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Tourism: Go Exploring!

Come for horses and bourbon, stay for the friendly rich culture.

By Karen Baird

Tourism is a $13 billion industry in Kentucky. Fayette County alone had $1.5 billion in tourism economic impact and created 11,000 jobs in 2022, overtaking rising pre-pandemic numbers.

Lexington is The Horse Capital of the World, surrounded by 450 horse farms. Visitors love admiring the four-legged celebrities in pastures and watching what they do best at Keeneland Race Course.

Of course, Kentucky has long been known for its bourbon and the entire Bluegrass region is filled with enough distilleries, bourbon bars and craft breweries to keep any bourbon aficionado happy.

Kentuckians lovingly hand-craft bourbon in the authentic ways of their forebears, and their friendly willingness to share with enthusiasts across the U.S. and around the world has created what has come to be known as “bourbonism.” Lexington has its own Distillery District and is also a gateway to the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. Distilleries in the Bluegrass region include Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort as well as the Wild Turkey, Four Roses and Woodford Reserve distilleries that are set in the gorgeous Kentucky countryside near Lawrenceburg and Versailles.

Bourbon and horses bring travelers, but the adventure, food, history and people tend to keep them. The Bluegrass region is home to the first commercial vineyard in the United States, First Vineyard. And Kentucky’s favorite soft drink, Ale-8-One, is made in Winchester, where the Ale-8-One plant offers regular tours and tastings.

Locals and visitors alike enjoy making a day of exploring the charming shops and dining options in downtown Versailles, Georgetown, Paris, Winchester, Richmond, Nicholasville, Danville and Frankfort.

History buffs will enjoy visiting Perryville, the site of the Civil War’s largest battle in Kentucky, or Fort Boonesborough, which served as a major frontier outpost during the Revolutionary War. In Harrodsburg is a reconstruction of Fort Harrod, the first permanent American settlement in the state of Kentucky. Just seven miles from Harrodsburg is Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill, the third-largest Shaker community in the U.S. In addition to its fascinating history, Shaker Village is filled with impeccable architecture, crafts, delectable food and miles of trails. Berea is known as the Crafts and Folk Arts Capital of Kentucky and visitors enjoy exploring the art studios in Old Towne and viewing the works of the many artists represented at the Kentucky Artisan Center.

“We’ve worked hard to rebound from the pandemic, and tourism in Lexington has not only been revived, but it’s also back better than ever,” said Mary Quinn Ramer, president of VisitLEX. “This milestone is a great tribute to local and state partnerships, local attractions, and the entire community, which always welcomes visitors with true hospitality.”