Lexington (officially Lexington-Fayette Urban County) is the second-largest city in Kentucky and the 66th largest in the United States. Known as the "Horse Capital of the World," it is located in the heart of Kentucky's Bluegrass region. The population was estimated at 270,789 in 2006,anchoring a metropolitan area of 436,684 people and a Combined Statistical Area of 645,006 people.
Lexington ranks 10th among US cities in college education rate, with 39.5% of residents having at least a Bachelor's Degree. It is home to the headquarters of Lexmark International, the Kentucky Horse Park, Keeneland race course, Red Mile race course, Transylvania University, and the University of Kentucky.
Lexington has been selected to be the site of the 2010 FEI World Equestrian Games.
A Little History...
Lexington was founded in June 1775 in what was then Virginia (17 years before Kentucky became a state in 1792). A party of frontiersmen, led by William McConnell, camped on the Middle Fork of Elkhorn Creek (today called Town Branch and rerouted under Vine Street) at the location known today as McConnell Springs. Upon hearing of the colonists' victory in the Battles of Lexington and Concord, on April 19, 1775, they named their campsite Lexington after Lexington, Massachusetts. Due to the danger of Indian attacks, permanent settlement was delayed for four years. In 1779, Colonel Robert Patterson and 25 companions came from Fort Harrod and erected a blockhouse. Cabins and a stockade were soon built, making the fort a place of importance. The town of Lexington was established on May 6, 1782, by an act of the Virginia General Assembly.
By 1820, it was one of the largest and wealthiest towns west of the Allegheny Mountains. So cultured was its lifestyle, Lexington gained the nickname "Athens of the West." One early prominent citizen, John Wesley Hunt, became the first millionaire west of the Alleghenies.
Many of 19th Century America's most important people spent part of their lives in the city, including both American president Abraham Lincoln and Confederate President Jefferson Davis (who attended Transylvania University in 1823 and 1824), Civil War General John Hunt Morgan, US senator and vice president John C. Breckinridge, and US Senator and presidential candidate Henry Clay. Lincoln's wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, was born and raised in Lexington; the couple visited the city several times after their marriage in 1842.
Annual cultural events and fairs...
Lexington is home to many thriving arts organizations including a professional orchestra, two ballet companies, professional theatre, several museums including a basketball museum, several choral organizations and a highly respected opera program at the University of Kentucky. In addition, there are several events and fairs that draw people from throughout the Bluegrass.
Mayfest is a free outdoor festival that takes place annually over Mother's Day weekend. Held in Gratz park between the Carnegie Center and Transylvania University, the festival typically features up to 100 art and craft booths, live entertainment throughout the weekend, food, children's activities, adult activities and literary events, free carriage rides, a traditional Morris and Maypole dance and various demonstrations.
Taking part the first full weekend of June is the Festival of the Bluegrass, Kentucky's oldest bluegrass music festival. It includes three stages for music and a "music camp" that teaches the bluegrass music to school children. Also in June is the popular Broadway review presented by UK Opera Theatre, "It's A Grand Night for Singing!"
Lexingtonians gather downtown for the Fourth of July festivities which extend for several days. On July 3, the Gratz Park Historic District is transformed into an outdoor music hall when the Patriotic Music Concert is held on the steps of Morrison Hall at Transylvania University. The Lexington Singers and the Lexington Philharmonic Orchestra perform at this event. On the Fourth, annual festivities include a reading of the Declaration of Independence on the steps of the Old Courthouse, a waiter's race in Phoenix Park, a parade, a country music concert, and fireworks. Also, throughout the day street vendors sell their wares and food to the downtown visitors. The Fourth of July is considered to be the biggest holiday in Lexington.
Southern Lights: Spectacular Sights on Holiday Nights",taking place from November 18 to December 31, is held at the Kentucky Horse Park. It includes a three-mile (5 km) drive through the park, showcasing numerous displays, many in character with the horse industry and history of Lexington. The "Mini-Train Express", an indoor petting exotic animal petting zoo, the International Museum of the Horse, an exhibit showcasing the Bluegrass Railway Club's model train, and Santa Claus are other major highlights.
The Lexington Christmas Parade: Held usually the first Saturday in December, the parade route follows Main Street between Midland and Broadway. Festivities include a pre-parade "Santa's Sleigh" charity race, food, light entertainment, and post-show activities.
Other events and fairs include:
Parks and outdoor attractions
Lexington has over 100 parks ranging in size from the .20-acre (810 m2) Smith Street Park to the 659-acre (2.7 km2) Masterson Station Park. There are also six public golf courses at Avon, Kearney Links, Lakeside, Meadowbrook, Tates Creek and Picadome and three dog parks, at Jacobson, Masterson Station, and Coldstream. It also has two public 18-hole disc golf courses at Shillito Park and at Veterans Park, and a public skate park at Woodland Park, featuring 12,000 square feet (1,100 m2) of "ramps, platforms, bowls, and pipes".
Horse racing tracks- Lexington is home to two historic horse racing tracks. Keeneland, sporting live races in April and October since 1936, is steeped in tradition where much has not changed since the track's opening. The Red Mile Harness Track is the oldest horse racing track in the city, and second oldest in the nation. This is where horses pull two-wheeled carts called sulkies while racing, also referred to as harness racing. The Kentucky Horse Park, located along scenic Iron Works Pike, is a relatively late-comer to Lexington, opening in 1978. It is a working horse farm and an educational theme park, along with holding the distinction of being a retirement home for some of the world's greatest competition horses including Cigar. It will play host to the 2010 FEI World Equestrian Games.
Natural areas- The city is home to Raven Run Nature Sanctuary, a 734-acre (3.0 km2) nature preserve along the Kentucky River Palisades. There are 11 miles (18 km) of back-country hiking trails that range from wheelchair-accessible paved trails to difficult single-track trails. It is common to run across hopeful Appalachian Trail backpackers. The city has recently purchased land adjacent to the park which will make Raven Run the largest park in the city. Raven Run is home to over 56 species of trees, 600 species of plants, 200 species of birds, and other wildlife. Remains of a grist mill, homestead and limekiln remain. The preserve also has a nature center and various educational programs throughout the year. Such programs include seasonal wildflower walks, stargazing during the warmer months, evening insect tours, and historical walks and presentations.
The Arboretum is a one-hundred-acre preserve adjacent to the University of Kentucky. It features the Arboretum Woods, a small, 16-acre (65,000 m2) Bluegrass Woodland patch that is home to eighteen native Kentucky tree species, and more than 50 native Kentucky grasses and herbs. It also has 1,500 varieties of roses in the Rose Garden, a Home Demonstration Garden, and numerous paved paths and trails.
The city also plays host to the historic McConnell Springs, a 26-acre (110,000 m2) park within the industrial confines off of Old Frankfort Pike. There are two miles (3 km) of trails that surround the namesake springs, historic dry-laid stone fences, and historical structures.