Five Fun-Filled, Family-Friendly Attractions in the Horse Capital of the World
Lexington, KY is largely known for the rolling hills of bluegrass and patchwork blankets of thoroughbred farms that surround it, but the city itself is a treasure for tourists too. Older than the state of Kentucky itself (Lexington was founded in 1775), it's packed with beautiful historic landmarks and top-notch museums. Families with children of all ages are sure to find plenty of fun things to do in Lexington, including both indoor and outdoor attractions that fit within most budgets.
Kentucky Horse Park
Kentucky Horse Park (4089 Iron Works Pike, Lexington, KY) promises a fun and informative experience encompassing the Bluegrass region's horse-centric heritage. The park comprises a working horse farm with 1,200 acres of pastures and around 50 breeds of horses, plus the International Museum of the Horse (a Smithsonian affiliate), the American Saddlebred Museum, the Breeds Barn, historic Big Barn and the Hall of Champions where thoroughbreds are kept. Choose a guided or self-guided tour, and in the summer season watch a variety of shows such as the Parade of Breeds, Draft Horse Demonstration and Groom and Shine. There's also a kids' barn designed for younger visitors.
In summer (mid-March to early November), tickets are $20 for adults and $9 for children aged 6 to 12; in winter, adults are $12 and children are $6. From mid-March to October, general admission includes a horse-drawn trolley tour. Horseback rides and pony rides are also available for an extra fee.
Explorium of Lexington
Since it opened in 1990, Explorium of Lexington (440 W. Short St., Lexington, KY) has welcomed over a million visitors. The museum is recommended for children aged 1 to 10, and offers 10 galleries packed with hands-on exhibits combining learning with fun. Permanent exhibits include the Kids' Court where children can act as judge, juror, lawyer or other roles; the Healthy Me Gallery, where they can learn all about the parts of the body; and the Small World and Bone Zone revealing the worlds of insects and dinosaurs. Wonder Woods, designed for children 3 and under, features a water play zone, a tree with hidden animals and a reading play area. Kids of all ages love the Bubble Zone. Admission is $8 for all visitors aged 1 and older.
Raven Run Nature Sanctuary
The Raven Run Nature Sanctuary (3885 Raven Run Way, Lexington, KY) covers a scenic 734 acres along the Kentucky River. Its 10 miles of trails, which vary in difficulty and length from the easy half-mile, paved Freedom Trail to the moderate 4-mile Red Trail loop, run through meadows and woodlands and alongside gentle streams. The sanctuary features around 600 different plant species and 200 species of birds. Learn more about the habitat from the interactive exhibits and displays inside the nature center. Admission to the Raven Run Nature Sanctuary is free, but you need to sign in at the nature center upon arrival.
Mary Todd Lincoln House
Learn all about the life of Mary Todd Lincoln, one of the United States' most admired first ladies, at her childhood home in downtown Lexington, the Mary Todd Lincoln House (578 W. Main St., Lexington, KY). Docent-led tours reveal how the immaculately preserved home was built around 1803 and Mary Todd was born there in 1818. Her father Robert S. Todd was a prominent Lexington businessman and politician, and Mary was raised in the manner of an affluent, educated lady of local high society. After leaving home, meeting and marrying future President Abraham Lincoln, the couple visited the house numerous times. While you're at the museum, pick up the Lincolns' Lexington Walking Tour map, a guide to a 1-mile route of locations related to Mary Todd's childhood and Abraham Lincoln's visits to the city.
One-hour docent-led tours are offered on the hour from mid-March to November, Monday through Saturday. Admission is $12 for adults and $5 for children ages 6 to 12.
Aviation Museum of Kentucky
You don't have to be an aviation buff, or even a budding one, to enjoy the exhibits at the Aviation Museum of Kentucky (4029 Airport Rd., Lexington, KY). Within the indoor and outdoor exhibit spaces are many restored old planes, including military, private and early experimental aircraft, as well as aviation memorabilia and displays about the science and history of flight. The museum also showcases the role of Kentucky and Kentuckians in shaping the history of aviation. Kids love to sit inside a prop plane and military helicopter.
The Aviation Museum of Kentucky is open from April to December, and closed on Mondays and major holidays. Self-guided and docent-led tours are both available. Admission is $8 for adults and $5 for children aged 6 to 16.
A writer of diverse interests, Joanne Thomas has penned pieces about road trips for Hyundai, children's craft projects for Disney and wine cocktails for Robert Mondavi. She has lived on three continents and currently resides in Los Angeles, where she is co-owner and editor of a weekly newspaper. Thomas holds a BSc in politics from the University of Bristol, England.