Exploring Lexington in 1 Day: Best Sites & Bites

1 Day in Lexington, KY ~ Exploring downtown Lexington's best restaurants along with a tour of its local distillery.

I really wish there were more hours in a day. I especially wished this to be true when I only had one full day to spend in Lexington, KY.

But one day is better than none.

1 day in lexington town branch distillery

The day before had been spent checking out of the bustling Hotel Distil in Louisville, then touring both the James K. Beam and Four Roses Distilleries, so it wasn’t until 5:00 that we rolled into downtown Lexington and checked into the Lexington Marriott City Center.

The hotel is a fairly standard Marriott, but the best part about it is its prime downtown location. Walking everywhere was a breeze.

That evening, hungry and exhausted from the day, we literally reserved the closest restaurant to our hotel room: Italyx.

Located in the City Center building at 160 W Main St, we were able to walk through the hotel lobby and access the restaurant without ever leaving the building. While I wasn’t expecting much, Italyx was a surprising and delicious gem.

The decor and ambiance presented a laid-back yet elegant European cafe vibe, and the front wall facing Main street had retractable windows which were completely open. The food, however, was the star of the show (as it should be).

We started with the focaccia bread plus the arancini appetizer. I really could have made an entire meal out of these two starters alone. What can I say? I can eat my weight in bread and olive oil.

Italy's focaccia bread
Focaccia Bread
Arancini with marinara
Arancini

Next up came the entrees: Gnudi di Zucca and the Lasagna Napolitana.

The gnudi di zucca was a lightly fried butternut squash served on top of pasta tossed in a cream sauce and then dusted with parmesan. It was one of the most unique Italian dishes I’ve ever enjoyed. The Lasagna was classically prepared and exactly what you hope for when you order lasagna.

Gnudi di zucca pasta
Gnudi di Zucca
Lasagna napoletano
Lasagna Napoletano

It should come as no surprise that after all that, we were too full for dessert.

1 Day in Lexington

Lexington, KY is “horse country.” Actually, it’s more than “horse country,” Lexington is officially “the horse capital of the world.” While I could have gone to one of the many neighboring horse farm tours, I chose to spend my limited amount of time exploring downtown Lexington.

If you have more time during your visit for a horse farm tour, then check out this link for up-to-date offerings and top tours.

I began my morning by walking along Main St, past the stately Lexington courthouses and library to Thoroughbred Park.

Thoroughbred park lexington
Thoroughbred Park

The park spans 2.5 acres and is filled with equestrian bronze statues celebrating Lexington’s roots in thoroughbred horse breeding and racing. The park is a peaceful place to spend a morning and contemplate where to head next…

For me, having not had breakfast and my stomach rumbling for an early lunch, my next stop was Carson’s Food & Drink.

Described as “old Kentucky elegance,” I was charmed by the warm rustic brick interior with an exposed lofted ceiling balanced by the soft refinement of several crystal chandeliers. The restaurant had just opened for lunch, but it was already hopping with hungry people.

I settled into a space at the large bar gracing the right side of the restaurant and proceeded to order what may well be the most enormous grilled hearts of romaine salad ever made.

Wedge salad at carson's food & drink
Wedge Salad at Carson’s Food & Drink

Although it was a little difficult to eat as I hacked my way into it, the flavor and freshness were well worth the effort. My only regret was that I was so full, that I couldn’t order anything else on the menu.

If I’m ever in Lexington again, I’m definitely returning to Carson’s Food & Drink.

Stuffed with wood-grilled salmon and salad greens, I happily set back out on foot, this time walking towards the Lexington city center via E Vine St.

Black eyed susans lexington
Black-Eyed Susans Lining E Vine Street

This stretch of road is landscaped with a variety of flowers and gave me my first mural spotting. (Lexington is known for its street art with over 50 murals and counting.)

I lucked up and stumbled upon Abraham Lincoln, one of the city’s most famous and visited.

Abraham lincoln mural
Abraham Lincoln Mural on E Vine Street Lexington

I chose to tour the Town Branch Bourbon Distillery for my afternoon destination, a 20-minute walk from E Vine St. and the Lincoln mural.

It’s July and the average daytime temperatures in Lexington hover in the mid-80s, so the cold blast of air-conditioning inside Town Branch’s Visitor Center was a welcome treat.

Town branch distillery lexington
Town Branch Distillery
Town branch bourbon distillery visitor center
Town Branch Bourbon Distillery Visitor Center

I’ve been to Louisville, KY four times and toured the majority of their bourbon distilleries, (13 and counting) so I only felt it fair that I tour downtown Lexington’s primary bourbon distillery.

It’s between a 30 – 40 minute drive to Woodford Reserve and Buffalo Trace, the more well-known distilleries near Lexington, but having already toured those, I was interested in discovering what Town Branch had to offer.

It was a tour well worth my time.

What sets Town Branch apart is that it’s the only brewery and distillery on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. The total tour time takes around 1 hour and 15 minutes, and you’re given 4 tokens that you “cash in” along the way for your chosen four samples, whether it’s beer or bourbon, so choose wisely.

The tour begins with the brewery aspect and then proceeds to a tasting room where you can sample the beers, the most popular of which is the Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale. From there, the tour proceeds to the bourbon side of the process before ending in the final tasting room where samplings of Town Branch’s Bourbon, Rye, Whiskey, and even Gin are offered.

Town branch distillery tasting room
The Tasting Room at Town Branch Distillery
Town branch distillery tasting room

While I went on the basic tour offered daily (except for holidays), Town Branch also offers a Twighlight & Cocktail Tour on Thursdays and Fridays where you can enjoy the sunset views through the floor-to-ceiling windows in their beautiful tasting facility.

Pot stills at town branch distillery
The Pot Stills at Town Branch Distillery

If you’re interested in booking a tour, click the button below.

With my 1 day in Lexington winding down, I found myself at yet another Italian restaurant for dinner…Frank & Dino’s on W. Short St, housed in the base of the historic Security Trust Building.

What can I say, I love Italian food.

There are loads of amazing-looking restaurants in this section of downtown Lexington, so it really is hard to choose, but I wasn’t disappointed in this classic Italian eatery.

True to the name, there’s a laid-back rat-pack ambiance to the place, and the food was exactly what I wanted after a full day of walking and touring. Rich Ravioli della Nonna followed by a made-for-sharing-but-you-won’t-want-to Tiramisu.

Final Thoughts

You really need more than 1 day to truly see and do all that Lexington, KY has to offer. Next time I’m there, I hope to tour one of the outlying horse farms, walk the grounds of the University of Kentucky, and pay a visit to Castle & Key Distillery.

I’m thrilled with what I was able to see and do on this short trip to Lexington, however, and I look forward to my next journey to The Bluegrass State.

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