Madgeek1450 at English Wikipedia [Public domain]
You know a city is something special when you can’t figure out which of its features to touch on first. Lexington, KY, is one of those cities.
It offers a huge variety of attractions, business opportunities, and lifestyle perks, from simple pleasures like Crank & Boom Ice Cream Lounge (Kentucky Blackberry and Buttermilk, anyone?) to its world-famous distilleries.
And then, of course, there are the horses. They don’t call Lexington “Horse Capital of the World” for nuthin’.
Making Secretariat proud
First off: horse farms. Lots of them. Kentucky’s Bluegrass region boasts 450 horse farms, and roughly 150 are in Fayette County, which encompasses Lexington. The farms range from 500 to 3,000 acres and have been described as more “English country estate” than farm. Many of them are, in a word, opulent.
Then there’s the Kentucky Horse Park, a 1,200-acre working farm that showcases all breeds of horses and offers museums, demonstrations, barn tours, trail rides, and indoor and outdoor show venues. In 2010 it staged the World Equestrian Games, the first time a non-European site hosted the event.
Lexington is also home to the popular Keeneland racetrack, which has a spring and fall meet each year. On top of that, Keeneland is the largest thoroughbred auction house in the world, racking up more than $600 million dollars in sales last year.
More of a “trotters and pacers” fan? Lexington has you covered. Its venerable harness racing track, The Red Mile, offers simulcasts, horse sales, and pari-mutuel gaming terminals.
One last note about Lexington’s horse-driven culture before we move on: The University of Kentucky isn’t just about championship-winning basketball (although it’s got that going too). It also offers numerous programs with an equine focus, including an Equine Science and Management degree and a cutting-edge equine research center.
Okay, that’s horses. Now let’s talk bourbon.
Some 95% of the world’s bourbon is made in Kentucky, so it’s not surprising that distilleries are a big (and ever-growing) deal in Lexington—and its bourbon heritage dates back to the 1700s.
The city has multiple downtown distilleries: the historic James E. Pepper Distillery and craft distillers Bluegrass Distillers, Town Branch Distillery, and Barrel House Distilling Company.
A number of famous distilleries are scattered within a 35-mile radius of Lexington as well, so you can have your fill of tours and tastings at major players such as Woodford Reserve Distillery, Castle & Key, Buffalo Trace Distillery, and Wild Turkey Distillery. Just follow the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, an initiative of the Kentucky Distillers Association, if you want to explore distilleries in the Lexington area.
The business climate
The horse and bourbon industries—and the jobs they’ve created and the tourists they’ve attracted—certainly lie at the heart of Lexington’s economy. But the city’s business reach is far more diverse than that.
Lexington has seen impressive economic development, including a growing entrepreneurial ecosystem, thanks to its highly educated workforce and support systems like the Startup Lex community, various mentor- and internship-driven programs, co-working spaces, coding schools, and networking facilitation, and funding and co-investment opportunities.
Add in Lexington’s affordable cost of doing business, low startup costs (SmartAsset rates it 6th in the US), and strong job market, and it’s easy to see a bright path into the city’s economic future.
A note about culture and recreation (and food!)
Lexington ranks high on “walkability,” and its downtown offers plenty of sightseeing possibilities, beer-savoring options, and shopping amenities.
One particular draw is its Distillery District—25 acres of upscale stores, restaurants, breweries, bakeries, distilleries, music venues, art studios, an arcade, and a doggy daycare (two, in fact).
The city is also known for its prolific street art, with stunning murals adorning all sorts of buildings. You’ll find a mural map and photos of some of the art on this site.
And as promised, a word about Lexington’s food scene. That word might be diverse. Or innovative. Or classic. Lexington’s culinary landscape is rich with choices, gaining momentum, and garnering attention. It recently landed on WalletHub’s list of the Best Foodie Cities in America.
Lexington Data from the Flight Deck:
- Population (City): 323,780
- Population (MSA): 512,650
- Female: 51%
- Male: 49%
- Median age: 34.4
- Median household income: $49,778
- Median home value: $186,500
- Median rent: $1,200
- Cost of living index: 95
- Unemployment rate: 3%
Data sources: US Census Bureau; City-Data; Zillow; BestPlaces, US Bureau of Labor Statistics