The rolling hills of the Kentucky countryside dotted with horse farms are a nugget of Southern charm located less than a two-hour drive from Cincinnati. The pageantry of horse breeding and racing brings big hats, big money and big fun to this area year-round. Horses not your thing? Don’t fret! This is only one of many attractions that Lexington offers. Families have endless opportunities to experience history, culture, indoor and outdoor adventures and naturally, horses. Here are our best bets for an enjoyable family visit to the Horse Capital of the World. This site contains affiliate links.
The Kentucky Horse Park
Experience why Lexington is the horse capital of the world by visiting the Kentucky Horse Park. This sprawling park encompasses acres upon acres of pastures, stables, arenas and more. Plan on spending a few hours discovering and learning about all thing equine. A family favorite was the parade of breeds – a show offered twice daily. Make sure to check the schedule for details and times. This show does an excellent job of capturing the attention of all ages.
Be sure to check out the Kid’s Barn which is full of interactive exhibits and a few four-hoofed friends! The International Museum of the Horse is definitely worth a stop, as well. We found their collection of antique sleds and carriages fascinating (the oldest, reportedly belonged to Louis XVI) in addition to the impressive trophy display.
Most importantly, the park offers lots of chances to get up close and personal with the horses and pet a few of these beauties. It is a horse-lovers dream come true.
For more family fun, check out the playground and opportunities for exploring the park on horseback. Don’t worry if you are not able to do everything in one day because your pass is good for two days of adventure at the Horse Park. Parking is $5.00, so come prepared.
Kentucky Aviation Museum
Strategically situated next to the Lexington Airport, the Kentucky Aviation Museum offers families a high-flying good time. This museum not only boasts interactive exhibits, but it also has a viewing area to the tarmac of the airport. Kids of all ages delight in seeing the planes take off, land, and taxi about. Once inside the museum climb inside and “fly” the Bell OH-58 Helicopter or be the pilot in own simulated plane! Be sure to grab the self guided tour brochure and use it to navigate the museum. The history and stories behind the artifacts and planes are incredible. Be sure to check out their F-14 (Top Gun!).
The museum has a small children’s area which can entertain the littlest members of your party. Toy planes, books, and more can distract and amuse your tiny aviator.
Family-friendly events are scheduled throughout the year, including Aviation Camp, flying in biplanes and more. Check their calendar for details.
If your family enjoys touring historic sites and discovering hidden pockets of history, then a visit to Lexington is a must. Lexington is a treasure trove of famous homes, grounds, and artifacts dating back centuries. We toured the Mary Todd-Lincoln home, which still houses original furniture, china, place settings and much more. Families: this is not the best place for a small child. Inevitably, one of you will end up exploring the beautiful gardens outside, while the rest of the family tours the home.
Other historic sites include Ashland, The Henry Clay Estate, the Hunt-Morgan House, and the Waveland State Historic Site. A pass can be purchased to explore all the above, including the Mary Todd-Lincoln House at the Visit Lexington Tourism Site.
Rainy Day? Check out the Explorium Interactive Children’s Museum for a variety of hands-on exhibits. The museum will entertain all ages and includes a toddler room. Admission is charged for all who enter, age one to 54 years-old. The exhibits are well-loved and could use some updating however, the children certainly don’t seem to mind.
Popular exhibits include the Bubble Room, Dinosaurs, and culturally themed houses from around the world.
The toddler area has a gate and a tiny tot fountain which allowed our little one to splash around.
There is no parking lot designated for the Explorium — Look for street parking or public parking located further down the road.
A unique park worth visiting is Thoroughbred Park. Located conveniently near downtown, this park is home to the seven life-size and life-like bronze horses approaching the finish line. Little ones are enthralled with the horses which won’t potentially nibble at them and the fountains are an added bonus. The only downside is that park is located on several busy streets therefore, keep a close eye on your little wanderers. Walking paths will guide you to over forty plaques, and more equine statues are located throughout the park.
There is no parking lot to access the park however there was plenty of street parking when we went. Read more about the history of this park and the famed horse Lexington here.
Where to Eat
Step back in time at this classic drive-in restaurant. Built in 1951, the Parkette Drive-In has become a famous symbol of Lexington and is still in operation today. Known for their “Poor Boy” double-decker hamburger, and their fried chicken, this is a place you don’t want to miss! This iconic gem has been featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives and is known nationally. Be sure to capture an image with their original billboard which costs over $1000 per year to maintain. You still have the option of eating in your car or venture inside the diner for a bit of nostalgia.
The Village Idiot
I will preface this recommendation by saying that we came during non-busy hours because we were dining with a toddler. The Village Idiot is Lexington’s first Gastropub and it did not disappoint. We went for a late brunch on Sunday and the food was outstanding. My recommendation: Eat All The Things! They do have a kids menu and high chairs available.
Stay at the Hilton Downtown
We got the pleasure of staying at the Hilton located right in the heart of downtown Lexington. Convenience is key here because you are within walking distance from a variety of restaurants, parks, and attractions. The rooms are spacious, clean, and the staff go above and beyond for their guests. The Hilton is a great fit for families because they have a pool, breakfast options, and their location can’t be beat. The hotel prides itself in being family-friendly by offering cribs, pack’n’plays, high chairs, kids menus, kids video rentals and more. The hotel is very accessibly friendly and offers accessibility into most areas including the pool and hot tub.
Looking For More?
Shaker Village- With over 3,000 acres, opportunities to explore this historic landmark are endless. Take a cruise on the Dixie Bell, visit the working farm or go an adventure tour.
Horse Farms – Several local farms and stables offer scenic guided or unguided tours and horseback rides. A few local favorites are Big Red Stables and Deer Run Stables.
Go for a hike at Raven Run Nature Sanctuary because of the beautiful scenery.
Take a factory tour of Old Kentucky Chocolates and sample pure heaven. Tours are only offered at 10:00am Monday-Thursday.
Visit the Lexington Visitor’s Center for more information and fun Lexington souvenirs!
We would like to thank Lexington’s Convention and Visitors Bureau for sponsoring our wonderful stay. All opinions and recommendations are our own.
We love weekend trips from Cincinnati! Here are a few more to add to your bucket list!