Maggie and Sarah's UO Guide to Lexington, KY / by Sarah Landolt

Urban Outfitters set up shop in downtown Lexington, KY (401 W Main St),  and the store just had their grand opening last night (Oct 23) with music, W6 beer and food. I, unfortunately, wasn't able to attend, because I was serving beer up the street at W6 to thirsty patrons. Yet, in weeks prior to their opening, the UO team was in communication with my breast friend Maggie Lanham and me to prepare a City Guide for Lexington, KY (all thanks to the connection by our dear friend, Kelsey Sykes). The timing was both bizarre and perfect, because Maggie and I are shipping out of Lexington to move to different continents (me, Europe, i.e. France; Maggie, Antarctica!). Hence, almost as a parting love note to Lexington, us two partners-in-crime combined forces to write a city guide, including places near and dear to our breasty hearts. UO gave us specific categories to write about (Eat and Drink, Outdoors, Art + Culture, Music + Entertainment) along with difficult instructions (short descriptions, limited to 5 per category). The limiting parameters made it a bit of a challenge; yet, fueled by espresso and delicious donuts, Maggie and I met up at North Lime Coffee and Donuts one sunny, September day to write a UO Lexington Guide. Last Thursday, UO posted their edited guide which combined our list with another list from a photographer in town.  Both Maggie and I were and are beyond thrilled to have been included in this UO adventure, especially for me as I have been a fan of the UO blog for years to discover art, music and other bits of culture. Yet, in addition to the UO edit, I wanted to share the original guide that we wrote that sunny day at North Lime and post more of my Lex photos that I have been accumulating over these past few months.  Voilà and I hope you enjoy...


Maggie and Sarah's UO Guide to Lexington

Lexington, KY is a little, big city of the Bluegrass State. Known for horses, bourbon and “bleeding blue” during the UK basketball season, this college town actually has a super cool underbelly with quite a few idiosyncrasies. Idiosyncrasies the likes of being perfumed by peanut butter each night from the Jif/ Smucker Factory off of 3rd Ave or that more than 250 people are tattooed with Bianca Sprigg’s poem about the the love for Lexington.

We, Maggie and Sarah, came from elsewhere (Louisville and Nashville, respectively) and got to know this city on our own terms, and delved deeper than the surface image of what a town in Kentucky might hold. It’s the eccentricities of our city that lured us in and kept us here. Even as transplants, we quickly found our niches and comforts through the interesting, fun-loving, and inclusive Lexingtonians and the various places that we have included in our “best of” guide below. It’s these places and people that made Lexington our home, and we hope the same for you. Enjoy and bon appetit!

Eat:

  1. County Club: our favorite, BRUNCH, local smoked meats, the best salads you’ll ever taste, poutine!, affordable drinks, bocci court
  2. Excellent Authentic Japanese: Yamagucis, Suganos, Seke

  3. Bourbon and Toulouse: cheap, quick cajun food, happy & friendly faces

  4. National Provisions: A boulangerie and Beer Hall/ Restaurant in one. The most aesthetically pleasing interior design in Lexington.

  5. Wine Market: Adorably French, great lunch spot, delicious sandwiches, excellent selection of bottled Craft Beer, a sommelier to advise a perfect wine pick,

  6. Food Trucks: Fork in the Road, Gastro Gnomes, Rolling Oven, Habanero Loco. Found usually at breweries starting at 5pm.

Drink:

  1. Coffee: Cup of Commonwealth (pay it forward wall of free coffee drinks; extremely friendly, upbeat staff), Coffea (excellent coffee, near campus); North Lime Coffee & Donuts (ALSO, the most delicious donuts, happy & humorous staff).

  2. Arcadium: Bloody Mary Sundays, excellent craft beer selection, dogs allowed, Vintage Arcade games.

  3. Local Breweries: West Sixth (a community-driven institution in Lexington. incredibly brewed standard ales with a delicious seafood restaurant attached: Smithtown Seafood), Country Boy (crazy, experimental ales and personalities), Blue Stallion (German lagers/pilsners, Scottish ales)

  4. Beer Trappe: beer expert Kevin Patterson manages this beer bar; has over 500 beers in stock.

  5. Table 310: wine, cocktails, happy hour is key for eats and drinks

Outdoors:

  1. Red River Gorge: number 1 destination in the US for rock climbing, only an hour from Lexington. Great Hiking, camping overnight, waterfalls.

  2. Legacy Trail: about 20 miles and growing, runs through beautiful horse farms. Often biked. A perfect weekend excursion.

  3. Bike Polo Courts in Coolavin Park: Lexington has one of the best bike polo teams in the nation. This year, we hosted the National Hardcourt Tournament.

  4. Keeneland: Thoroughbred horse racing in a gorgeous stadium. Races each fall and spring. Horse bets, bourbon, seersucker, pastel clothing. Excellent people watching.

  5. Raven’s Run: Saturday, Sunday morning early hike. Good option if you can’t commit to a day at the Gorge.

  6. Farmer’s Market: every Saturday morning at the 5/3rd Pavillion downtown. Check out Le Petit Creperie, Bellaire Blooms, Magic Beans Coffee. 

Art + Culture: 

  1. Institute 193: small space, super experimental; unique installations ranging from paintings, photography, small-scale concerts. County Club created a burger in its honor!

  2. Gallery Hop - four to five times a year the hop takes you through downtown to the Noli district, have trolleys that will shuttle between galleries (Sarah shows her paintings at Breadbox Gallery)

  3. Night Market - first Friday of every month, features small businesses’ booths, lots of excellent food, West Sixth beer and full concerts - family-friendly

  4. Woodland Art Fair: every August. Takes over woodland park with over 200+ artists. Bonus is surrounding neighborhoods often have yard sales the same weekend. TONS of food from around state and loads of beer tents

  5. Beaux Arts Ball/Fall Ball: Originally just Beaux Arts every spring held by UK’s College of Design, thousands of people dressed in crazy (and often barely-there) costumes. Fall Ball is a second installment, so the madness happens twice a year now. A MUST.

Music + Entertainment: 

  1. Al’s Bar: Dive Bar with cheap drinks and delicious food, hosts a "Block Party" each month, also the best Dj'd Night Market after parties. Just opened a great craft beer taproom in back beer garden, to boot.

  2. Green Lantern: Another dive bar with cheap drinks and the occasional chili cook-off! Our favorite show venue, hosts rock shows almost every night,

  3. Kentucky Theatre: Has remained standing for 92 years, original marquee, plays independent and art house films, excellent international film festival each fall and great classic series in the summer. Also a month-long horror series leading up to Halloween.

  4. TeeDee’s - the night to go is on Mondays when Tee-Dee, himself, plays with the band. Awesome blues bar, guaranteed to dance with a few suitors

  5. The Bar Complex: excellent drag shows. Quite a spectacle. 2nd floor dance floor.

  6. Thriller Parade & Halloween Parade: hundreds of zombie/dance volunteers are lead by a Michael Jackson impersonator through downtown Lexington. Always the Sunday night before Halloween.

In addition to the specific photos for the guide, here are some more of my photos of downtown Lexington that I took one overcast afternoon. I'm kinda enamored with them...