Blake Walsh

15 Free Things to Do in Lexington, KY

  • Published 2022/11/24

Known as the “Horse Capital of the World,” Lexington boasts a booming economy in Kentucky’s Bluegrass region.

In 2020, the Lexington recorded a population of 322,570.

The city in Fayette County is also home to the University of Kentucky and the Bluegrass Community and Technical College.

Visiting the city might make you think you’ll have to spend a lot to have fun.

However, apart from outstanding restaurants and shops downtown, the city offers many free tourist attractions to enjoy with your friends and family.

Watch the sunset at one of the city’s parks, take a panoramic photo of the scenic Capitol, or witness people making bourbon.

Here are the free things to do in Lexington, Kentucky!

Watch Morning Equestrian Workouts at Keeneland Race Course

Sandy track of Keeneland Race Course

Irina Mos /

As the world’s horse capital, Lexington houses thoroughbred racing facilities, including Keeneland Race Course.

The facility conducts equestrian workouts in the early mornings, which you can watch for free.

If you’re into horses and equestrianism, get a glimpse of thoroughbred racing, which is best done in Lexington.

Horses at Keeneland Race Course

jessica.kirsh /

Established in 1936, the Keeneland Race Course has a mission to preserve and continue to boost thoroughbred racing.

You can find it on Versailles Road.

Daytime view of Keeneland Race Course

Jason Phillips (user:Wildcat~commonswiki), CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Stroll around the University of Kentucky Arboretum

View of University of Kentucky Arboretum's flora

Daderot, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

The University of Kentucky Arboretum is a 100-acre botanical garden that houses more than 1,000 species of plants and trees native to Kentucky.

Established in 1991, the arboretum has gardens with different kinds of plants and trees, including the Walk Across Kentucky garden.

The garden simulates the state’s seven regional landscapes, such as Knobs, Bluegrass, Appalachian Plateaus, Shawnee Hills, Cumberland Mountains, Mississippian Plateaus & Outer Nashville Basin, Mississippi Embayment & Alluvial Basin.

Wooden bench surrounded with plants at University of Kentucky Arboretum

Daderot, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

The garden is open to the public year-round.

Walk the trails, sit on the grass, or take advantage of the well-tended plants that give nature more life.

It’s located on Alumni Drive.

Boardwalk trail at University of Kentucky Arboretum

Daderot, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Browse the Masterpieces at the Art Museum at the University of Kentucky

At the Art Museum at the University of Kentucky, about 5,000 art pieces from the Old Masters to the contemporary await you.

Appreciate the works of prominent artists in the 19th and 20th centuries for free.

The museum also hosts rotating art exhibits that were made and inspired by diverse cultures of Kentucky, the Bluegrass region, and European masterpieces.

Your visit to the museum would be a great pastime in Lexington while learning some local arts, culture, and history.

The Art Museum at the University of Kentucky was established in 1976.

It’s nestled on the Singletary Center for the Arts on Rose Street.

Get Closer to Nature at the Raven Run Nature Sanctuary

A creek at Raven Run Nature Sanctuary

Alexey Stiop /

Hiking trails, wildlife, and streams await you at the Raven Run Nature Sanctuary.

The 734-acre nature preserve offers 10 miles of marked and colored hiking trails to explore where you can spot wildlife along the beautiful Kentucky River Palisades.

Explore the woodlands, meadows, and streams and see the historic Prather Homestead, Evans Mill, and Moore Grave.

Small waterfall at Raven Run Nature Sanctuary

Alexey Stiop /

The sanctuary can get crowded on weekends or holidays, so visit early.

Pets are not allowed at the sanctuary to protect wildlife.

The Raven Run Nature Sanctuary was founded in 1977 on Raven Run Way.

Take a Photo of the Life-Size Horse Statues at the Thoroughbred Park

Life-Size Horse Statues at the Thoroughbred Park

ehrlif /

Visit the Thoroughbred Park and take a quick snap of the beautifully made life-size bronze statues of the jockeys with their horses.

