Every spring and summer hunter/jumper athletes from across the country flock to the bluegrass state to compete at The Kentucky Horse Park, set against 1,200 acres of scenic rolling hills and horse farms of Lexington, Kentucky. Many having recently left the coastal glamor of the WEF circuit in Wellington, FL, Lexington offers a small town charm, providing a peaceful change of pace and new territory to explore in the vibrant yet historical downtown area.
While on site during the first week of the Kentucky Spring Horse Show, we had the opportunity to chat/catch up with riders as they relaxed in their golf carts ringside and during interviews. Opening up about their favorite spots in the city, riders across both hunter and jumper disciplines overwhelmingly highlighted the culinary experience, raving about the great local food and bars they frequent in the evenings.
Of course several professional athletes do take advantage of riding on quiet Monday mornings including hunter riders Victoria Colvin and Kelley Farmer because they love the peaceful atmosphere and surrounding landscape only found in Kentucky.
We’ve compiled a list of some of the places we heard mentioned throughout the week for foodies, equestrians, and those with the “when in Rome” mentality.
Food and drink in Downtown:
- McCarthey’s Irish Bar – A rider favorite to hang out and enjoy authentic Irish spirits and major GAA games.
- The Village Idiot – Spot equestrians casually enjoying locally sourced food and craft beer in the city’s first gastropub, thriving inside Lexington’s oldest surviving post office building.
- Cheapside Bar & Grill – Check out one of Lexington’s best patios and enjoy live music on the weekends with selections from a Bluegrass-meets-Southwest menu.
- Vinaigrette Salad Kitchen – For fresh, healthy options to stay fit, riders love creating their own salads or choosing a signature one like “Maki Shrimp” to pair with made-in-house lemonades.
- Shakespeare and Co. – Step into the Victorian era for a fine international dining experience and admire the charming old-world decor which is both elegant and homey.
Visit Horse Country:
- Horse Farm Tours – Visit a living piece of racing history at horse farms across the Bluegrass region including the breathtaking Ashford Stud, home of American Pharaoah and Lane’s End Farm, residence of the queen of racing, Zenyatta.
- Keeneland – Wake up early to watch the sunrise over the racetrack as the world’s most promising young thoroughbreds breeze and stay for brunch at the Keeneland Track Kitchen.
- Kentucky Scenic Byway – Take the time for a peaceful drive down the narrow back roads near The Kentucky Horse Park. Get lost in the tranquil green fields and endless fences.
- The Legacy Trail – Jumper athlete Kristen Vanderveen loves biking this artsy greenway trail that runs for 12 miles from downtown Lexington into the beautiful historical district towards the Kentucky Horse Park.
Visit Bourbon Country:
10. Woodford Reserve Distillery – Drink fine bourbon and whiskey at one of the oldest distilleries in Kentucky and tour this National Historic Landmark, situated against a vast backdrop of lush farmland.