Fun and FREE Things to Do in Lexington KY

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Lexington, Kentucky, has two equine-related nicknames: the Horse Capital of the World and  Thoroughbred City. While best known for its horse racing and nearby bourbon distilleries. Lexington also offers vacationers many other fun things to do. And bargain hunters take note: plenty of these things are free.

Fun Free Things to Do in Lexington KY

Located in the heart of the Bluegrass region, Lexington offers plenty of green space and historic sites. Bourbon, basketball and bluegrass – and horses – reign supreme, but you can find many family-friendly free things to do in Lexington.

Though hot and humid, summer is the ideal time to experience Lexington’s cultural offerings and outdoor activities. Many of the fun things to do in Lexington are also open year-round, so any time is good for a visit.

Read More: Visiting Lexington? Take a short 2.5 hours drive to see Mammoth Cave, the longest cave system in the world!

1. Keeneland Thoroughbred Racing

Glimpse the thoroughbred racing world by watching an early morning workout at Keeneland, or stroll along the track on a self-guided tour. Keeneland, a National Historic Landmark, includes landscaped gardens that you can explore on your own.

2. Raven Run Nature Sanctuary

Explore 734 acres of natural beauty and hike trails through meadows, woodlands and streams. Raven Run has 10 miles of hiking trails, including a barrier-free paved trail perfect for families with strollers or visitors with mobility difficulties.

3. Books with a View

The main branch of the Lexington Public Library of has a five story Foucault pendulum along with the world’s largest ceiling clock. There is also a frieze depicting the history of horses and racing in the Bluegrass state. The library also offers story times for children, a wonderful free thing to do in Lexington.

Toyota on display in a showroom.
See how cars are made at the Toyota plant in Lexington. Photo credit: Toyota.

4. Toyota Motor Manufacturing of Kentucky

Take an hour-long tram tour through America’s first and the world’s largest Toyota plant. The tour is only available on weekdays. You have to book in advance.

5. Hit the Park

Jacobson Park has a “sprayground” water play area where you can cool off. You can also fish in the 47-acre lake, but you need a fishing permit.

6. Farmers Markets

Meet farmers and check out local produce and baked goods at Farmers Markets around the city. The Saturday farmers market downtown in Tandy Centennial Park is open year-round.

7. Camp Nelson National Cemetery and Civil War Site

Hike more than 5 miles of interpretive trails through this former Civil War base. Then visit the graves of nearly 1,600 soldiers buried in the national cemetery.

8. Hike through the Arboretum

The University of Kentucky has a spectacular arboretum open to the public. The 2-mile Walk Across Kentucky features wild-collected native plants from the different regions of Kentucky.

9. Look up in the Sky

During the free annual Kite Fest, the skies in Lexington are filled with beautiful kites.  Kite Fest held every April, includes children’s games, inflatables and kite decorating. Bring a picnic or buy food on site.

10. Garden Cemetery

The Lexington Cemetery is as known for its gardens and arboretum as it is for being the final resting place of Henry Clay. After you see the Henry Clay Monument and Mausoleum, look for ducks, swans and fish in the large lakes. The Lexington Cemetery contains remains of both Union and Confederate soldiers.

11. See Appalachian Art in Kentucky’s Folk Art Center

Located on the campus of Morehead State University, the Kentucky Folk Art Center is housed in an old grocery store. The best part of this free attraction is that it really supports local artists. The permanent collection includes nearly 1,400 pieces of self-taught art. Don’t miss the annual Appalachian Holiday Arts & Crafts Fair, held on the first Saturday of December.

12. Do Something Cheesy

Take a free tour (with cheese tasting) at the artisan cheese maker Boone Creek Creamery. Careful if you’re claustrophobic; the tour includes a Hobbit Cave where the cheeses are aged.

13. Ride a Ferry

Take a free ride on the Valley View Ferry across the Kentucky River.

14. Take the Big Blue Traditions Tour

This is a University of Kentucky Wildcats basketball fan’s dream. The free guided tours are held during the school year.

15. Floracliff Nature Sanctuary

This nature sanctuary has guided hikes that you have to pay for. But there are also free events including a City Nature Challenge through May, with advance reservations.

16. Hotel, Museum or Both?

Like the one in Louisville, Lexington’s 21C Museum Hotel opens its contemporary art galleries to all. And the art museum is open every day, all day. Perfect for early risers or night owls.

Garden with roses and a sundial at Ashland, the Henry Clay estate, a fun, free thing to do in Lexington KY
See the topiary animals at Ashland – The Henry Clay Estate. Photo credit: Kim DeCamp

17. Outdoor Tour

Explore the outbuildings, formal gardens, topiary animals and walking trails at Ashland – The Henry Clay Estate. Note: this does not include the Mansion tour, which charges a fee.

18. Bike the Greenway

Bike, or walk some of the 12-mile Legacy Trail, which runs from downtown Lexington to the Kentucky Horse Park. There are art installations and sculptures, along with interpretive signs offering local history.

SheBuysTravel Tip: the Kentucky Horse Park charges admission.

19. College Tour

See the Greek Revival architecture at Transylvania University, the first college west of the Alleghenies. If you have teens, sign up for a free college tour with a current student, or just wander on your own.

20. Be Independent

Browse the books at Joseph-Beth, an independent bookstore at Lexington Green (there is a second location in Cincinnati). There are free story times every day except Sunday.

Aerial view of the Kentucky Castle in Lexington.
Royalty in the midwest: the Kentucky Castle. Photo credit: Kentucky Castle

21. See a Castle

The Kentucky Castle, a hotel and restaurant, offers paid guided tours inside. But you can stop by and see the outside and the grounds for free.

22. See a National Treasure

The Historic Lexington Courthouse, on the National Register of Historic Places, is actually the 5th courthouse on that spot. The mixed use historic site now contains the Lexington Visitors Center, a restaurant and office space.

23. Art Time

The Singletary Center for the Arts, at the College of Fine Arts, offers free admission. There are also free guided tours, you have to make a reservation at least two weeks in advance. On Saturday, parking is also free.

24. Self Guided Tour

Pick up the Lexington Walk and Bluegrass Country Driving Tour, a self-guided tour, from the Lexington Visitors Center. You can also download a family-friendly walking tour (with a scavenger hunt) from the Mary Todd Lincoln House, but you have to pay to tour the first lady’s home.

25. Free Art

See the art for free at the Lexington Art League. The art museum is housed in the historic Loudoun House, a Gothic Revival villa on the National Register of Historic Places.

Judy Antell is an empty-nester mother of 3 who spends a lot of time visiting her daughters. Why don’t they live in Brooklyn? Judy and her husband love to travel, by bike, car, or plane, whether to see their kids or have friend or couple adventures, mostly centered around vegetarian food.
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3 responses

  1. Planning 2 stop overs in Lexington. Thanks for the goods

  2. I am planning a stopover in Lexington en route to Gatlinburg. I know this post is from a while ago, but I was hoping you’d still see this comment. I was wondering if Keenland is open during the week in the off season. I’m thinking we’ll be in that area early and would love to stop and see the practice. Thank you!

    1. if you scroll up at look at #1, you’ll see Keeneland is usually open to the public to a self guided tour. Enjoy.

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