Uncover hidden gems in downtown Lexington

Published 12:00 am Sunday, November 21, 2010

Mention Lexington, Ky., and many folks think big! That’s big as in the blue of the University of Kentucky, the local horse and bourbon industry.

Lexington is located at the heart of Central Kentucky’s famed scenic Bluegrass Region. Downtown LEX is home to modern skyscrapers that overlook acres of lush pastures. It’s where champion horses are bred, foaled, trained, bought, sold, raced and retired. It’s where bourbon was born and burley tobacco is raised. It’s where Adolf made basketball a state passion. Lexington and the Bluegrass Region is Big Blue!

Getting to LEX from our area is an easy drive basically heading west on interstate I 64. For a scenic diversion jump off the interstate and drive through a lovely countryside of rolling hills and stately farms. Once you’re arrived in LEX proper it is fairly easy to navigate around town.

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The themes for this journey are many — to participate in a downtown walking food tasting tour that offers a side dish of history, a dash of culture and a taste of the Bluegrass, to discover and learn more about their horse heritage and to view their elegant Christmas decorations.

Realizing the culinary riches of downtown Lexington, Bleu Plate Tours has developed a walking tour designed to provide a true, well-rounded sampling of the city’s most coveted restaurants and the foods that made them iconic. From innovative, upscale spins on regional comfort foods to the favorite late night bites of local watering holes, the focus on this activity is to taste the foods that best represent the local culinary trends in a variety of establishments.

Bleu Plate’s current tour, the Downtown Lexington Tour, includes tastings at the finest restaurants, local watering holes and even hidden gems. Stops include seven iconic restaurants and food-related shops where we taste the foods that make them Lexington’s most popular eateries. With dishes featuring Kentucky Bourbon and locally-cured country ham to fresh pasta made that day, this tasty adventure is a treat for all the senses.

This walking adventure winds through some of Lexington’s most historically-rich neighborhoods and bustling downtown streets. From the heart of downtown’s Cheapside District to the lush green of Gratz Park, this guided tour is enlightening as well as entertaining. I am told that I will experience Lexington through its food, history, culture, sights and hospitality – all in this one tour.

The Downtown Lexington tour is offered every Saturday at 10 a.m. and 1:30 pm and Sundays 1:30 pm. Be sure to check in advance for schedule changes and/or reservations.

Unless you are a true horse person our next destination the International Museum of the Horse (IMH) is another undiscovered local gem. This venue is committed to educating the general public, equestrian and academic communities about the relationship between man and the horse throughout history and the world.

Since 1978 the IMH has played an important role in the state and local communities. Through a coordinated exhibitions and collections program, IMH is committed to engaging the community and preserving artifacts and knowledge related to the horse and its influence on the residents of the Bluegrass Region.

Lexington is the “Horse Capital of the World,” so it shouldn’t seem too surprising that the holiday season features some equine enchantment. As the sun sets we are ready to explore the Southern Lights.

At “Southern Lights: Spectacular Sights on Holiday Nights” at the Kentucky Horse Park, horses of light “race” in front of a cheering crowd, clear a steeplechase fence, and graze in Bluegrass pastures. The unique horses scenes help make Southern Lights one of the most distinctive lights festivals anywhere. And with tens of thousands of shimmering lights, it’s Kentucky’s largest lights festival and a 16-year tradition.

You’ll enjoy animated scenes featuring Santa and his reindeer, elves, snowflakes and other traditional holiday characters as you drive along the three- mile route through the park.

Through Dec. 23, you can park and check out the indoor exhibits and entertainment. Youngsters can pet reindeer and other creatures in the petting zoo and talk to Santa in the park’s International Museum of the Horse, where animated figures and a model railway exhibit enhance the regular equine-related exhibits. You can also shop for handmade arts and crafts, or just enjoy cookies and hot chocolate while you listen to local choirs and other entertainers.

Going on now and running through Dec. 31 the display opens nightly from 5:30 to 10 p.m. Admission is based on vehicle size and starts at $15 per car.

The indoor attractions are closed on Thanksgiving Day, and Dec. 24-31, but the drive-through portion remains open every night through the 31st.

For more travel information contact the Lexington tourism office at 1-800-848-1224 or browse www.visitlex.com online. You will discover that there is plenty to experience in the “Horse Capital” of the world.

Steve Call