No need to stay cooped up inside, because touristy opportunities abound in the Bluegrass. Knowing that the weather in Central Kentucky can vacillate by 30 degrees (or more!) from one day to the next makes winter an interesting time of year and this is a great place to live for people who love spontaneity. For those who prefer their calendars to be scheduled to the minute, go ahead and book those tickets and make your reservations.
The economic impact of the tourism industry in Kentucky went from $10.9 billion in 2017 to $11.2 billion in 2018.
For both camps, Topsinlex.com has you covered. VisitLEX also maintains two robust websites, visitlex.com (scheduled events and details) and sharethelex.com (curated content and inspirational ideas from local bloggers).
VisitLEX is all about tourism. As the destination sales, marketing and service organization, VisitLEX promotes Lexington and the Bluegrass region to attract visitors and grow the economy. Mary Quinn Ramer, president of VisitLEX, enjoys getting out to see shows and explore the arts. “From the Lexington Opera House to the University of Kentucky Art Museum and the Lyric Theatre to the Downtown Arts Center, there are plenty of cultural opportunities to spice up your winter,” she said. “Monday nights at WoodSongs are always fun and I love the additional programming The Lexington Theatre Company has brought to town. I also welcome any reason to find a cozy restaurant and have a fabulous meal. With an eclectic mix of independently owned restaurants, our thriving culinary scene provides a great reason to visit any time of year.” Locals eat it up too.
Tourism plays a vital role in the economy of central Kentucky. The economic impact of the tourism industry in Kentucky went from $10.9 billion in 2017 to $11.2 billion in 2018. Figures are still being gathered for 2019, but let’s just say the tourism business is thriving in Lexington and surrounding counties, thanks to the small, medium and large companies that offer things to do, places to go and people to see. Here’s just a sampling:
With or without your out-of-town guests, take a drive in any direction from downtown Lexington to see horses out in the beautiful countryside. Formal tours of dozens of horse farms are offered through Horse Country Inc., for private or group guided tours. If you prefer to stay indoors and still take in the equine scene, look into tours at Hallway Feeds, Hagyard Equine Medical Institute or Rood and Riddle. During the winter months, the Kentucky Horse Park off Iron Works Pike is open Wednesday through Sunday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission includes access to the American Saddlebred Museum, the International Museum of the Horse, afternoon “Stall Side Chats” and a self-guided walking tour of the hundreds of acres throughout the park.
The world’s largest ceiling clock is 40 feet wide and five stories tall, and it’s in the rotunda of the Central Library on Main Street, which is down the block from the historic Kentucky Theater. All the outdoors you can handle, indoors, will be at the annual Kentucky Sport, Boat and Recreation Show, Feb. 7-9 at Lexington Center and Rupp Arena. Hungry? Stop for breakfast, lunch or dinner at one of the many Kentucky Proud restaurants located downtown.
It’s conference time in basketball. At Rupp Arena, the Kentucky Wildcats men’s basketball team hosts Ole Miss on Feb. 15, Florida on Feb. 22, Auburn on Feb. 29 and Tennessee on March 3. On campus, at Memorial Coliseum, the UK women’s basketball team takes on Florida on Feb. 2, Alabama on Feb. 6, Mississippi State on Feb. 16, South Carolina on Feb. 23 and Georgia on Feb. 27. UK baseball’s home opener is Feb. 18 and softball’s is March 7.
Bluegrass Distillers, Castle and Key, James E. Pepper Distilling Co., Town Branch Distillery and Woodford Reserve are among the distilleries offering tours and tastings. “Bourbon distilleries are lovely to visit in the winter as the warehouses are quite warm and filled with the amazing aroma of the angel’s share,” said Mary Quinn Ramer, president of VisitLEX.
At the Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning you can take writing classes, join a reading group, learn another language or practice yoga. In nearby Harrodsburg, Kentucky, Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill has a fascinating “Introduction to Beekeeping” course on Feb. 8.
Locals can learn to dance at Arthur Murray Dance Sudio. Private and group lessons are available. The “Daddy Daughter Ball” at the Kentucky Castle on Versailles Road on Feb. 16 will be an enchanting evening for a young princess to dance with her dad, and receive a tiara at the event.
Grammy award-winner Sturgill Simpson brings his “A Good Look’n Tour” to Rupp Arena on Feb. 28, with special guest Tyler Childers. February has an extra day this year for leaping into more Southern music, Feb. 28-29, with the indoor bluegrass festival “Bluegrass in the Bluegrass with Sam Jam and Rudy Fest” at Clarion Hotel Conference Center North. Every Wednesday night at ArtsPlace in downtown Lexington, Red Barn Radio celebrates the music of Kentucky with live performances from solo artists and bands.
Take in a play at the Lexington Opera House with “Fiddler on the Roof” Feb. 6-9; “A Midsummer’s Night Dream” Feb. 14-15; “The Office! A Musical Parody” Feb. 18-19. At the Lyric Theatre and Cultural Arts Center, see “Selma the Musical: The Untold Stories” Feb. 7-9.