Calumet Farms (www.calumetfarm.com) is the granddaddy of 'em all, breeder of nine Kentucky Derby champions, including three Triple Crown winners. It is not open to the public. Claiborne Farm, Winchester Road, Paris (tel. 859/233-4252; www.claibornefarm.com), was the birthplace of Seabiscuit. It's also known in part for its association with Secretariat, the 1973 Triple Crown winner considered by many to be the greatest thoroughbred of all time. The horse once stood at stud at the farm and is buried here. Tour schedules vary, so call in advance to arrange an appointment. Tours are free, but tips for the guides are customary.
Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew (in 1977) once stood at stud at Three Chimneys Farm, Old Frankfort Parkway, Versailles (tel. 859/873-7053), as well as 2008 Derby and Preakness winner Big Brown. Barbaro's sire is also at this popular farm. Tours are free but should be booked 6 months to a year in advance.
Part museum, part equestrian arena, the state-run Kentucky Horse Park, 4089 Iron Works Pike, Lexington (tel. 800/568-8813 or 859/233-4303; www.kyhorsepark.com), is a mecca for horse lovers, drawing more than 700,000 visitors yearly. A gravesite statue of Man o' War, who lost only one race in his career, welcomes visitors. Seasonal horse and pony rides please the kids. Open daily from 9am to 5pm (Nov-Mar discounted rates; closed Mon and Tues). Admission is $15 for adults, $8 for kids ages 7 to 12. Through the park, you can also book narrated 2 1/2-hour tours of off-premises, Lexington-area horse farms. Tickets are $25 for adults and $15 for children 4 to 12; not recommended for kids 3 and under.
Meanwhile, Kentucky Horse Park is gearing up for a major international event in 2010, when the Alltech FEI (Federation Equestre Internationale) World Equestrian Games will be held here September 25 to October 10. It will be the first time the competition, billed as the world's largest equine sporting event, is being held outside Europe. For more information, visit www.feigames2010.org.
Keeneland, 4201 Versailles Rd., Lexington (tel. 800/456-3412 or 859/254-3412; www.keeneland.com), a meticulously manicured racetrack, may not be as famous as Churchill Downs, but most folks think it's one of the prettiest courses in America. Much of the film Seabiscuit was shot here. Races are held only 6 weeks a year: 3 in April, including the Blue Grass Stakes, a major Kentucky Derby tune-up, and 3 more in October. Post time is 1:10pm. A reserved seat in the grandstand costs $6 weekdays, $8 weekends. Order tickets in advance for major stakes races.
Bourbon Distillery Tours
Bourbon, a whiskey made from at least 51% corn, is distilled in several Bluegrass region towns, but ironically, none are in Bourbon County, which is dry. (You can, however, buy bourbon in Christian County.) A number of the distilleries within easy driving distance of Lexington offer tours. For general information, contact the Kentucky Distillers Association's Kentucky Bourbon Trail (tel. 859/336-9612; www.kybourbontrail.com). From here, you can download interactive maps and get detailed driving directions to the region's main distilleries, including the ones listed below. Most of the distilleries offer free guided tours, and some end with sample sips of bourbon and/or bourbon-spiked chocolates.
One of the oldest and largest is the Wild Turkey Distillery, 1525 Tyrone Rd., Lawrenceburg (tel. 502/839-4544; www.wildturkeybourbon.com). It's the closest to Lexington. Free tours are conducted weekdays at 9am, 10:30am, 12:30pm, and 2:30pm. The distillery is closed the first week of January and the last 2 weeks of July.
Visit Heaven Hill Distilleries Bourbon Heritage Center, 1311 Gilkey Run Rd., Bardstown (tel. 502/337-1000; www.bourbonheritagecenter.com), to see where Evan Williams and other brands are produced. Photomurals, bourbon-making artifacts, antiques, handmade quilts, and other crafts are showcased. There's also a gift shop brimming with bourbon merchandise.
