirs, you'll find an excellent variety of stores at The Square and The Shops at Lexington Center. Connected by covered ped-way, these two complexes featured dozens of specialty shops.

At The Shops at Lexington Center, check out Cat Couture, fashion for the ultimate UK fan, or simply those who really love blue! You'll also find exclusively Lexington shops such as Old Kentucky Chocolates candy store; Artique, a gallery of quality handmade jewelry and gift items.; and Kentucky Korner, with just about everything emblazoned with Kentucky symbols or the University of Kentucky logo.  

The newest stores to open in The Square are Urban Outfitters and Alumni Hall. Stay tuned: several new bars and restaurants are coming soon! Artists Attic, on the fourth floor of The Square, features the studios of more than 30 area artisans. Most shops are open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday. 

Bluegrass Note: Spring through fall, local farmers sell vegetables, fruits, flowers and more at the Farmer's Market (Saturdays in the Pavilion at Cheapside Park and Tuesdays and Thursdays on Maxwell at Broadway). To find out about other special downtown activities, call the Lexington Convention and Visitors Bureau at 233-7299.

 

If hunting for treasures from the past is your passion, just head down Main Street. Visit LaFayette Galleries in The Shops at Lexington Center or visit Heritage Antiques about five blocks away. (238 E. Main St.; 253-1035). A little further along, browse through Ann Greely Interiors and Antiques (497 East Main Street; 367-0200).

Colorful light hearted gifts, many handmade, are found at Third Street Stuff, which in spite of its name is at 257 N. Limestone (255-5301). It's also a great place to get coffee and a sandwich. Nearby Mithril Jewelers has been creating fine custom pieces for over 30 years (141 North Limestone; 254-1224).

 

For a street map of the central downtown district in PDF file format click here.

Bluegrass Note: An interesting used bookstore is located in the basement of the Lexington Public Library, 140 E. Main St. The library also offers an art gallery, computers with Internet access and a good view of downtown from the upper floors. 231-5500.

Dining Out

Downtown is home to many of Lexington's most popular and creative restaurants. In addition to the excellent hotel restaurants, Triangle Grille at the Hilton Lexington/Downtown, The Blue Fire Grill at the Hyatt Regency or Distilled's at the Gratz Park Inn, you can walk to a variety of delicious experiences, as fancy or informal as you desire. From the more than 90 places to eat in downtown Lexington, here are a few suggestions:

If you want to grab something fast, visit the Food Court at The Shops at Lexington Center, or pick up a deli sandwich at Courtyard Deli on Cheapside. Saul Good (317-9200) occupies the corner space at Broadway and Short making it the perfect place to grab a cocktail before a show at the Lexington Opera House. Sublime traditional, Sicilian and specialty pizzas are found at Joe Bologna's, 120 W. Maxwell St. This local favorite also serves pasta and awesome breadsticks drenched in garlic butter. 252-4933.

For sophisticated Italian dining with a California attitude, try Portofino's (249 East Main; 253-9300). Another elegant Italian restaurant is Bellini's (115 West Main; 388-9583). For hearty burgers and other "bar food," try Sawyer's Bar and Grill (281-6022) at the corner of Main and Broadway.

Bluegrass Note: Early Risers? A variety of gourmet coffees and pastries are served at the downtown Starbucks on the corner of Main and Broadway. They open at 5:30 a.m.

At the corner of Main and Esplanade, drop in at the new Natasha's Bistro & Bar for international cuisine. There's live music in the evenings.

A number of small bistros and fine dining establishments have opened across from Lexington's beautiful courthouses (no, you're not seeing double!) Dine at the very, very French, Le Deauville just up the street. 246-0999. At 159 North Limestone St. is an old favorite, a la lucie. A popular "special occasion" restaurant for Lexingtonians, lucie's features a romantic atmosphere and inventive Continental menu. 252-5277. The next block up, enjoy a taste of the Caribbean at Atomic Cafe, famous for its conch fritters, jerk chicken and sweet potato chips. There's also live music. Dinner only, Tuesday through Saturday. 254-1969.

At Short and Market is another top Lexington restaurant, Dudley's. Located in the historic Northern Bank Building built in 1889, this cozy elegant spot features seafood and Continental specialties, with an excellent wine list and Sunday brunch. 252-1010. Parlay Social, just next door, is open for dinner. 244-1934. Also on Short: the elegant Table 310, showcasing local, sustainable ingredients with a farm-driven, seasonal menu.

Jefferson Street is Lexington's newest burgeoning restaurant district. There you will find Stella's Deli, Nick Ryan's, West Sixth Brewing Company, County Club, Grey Goose, Blue Heron and more!

Bluegrass Note: Weather permitting, dine outdoors on the patio at Grey Goose or Cheapside Bar and Grill. Many downtown restaurants have sidewalk seating as well.

Nightlife

Lexington's hottest nightspots are in the downtown area, offering a wide variety of entertainment and ambiance. In addition to those mentioned under restaurants, here are some other current favorites. Many clubs close at 1 a.m. but some remain open until 2:30 a.m. Legal drinking age is 21.

Cheapside Bar & Grill on Mill Street offers great food in a casual atmosphere, inside or on the patio, and is the place to be at Happy Hour (254-0046). Make a night of it: stay on for the live music and party till 2:30 a.m.

Long time southern rocker and country crooner Larry Redmon has his own place called....Redmon's ...downstairs at the corner of Main and Cheapside. 252-5802. For a true Irish Pub go to McCarthy's Irish Bar (258-2181) at 117 S. Upper or Molly Brookes (420-5792) at 109 North Limestone.

