Lexington’s Bluegrass Region: Scenic Drives and Hidden Gems

Bluegrass Region scenic drive

Nestled in the heart of Kentucky, Lexington’s Bluegrass Region offers a treasure trove of scenic drives and hidden gems waiting to be discovered. From the rolling hills of horse country to charming small towns and natural wonders, this area provides a perfect blend of beauty, history, and adventure. Whether you’re a first-time visitor or a seasoned traveler, there’s always something new to explore in this picturesque part of the state.

Key Takeaways

  • Lexington’s Bluegrass Region is renowned for its stunning scenic drives, featuring rolling hills and sprawling horse farms.
  • The area is home to famous horse farms, equestrian events, and a rich history of horse breeding.
  • Charming small towns near Lexington offer unique local eateries, shops, and historic landmarks.
  • Nature enthusiasts can explore waterfalls, rock formations, hiking trails, and wildlife watching spots in the region.
  • The Bourbon Trail provides an opportunity to tour top distilleries, enjoy unique tastings, and learn about Kentucky’s bourbon history.

Discovering Lexington’s Scenic Drives

When you visit Lexington, you have easy access to the entire Bluegrass region. Drive ten minutes in any direction and you’ll find yourself surrounded by the gently rolling hills of horse country. Take the scenic route as you drive around and discover delightful small towns, gorgeous scenery, historic sites and, of course, true Southern hospitality.

Top Routes for a Relaxing Drive

There’s a whole different world just a short distance from Lexington. You can drive into the mountains and see some of the prettiest waterfalls and rock formations this country has to offer. Here in the Bluegrass, you’ll be surprised at all that you can see. Here are some of my favorite spots to send any visitor for a day trip, especially if it’s their first time in the area.

Best Times to Hit the Road

Kentucky truly has so much to offer in such a short distance. From Lexington to here, the topography is unbelievable. You can see Lexington and the mountains in one day, easily. A lot of times when people take a trip somewhere, they lock themselves into one thing, like the beach. But here, you can do it all and see a little bit of everything. See the best of Lexington and then head here. I promise you won’t regret it.

What to Pack for Your Journey

When you visit Lexington, taking a drive to soak it all in is just part of the experience. You‘re sure to notice the beauty of the rolling hills and sprawling horse farms that surround this city. But within an hour’s drive of Lexington, you’ll find some of the most breathtakingly beautiful and diverse scenery in all of Kentucky.

Explore Lexington’s horse country with scenic drives, photography spots, and horse farm tours. Experience the rich equestrian heritage and majestic landscapes of Kentucky’s rolling hills.

Exploring Horse Country

Famous Horse Farms to Visit

In the heart of Kentucky, you’ll find some of the most renowned horse farms in the world. Darby Dan Farm and the Kentucky Horse Park are must-visit locations for any equine enthusiast. At the Kentucky Horse Park, you can ride a horse, explore a hall of equine champions, and learn about various horse breeds. Don’t miss out on Old Friends in Georgetown, a retirement community for Thoroughbreds that offers a unique glimpse into horse racing’s living history.

Equestrian Events and Activities

Kentucky is synonymous with horse racing, and there are numerous events and activities to enjoy. The Kentucky Derby, held annually in Louisville, is the pinnacle of horse racing events. Additionally, the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event is a premier equestrian competition that attracts participants and spectators from around the globe. For a more relaxed experience, consider attending local horse shows and farm tours, which offer a closer look at the daily life and training of these magnificent animals.

History of Horse Breeding in Kentucky

Kentucky’s rich history of horse breeding dates back to the 18th century. The state’s fertile soil and mild climate create the perfect conditions for raising Thoroughbreds. Over the years, Kentucky has become the epicenter of horse breeding, producing some of the most successful racehorses in history. The tradition continues today, with many farms dedicated to maintaining and enhancing the quality of their bloodlines.

Kentucky’s horse country offers a unique blend of history, culture, and natural beauty, making it a must-visit destination for anyone interested in equine heritage.

Charming Small Towns Near Lexington

When you visit Lexington, you have easy access to the entire Bluegrass region. Drive ten minutes in any direction and you’ll find yourself surrounded by the gently rolling hills of horse country. Take the scenic route as you drive around and discover delightful small towns, gorgeous scenery, historic sites and, of course, true Southern hospitality.

Local Eateries and Shops

From locally-owned shops to cozy cafes, the small towns near Lexington offer a variety of unique experiences. Warm southern hospitality is a hallmark of these areas, making every visit memorable. Whether you’re looking for a quick bite or a leisurely meal, you’ll find plenty of options to satisfy your cravings.

Historic Sites and Landmarks

Explore the rich history of the Bluegrass region by visiting its numerous historic sites and landmarks. From beautifully preserved buildings to fascinating museums, there’s something for every history buff. Don’t miss out on the chance to learn more about the area’s past and its significance in Kentucky’s history.

