Lexington, Kentucky. Affectionately known as the “Horse Capital of the World,” Lexington is a beautiful city full of southern charm. Surrounded by lush rolling hills is a downtown area exploding with new restaurants and trendy watering holes.
1. Holly Hill Inn
Technically right outside Lexington in Midway, Kentucky, this fine dining restaurant is worth the 25 minute drive from downtown. Helmed by James Beard-award winning chef Ouita Michel, Holly Hill Inn is hands down my favorite restaurant in the state. The food? Exquisite. The atmosphere? Fancy, without being stuffy. The service? Friendly, unpretentious, and thorough. Meals are served pre-fixe, with four courses for dinner priced at $40, and three courses for Sunday brunch priced at $22, with optional additional courses available for an additional cost. Each course has 2-4 options from which to choose (with more options for entrees), and every single course served always has a vegetarian option. Bottom line: Holly Hill Inn is the best there is. Go. Make a reservation, drink a perfectly selected glass of wine, dine on beautiful and delicious food, and enjoy the experience!
2. Corto y Lima
While the restaurant is a relative newcomer to the Lexington restaurant scene, head chef Jonathan Lundy is a local veteran, and is putting out his best dishes since Jonathan’s at Gratz Park Inn closed in 2014. Corto y Lima features Latin inspired cuisine, and I have yet to taste something I didn’t like. The atmosphere is trendy and lively without being intimidating. Go with your gals (or guys!) and order all the drinks and small plates, and have a fun time! Also– plenty of vegetarian options here for the herbivores like myself.
3. The Press Juice and Health Bar
Serving fresh cold-pressed juices, acai bowls, salads, tasty treats, and much more, The Press is my favorite place in town for a healthy lunch or afternoon pick-me-up. The freshly-made juices rotate daily, so there’s always something new to try. There’s quiet seating both indoors and out, making it a lovely place to spend your lunch break. Or if walking is more your style, The Press is located in a beautiful old house across the street from Woodland Park, so you can sip your juice and take a walk under the trees.
1. Le Deauville
A small, adorable, friendly French restaurant at the edge of downtown, Le Deauville is great for dinner, but even better for their happy hour! Happy hour is every day from 5-6:30, and all drinks and appetizers are half off. Sure, you could find a similar deal at your local Applebee’s, but trust me, you’ll be glad you went local. The wine list is wonderful and well thought out, and even the by-the-glass offerings pass my snob test (I like good wine, okay?). Get a cheese plate to go with it, or don’t, you’ll enjoy your time at Le Deauville either way!
The restaurant and bar in our beautiful 21C hotel. Lockbox is one of the last places in Lexington to serve truly good cocktails. Craft cocktails have gained a lot of popularity lately, but that hasn’t translated to quality in Lexington (sadly). Cocktails change seasonally, as with any decent restaurant, but the bartenders are well-trained and can make you whatever your heart desires… a french 75, sloe gin fizz, or dark and stormy… and it will actually taste good. Plus, they have an extensive list of Kentucky bourbon, quality wines, and local beer. For an extra fun time, ask if a blue penguin can join you at your table. Afterward, take a walk through the art gallery and feel super chic as you take in the modern art exhibits.
3. West Sixth Brewery
Lexington’s craft beer scene has exploded over the past five years, but in this case, the original is still the best. West Sixth opened their tap room in 2012 and has been turning out consistent hits ever since. There’s an indoor/outdoor beer garden, and the walls are adorned with local art. My favorite is their Sixfold Series, because the beers are tart and brewed with brettanomyces, but no matter your pleasure, they have a beer for you. Bonus– they’re super involved with the community, hosting a weekly free run club, yoga club, and cycling club.
1. The Lexington Cemetery
Yes, the cemetery. The Lexington Cemetery is one of the most beautiful places in the entire city. And in a city known for its natural beauty, that’s saying a lot. My favorite time to go is in the Spring, when the all flowering trees are in bloom… it’s absolutely ethereal. The beauty and tranquility lasts all year round though. It’s the perfect place to take a quiet walk, reflect, and soak in the peace that has settled over the grounds.
We all know that when Keeneland is in session each April and October, it is THE place to be in Lexington. With an average daily attendance of 16,000 people at last Fall’s meet, it’s safe to say that Keeneland is the place to don your finest to see and be seen. But even if racing isn’t in session, it’s still a beautiful place to go. In fact, many prefer to visit Keeneland during the other ten months of the year when there aren’t any races. Get up early and watch a morning workout on the track. The horses are magnificent and you’ll get an up close and personal view. Then have breakfast at the track kitchen and wander through the stables. You may make even make a new friend!
3. The Kentucky Theatre
The bright, art deco, neon sign of the Kentucky Theatre is a familiar landmark to most everyone who grew up in Lexington or the surrounding towns. Once inside, the aesthetics are even more striking. Opened in 1922 (almost 100 years ago!), the Kentucky Theatre has two theaters, both magnificent with their ornate fixtures, hand-painted murals, and plush velvet curtains. It shows mostly artsy or independent films, but I also walked past a line around the block the day the most recent Star Wars came out, so they know how to stay relevant. I love seeing movies there, partly because I like to support a piece of Lexington history, but also because there is something poetic about the juxtaposition of sitting in a 95 year old theater that oozes 1920’s glamour whilst watching a modern day film in high definition.