Lexington (Kentucky)

View of Lexington taken from a helicopter.

Lexington is the second largest city in Kentucky, located in the Bluegrass Region.


Known as the Horse Capital of the World, Lexington has traditionally been dominated by the horse industry and is also heavily influenced by the University of Kentucky, the state's flagship university and the largest employer in the city. The horse industry has greatly influenced Lexington's culture and scenic beauty; the University of Kentucky and Transylvania University contribute to a college town atmosphere with a richer and more diverse culture than some might expect from its size and location. Lexington's compact central downtown district is surrounded by historic neighborhoods. Lexington is in the heart of the Bluegrass region of Kentucky and is still home to hundreds of horse farms.

Get in

By plane

By train

The nearest passenger train service is Amtrak's Cardinal, with stations in Maysville, and in Cincinnati, Ohio (both about 1.5 hours drive); however, there is only service every other day and both trains arrive and depart at night.

By car

Travellers usually access Lexington via one of the two major interstates that arc around the northern and eastern borders of the city. I-64 runs from east to west, connecting Lexington with the largest city in Kentucky, Louisville, to the west. I-75 runs north-south, connecting Lexington with Cincinnati and Knoxville respectively. Neither interstate penetrates into the city. For access to the far side of the city, use New Circle Road (State Route 4), a loop road of which 3/4 is highway-grade, or during non-peak hours you can just take an arterial road through downtown.

The Lexington area is also served by the Martha Layne Collins Bluegrass Parkway, starting near Versailles and ending at I-65 in Elizabethtown, and the Bert T. Combs Mountain Parkway, which starts just east of Lexington and provides access to the Appalachian region.

By bus

The Greyhound station is on New Circle Road on the north side of town, ten minutes from downtown.

Get around

That Kentucky accent

City names in Kentucky aren't always intuitive. Louisville is pronounced LOOey-vil or LU-vul (never lewis-vil), and Versailles is pronounced ver-SALES (never ver-SAI). Athens is supposed to be pronounced with a long vowel (AY-thens), but many locals pronounce it the same as the Greek capital.

Lexington is a relatively spread out city, though not large. Unless you are mainly visiting the downtown and/or the University campus (which are within walking distance of each other), you will find that getting around by car is the most convenient method.

Downtown, Main Street divides cross-streets North and South, and Limestone marks East versus West. Addresses downtown usually specify a cardinal direction, which provides a clue to what area of the city it's in.

By bus

Bus service is provided by Lextran, which provides service from the downtown Transit Center to many parts of town and the airport. Most mainlines run every 35 minutes during business hours others only during rush hours and then every 60 minutes, every 60 minutes Saturdays, Sundays and evenings. The newest overhaul of routes and schedules has increased on-time performance of most routes. Buses do not run after 12AM (or 9PM on Sunday) or before 5AM (or 7AM on weekends). Fare costs $1. If you need to transfer between routes transfers are free and can be attained when paying fare, transfers are good for an hour and a half but cannot be used for round trips on the same route. Buses can be tracked in realtime in a Google Maps environment on a browser at MyStop.


Downtown Lexington is compact and easily navigated by foot or bicycle, but the most typical way to get around is by car. Cars can be rented at the airport or at several locations in the city. Taxis should be called in advance as they are not easily hailed on the street. There is a taxi stand in front of the airport. From 6PM to 6AM a taxi stand operates at the corner of Main and Upper Streets, next to the old courthouse.

By car

Lexington's roads form a wheel-and-spokes pattern: New Circle Road forms a circle around the inner city, and arterial roads radiate from downtown. New Circle Road, an early experiment in urban circumferential expressways, was first built before current zoning rules, so that about 1/4 of it is developed with commercial usage, while the rest is 55-mph freeway with on/off ramps. The radial roads are mostly named after the neighboring towns they lead to (e.g. Nicholasville, Richmond, Winchester, etc.), although as you approach downtown they take on a different name (e.g. Limestone, Main, etc.). Directions in Lexington will frequently start with "Take New Circle to ____ Road (one of the arterials), then turn north/south..."

