Friday, October 24, 2014

Lexington a great family destination

This was originally posted on The Chicago Moms.

We were looking for a place close enough to visit for a three-day weekend that seemed a world away from our suburban Chicago home. After clicking through a few ideas, we stumbled upon the Kentucky Horse Park. As soon as we found it, our horse-crazy daughters were begging us to take them.

Our research started with the Lexington Visitors Bureau website. While our girls would have spent three days at the Kentucky Horse Park, we wanted to sample more activities. As with all short trips, you have to make hard decisions about what to do and what gets put on the “future visit” list. Visit Lex helped us organize our trip into different activities on different days.

We started by creating three different day plans. One included historic homes and a downtown walking tour. A second one took us through the driving tour of small towns and horse farms. The third had us spending the day in the Kentucky Horse Park.

The weather was beautiful and sunny on our first day, so we decided to do the downtown walking tour. It was lovely and peaceful to walk downtown Lexington on a Sunday. We had a hard time finding a place to eat, until we stumbled upon Limestone Blue. What a find! The food was so good and the service so friendly that we didn’t want to leave.

We visited two historic homes during our stay. The first home we visited was the Hunt-Morgan House. Our girls studied the Civil War last year, so the stories about Confederate General John Hunt Morgan fascinated them. Our tour guide was informed and interesting. We also visited the Mary Todd Lincoln House. What was interesting about this historic home was that it really reshaped your vision of Mrs. Lincoln. When our girls learned about Mrs. Lincoln in school, their teacher focused mostly on her post-White House years. It was her childhood and education that really interested them.

We tried to go to Ashland, Henry Clay’s estate, but our timing wasn’t right. The funny thing was we probably learned as much about Henry Clay thorough other tours as we would have if we visited his estate. We saw Henry Clay’s law office during the walking tour. We heard stories about Mr. Clay at the Hunt-Morgan House and the Mary Todd Lincoln House. We read about him during our Transylvania University tour. Henry Clay had his hand in everything during the early days of Lexington.

Our driving tour was breathtaking. The rolling hills, white fences that stretched for miles, dry stone fences and fall colors combined for a relaxing tour. More than once I said to my husband, “I can understand the appeal of being here.” We were just a few miles outside of Lexington, but it was as if we had driven hundreds of miles. I could not think of an equivalent drive in the Chicago area. You’d have to drive for hours before you’d find that kind of beauty and serenity.

The dry stone fences fascinated me. Apparently, I’m not the only person who found them interesting. There was a display outside the Kentucky Horse Park explaining dry stone fences and the connection with Kentucky. There was something serene about the fences.

When we travel we visit the Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives website to find quirky local places. The site came through again with a recommendation for the Parkette Drive-In. Our girls thought it was so much fun to have our food ordered via the old-fashioned, two-way speaker. It seemed like ordering food via a speaker would be old, considering that they grew up with the technology at businesses from pharmacies to restaurants. The whole atmosphere was a throw-back to a time when their parents were little kids, about their age.  We told stories about going to a place like the Parkette Drive-In with our parents. The food was good; the bonding was better.

The Kentucky Horse Park lived up to our girls’ horse dreams. The first thing we noticed was how beautiful it was as you scanned the grounds. It was pristine and picturesque from every angle. As soon as we entered, our girls put their carefully planned day into action. We managed to see nearly everything, and still took a horseback ride. The Horses of the World show was beautiful and interesting. We managed to learn a lot about different breeds in a short time. The Hall of Champions was in mourning as Cigar had recently died. The flowers outside his stall added depth to the show, which brought back memories for even the most casual horse-racing fan.

Our Kentucky Horse Park planning misstep was that we didn’t allow enough time to wander the International Museum of the Horse. We were able to see most of the exhibits, but there was more we wanted to see. The International Museum of the Horse is a highly interactive place with ways to keep everyone entertained in all galleries. Our girls sat in a tent listening to Arabian horse legends in the Al-Marah Arabian Horse Galleries. They watched as Mom and Dad told stories during the Calumet Farm: Five Decades of Champions exhibit – in part because they didn’t believe that we actually knew anything about horses. They thought they were the horse experts. When we went through The Legacy of the Horse, I kept pointing out how beautifully dressed people used to be at events like horse racing or horse shows. It was my not so subtle effort to reinforce the idea that flip flops were not always considered stylish foot ware. They started pointing out some of their favorite details to distract me.

From start to finish our Lexington experience was a delightful was to spend a long weekend for all of us. It took about 6 hours to go from Chicago to Lexington. It was a trip worth taking, and we’re planning our next Lexington visit already.

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