9 Things To Do In and Around Lexington KY

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Have you ever gone on a, pretty much, totally unplanned adventure? I mean a multi day, lots of activities, spontaneous adventure? This is exactly how I found our 9 things to do in and around Lexington. Other than a quick mention of the Ark Encounter to my mother-in-law months prior, I had not really thought about what we would do on our road trip home from Michigan. 

Thoroughbred Park horse statues

Things to do North of Lexington

Ark Encounter

teens with grandparent in front of Ark Encounter

Our adventures began at the Ark Encounter with my mother-in-law. The Ark Encounter is about 40 minutes north of Lexington. If you are not familiar with the Ark Encounter, it is a life-size Noah’s ark attraction. 

The ark itself is quite a sight, but there is more to do than just look. The inside has 3 levels of exhibits that not only depict what life may have been like on the ark for Noah and his family, but also provides thought provoking ideas on the biblical account of Noah’s ark. 

Behind the ark is the Ararat Ridge Zoo, but it had rained, so we decided not to do the zoo. On site there is also a gift shop, a market, coffee shop, and Emzara’s Buffet Restaurant. There is plenty to do if you wanted to make a day of your visit.   

We stayed at Country Inn & Suites in Georgetown, about 15 minutes outside Downtown Lexington, right off I-75. After we checked in, the girls and I grabbed a bunch of brochures from the hotel lobby, so we could find things to do in and around Lexington the next day. It wasn’t until the next morning we decided to stay an additional 2 nights in Georgetown after checking the weather forecast. There was no reason to continue south, because it was going to be nothing but rainy days. Day by day we chose what we wanted to do.

Downtown Georgetown Kentucky

Downtown Georgetown, Kentucky

We wanted to at least take a peek at the Downtown Georgetown area. If we had the time, we would have definitely spent more exploring Georgetown. The area is filled with things to do, such as tours, museums, a cultural center, art galleries, restaurants, bakeries, breweries, antique & specialty shops, parks, trails, golfing, horseback riding, and more. Downtown includes over 200 buildings the are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. 

My Old Kentucky Foam Brewery

My Old Kentucky Foam Brewery was the only place we popped into. When we visited they were just newly opened. Sadly, they didn’t have any of their own brews on tap, but I would love to go back and try some. I loved the atmosphere, and have been following them on social media, where they post lots of fun events.

Things to do in Lexington, Kentucky

Mary Todd-Lincoln House

After breakfast with my mother-in-law, we headed into Downtown Lexington for the Mary Todd-Lincoln House. Anna was going to be starting her American History class in the fall, so it was a perfect educational field trip. Also, it fit right in after visiting Henry Ford’s Greenfield Village while we were in Michigan.

Opening in 1977, the Mary Tood-Lincoln House was the first house museum to honor a first lady, and they offer tours on the hour while open. The house is filled with family portraits, and some of the items were owned by either the Todds or the Lincolns. It was very interesting to learn more about the controversy that surrounded our first lady. I cannot imagine if there had been social media back during the Civil War Era. 

Knowing that the Lincoln family visited Mary’s childhood home for 3 weeks in 1847, the girls thought it was neat to actually touch a handrail that President Lincoln himself had touched. 

We walked down the street a little to take some pictures of the house and found this neat art book bench, and gem covered horse statue. 

Ashland – The Henry Clay Estate 

Our next adventure would be the home of Henry Clay, an attorney of more than 50 years. He also served as a state legislator, US representative, US senator, house speaker, and secretory of state. He ran for president in 1824, 1832, and 1844. Clay was responsible for importing and breeding fine livestock, including thoroughbreds. 

Ashland sign at Henry Clay Estate

Sadly we were unable to take photos inside the home, so I will just tell you, it’s worth the tour if you enjoy history and architecture. Ashland rotates some temporary exhibits around 2-3 times per year, but most of the home is filled with items which belonged to the Clay family. Most memorable item for us was a glass previously owned by George Washington. 

