Despite being "the buckle of the Bible Belt" and the birthplace of ax-yielding temperance queen Carrie Nation, Kentucky's Bluegrass region is also known for some mighty enjoyable temptations, most notably hard liquor and fast horses. If you're looking for some fun things to do during your trip to the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in Lexington this September, check out these Bluegrass offerings. Schedule early so you don't miss out!
1. Take a booze cruise. Regardless of whether you wish to imbibe, one of the more interesting ways to see the Bluegrass is by following the Bourbon Trail, a tour of six major distilleries in central Kentucky. Seeing all six facilities takes about two days. If you can't commit that much time but want to check out at least one distillery, start with Woodford Reserve outside of Versailles--the drive is scenic but not too long, the destination is stunningly beautiful and the end product is fantastic. Maker's Mark, the official bourbon of WEG, with its distinctive red wax seal, is located in Loretto, about 75 minutes from Lexington; www.kybourbontrail.com.
2. Visit beautiful Keeneland Racecourse. This big-time track with a small-town feel hosts race meets only twice a year, in April and October. Keeneland's fall racing meet begins October 8, overlapping with WEG by two days. Keeneland is very much a place to see and be seen, but you'll also get a look at some of the sport's premier horses, jockeys and trainers. Racing starts at 1:05 p.m. If you can't make it to the race meet, have a hearty breakfast at the track kitchen in the barn area, then take a walking tour of the grounds, including the sales pavilion and library; www.keeneland.com.
3. Visit famous farms and horses. No visit to the Bluegrass would be complete (especially for a horseperson) without seeing some of the horse farms (and great stallions) up close. Three Chimneys, home to Kentucky Derby winner Smarty Jones and Belmont and Preakness winner Point Given; WinStar, which stands two-time Breeders' Cup Classic winner Tiznow; and Lane's End, home to two-time Horse of the Year Curlin, offer tours during WEG through www.HorseCapitalTours.com.
4. Add a winery visit. Kentucky was the home of the first commercial winery in the United States, started by the Marquis de Lafayette's winemaker in 1798. At one point, Kentucky was the third largest US wine-producing state. Today, the state is home to about 50 wineries, most within the Lexington/Louisville/Cincinnati triangle; www.kentuckywine.com.
[Note: Many Kentucky counties are "dry," meaning that selling or serving alcoholic beverages in those counties is illegal. Counties where alcohol sales are legal are "wet." Some counties are "moist," meaning that certain towns in dry counties are allowed to serve alcohol, but only in restaurants that seat a minimum number of people. Fayette (Lexington), Woodford (Midway and Versailles) and Bourbon (Paris) Counties are wet, while Georgetown in Scott County serves alcohol only in dining establishments with 100 or more seats.]
5. Get some culture. The Kentucky Horse Park's International Museum of the Horse is staging its third blockbuster exhibit, "A Gift from the Desert," billed as the largest and most comprehensive collection of exotic Near Eastern and Arabian equine art and artifacts ever assembled. The exhibit, presented by the Saudi Arabian Equestrian Federation, features nearly 400 artifacts and works of art spanning more than 4,000 years; www.imh.org.
To find out what to see, where to go and how to get there at the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, see "WEG Wow Factor" in the September 2010 issue of Practical Horseman. This article originally appeared in the May 2010 issue.