Natural Wonders of the Bluegrass Region

Waterfalls and Rock Formations

There’s a whole different world just a short distance from Lexington. You can drive into the mountains and see some of the prettiest waterfalls and rock formations this country has to offer. Here in the Bluegrass, you’ll be surprised at all that you can see. Here are some of my favorite spots to send any visitor for a day trip, especially if it’s their first time in the area.

Best Hiking Trails

The Bluegrass region offers a variety of hiking trails that cater to all levels of hikers. From easy walks to challenging treks, there’s something for everyone. One of the most popular trails is the Red River Gorge, known for its stunning views and unique rock formations. Don’t forget to bring your camera to capture the breathtaking scenery!

Wildlife Watching Spots

For nature enthusiasts, the Bluegrass region is a haven for wildlife watching. You can spot a variety of birds, deer, and other wildlife in their natural habitats. Early mornings and late afternoons are the best times to catch a glimpse of these creatures. Make sure to bring your binoculars and a field guide to enhance your experience.

The Bluegrass region is not just about horses and bourbon; it’s a treasure trove of natural wonders waiting to be explored. Whether you’re a local or a visitor, take the time to discover the scenic beauty and hidden gems that make this area so special.

The Bourbon Trail Experience

Top Distilleries to Tour

Enjoy a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the art of bourbon-making as you embark on an immersive experience at central Kentucky’s top distilleries. Sit back and savor the rich history and craftsmanship that goes into every bottle. Some must-visit distilleries include Woodford Reserve, Buffalo Trace, and Maker’s Mark.

Unique Bourbon Tastings

Indulge in unique bourbon tastings that offer a variety of flavors and aromas. From single-barrel selections to limited-edition releases, there’s something for every palate. Don’t miss the chance to try bourbon-infused dishes at local eateries, enhancing your tasting experience.

History of Bourbon in Kentucky

Kentucky’s bourbon history is as rich as the spirit itself. The state produces the majority of the world’s bourbon, making it a true bourbon capital. Learn about the origins of bourbon, the distillation process, and the legends that have shaped this iconic American beverage.

The Bourbon Trail is not just a journey through distilleries; it’s a deep dive into Kentucky’s cultural heritage and a celebration of its craftsmanship.

Cultural and Culinary Delights

Farm-to-Table Restaurants

Lexington’s culinary scene is a vibrant tapestry of flavors, with a strong emphasis on farm-to-table dining. Bites of the Bluegrass walking tours feature restaurants that showcase the best of local produce and culinary creativity. One must-visit spot is Wallace Station Deli and Bakery, an unassuming eatery created by popular Chef Ouita Michel, featured on Guy Fieri’s show, "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives!". Here, you can savor dishes that highlight the region’s agricultural bounty.

Local Art and Craft Galleries

The Bluegrass Region is not just about food; it’s also a hub for local art and crafts. Downtown Lexington is dotted with galleries that display works from local artists, offering a glimpse into the area’s rich cultural heritage. Whether you’re interested in traditional crafts or contemporary art, there’s something for everyone.

Music and Theater Venues

For those who enjoy live performances, Lexington offers a variety of music and theater venues. From intimate jazz clubs to grand theaters hosting Broadway shows, the city’s entertainment scene is as diverse as it is vibrant. Don’t miss out on the local music festivals that bring together artists from all over the region.

Lexington’s cultural and culinary delights offer a unique blend of history, creativity, and flavor, making it a must-visit destination for any traveler.

Outdoor Adventures Await

scenic drive Bluegrass Region

Kayaking and Canoeing Spots

For those who love water sports, the Bluegrass Region offers some of the best kayaking and canoeing spots. The Kentucky River is a popular choice, providing a serene environment to paddle through. Don’t forget to explore nearby attractions and towns like Lexington and Staunton for a perfect day trip.

Fishing Locations

Fishing enthusiasts will find plenty of opportunities in the Bluegrass Region. Herrington Lake and Cave Run Lake are two top spots where you can cast your line and enjoy a peaceful day by the water. Make sure to check local regulations and get your fishing license before heading out.

Camping Sites

Whether you prefer a tent or a cabin, the Bluegrass Region has numerous camping sites to choose from. Natural Bridge State Resort Park is a favorite, offering stunning views and plenty of trails to explore. For a more rustic experience, try camping in the Daniel Boone National Forest, where you can truly connect with nature.

The Bluegrass Region is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, offering a variety of activities that cater to all interests. From water sports to camping, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.

Historic Harrodsburg

scenic drive Bluegrass Region

Pioneer History and Museums

Dive into pioneer history in the “birthplace of the West,” among rolling hills, horse farms, historic architecture, and culture. Harrodsburg offers a unique glimpse into the early days of Kentucky with its well-preserved museums and historical sites.

Architectural Highlights

Stroll through Harrodsburg to admire its historic architecture. From charming colonial homes to grand antebellum mansions, the town is a treasure trove of architectural beauty. Don’t miss the opportunity to visit some of the oldest buildings in Kentucky.

Annual Festivals and Events

Harrodsburg is alive with annual festivals and events that celebrate its rich heritage. Whether it’s the Pioneer Days Festival or the Kentucky Fudge Festival, there’s always something happening to engage visitors of all ages.