Cafe at Henry Clay Estate

There is a little cafe on site, if you are looking for somewhere to do lunch. 

Thoroughbred Park

As we drove from the Mary Todd-Lincoln House, to the Henry Clay Estate, we passed Thoroughbred Park. Anna noticed all the horse statues, so we headed to see it after the Henry Clay Estate. It’s just a small park to pay tribute to the thoroughbreds Kentucky is famous for raising. 

There’s just a walking path around the park, and some benches to sit and enjoy. Walking around the park, we did find another art book bench. We didn’t stay long because it started to rain a little. Even though there’s not much to do in the park, if you have a horse lover in the family, it worth making a quick stop to check it out.

Things to do in Red River Gorge Area, East of Lexington


About an hour east of Lexington, in Powell County, is the Red River Gorge area, and Thrillsville. We wanted to do some kind of kayaking, and Jojo really wanted to kayak in a cave. We found Thrillsville from one of the lobby brochures, looked it up, and headed out there for our 3rd adventure day. 

Coming out of Gorge Grotto

The kayaking cave is an abandoned mine called Gorge Grotto. It is about 55 degrees inside, and water about 40 degrees. We wore a jacket, and all other equipment was provided by Thrillsville. Our guides, Josh & Cory, were great!! During our one hour tour, they filled us in on the history of mining in the area, and specifically this grotto.  

Thrillsville in Kentucky

Thrillsville also has an Aerial Adventure with a rock wall, tight ropes, zip lines, cargo nets, and much more. Be sure to check their website, as this is not open every day. It wasn’t open the day we visited.

Anna shares her full review all about our Cave Kayaking in Kentucky!

Red River Rock House Restaurant

Red River Rock House

Being honest, from the outside, I was expecting this place to be filled with your traditional “bar food” and not a place specializing in grass fed burgers, kale & spinach salad, traditional tacos, and humongous burritos. This family owned gem is sure capable of producing something pleasing to your palate. They also carry craft brews, both bottled and on tap, wine and bourbon. 

Joe had a root beer, and the bacon cheeseburger, which is a local grass-fed beef burger, topped with local pastured pork bacon, aged white cheddar cheese, and lettuce, onion, tomato, and pickle. I had a taste, and this is definitely one of the top burgers I’ve ever had.

Fresh pork tacos at Red River Rock House

Annie and I shared the Barbacoa Tacos served traditionally, on corn tortillas, with onions, cilantro, and a wedge of lime. These are excellent tacos!! If you are adventuring in the area, this is a must eat place!! Or if you are ever traveling I-64 east of Lexington, I highly recommend making a pit stop for lunch!! 

Mill Creek Lake & Falls

Stopping at Mill Creek was one of those places you see the sign, and you decide to pull in. A nice relaxing place to dip your feet in the water, explore, and cool off in the hot summer heat. There was not many people around, so to just listen to the water trickle down the falls was so peaceful. We took some time to just take it all in. 

teen girls sitting by Mill Creek Lake

At the top of the falls, is Mill Creek Lake. There was not a boat ramp in the lot we parked in, but you can fish on the lake, so there has got to be access somewhere. The lake and falls is considered part of the Natural Stone Bridge State Park. 

Natural Stone Bridge State Park

Once we had decided to do the kayaking with Thrillsville, we wanted to find a couple other things to do in the Red River Gorge area. Natural Stone Bridge State Park is that the same exit, and right near the cave kayaking, so we found some trails to walk. With several different places to park, and many trails, you can find more information on this PDF.

We parked near Hemlock Lodge, followed some trails, crossed a bridge, and came to this sign stating 0.75 miles to Natural Bridge on the original trail. The Original Trail is moderate difficulty, but for those who don’t hike often, it’s a A LOT more than moderate. Honestly, had I known how long, and hard the was going to be, we would have taken the Sky Lift!! Actually, we didn’t even know there was another parking lot and Sky Lift. And here’s my #1 Tip: once you walk up, you have to walk down. You cannot take the Sky Lift down. No way did I think a hiking trail up less than a mile would be so rigorous. We all agreed it seemed WAY further than 0.75 miles.

