Historic mansions, blue grass, great shopping and bourbon all go with the Kentucky Derby and the ne plus ultra of horse museums
Driving to Kentucky
If you’re driving to Kentucky from Toronto, go south on Interstate 75 and head for Cincinnati. If you stay on 1-75 you will get to Lexington, the heart of Kentucky; if you take 1-71 southwest you will arrive in Louisville. It’s basically a two-day drive. And worth every minute!
Lexington was the site of the 2010 World Equestrian Games. It was the first time that the games have been held outside of Europe. The venue for this event? It was the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington.
Heart of Kentucky
Lexington is the true heart of Kentucky. The famed bluegrass isn’t really blue. It is a variety of grass called “bluegrass” but it is green just like other grasses. It turns brown in the winter. But in spring, it produces a small blue flower that makes the fields of flowering bluegrass appear to be bluish-green.
The bluegrass area, specialist in luxuries, admits no peer in the breeding of thoroughbred race horses, and in the distilling of whiskies, especially bourbon. The countryside is dotted with well-kept stud and training farms and every year droves of people flock to Churchill Downs for the running of the Kentucky Derby.
Kentucky Derby Museum
This museum has to be the ne plus ultra of horse museums. With the 10,000 foot expansion, a whole new environment full of sounds, images and artifacts beings the pageantry and excitement of the Kentucky Derby to life. Museum tours feature guides who take up to 20 guests on a one-hour behind the scenes look at the Jockeys’ Quarters, Millionaires’ Row, the Press Box and other fascinating areas of Churchill Downs’ newly renovated clubhouse. Tour cost? $10 for adults and with that comes a 30-minute walk (weather permitting) to the paddock area. The gift shop is where many visitors like to linger, buying derby glasses and equine-related items such as jewellery and T-shirts.
The Bourbon Trail
Corn and rye are the basic ingredients for the production of distilled liquors in Kentucky. The bluegrass region is home to at least 17 bourbon distilleries because the combination of water filtered through limestone that underlies the bluegrass, with Kentucky’s climate and the grains grown here make it ideal for whiskey production. Visitors may follow the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, created to connect the producers of “America’s Only Native Spirit”. The Trail extends southwest from Lexington to a point just past Bardstown. Two distilleries close to Lexington are the Woodford Reserve Distillery, home to one of the five super-premium bourbons in the U.S., and now a National Historic Site and Buffalo Trace Distillery, a frequent medal winner in international wine and spirits competitions. This it the only distillery in the world named both “Whiskey of the Year” by Whiskey Magazine and “Distillery of the Year” by Malt Advocate.
Antique and folk art shopping is great in Lexington. Clark Antiques, one of the best downtown shops is a good place to start. You will find traditional art and folk art, contemporary crafts such as Kentucky pottery and painting by hard-to-find Kentucky artists such as Paul Sawyer and Harlan Hubbard. A stop at Heritage Antiques, one of the largest stores in Lexington is at the top of my list with its 10,000 square feet of 18th, 19th and 20th century European antiques and Americana.
Where to Eat
The Depot Restaurant in Glendale, open seven days a week, is great for breakfast, lunch and dinner with everything from bean soup to filet mignon and “Flower Pot Bread.”
One choice might be Petticoat Junction, a Glendale bed and breakfast.