Wish You Were Here: Keeneland and Georgetown

Celebrate the famed Kentucky track’s 75th anniversary, then hoof it on over to a charming nearby town for arts and eats.
Steve Coomes

Every spring, equestrian enthusiasts head to Keeneland, a historic horse track just outside of Lexington, KY to warm up with the first races of the season. Many choose to stay in nearby Georgetown, a 20-minute drive north of the track to dine at the small town’s restaurants and browse through its art galleries. Plan your trip now, and look forward to a horse-filled weekend in early April.

Morning in Georgetown
Before heading to the races, start with coffee and a bagel at the Lock and Key Café Boutique. Housed in a former bank, the cafe also features local musicians and sells free trade art and crafts. Walk off breakfast with a self-guided tour of downtown (brochures are available almost everywhere), and admire centuries-old, meticulously preserved buildings and homes—some 300 of which are on the National Register of Historic Places.

A Day at Keeneland  
The Spring Meet races at Keeneland (Wednesdays-Sundays, April 8-29, $5 general admission) are among the first steps some horses take on their way to the Kentucky Derby—26 Derby winners first raced here. The historic racecourse celebrates its 75th anniversary this year. If you don’t fuel up in Georgetown, arrive early (around 7 a.m.) to enjoy a Southern-style breakfast in the Equestrian Dining Room, and watch as horses and jockeys train. Others wait until gates open at 11 a.m. and start picking their winners for the first race at 1:15 p.m.

Dinner in Georgetown
Head back to Georgetown to relax at Galvin’s, a roomy watering hole that offers the best beer selection in town as well as Philly cheesesteak sandwiches and New Orleans-style muffulettas. If you want something a little more subdued, hit Rodney’s on Broadway, just a block away. Opened last year, the restaurant is already making a splash with chef Rodney Vachel Jones’s entrées such as Woodford Reserve Shrimp and Sea Scallops. Perfectly seared shellfish are mounted atop toast points and sauced with a delicate Woodford Reserve bourbon-cream reduction.

Where to Stay
The Magnolia Inn, a historic home turned bed-and-breakfast, sits within easy walking distance of downtown restaurants, shops, and galleries. Built in three stages beginning in 1790, the rambling house features three spacious rooms and an adjacent guest cottage. Guests snooze in antique beds, relax on gilded settees, and convene in a lush, tranquil courtyard.

What to Do in Georgetown
Set inside a 130-year-old building that once served as the Scott County jailer’s house, the Scott County Arts & Cultural Center, which now serves as a welcome center and features rotating exhibits of local artists’ works. Nearby, Art on Main, an artists’ cooperative, sells elegant pottery, jewelry, glassworks, paintings, photography, and more.

South of Georgetown, the Kentucky Horse Park offers a year-round display of living horses and artistic equine exhibits. Four miles west of the park, Old Friends, a spacious farm committed to saving retired Thoroughbreds, is home to 21 of the elegant creatures.