This time of year, you won't find a prettier destination than Lexington, Kentucky. Located within a day's drive of 75% of the country, this Bluegrass legend beckons with pastoral horse farms, a scenic farmers market, and a delightful downtown.
Before you begin wandering Lexington's city center, check in to the cozy Gratz Park Inn at 120 West Second Street ( 231-1777 or www.gratzparkinn.com). Rates start at $149. This fabulous 44-room inn offers all the amenities of a large hotel but with an intimate feel.
Now set out walking to Victorian Square, one of the fun shopping areas downtown ( 252-7575). Look for Kentucky gifts in The Kentucky Store; T-shirts cost $15 to $18. Save some of your money for Savané Silver's wonderful one-of-a-kind earrings, pendants, and bracelets.
Before you end your shopping spree, head over to Isle of You on West Short Street (toll-free 1-866-999-4753 or www.isleofyou.com), where Hervé Chapelier handbags from France are priced from $65.
What about dinner? Near Gratz Park Inn, you'll find A La Lucie, a cozy bistro with wonderful fresh seafood and daily specials ( 252-5277). Try the Buttermilk Fried Quail ($22.95). Before bed, catch a little live music at Atomic Café ( 254-1969), just a block away from your dining spot.
You won't regret it if you rise early this morning and head over to beautiful Keeneland Race Course ( 254-3412 or www.keeneland.com) for a day of enjoying the fall season of races (October 7-29, Wednesday-Sunday; $3 general admission). The Track Kitchen, open by 6 a.m., welcomes jockeys, trainers, and visitors alike. Served cafeteria style, the breakfast special ($6) is a good bet--two scrambled eggs, bacon or sausage, and biscuits with gravy. Stroll out to the track, and watch the horses during their morning workouts.
Before you take your seat for the afternoon running of Thoroughbreds (races start at 1:15 p.m.), check out the family-friendly activities Keeneland offers on Saturday.
When hunger strikes again, you'll find plenty of satisfying Kentucky cuisine at the track, whether it be burgoo (a regional specialty stew made of poultry, meat, and vegetables), grilled chicken, steak sandwiches, or bread pudding with bourbon sauce.
But if you're in the mood for another kind of activity, downtown Lexington offers its Saturday Farmers' Market on Vine Street for a browser's delight. Starting at 7 a.m., the market offers a great variety of local produce, baked goods, flowers, and honey; www.lexingtonfarmersmarket.com.
Finish the day at Jonathan at Gratz Park, where the dining reigns supreme. Chef Jonathan Lundy changes his menu often, but you may find such delectable treats as Barbecue Yellowfin Tuna with White Cheddar Grits ($26.95). Don't leave out dessert, as the ice cream is made in-house.
Sunday--Nibbling and Touring
You just can't beat having a relaxing breakfast at Magee's Bakery on East Main Street ( 255-9481). This favorite spot tempts you with chocolate doughnuts (75 cents each, $7.50 per dozen) and other baked goods.
Make a reservation with Blue Grass Tours (1-800-755-6956). For $26, they will take you on a scenic drive through horse country, stopping at a couple of the famous farms.
Then it's time for lunch. Make the short trip to Midway, Kentucky, and take advantage of the Sunday brunch at Holly Hill Inn (11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.;  846-4732 or www.hollyhillinn.com). For $15, you'll enjoy fruit, choice of entrée, and dessert.
Make one last stop at Lexington's Joseph-Beth Booksellers ( 273-2911 or www.josephbeth.com). Your weekend may be near the finish line, but you're sure to return to this winning city.
"Win, Place, and Show Me Lexington" is from the October 2005 issue of Southern Living. Because prices, dates, and other specifics are subject to change, please check all information to make sure it's still current before making your travel plans.