Man o' War Boulevard forms a half-circle further outside from New Circle Road; however its lower speed limit and abundance of traffic lights make it less ideal for circling the city.


Show me that Ass

If you drive to town on Winchester Road (US-60) or arrive at the airport, you'll see an advertisement for one of Lexington's more dubiously famous companies: Big Ass Fans.

Founded as HVLS Fan Co., many customers called asking for the company that makes "those big-ass fans". The owner decided to change the name to Big Ass Fans, which stirred up a bit of controversy when he painted the company's name along with a giant donkey's rear end (named "Fanny") on the side of the building. Local residents protested at first, and the airport refused to accept advertising from the company. But eventually people warmed to the new name, and the airport now has a Big Ass Fan installed near the security checkpoint.

Mary Todd Lincoln House, childhood home of Pres. Lincoln's wife


Despite the relative small size of this South-North straddling city, Lexington offers a surprisingly delightful palette of interesting activities. Whether you choose to explore some of the world-class and stunning horse farms ringing the city, hit up some of the surprisingly upscale shopping venues, take in a play at the Downtown Arts Center or the Lexington Opera House, tour the oldest university west of the Allegheny Mountains (Transylvania University), catch an insanely popular UK basketball game (Rupp Arena) or sample one of the myriad great restaurants that have sprung up all over town, you can be sure your experience here will not be a bland one.

For more things to do in the "Horse Capital of the World," see visitlex.com.

Local indie magazine ACE Weekly (published weekly) is full of write-ups and advertisements for local events; it is free and available throughout the city.


See also: Kentucky Bourbon Distilleries Tours

Kentucky is the proud home of bourbon whiskey, and Lexington is an ideal home base for exploring the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. Two of the distilleries on the Trails are in town:

Five others distilleries on the Trail are with 2025 miles, or about 3045 minutes' drive, listed below under Nearby.



Lexington isn't called the "Horse Capital of the World" for nothing. The horse industry is Lexington's traditional and most famous trade, and many beautiful old farms are worth a look.


View from Kentucky River overlook in Raven Run Nature Sanctuary

University of Kentucky sports

Alumni pride

Film actress Ashley Judd is a UK alumna, and a fierce Wildcats fan. She regularly attends basketball games every season, often sitting in the student section.

She also helped start a series of posters for UK's ice hockey club team, the Cool Cats. For their 1998-99 season, they sent her a hockey jersey bearing her name, asking if she wouldn't mind sending them a photo of her wearing the jersey for them to sell as a fundraising schedule poster. She obliged, but to the team's surprise, she was wearing only the jersey. The posters sold like hotcakes, the hockey team's raucous midnight games became even more popular, and the poster became an annual tradition, each year featuring a different good-looking celebrity UK alumna.

The UK Wildcats are immensely popular throughout the state (with the partial exception of the immediate Louisville area, where loyalties are divided between UK and its rival University of Louisville) and even more so in Lexington itself. Even if you're not a sports fan, you'll know when it's gameday as the entire town will be dressed to support Big Blue.


There are several major shopping areas in Lexington.

Keep an eye out for merchandise marked "Kentucky Proud", which marks it as a participant in Kentucky's buy-local initiative.


Lexington is home to an astonishing number of independently owned restaurants at all price levels. The city's college town atmosphere and affluent lifestyle contribute to this relatively small metropolitan area's great culinary offerings. Chain restaurants, typical in most American cities and towns, can be found here, as well as a great number of privately owned and operated establishments.

Kentucky cuisine to look for includes the Hot Brown, an open-faced sandwich of turkey, bacon, and cheese sauce; burgoo, a traditional game stew with as many variations as there are people who make it; beer cheese, a spicy spread of cheddar cheese and beer; and bourbon balls, a sort of chocolate and bourbon truffle with pecans.

