If you know anything about Lexington, Kentucky, then two things come to mind: thoroughbred horses and fine bourbon whiskey. Both have a heavy whiff of old money about them, but you can enjoy them on the cheap when you visit Lexington.
This is one of my favorite small cities and I wrote a family travel piece about it a few years ago that I still like: Where Bourbon, Betting, and Breeding are a Family Affair.
Small cities in general are a better deal than large ones, but Lexington has more to offer than most. It’s got one of the most beautiful horse race tracks in the country—Keeneland. Since this is breeding area central for horses, you get the best of the best racing here, without all the media hype and overcrowding of the Kentucky Derby down the road in Louisville. Races run at certain times in the fall and spring, so go here for the schedule. It only costs $5 to get into these hallowed grounds, programs are $2, and you can make $2 bets all day long and not lose your shirt. You can get a beer at the track or, of course, some good bourbon.
Speaking of such, only one of the bourbon distilleries in the area (Woodford Reserve–$5 and worth it) charges for a tour and in the past few years they’ve all been able to start offering samples. Four Roses is right outside of town. There’s a whole Bourbon Trail of these places stretching through the countryside around Lexington and Bardstown. To visit them you ride through some beautiful countryside.
There are two Pete Dye golf course and there’s one Reese Jones golf course, with greens fees that will leave a California golfer smiling big. There’s a great state park system throughout Kentucky, with good prices on cabins, if you want to spend some time in nature.
Here’s a list of 70 free things to do in Lexington. These include the 734-acre Raven Run Nature Sanctuary, the University of Kentucky Art Museum, and the gravesite of Daniel Boone.
Hotel rates are usually a bargain in this city unless there’s a special event going on in town. When I pulled up Hotwire rates for this coming weekend, 13 of the 14 hotels they had listed were under $100 a night, including a 3-star with a pool and gym for $59. If you’re driving, you can usually find great coupon deals at the rest stops and visitors’ centers.
Bourbon, gambling, nice scenery, a pretty downtown, good prices—what else do you want? Find it at the info-packed Lexington Tourism site.
[top flickr photo from David Paul Ohmer]