Lexington KY Information

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About the Horse Capital of the World

This area has been known as a major center for Thoroughbred breeding since the late 18th century due to the high calcium content in the soils of the Inner Bluegrass Region. Horses raised on its grass develop stronger bones and greater endurance. The city is home to two horse racing tracks, Keeneland and The Red Mile harness track. Keeneland, sporting live races in April and October, is steeped in tradition; little has changed since the track’s opening in 1936. The Red Mile is the oldest horse racing track in the city and the second-oldest in the nation. It runs live harness races, in which horses pull two-wheeled carts called sulkies. The two tracks announced a partnership in 2014.

The Kentucky Horse Park, located along scenic Iron Works Pike in northern Fayette County, is a comparative latecomer to Lexington, opening in 1978. Although commonly known as a tourist attraction and museum, it is also a museum and working horse farm with a farrier and famous retired horses such as 2003 Kentucky Derby winner Funny Cide.

Second Largest City of KY

Lexington, consolidated with Fayette County, is the second-largest city in Kentucky and the 61st largest in the United States.  With a mayor-alderman form of government, it is one of two cities in Kentucky designated by the state as first-class; the other is the state’s largest city of Louisville. In the 2015 U.S. Census Estimate, the city’s population was 314,488, anchoring a metropolitan area of 489,435 people and a combined statistical area of 708,677 people. The population density in Lexington-Fayette is 890% higher than Kentucky.

The demographics of Lexington are more diverse than most of the state, with a median age of 34 which is 11% lower than the state. 76.03 are Caucasian, 14.42% are African-American, 6.8% are of Hispanic or Latino origin, and 3.5% are Asian.  For more demographic information, click here.


Lexington was founded by European Americans in June 1775, in what was then considered Fincastle County, Virginia, 17 years before Kentucky became a state. A party of frontiersmen, led by William McConnell, camped on the Middle Fork of Elkhorn Creek (now known as Town Branch and rerouted under Vine Street) at the site of the present-day McConnell Springs. Upon hearing of the colonists’ victory in the Battles of Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775, they named their campsite Lexington. The risk of Indian attacks delayed permanent settlement for four years. In 1779, during the American Revolutionary War, Col. Robert Patterson and 25 companions came from Fort Harrod and erected a blockhouse. They built cabins and a stockade, establishing a settlement known as Bryan Station.

The town was chartered on May 6, 1782, by an act of the Virginia General Assembly. The First African Baptist Church was founded c. 1790 by Peter Durrett, a Baptist preacher and slave held by Joseph Craig. Durrett helped guide “The Traveling Church”, a group migration of several hundred pioneers led by the preacher Lewis Craig and Captain William Ellis fromOrange County, Virginia to Kentucky in 1781. It is the oldest black Baptist congregation in Kentucky and the third oldest in the United States.

Residents have fondly continued to refer to Lexington as “The Athens of the West” since Espy’s poem dedicated to the city. Poet Josiah Espy described it in the following letter:

Lexington is the largest and most wealthy town in Kentucky, or indeed west of the Allegheny Mountains; the main street of Lexington has all the appearance of Market Street in Philadelphia on a busy day … I would suppose it contains about five hundred dwelling houses [it was closer to three hundred], many of them elegant and three stories high. About thirty brick buildings were then raising, and I have little doubt but that in a few years it will rival, not only in wealth, but in population, the most populous inland town of the United States … The country around Lexington for many miles in every direction, is equal in beauty and fertility to anything the imagination can paint and is already in a high state of cultivation.

From the 19th century to present, Lexington has continued as the center of thoroughbred horse breeding and racing in Kentucky, with major racing and sales facilities, as well as a museum of horses and the sport.

