Lexington, Kentucky is at the heart of the horse industry, the start of the Bourbon Trail, and the home of the University of Kentucky. Visitors are drawn to Lexington for events and conferences organzied by VisitLEX at the Central Bank Center, which contains Rupp Arena, and the Lexington Opera House. In addition Lexington has attracted visitors through both national and international events such as the Creative Cities Summit, the Alltech World Equestrian Games, and the 2015 and 2020 Breeders’ Cup World Championship.
BOURBON TRAIL & BREWGRASS TRAIL
For more than 200 years, Kentucky’s legendary distilleries have crafted the world’s finest bourbons. This tradition can be explored on the legendary Kentucky Bourbon Trail tour, featuring six signature distilleries within 30 miles of Lexington, including Maker’s Mark, Jim Beam, Woodford Reserve, and Alltech’s Lexington Brewery and Distillery in downtown Lexington. The trail tours bourbon country and allows visitors to experience the bourbon-making process, view the facilities and amazingly beautiful surrounding landscapes, and stick around for an after-tour bourbon tasting. CNN recently named the Kentucky Bourbon Trail a “Top 10 Classic American Experience.”
Although Kentucky is famous for its bourbon, the craft beer movement in Lexington and the Bluegrass Region is alive and well. Craft breweries are now scattered across Kentucky, and more and more of our residents are seeking out small craft brewers and locally-made beers in addition to sampling our classic bourbons. The Brewgrass Trail is dedicated to showcasing the craft brewers establishing themselves in the Bluegrass.
KEENELAND AND THE KENTUCKY HORSE PARK
Lexington is home to one of the most iconic race courses in the world, Keeneland. Established in the 1903s, historic Keeneland is the world’s premier thoroughbred auction houses and its global brand attracts a diverse international clientele. Keeneland also has live racing every April and October, creating one of the most popular events in Lexington each year.
In 2015, Lexington hosted the Breeders’ Cup World Championship at Keeneland for the first time. Lexington welcomed the Breeders’ Cup with a week of events and activities, such as the Feeders’ Cup, the annual Thriller Parade, Here Come the Mummies, the Post Position Draw Party, the Prelude to the Cup, art exhibits, horse farm tours, breakfasts at the track, and plenty of live music. the city received 24,000 to 40,000 visitors each day, bringing revenue to Lexington’s restaurants, shops, and hotels that otherwise would not have entered the local economy. The economic impact was expected to be at least $65 million. (Read more about the Breeders’ Cup in Lexington here.) After having such a successful event in 2015, the Breeders’ Cup World Championship is returning to Lexington in 2020.
The Kentucky Horse Park is a 1,200 acre competition facility and tourist attraction. It is home to 34 horse associations and is recognized as the epicenter of equestrian life, sports, and business. Perhaps most notably, the park annually hosts the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event. In 2010, the Kentucky Horse Park was proud to host the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, until that year, an international event had never been held outside of Europe. The games were a huge success boasting an economic impact of $201.5 million, according to a financial study commissioned by the state, and bringing in 419,000 visitors in addition to the millions of worldwide television viewers. The Kentucky Horse Park also hosts the National Horse Shows each year at the Alltech Arena.
Lexington is home to the iconic Rupp Arena, home court of the University of Kentucky Wildcats. During basketball season, the area around Rupp Arena is packed with students, alumni, and a host of other UK basketball fans. In 2012, the Wildcats won the 2012 NCAA men’s basketball national championship, claiming their 8th national championship, fueling the fan base in and around Lexington. Rupp Arena also hosts many major concerts and events throughout the year.
LEXINGTON OPERA HOUSE AND LEXINGTON MUSEUMS
Lexington has a host of diverse cultural attractions and events that attract visitors to the region. At the center of the cultural attractions stands the Lexington Opera House. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Lexington Opera House is known as one of the premier performing arts centers in the region. In addition, the Lexington Philharmonic Orchestra, as well as several museums including the American Saddlebred Museum, Lexington History Museum, The Aviation Museum of Kentucky, the Explorium, and many others, offer unique cultural experiences that attract visitors from around the region.
LEXINGTON’S CONVENTION INDUSTRY
In addition to local attractions, Lexington has a growing convention industry anchored by a freshly renovated convention center. Convention attendees can enjoy the results of the complete renovation of all meeting rooms and exhibit halls, construction of a beautiful 17,000 square foot Grand Ballroom, and the addition of a conference center on the upper level and renovation of the famous 24,000 seat Rupp Arena. In 2018, construction began on a complete expansion of the Central Bank Center. This expansion includes 100,800 sq. ft of exhibit halls, a 24,330 ballroom, 29,000 sq. ft of flexible meeting spaces and 110,234 sq. ft of pre-function and circulation space. The Central Bank Center connects to Rupp Arena, the Lexington Opera House, and Triangle Park. The Center is in the heart of Lexington’s historic downtown. Nearby are retail boutiques, wonderful restaurants, and numerous entertainment opportunities, all within easy walking distance in a city famous for its scenic beauty, small-town charm, and hospitality.
Lexington and the Bluegrass Region is a great place for business and pleasure. Growing the area’s visitor industries is an area of economic development importance. Marketing the region for business and recreation involves many partners, including VisitLEX. To help strengthen and grow these industries, Commerce Lexington and VisitLex’s teams have embarked upon a more formal process of developing strategies to recruit associations and business meetings to the area. In 2016, the teams met quarterly to discuss various topics including infrastructure, marketing strategies, client feedback, incentives, and other items, as well as to review our strategic plan.
VisitLex’s Top Ten Things to Do
- Kentucky Horse Park
- Horse farm tours
- Historic homes
- Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill
- Shopping in the heart of the Bluegrass
- Keeneland Race Course
- Bourbon distillery tours
- Bluegrass country driving tour
- Downtown Lexington
- Beyond the Grits – over 120 non-chain restaurants to dine at
Click here to read Commerce Lexington’s Visitor Industries White Paper.
To learn more about living in Lexington, click here to read Commerce Lexington’s Quality of Life White Paper.