If you are a pool shark in search of billiard tables, head to Yesterday's at The Shops at Lexington Center. 231-8889.

Keep an eye on an exciting new area of downtown: the Distillery District. It is home to Buster's Billiards and Backroom. They feature a fantastic lineup of live bands in the renovated 11,000 square foot Old Tarr Distillery warehouse built in 1860. 368-8871. Restaurants, bars,coffee shops and even a micro-brewery are set to open in 2015.

For a street map of the central downtown district in PDF file format click here.

Bluegrass Note: Pamper yourself with deep tissue and other massages available at The Massage Center, 380 Mill in Dudley Square, 231-1782. If it's a workout you prefer, contact L.A. Fitness, 230 W. Main St. The club has racquetball and squash courts, a running track, sauna and weight rooms, with special day rates for visitors. 281-5110.

For Sports Fans

Lexington's passion for basketball is legendary, and Rupp Arena in Lexington Center is home court to one of the top programs in college basketball, the University of Kentucky Wildcats. Tickets are difficult to obtain but you may call the UK ticket office at 257-1818 to check availability. Hard-core fans make a point to take a peek at Rupp Arena through a viewing window outside the Lexington Center offices. 233-4567.

Basketball isn't the only game in town though. The Lexington Legends, an affiliate of the Kansas City Royals, play at Lexington's new state-of-the-art baseball stadium on North Broadway. Tickets are usually available at the box office on game day. 422-7867.

Bluegrass Note: Lexington is also a city with parks. Try these relaxing urban greenspaces for an impromptu picnic or restful break: Just across Main Street from Lexington Center is Triangle Park, beautiful day and night with its stepped, lighted fountains. Gratz Park, 3rd at Mill, is located in a lovely historic residential neighborhood. After viewing the statues on the grounds of the Fayette County Courthouse on Main Street, pause at Cheapside Park, historically the site of slave auctions, abolitionists' speeches and "Court Days" trading. Phoenix Park is next to Lexington Public Library on Main Street. At the east end of downtown is Thoroughbred Park, where life-size bronze horses "race" and "graze." (On a walking or jogging regimen? From Triangle Park to Thoroughbred Park and back along Main Street is about 1 1/2 miles.)

Cultural Attractions

Today, as historically, downtown is the center of cultural life in Lexington. Touring professional theater, some Lexington Philharmonic concerts and other arts performances are on the bill at the restored 1887 Lexington Opera House, Broadway and Short streets; call 233-3565 for ticket information.

The Kentucky Theatre, 214 E. Main Street, is a restored 1920s movie house that shows classics, foreign and some first-run films, with occasional concerts. 231-6997. The recently renovated Lyric Theatre, historially the entertainment centerpiece for Lexington's African-American families, hosts a broad range of programming and is home to "WoodSongs Old Time Radio Hour," an internationally syndicated live radio show. 252-8888.

ArtsPlace, 161 N. Mill St., is headquarters to many Lexington arts groups. A gallery features changing exhibits, and Red Barn Radio tapes live Bluegrass shows. 233-1469.

Around the corner from the new courthouses is the Downtown Arts Center. There are frequent musical and theatrical performances. You'll find art exhibits on the second floor and at the adjacent Ann Tower Gallery. 141 E. Main St.. 425-1188.

Places of Worship

Visitors to Lexington often remark on the many steeples in the downtown area. The beautiful sanctuaries in downtown house some of the area's oldest congregations. For example, Historic Pleasant Green Missionary Baptist Church, 540 W. Maxwell St., was founded in 1790 and is the fourth oldest African-American Baptist church in America. 254-7387. Central Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), 205 E. Short St., traces its roots to the first Christian church in America, founded at nearby Cane Ridge. 233-1551. The Episcopal Christ Church Episcopal Cathedral, 166 Market St., congregation dates to 1795; a plaque marks Henry Clay's pew. 254-4497.

Other churches near Lexington Center include:
Calvary Baptist Church, 150 E. High St. 254-3491.
First Baptist Church, 548 W. Short St. (across from Lexington Center). 252-4808.
First Presbyterian Church, 171 Market St. 252-1919.
First United Methodist, 200 W. High St. 233-0545.
Historic St. Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church, 251 N. Upper St. 255-7945.
St. Paul Roman Catholic Church, 501 W. Short St. 252-0738.

Additional Information
Barber shop - Ginger's Barber Shop, 212 W. Maxwell St. 254-4464.
Copies, digital photo printing, signs, banners- Fed Ex Office, 333 E. Main St. 253-1360.
Jewelry Repair - Corbett-Frame Jeweler's at the Hilton, 254-1963.
Nail Repair, hair dresser - Mix on VIne at 301 East Vine Street. 687-0630.
Mini-markets - Shorty's, 163 W Short St.; 309-3813, Town Branch Market, 233 E Main St.; 280-2122.
Post Office - 210 E High St., 254-6156.
Racing Forms - Fayette Cigar Store, 137 E. Main St. 252-6267.
Taxi Services - Yellow Cab and Wildcat Cab at 231-8294. (Cabs must be phoned to schedule pickup; you cannot hail them on the street. On Friday and Saturday nights there is a taxi queue by the Old Fayette County Courthouse on Main Street.)

For a street map of the central downtown district in PDF file format click here.

For more information contact the Lexington Visitors Center at (859) 233-7299 or (800) 845-3959 or the Downtown Lexington Corporation at (859) 425-2590.

By Teresa Day, a freelance travel writer based in Georgetown, KY
Updated March 2014