Lexington KY’s historic sites are the following:

  • Ashland: The Henry Clay Estate
  • Aviation Museum of Kentucky
  • First African Baptist Church
  • The Headley-Whitney Museum
  • Hunt-Morgan House
  • Kentucky Theatre
  • Lexington Cemetery
  • Lexinton Public Library
  • Martin Castle Also known as Castle Post
  • Mary Todd Lincoln House
  • Old Morrison, on the Transylvania University campus
  • The Pope Villa
  • Rupp Arena
  • Waveland State Historic Site
  • University of Kentucky Art Museum


uk-campusLexington ranks tenth among US cities in college education rate, with 39.5% of residents having at least a bachelor’s degree.  Lexington was ranked 10th in a list of America’s most educated cities with a population of more than 250,000, ranked by percentage of bachelor’s degrees among residents 25 and older, according to the United States Census Bureau. There are also two traditional colleges: the University of Kentucky, which is the state’s flagship public university, and Transylvania University, which is the state’s oldest four-year university and the first university west of the Alleghenies.

Other institutions of higher learning include Bluegrass Community and Technical College, Sullivan University,Spencerian College, Medtech College, Strayer University, Commonwealth Baptist College, and a distance-learning extension of Indiana Wesleyan University. Seven other post-secondary institutions are within the Lexington Combined Statistical Area: Asbury University and Asbury Theological Seminary, separate though related institutions in Wilmore; Georgetown College in Georgetown; Midway University, with its main campus in Midway and an extension campus in Lexington; Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond; Berea College in Berea, and Kentucky State University in Frankfort.


Lexington has one of the nation’s most stable economies. Lexington describes itself as having “a fortified economy, strong in manufacturing, technology and entrepreneurial support, benefiting from a diverse, balanced business base”.  The Lexington Metro Area had an unemployment rate of 3.7% in August 2015, lower than many cities of similar size. In 2011 Lexington was ranked as the 4th-best city for “Businesses and Careers” by Forbes magazine, the 5th-best city for Young Professionals in 2008, and 6th-Best “Value Cities” in 2011 by Kiplinger.

Lexington’s largest employers and Fortune 500 companies include: Xerox (who acquired Affiliated Computer Services), Lexmark International, Lockheed-Martin, and IBM, United Parcel Service, Trane, Amazon.com Inc., Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky, Jif Peanut Butter plant, Big Ass Solutions, Link-Belt Construction Equipment, A&W Restaurants, Fazoli’s, Tempur Sealy International, Florida Tile, Forcht Group of Kentucky.  The city’s largest employer, the University of Kentucky, as of 2012, employs about 14,000. Other sizable employers include the Lexington-Fayette County government, Fayette County Public Schools, Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government, Central Baptist Hospital, Saint Joseph Hospital, Saint Joseph East, and the Veterans Administration Hospital.


Lexington is home to many thriving arts organizations including a professional orchestra, two ballet companies, professional theatre, several museums, several choral organizations, and a highly respected opera program at the University of Kentucky. In addition, several annual festivals and fairs draw people as attendees from throughout the Bluegrass region.

Some festivals and annual events include:  Mayfest Arts Fair, Woodland Arts Fair, The Festival of the Bluegrass, Lexington Roots and Heritage Festival, Lexington Festival of Ales, Lexington Pride Festival, The Southern Lights at Kentucky Horse Park, Thriller & Halloween Parade, Fourth of July Parade, Lexington Christmas Parade, Festival Latino de Lexington, The Artists Market, Gallery Hop, Thursday Night Live, A Midsummer’s Night Run, Run the Bluegrass, Woodsongs Old-Time Radio Hour, Southland Jamboree, Lakeside Live, Summer Nights in Suburbia, Moontower Music Festival, Crave Food & Music Festival, Chamber Music Festival of Lexington, Phoenix Fridays, Big Band & Jazz Concert Series, Opera under the Stars, Warehouse Block’s Block Party, and more.


The Kentucky Wildcats, the athletic program of the University of Kentucky, is Lexington’s most popular sports entity. The Wildcats, the men’s basketball team is highly ranked, having won 8 NCAA championships. It is considered the “winningest program” in college basketball history, being the first team to reach 2000 wins.

Lexington is home to the Lexington Legends, a Class A minor league affiliate of the Kansas City Royals as 2012.  Since its opening in April 1978, the entucky Horse Park has hosted the Rolex Kentucky Three Day Event, which is one of the top 3 annual equestrian eventing competitions in the world and held immediately before the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs in Louisville. In September and October 2010, Lexington hosted the World Equestrian Games, the first time the games were held outside of Europe. Since October 2011, the Kentucky Horse Park has hosted the National Horse Show.