Joe got pretty cranky, but once we go to the top and saw natural bridge, and the view, it was worth it. Thankfully the trails are shaded, and the walk down was so much easier. I would do the hike again, now that I can be more prepared to do so. 

Again, there are many more activities in the Red River Gorge area, and many more natural stone arches. Not only are there hiking trails, but you can also do rock climbing. To find out more, you can check out the Powell County Tourism Commission.

Final Thoughts

We hope our things to do in and around Lexington is helpful. If there are other places we should check out next time, let us know!

Being flexible is How We Find Happy!! Have you been on any similar adventures? We would love to hear about them.

For more itineraries, check out:

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26 thoughts on “9 Things To Do In and Around Lexington KY

  • February 13, 2019 at 11:48 am

    What beautiful sites! I can’t wait to book a vacation to Lexington soon!

    • February 13, 2019 at 7:54 pm

      WE hope to get back soon too!

  • February 13, 2019 at 12:09 pm

    I definitely want to see the Ark and go to the Derby once in my life.

    • February 13, 2019 at 7:55 pm

      My parents used to go to he Derby many years ago with friends. I would love to go at least once!

  • February 13, 2019 at 2:12 pm

    Julie, what a great trip this must’ve been! The only time I’ve been to Lexington is just driving through it on my way to WV. Looks like a fun town!!!

    • February 13, 2019 at 7:57 pm

      Same here. I cannot tell you how many times we have driven up and down I-75 passing through. This was our first time staying in the area!!

  • February 14, 2019 at 9:57 am

    The Ark Encounter has been on my list to see for several years and Thrillsville would be a must for Brayden!! We definitely like to keep active when we vacation. I have never kayaked but this might be the place to finally check that off my list of things to do!!

    • February 14, 2019 at 10:41 pm

      You definitely need to see the Ark!! Hope we can kayak together soon!

  • February 14, 2019 at 10:17 am

    We will have to plan a trip to Lexington now! Looks like you had a lot of fun!

    • February 14, 2019 at 10:42 pm

      Hope you get the chance to visit!!

  • February 14, 2019 at 11:39 am

    There are so many wonderful activities in Lexington. We enjoy historical locations and learning. Now we know where to go in Lexington.

    • February 14, 2019 at 10:44 pm

      If you love history, you will love Lexington!! So much to see.

  • February 14, 2019 at 11:42 pm

    Very cool post! I have never thought of planning a trip to Kentucky…and now…I really want to! I am definitely going to re-visit this article soon. Thanks for all the info! 😉

    • February 16, 2019 at 2:03 pm

      I spent years wanting to stop, so happy we finally did!! Happy this will help in your travel planning!

  • February 15, 2019 at 3:22 pm

    Great recs! Hope to get to KY one day for the derby!

    • February 16, 2019 at 2:06 pm

      Thanks!! The Derby would be a fun thing to do someday!!

  • February 15, 2019 at 7:55 pm

    What a fun trip!! My daughter would love the Ark Encounter – this is the first I’ve heard of it – thans for sharing!!

    • February 16, 2019 at 2:08 pm

      Great!! Happy to share new opportunities for adventure with others!!

  • February 16, 2019 at 12:14 pm

    We did the Ark Encounter and we were amazed at it’s shear size! All of the places you went, sound amazing! Especially those old houses. (I’m a sucker for old homes!)

    • February 16, 2019 at 2:09 pm

      Same here!! I love touring old historic homes!!

  • February 17, 2019 at 7:56 pm

    I would love to do the cave kayaking! The Mill Creek Lake & Falls looks like it has loads to explore.

    • February 20, 2019 at 2:24 pm

      I wasn’t sure how I felt about the cave kayaking, but I really did have fun!! You would love it!!

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