Family-owned Maker's Mark Distillery, 3350 Burks Spring Rd., Loretto (tel. 270/865-2099; www.makersmark.com), a small-batch distillery (peak capacity is a mere 38 barrels), has attracted a devoted following. Its silky-smooth bourbon has garnered numerous awards. Free tours are offered on the half-hour from 10:30am to 3:30pm Monday through Saturday; closed Saturdays in January and February.
The oldest operating distillery in Kentucky is Woodford Reserve Distillery (tel. 859/879-1812; www.woodfordreserve.com), 7855 McCracken Pike, Versailles, in Woodford County, a short drive from Lexington. This picturesque distillery is located among lush, rolling horse farms. There's a lunchtime cafe with indoor and alfresco seating, offering lovely views of the grounds. Tours cost $5 and are held Tuesday through Saturday on the hour from 10am to 4pm, with a break at noon, and Sunday at 1, 2, and 3pm.
In nearby Frankfort, a 25-minute drive from Lexington, is Buffalo Trace Distillery, 1001 Wilkinson Blvd., Franklin County (tel. 502/223-7641; www.buffalotrace.com). Bourbon making on this 110-acre site dates from 1787. In the last decade the distillery has won more international awards than any other in North America. Free tours are held every day except Sunday and holidays.
Other popular bourbon distilleries offering tours include the Jim Beam American Outpost, 149 Happy Hollow Rd., Clermont (tel. 502/543-9877; www.jimbeam.com), located about 25 miles south of Louisville, and the Spanish mission-style Four Roses, 1224 Bonds Mill Rd., Lawrenceburg (tel. 502/839-3436; www.fourroses.us).
Downtown Lexington is home to several historic buildings. Maps for these as well as a self-driving tour of the area and horse farms are available at the visitor center, 301 E. Vine (tel. 800/845-3959). Mary Todd Lincoln House, 578 W. Main St. (tel. 859/233-9999; www.mtlhouse.org), was the first American historic site restored to honor a first lady. Tours are offered from April to mid-December Tuesday through Saturday from 10am to 4pm. Admission is $7 for adults, $4 for ages 6 to 12. Ashland, 120 Sycamore Rd. (tel. 859/266-8581; www.henryclay.org), is the beautiful 20-acre estate of famous 19th-century statesman and emancipationist Henry Clay. It's open Tuesday through Saturday from 10am to 4:30pm, Sunday from 1 to 4:30pm; closed during January and February. Admission is $7 for adults and $3 for ages 6 to 18.
A scenic 25-mile drive southwest of Lexington takes you to Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill, 3501 Lexington Rd., Harrodsburg (tel. 800/734-5611 or 859/734-5411; www.shakervillageky.org), the largest historic community of its kind in America. The National Historic Landmark features 33 original 19th-century buildings and 2,800 acres of farmland. Self-guided tours, horseback riding, and riverboat excursions are offered. Dining, lodging, and two crafts shops are also on the premises. It's open daily year-round except December 24 and 25. Admission for village tours is $14 for adults, $7 for youth 12 to 17, and $5 for children 6 to 11.
For a culturally rich retail therapy experience, be sure to stop by the impressive Kentucky Artisan Center at Berea (tel. 859/985-5448; www.kentuckyartisancenter.ky.gov). Located about 40 miles south of Lexington off I-75 in Berea, the state's folk arts and crafts capital, this modern, museum-like center combines exhibits, artist demonstrations, and tourist services, along with a world-class gift shop featuring fine Appalachian pottery, textiles, furniture, jewelry, and basketry. There's also a good selection of books and music by noted Kentucky authors, including Bobbie Ann Mason, Sue Grafton, Barbara Kingsolver, and the late Hunter S. Thompson. Admission is free. A sunny cafe features sandwiches as well as slow-cooked comfort foods. For more information, contact the Berea Tourism Center, 3 Artist Circle (in the old train depot at 201 N. Broadway), at tel. 800/598-5263 or 859/986-2540 (www.berea.com).
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.