Note that smoking is banned in restaurants, bars, and many public buildings in Lexington.



Around town



Around town



Around town




Around town


If you're at all interested in bourbon, consider making a daytime trip to explore some of the nearby bourbon distilleries, listed in the Do and Nearby sections.


Around town


If you want to hit the dance floor, there are a few bars that are also nightclubs.


This guide uses the following price ranges for a standard double room:
Budget Under $80
Mid-range $80 - $150
Splurge Over $150

In Lexington, accommodation rooms are taxed at 13.4%. A complete list of hotels, motels and bed and breakfasts can be found at www.visitlex.com





The area code for Lexington and most surrounding counties is 859 (which spells out "UKY", a testament to the popularity of UK basketball). Scott County (including the major suburb of Georgetown), immediately to the north, is in area code 502, but calls between Lexington and Georgetown are local. Outside the metro area, the area code is 606 to the east; 502 serves the state capital of Frankfort. The phone system may be able to correct you if you misuse the area code.

Stay safe

The Lexington Division of Police, accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA), was awarded "Flagship Status" in 2010 for the third consecutive assessment, becoming the first and only municipal police agency in the U.S. to be so honored. The Police department has several special patrol units, including bicycle, Segway, and a mounted patrol.

Lexington's crime rates rank favorably with other cities of its size.

The University of Kentucky campus is patrolled by the University of Kentucky Police Department and is generally quite safe. An initiative called "Cat's Path" is comprised of a series of recommended walking routes that span central campus. The routes were chosen due to their frequent use and accessibility to the main campus destinations. Marked with highly visible signage and paw print ground logos, the Cat's Path is patrolled frequently by University Police, both on foot and in special police golf carts.


Like any city, Lexington's traffic can be challenging during rush hours. Nicholasville Road has reversible lanes to help the flow. Be careful and aware of the lights as they change throughout the day to accommodate traffic and rush hour. A green arrow indicates appropriate lanes for driving; white turn only arrows indicate a center turning lane; a red X indicates lanes in use by oncoming traffic. If possible, try to avoid traveling north on Nicholasville Road during the evening rush hour, as most lanes switch to southbound traffic to allow people to exit downtown. Be aware of driving near the University of Kentucky on basketball or football days. Downtown can be quite congested when UK plays at Rupp Arena, and Tates Creek Road and Nicholasville Road both move very slowly when UK plays at Commonwealth Stadium.

Most of the major arterial streets have multiple names, especially as you approach downtown (Nicholasville Road becomes Limestone; Harrodsburg Road becomes Broadway; etc.). This is also true of many smaller city streets (Winslow Avenue becomes Avenue of Champions, which becomes Euclid Avenue, which becomes Fontaine Road). When you ask for directions, many locals may not know exactly what the street is called where you're going, just remember that the same road may be called any of those at your destination.

Almost all of the arterials, and many smaller roads, are also numbered US Highways or Kentucky State Roads, but no one refers to them by number. The sole exception is New Circle Road, which is KY-4 and sometimes called "Circle 4", but more often called "New Circle".



Bourbon distilleries are plentiful in the area, due to the particular geology of the region that make this distinctively Kentuckian liquor possible. Many distilleries operate tours where you can learn about the processes of mashing, distilling, and aging, and often sample the product. Five are within 30 miles of Lexington.

Go next

Lexington's central location makes it the ideal base to explore the Bluegrass Region.


Small towns

Big cities

Routes through Lexington

Frankfort Midway  W  E  Mount Sterling Charleston
Cincinnati Florence  N  S  Richmond Knoxville
Cincinnati Paris  N  S  Somerset Chattanooga
LouisvilleFrankfort Jct W E  W  E  Mount Sterling Charleston
Bowling Green Harrodsburg  W  E  Paris Wilmington

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Friday, February 12, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.