Every city has its own unique feel and vibe, which is determined by a number of things. The local historic sites are no doubt one of the largest contributing factors to the aura that surrounds a city. When in Lexington, users recommend paying a visit to Waveland State Historic Site, in the Airport - Lex area to get a feel for what truly makes up the city.
Keeneland Race Course
As famous for its beauty as its racing prominence, Keeneland was constructed in 1936 and is now a National Historic Landmark. Distinguished by its limestone buildings and mature trees, Keeneland helped to reinvigorate horse racing when it was faltering – clearly a successful effort. These days, visitors from around the world gather to watch horses train, catch them race during April and October, and bid for thoroughbreds at auction. A gift shop and restaurant are available onsite. (859-254-3412, 800-456-3412)
Mary Todd Lincoln House
This elegantly proportioned brick home was built in the late Georgian style at the turn of the 19th century. Initially an inn, it was sold in 1831 to Robert Todd, Mary's father and a prominent Lexington businessman, and he, with his second wife and children, moved to the 14-room structure in 1832. Mary lived there until 1839, when she joined her sister in Springfield, Illinois, and eventually met and married Abraham Lincoln. Restored in the 1970s, the historic home now appears as it did when the Todds inhabited it. It also features period furnishings and gardens and many of the family's personal possessions. (859-233-9999)
Red Mile Harness Track, Inc.
Dating to 1875, this harness-racing track is Lexington's oldest race course. Harness racing, also known as standardbred racing, features horses pulling drivers around the course in small, two-wheeled carts. It's somewhat reminiscent of chariot racing, except that the driver sits rather than stands. Red Mile is also used for yearling sales and other events. The track's focal point is the Red Barn, a cupola-topped structure built in 1880 and used for gambling when Lexington proper outlawed wagering. A dining room is available onsite. (859-255-0752, 914-773-7777)
Benjamin Henry Latrobe's Pope Villa
Architecture and design aficionados are certain to be mesmerized by the ongoing restoration of this gracious home, designed by Benjamin Henry Latrobe, also a designer of the US Capitol. Originally a private home, the structure was, over time, carved into ten student apartments and transformed from a simple neoclassical home into a busy Italianate building. Now, the accretions are being removed and the integrity of the structure restored. Visits are by appointment only. (859-253-0362, 859-254-7673)
Built by Kentucky's first millionaire, this Federal-style brick home dates to 1814 and has sheltered members of one of the state's most prominent families, including a Confederate general and Nobel Prize winner. The structure itself boasts refined details, including a gracious entryway and a three-story, spiral staircase. Interiors have been restored with period furnishings and hark back to Lexington's era as the "Athens of the West." Lovely gardens surround the home, and a Civil War museum occupies its second story. (859-253-0362)
Ashland, the Henry Clay Estate
Perhaps Kentucky's most famous statesman, Henry Clay was not only the "Great Compromiser," who warded off the Civil War for a time, but a Speaker of the House and Secretary of State (among other offices). Ashland, the home now considered a National Historic Landmark, was built by his son on the foundation of the original and features period items and furnishings. Built of brick, the stately Italianate structure also features a cluster of dependencies and manicured gardens on its remaining twenty acres. (859-266-8581)
Waveland State Historic Site
Constructed by descendants of Daniel Boone, this refined, brick-built Greek Revival home features an abundance of classical details, including friezes, mouldings, and Ionic columns. Dating from the mid 19th century, the home (whose name derives from fields of grain moving in the breeze) features period furnishings, artwork, and family possessions. Outbuildings, including slave quarters and kitchen dependencies, may also be viewed. A fascinating glimpse of early Kentucky life. Tours are given on the hour. (859-272-3611)
Now home to the Lexington Art League and its exhibitions, this impressive Gothic Revival home was built in the early 1850s by local builder John McMurtry and was based on designs by Alexander Jackson Davis, a New York architect. Towers, crenellations, and arched windows distinguish Loudoun House, which is surrounded by old, towering trees. In keeping with its romantic leanings, the structure is said to be haunted by Victorian-era apparitions. (859-254-7024)
Boone Station State Historic Site
In the late 18th century, Daniel Boone and his family settled this site, where they lived for three years. Legal issues regarding the validity of the claim forced the clan to move, but five relatives were buried here nevertheless, several of them victims of battle and Indian tensions. Today, the site features an open area with a monument to the deceased and individual tombstones. No remains of the settlement exist, but the pastoral area makes a great picnic site and a place to reflect on local history.
Although nominally a cemetery, this beautiful plot of land is heavy with blooming shrubs, stately trees, and lush plantings. Instituted in the mid-19th century, the area also contains the gravesites of some of Lexington's – and Kentucky's – more famous residents. A beautiful, Romanesque gatehouse, several lakes, and an impressive monument to Henry Clay can also be viewed, along with graves of military veterans. Although the grounds are park-like, only sightseeing is allowed, not leisure activities, picnics, or the like. (859-255-5522)