Vacation has to be one of the nicest words in the English language, and it has so many meanings. A vacation doesnt have to mean a cruise around the world or even a week at Disney World. It can be a few days scattered throughout the year given over to exploring what is in your own back yard. Whether youre a visitor to Central Kentucky or a resident, here are some suggestions for a small, medium or large helping of fun.
If you have only one day in Central Kentucky, make it all about the horses. They are, after all, our tourism superstars, and you can see their colorful representations all over town, courtesy of the Horse Mania 2010 art project.
Day 1: Start by heading out to Keeneland Race Course to watch early morning workouts. The good news is, the horses work all year long, not just during race meets in April and October. A word of advice: for the best viewing, get there early to stake out your spot along the rail.
After seeing the horses at work on the track, its time to see them at work of a different sort (once they have retired from racing and began the process of producing future champions.) A horse farm tour is an absolute must for any visitor to Lexington, whether you are a first-time or frequent traveler to the Bluegrass. Most of the 450 farms in the area are not open to visitors, but several of the most famous are and you can see them either by making a reservation and going on your own or by joining a guided tour with one of the companies that offer horse farm tours. (See Page 10 for a list of these companies.)
By now, you surely know all about the Kentucky Horse Park, site of the 2010 World Equestrian Games. Even if youre not attending the games, the horse park is worth a visit. The only park of its kind in the world, on its 1,200 acres you will find not just Thoroughbreds, but some 49 other breeds, which are showcased in the twice-daily Parade of Breeds (April through October.) Youll also want to visit the Hall of Champions to meet the retired equine athletes who call it home.
Carriage tours and pony rides are a great way to see the park in all its landscaped glory, and museum buffs have two options here: the International Museum of the Horse, an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institute, and the American Saddlebred Museum, dedicated to Americas only native breed of horse.
After a day devoted to horses, relax with dinner at Dudleys on Short or Jonathan at the Gratz Park Inn, two favorites with the horse crowd, and then continue your tribute to the noble equine at the Horse & Barrel, a pub next to Victorian Square, that in 2008 was voted one of the worlds top three whiskey bars by Whisky Magazine.
Day 1: See above.
Day 2: Havent had enough of horses? You can begin your second day with a stop for photographs at Thoroughbred Park on the corner of Main and Midland. What looks like a horse race in progress is actually a group of seven magnificent bronze equine sculptures. In addition to the racing horses, there are sculptures of mares and foals lolling in the grass.
Next its out Paris Pike for a stop at the Thoroughbred Training Center. Here, you can watch Thoroughbreds work out on two tracks, and then tour the barns and paddocks. Note: If you wish to take the guided morning tour, you should make reservations.
At the training center, young horses are being prepped for their glory years on the race track. At Old Friends in Scott County, the horses have all enjoyed their days in the spotlight and are now living in well-earned retirement. There are normally 25 to 30 horses on the farm, and the public is welcome to come visit these old-timers.
Finally, end your day with a visit to the Red Mile, the second-oldest harness racing track in the United States. Trotters and pacers compete on the 1-mile track, recognized as the worlds fastest harness track. It is the site every September of the Kentucky Futurity, the third leg of the Triple Crown for Standardbreds, and every July hosts the Junior League Horse Show, the first leg of the Triple Crown for Saddlebreds.