Image source: Flickr - U. Burkhalter
Lexington, Kentucky is a place known for bourbon, bluegrass, Kentucky Wildcats basketball, history, unique dining and tons of Southern hospitality. While all those are definitely draws for the area, this is also the place that claims to be the "Horse Capital of the World." If you want to get immersed in horse culture, this is the place to do it. Here are five horse-themed activities you won’t want to miss.
This historic track, dating back to 1936, holds daily races throughout the months of October and April, and it’s your chance to enjoy the full pageantry of the horseracing experience. Gentlemen put on your bow ties and ladies put on your dresses (you don’t have to - but it definitely adds to the occasion), grab your program and check out the horses and jockeys in their pre-race parade through the paddock.
There’s usually 20-30 minutes between each race, which allows you time to go to the concession stands for a cup of "burgoo" stew and bread pudding soaked in bourbon sauce - or just get your bourbon from one of the many bourbon themed drinks that are available. Last but not least, go to the window to place your bet before heading back to the grandstands to cheer on your pick.
Not sure how to bet? Keeneland has that taken care of by providing "Betologists," who will take you through the ins-and-outs of "win-place-show" or what it means to hit a "trifecta." The services of these very friendly people are absolutely free, and they’re easy to spot in their special uniforms with fedora hats.
You simply walk up and start asking questions, and a little while later they send you on your way with lots of knowledge, and a small pamphlet for quick reference in case you forget anything. It will only be a couple of races before you feel like you’re breaking down the field like a seasoned pro.
This eatery opens every morning at 6 a.m., and while the biscuits and gravy and hot eggs and bacon are reason enough to go, breakfast here will also put you right in the heart of the horse industry. The Track Kitchen is an informal, cafeteria style setting where the regulars include jockeys, trainers, owners, breeders and anyone else you can think of who would be involved in thoroughbred racing.
Sit back and sip your coffee and listen to deals being made or the next great race horse being discussed, or join the conversation yourself in the friendly atmosphere.
While Keeneland will let you see what the amazing thoroughbreds can do, Kentucky Horse Park is dedicated to every type of horse you can think of, with over 50 breeds located on 1,200 acres dedicated to the history of the bond between humans and horses.
Besides museums, galleries and theaters, the property is a working horse farm where you can walk through the Big Barn - 463 feet long and 73 feet wide - and see how horses get treated like royalty.
Speaking of royalty, some of the top racehorses in history, such as Cigar and Da Hoss, reside at the Hall of Champions, where you can see them up close and watch video highlights from their careers.
The "Horses of the World" show runs twice daily and features horses from many different countries along with riders in traditional dress from a variety of cultures. There are opportunities after the show to pet the horses and take pictures.
There are over 150 horse farms in Lexington alone and over 450 in the surrounding area. Many of them host tours where they show visitors what goes in to breeding, raising and caring for horses that are worth millions of dollars - and get treated that way. For more information, check out VisitLex.com.
There’s only one "Horse Capital of the World," so don’t miss the opportunity to experience why we humans have fallen so in love with horses.
Where is your favorite place to experience horses?
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Kathleen Curry and Geoff Griffin are hosts of The Travel Brigade Show - a weekly travel and destination podcast. Kathleen Curry is experienced in both the travel industry and broadcasting. She has worn the hats of travel writer, photographer, travel agent and hospitality evaluator. Her advice of, “No excuses, just travel!” reaches out to listeners who pick up on her enthusiasm for travel and benefit from her savvy advice. Her travel guilty pleasures are eating at a street-cart vendor so she can splurge later to order room service, finding deals to rack up sky miles so she can book her next flight and hoping her social security comes through some day because she has spent her future retirement savings trekking the globe.
Geoff Griffin is a reformed attorney turned travel junkie with over two decades of experience as a journalist and editor specializing in sports, outdoor recreation and travel. His current philosophy is that there are two stages in life - You’re either on a trip, or you’re planning your next trip. His travel guilty pleasure is trying recreation adventures that require the use of an expert guide to keep him from harming himself or hopping on a plane knowing nothing about his destination other than the airport code and wandering about a new town while relying on the locals to point him to the best places.
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