Harrodsburg’s blend of history, culture, and community events makes it a must-visit destination in the Bluegrass Region.

Hidden Gems in Georgetown

Secret Gardens and Parks

Georgetown is home to several hidden gems when it comes to gardens and parks. Yuko-En on the Elkhorn is a beautiful Japanese Friendship Garden that offers a serene escape from the hustle and bustle. Royal Spring Park, another local favorite, is perfect for a relaxing afternoon picnic.

Off-the-Beaten-Path Attractions

For those looking to explore beyond the usual tourist spots, Georgetown has plenty to offer. The Ward Hall, a stunning Greek Revival mansion, is a must-visit. Additionally, the Georgetown and Scott County Museum provides a fascinating glimpse into the area’s rich history.

Local Legends and Lore

Georgetown is steeped in local legends and lore that add a unique charm to the town. One such legend is the story of the haunted Cardome Centre, which was once a monastery and now serves as a community center. Exploring these tales can make your visit to Georgetown even more intriguing.

Red River Gorge Exploration

Top Rock Climbing Spots

The Red River Gorge is world-renowned for rock climbing and rappelling opportunities. This area is one of the top destinations for these activities in the country! Climbers from all over the world come to test their skills on the rugged cliffs and enjoy the breathtaking views.

Scenic Overlooks

Drive along the Red River Gorge Scenic Byway for colorful foliage in the fall and the spectacular Nada Tunnel year-round. The one-lane tunnel is 900-feet long and was created in the early 1900s for timber hauling. Bikers especially enjoy the deeply forested terrain surrounding the paved roads. Don’t miss the Natural Bridge State Resort Park, where the natural sandstone arch bridge spans 78 feet and is 65 feet high.

Guided Tours and Adventures

For the ultimate adventure tour, soar through the area on a zip line. There are plenty of trail opportunities in the Red River Gorge National Geological Area, making it a perfect spot for guided tours and outdoor adventures. Whether you’re hiking, biking, or exploring the hidden gems, there’s something for everyone in this natural wonderland.

The Red River Gorge is known as one of Kentucky’s greatest treasures, offering a unique blend of natural beauty and thrilling outdoor activities.

Frankfort: Kentucky’s Capital

Government Buildings and Tours

Frankfort, the historic heartbeat of Kentucky, offers a unique blend of beauty, big ideas, and bourbon stills. Visitors can explore the impressive Kentucky State Capitol, which stands as a testament to the state’s rich history and governance. Don’t miss the opportunity to tour the Old State Capitol, a Greek Revival masterpiece that served as the state’s government seat from 1830 to 1910.

Historic Homes and Sites

In addition to its government buildings, Frankfort is home to several historic homes and sites that provide a glimpse into the past. The Liberty Hall Historic Site, for example, offers guided tours of a Federal-style mansion built in 1796. Another must-visit is the Rebecca Ruth Candy Tours & Museum, where you can learn about the origins of bourbon balls, a local delicacy.

Best Places to Eat and Drink

When it comes to dining, Frankfort does not disappoint. The city boasts a variety of eateries that serve delicious comfort food and showcase Kentucky’s culinary heritage. For a true taste of local flavor, visit one of the many restaurants that offer farm-to-table dishes. And of course, no trip to Frankfort would be complete without sampling some of the region’s finest bourbons at a local distillery.

Frankfort is a city where you can experience the timeless charm of the Bluegrass region while enjoying modern amenities and attractions.


Exploring Lexington’s Bluegrass Region is truly a journey like no other. With its rolling hills, historic sites, and hidden gems, every drive offers a new discovery and a chance to experience true Southern hospitality. Whether you’re marveling at the scenic beauty, visiting charming small towns, or uncovering the rich history of the area, there’s always something to captivate your heart and soul. So, fill up your tank, grab a map, and set out on an adventure through one of Kentucky’s most picturesque regions. The Bluegrass awaits you with open arms and endless possibilities.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the best scenic drives in Lexington’s Bluegrass Region?

Some of the top scenic drives include Old Frankfort Pike, Bluegrass Parkway, and the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.

When is the best time to visit the Bluegrass Region for a scenic drive?

The best times to visit are during the spring and fall when the weather is mild and the scenery is especially beautiful.

What should I pack for a scenic drive in the Bluegrass Region?

Pack a camera, comfortable clothing, snacks, water, and a map or GPS device.

Are there any famous horse farms I can visit near Lexington?

Yes, some famous horse farms include Claiborne Farm, Ashford Stud, and Keeneland.

What are some must-visit small towns near Lexington?

Must-visit small towns include Midway, Versailles, and Georgetown.

What natural attractions can I explore in the Bluegrass Region?

You can explore waterfalls, rock formations, and hiking trails in places like Red River Gorge and Daniel Boone National Forest.

Which distilleries are part of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail?

Some top distilleries include Woodford Reserve, Maker’s Mark, and Buffalo Trace.

What are some cultural and culinary highlights in Lexington?

Highlights include farm-to-table restaurants, local art galleries, and live music and theater venues.

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