A weekend in April is all you need to fully appreciate the gracious 19th century charm of bluegrass country. Rolling green hills seamed with plank fences, vast blue skies and thoroughbreds. Warm-hearted people, great food and the world’s best handcrafted bourbons. A trip to Lexington in springtime is as invigorating as a photo finish.
Day One: Antebellum Grace and Victorian Charm
For a true Kentucky blueblood experience there’s nothing quite like the Mansion at Griffin Gate, a historic two-story antebellum mansion with snowy white columns and a semi-circular driveway just perfect for arriving in a coach and four. Serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, this four-star restaurant owned and operated by the adjacent Marriott Resort and Spa offers classic American fare, an extensive wine list and specialty buffets.
After dinner it’s off to the Horse and Barrel. Named the 2012 top whiskey bar in the US, the Horse and Barrel offers more than 50 expertly selected bourbons. The staff is knowledgeable and will guide you to a blend that is just right for you. Located on Victorian Square, the ambiance has a warm, woody feel with a dignified Kentucky air. Relax and enjoy a glass of fine sipping whiskey. Live music starts at 9pm.
Within walking distance of the Horse and Barrel is the Lyndon House B&B, a turreted residential home built in 1883 where you can relax and unwind amidst warm Kentucky hospitality in a gracious atmosphere of white oak floors, cherry woodwork and ornate moldings. The house has five guest rooms with baths, plenty of interesting architectural details and lots of cozy sitting areas. Rooms are priced between $169 and $279 per night.
Day Two: Bourbon and Thoroughbreds
What would be a visit to Lexington without a horse race? The spring meet at Keeneland runs the last three weeks of April. Visit during this time and you are sure to witness great thoroughbred racing in an authentic bluegrass atmosphere.
Long before the horses break from the gates, however, you can tour the grounds, watch the morning workouts and listen to a talk on handicapping. The Keeneland Library unfolds the history and culture of the sport to you by offering 10,000 books and 225,000 photographic images. A visit to Keeneland will easily fill your morning and part of your afternoon. Reserved grandstand seating (which includes general admission) is just $10.
After the races, take a 20 minute drive through Bluegrass Country to the Wofford Distillery, home of Wofford Reserve, a premium small batch bourbon handcrafted by master distillers on site. Take the guided tour which explains the history of bourbon as well as the maturation and bottling process. At its conclusion you’ll be treated to a sampling of their award winning spirit. The tour is one hour and costs only $5.00.
A 15 minute drive to the town of Midway brings you to the Holly Hill Inn, a charming restaurant located inside a historic inn. Here you’ll enjoy authentic Kentucky fare like breast of squab glazed in a jus of bourbon, soy and sorghum with dried cherry and Woodford compote, or Stone Cross pork slow-cooked in milk with carrots, celery and onion. The Holly Hill Inn offers a relaxed, graceful atmosphere in an 1845 Greek Revival building on the National Register of Historic Places. Choose from a 3 course prefix menu at $35 per person, or a 5 course tasting menu for $55. The return trip to Lexington and the Lyndon House B&B is only 20 minutes.
Day Three: Equine Elegance
The next day devote most of your time to the Kentucky Horse Park, a 1,200-acre working horse farm, world-class equestrian competition facility and equine business park. Start your day with the film “The Rein on Nobility” at the visitor’s center, and then go for a 35 minute horseback ride around the perimeter of the park. If you are visiting in the spring, don’t miss the Mare and Foal Show, a 20-minute presentation of fledgling horses and their mothers. Visitors are allowed to get up close and personal with the little horses, perfect for youngsters.
In the afternoon check out the Hall of Champions where the excitement of the racetrack comes to life through daily presentations of thoroughbred champions being put through their paces. Next, take in the spectacular Parade of Breeds, a half hour show highlighting the unique characteristics of different breeds. Wind up your day with a visit to the International Museum of the Horse, a 38,000 square foot museum, dedicated to the history of the horse and its unique relationship with humans. Admission to Kentucky Horse Park is $16, plus $3 for parking.
With a Friday afternoon arrival and a departure late Sunday afternoon you can enjoy the best of Lexington in a mere 2-½ days. This weekend trip is loaded with everything Lexington has to offer, bourbon, racing, beautiful rolling countryside and a love of the horse unrivalled anywhere in the world. Take a weekend trip to Lexington. It’s a vacation that will make you feel like you’ve made it to the winner’s circle.
Visit Lexington, KY…
Mansion at Griffin Gate
1800 Newtown Pike
Lexington, KY 40511-1330
Horse and Barrel
101 N Broadway
Lexington, KY 40507
Lyndon House B&B
507 N. Broadway
Lexington, KY 40508
Keeneland Thoroughbred Race Track
4201 Versailles Rd.
Lexington, KY 40510
Wofford Reserve Distillery
7855 McCracken Pike
Versailles, KY 40383
Holly Hill Inn
426 North Winter St.
Midway, KY 40347
Kentucky Horse Park
4089 Ironworks Pkwy
Lexington, KY 40511
Mansion at Griffin Gate, Marriott Corporation; Lyndon House B&B, Lyndon House; Horse Racing, Softeis; Wofford Reserve Bourbon, Wofford Distillery; Dining Room, Holly Hill Inn; Mare and Foal, Kentucky Horse Park