The statues look like they’re racing freely, symbolizing the city’s strong horse racing industry.

There’s also a water fountain, benches, beautiful trees, and plaques filled with Lexington horse racing history.

Close view of a statue at Thoroughbred Park

ehrlif /

Overall, the Thoroughbred Park is a lovely spot for a photo op while enjoying nature.

You can find it at the intersection of East Main Street and Midland Avenue.

Join the Lexington Kite Fest

Lexington celebrates the Kite Fest, held in April every year.

It features children’s games, kite decorating, inflatables, a dance party, airbrush tattoos, and more.

If you choose to fly a kite, you can buy available kites at the location or fly your own for a lovely sunny day in Lexington.

Have a picnic while enjoying the festival, or buy food and drinks from on-site concessions.

The Kite Fest is one of the city’s first events of the spring season at Masterson Station Park on Leestown Road.

See the World’s Largest Ceiling Clock at the Lexington Public Library

World’s Largest Ceiling Clock in Lexington Public Library

Nagel Photography /

Besides a frieze that tells the history of horses and racing in the Bluegrass region, Lexington Public Library also houses the world’s largest ceiling clock.

The clock adorns the central city’s main library, which is digitally controlled with a series of lit panels.

The clock face shows 60 horses, based from the 1872 photographs by Eadweard Muybridge.

In 2001, Lucille Caudill Little, a Lexington philanthropist, made her dream of having a large ceiling clock at the library into reality.

Foucault pendulum in Lexington Public Library

Nagel Photography /

The Lexington Public Library also features a five-story Foucault pendulum.

The library opened in 1905 and hosts storytimes for little children, free to the public.

See the world’s largest ceiling clock in the Lexington Public Library on East Main Street.

Exterior of Lexington Public Library

Mhuy222, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Witness the Beautiful Cascading Waterfalls at Triangle Park

Cascade waterfall at Triangle Park

Ivelin Denev /

In Downtown Lexington sits Triangle Park, a mecca of entertainment and fantastic tourist attractions.

The park features tranquil waterfalls, beautiful Honey Locust trees, lush green grass, and gorgeous flowers.

You can enjoy the view of the gorgeous cascading waterfalls while watching an outdoor music show or participating in chess and backgammon games.

The locust trees turn yellow during the fall, which is a great time to snap a photo.

It also features an ice skating rink, adding to the park’s tourist attraction in the winternote though that this is not free.

Alex Campbell Jr. and his team established Triangle Park in 1980 on West Main Street.

Browse Produce at Lexington Farmers’ Market

Aerial view of Lexington Farmers’ Market

aceshot1 /

If you’re in town on a Saturday, stroll around the Farmers’ Market, go window shopping, and learn more about the local vendors and farmers’ products.

In Tandy Centennial Park, the Saturday market is open year-round, where you can see fresh produce like fruits and vegetables, crafts, baked goods, and many other local products.

They also have a seasonal Sunday Market, Tuesday & Thursday Market, and Wednesday Market.

The Farm and Garden Market Cooperative Association founded the Farmers’ Market in 1975.

It was established to bring Lexington local produce and to support farmers and small businesses.

The Saturday market in Tandy Centennial Park is adjacent to the historic Old Courthouse on West Main Street.

Get Cheesy at Boone Creek Creamery

Join a free tour and tasting at Boone Creek Creamery!

The creamery offers a free family tour around its facility, where you’ll get a chance to discover the cheese-making process.

Watch how they make their handmade artisan cheese, fresh-made butter, old fashion fudge, and other Kentucky products.

Boone Creek Creamery makes cheese from the all-natural milk of cows, which are not given any antibiotics, making the cheese healthier.

The creamery tour will also take you to the Hobbit Cave, where the cheese is aged.

Don’t forget to take a photo with a cheese-making pot!

You can find the creamery on Palumbo Drive.

