Lexington promises more surprises than a Thoroughbred on Derby Day. Surrounded by rambling farms and rolling countryside, this Bluegrass city entertains its share of queens, sheiks, equestrians, and movie stars. However, it remains unpretentious and hospitable. You'll feel right at home among its fine restaurants and local shops that hide splurge-worthy trinkets and bargain buys.
Where To Stay
Getting a comfortable bed in this town proves easy (the Tempur-Pedic mattress company houses its headquarters in Lexington and maintains a partnership with many hotels).
Gas fireplaces add to the cozy feel of rooms at the Crowne Plaza Lexington Campbell House. The hotel offers a babysitting service, barber shop, and same day dry-cleaning. And yes, those local mattresses adorn these beds. Rates range $99 to $119. Or choose the Courtyard Lexington South by Marriott just off I-75 at the Man O'War exit (Exit 108). Rates range $89 to $119.
What To Do
Keeneland Race Course, an iconic Lexington stop for equestrians, offers an inside look during its horse sales four times a year. (The sales are in January, April, September, and November.) Auctioneers sell foals and mares to the highest bidders as buyers and spectators watch from cushy seats in a theater-style pavilion. Stop in to catch a morning workout session (6 a.m.-10 a.m.). Jockeys bounce like buoys on the shiny backs of Kentucky Derby contenders.
As if its turn-of-the-century residents had vanished into air, Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill sits like a time capsule half an hour away from the city. Worth the drive, this living-history museum showcases Shaker artwork and livelihood on nearly 3,000 acres of preserved farmland.
Shoppers love Lexington's eclectic mix of trendy shops and homespun boutiques filled with holiday wares. At Magpie Yarn, knitters can take classes and browse its broad variety of natural fiber yarns, including bamboo, corn silk, soy, wool, cotton, and linen. Joseph-Beth Booksellers, a mammoth two-level store, often hosts Food Network authors and provides reads on subjects ranging from astronomy to architecture. You'll also find gift items and more at this Lexington Green emporium.
Next door, Artique Lexington Green features fine American crafts by a thousand U.S. artists with everything from jewelry to furniture to pottery to blown glass. They have another location in The Lexington Center. Natasha's Bistro/Boutique offers eclectic clothing from around the world, imaginative international cuisine, and gourmet coffees and teas. The Black Market Boutique showcases a mix of vintage and contemporary style by designers such as Miss Me and Kensie Clothing. You'll love the graphic T-shirts for guys and funky women's shoes.
Along Clay Avenue visit the distinctive shops such as Linens Limited, with its luxurious Egyptian cotton sheets, dreamy goose-down pillows, and designer duvets. Head to The Paperweight for personalized stationery and invitations as well as gift items.
From down-home to darn good, Lexington offers a surplus of meal choices. Rub elbows with jockeys, trainers, and horse owners at Keeneland Track Kitchen where you'll enjoy generous meals of thick buttermilk pancakes, fluffy omelets, and hash browns. Breakfast is served until 11 a.m.
Modeled after a traditional French bistro, Le Deauville serves portions of Paris on fine plates. Dishes range from escargot in garlic sauce ($9.50) to less exotic items such as lamb chops with rosemary scented au jus ($28). Ooh, la-la! Reservations are accepted; 246-0999.
Portofino earns bragging rights with its bruschetta, beef tenderloin bathed in cognac, and house-made cheese-and-basil ravioli. Reservations are preferred;  253-9300.
Go back to Natasha's Bistro/Boutique to feast on cuisine with an international accent such as Hungarian Goulash and Midnight Chicken Curry. On weekends watch entertainers at The Balagula Theatre, located on-site only a few feet from the dining area.
Both unique and awe-inspiring, Natasha's, much like Lexington, offers a broad array of experiences begging to be discovered.
"The Best of Lexington" is from the November 2007 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.