Honor the City’s Prominent Figures at the Historic Lexington Cemetery

Senator Henry Clay burial site at the Historic Lexington Cemetery

Michael_Kentucky /

On a fine afternoon, you can take quiet strolls around the Lexington Cemetery, the final resting place of the city’s known and prominent public figures.

The cemetery has nationally recognized gardens and a greenhouse, which add to its natural vibe while honoring the late public figures who helped shape Lexington today.

Former Kentucky Representative and Senator Henry Clay, basketball coach Adolph Rupp, Confederate General John Hunt Morgan, and other famous public figures are buried here.

Adolph Rupp burial site at the Historic Lexington Cemetery

Michael_Kentucky /

As soon as you’re done checking them out, head to the three lakes to see ducks, swans, and fish.

The Lexington Cemetery was established in 1848 on West Main Street and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976.

General John Hunt Morgan statue at the Historic Lexington Cemetery

Michael_Kentucky /

Check Out the Historic Old Fayette County Courthouse

Front view of the Old Fayette County Courthouse exterior

Chad Robertson Media /

In the heart of the city sits the historic Old Fayette County Courthouse, where you can learn about local history and the Civil War era.

Built in 1899, the courthouse had been vacant for many years until it was rehabilitated in 2016.

Side view of the Old Fayette County Courthouse

Chad Robertson Media /

In 2018, the renovated historic structure opened to a few public and private entities, such as the city’s Visitor’s Center, restaurants and bars, and office spaces.

The historic Old Fayette County Courthouse was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1999.

You can find it on West Main Street.

Clock tower of the Old Fayette County Courthouse

View_Point /

Let the Kids Cool Off at the Jacobson Park Spraygrounds

On a sunny day, take the kids to the Jacobson Park Spraygrounds, where they can play and enjoy the water!

The park’s spraygrounds have no standing water, which is safe for kids, although you will need to watch, especially since there are no lifeguards.

Kids can have the time of their life at the Jacobson Park Spraygrounds while cooling off with the park’s interactive water feature.

You can also go fishing at the park’s 47-acre lake, which is free, although you need a fishing permit.

Visitors can also go pedal boating and kayaking for a minimal fee.

In 1972, the 216-acre park was dedicated and named after former Kentucky American manager Ernest E. Jacobson.

You can find it on Athens Boonesboro Road.

Other Free Things to Do Nearby

If you drive past the Lexington city limits, you’ll also experience many tourist attractions that don’t require fees.

These spots are among Kentucky’s tourist favorites, only a few minutes from Lexington.

Join a Car-Making Tour at the Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky

Welcome sign of Toyota Motor Manufacturing

James R. Martin /

Kentucky is home to Toyota Motor Manufacturing in Georgetown, Kentucky, 26 minutes from Lexington.

See how Toyota cars and engines are made at the assembly plant by joining a plant tour available on weekdays.

The plant tour may take at least an hour, which gives you a glimpse into how these automobiles and engines are built.

You’ll see how they make the Toyota Camry, RAV4, Lexus ES, and other engines.

Founded in 1986, Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky is on Cherry Blossom Way.

Ride the Valley View Ferry across the Kentucky River

A Valley View Ferry on the Kentucky River

Steven J Hensley /

The free Valley View Ferry takes you from Lexington to Nicholasville to Richmond and vice versa over the Kentucky River.

The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet funds the ferry to provide free transport for tourists and locals crossing the river.

It transports 250 cars daily and may also halt operations during inclement weather.

The ferry takes different routes between Fayette, Jessamine, and Madison counties.

Enjoy the free ride and see the beautiful Kentucky River!

Valley View Ferry started its operation in 1785 and is managed by the Valley View Ferry Authority.

Final Thoughts

Lexington offers impressive tourist attractions that don’t require you to spend a dime.

Thanks to its rich history, arts, and culture, you’ll keep coming back to this city.

Have a blast with these free things to do in Lexington, Kentucky!

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