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The Dark Horse

As I posted about last week, I finally made it the Kentucky Derby, a bucket list activity that was somehow not on my radar for my trip to Lexington. My stay also coincided with other big horse events, like the Spring Meet at Keeneland and the Kentucky Horse Park Three-Day Event. So of course I went to them all. 

But the title of this post is referring to a metaphorical dark horse, defined as "a previously lesser-known person or thing that emerges to prominence in a situation." And that is Lexington. What I mean is - I had no idea I would love it here so much...possibly more than I love Northwest Arkansas. The caving and hiking has been amazing as advertised, but - totally unexpectedly - the city itself has everything I'm looking for in a (semi) permanent home.

First, there's a great writers community. Shut Up and Write has an active branch with welcoming people and the brewery they meet at on Wednesdays is my favorite in town. They have all kinds of cool events there and excellent, cozy seating options, especially for writers. There's also an actual Writer's Room non-profit, which I haven't seen anywhere else I've been. I love this so much! It's only $50 a month, and if I lived here, I would join right away. 

Next, there are lots of runners here. There are several run clubs, including one hosted by John's Run/Walk Shop, and that store also created this nice guide to running in Lex. There are lots of good places to run in the city, including the twelve-mile Legacy Trail, and so many amazing trail runs within a half hour radius. These include the Tom Dorman State Nature Preserve, Veteran's Park trails, Raven Run Nature Sanctuary, Hisle Farm Park, Camp Nelson, and Dupree Nature Preserve. If you're training for something, you'll have lots of variety.  

There are plenty of gyms here and I really liked the vibe at Orange Theory (Richmond). They don't have Lagree or F45 though. Also, I've recently gotten into climbing, and the LEF gym is fantastic. I only have four other climbing gyms to compare to, but wow the walls are so, so tall. And they have more auto-belays than any others I've been to. 

I had so much fun here and I didn't even do any of the big touristy things in Lexington besides swing by the Kentucky Castle for a cocktail. I didn't visit any of the big places on the bourbon trail either, besides Michter's in Louisville. I had no time. I didn't even look up the libraries to see if there were book clubs and I didn't check out the arts and theater scene. And beyond that, Louisville and Cincinnati are an easy drive away and full of other activities (plus that means more airport options).

The restaurant and winery scene around Lexington is top tier. You will get the best service of your life and food to die for. But make reservations! People here love to go out and places are booked. Here are some places I enjoyed:

And I can't post this without mentioning the people. Lexington is home to the nicest people in the entire United States. Everywhere I went, people were welcoming, helpful, friendly, smiling...just so, so nice. It's like Pleasantville, Mr. Rogers Neighborhood, and Leave It to Beaver all wrapped up in one. Must be something in the limestone-filtered water

I also loved how multicultural the city is. Well, kind of  - culturally, in terms of things to do and restaurants available, Lexington feels white, white, white. But my residential neighborhood in southwest Lexington was the most multicultural one (judging by skin tone, clothing, etc.) I've lived in since I was on the west side of Denver back in 2011. 

So that's it. I, unexpectedly, really loved Lexington and it's already in the plans to return to next year. Not just for all the reasons above, but also because I barely tapped into all the amazing hikes that are possible. Those green hills are still calling my name! 

Pinnacles at Berea

Red River Gorge

Natural Bridges State Park

Pine Mountain State Resort Park

Cumberland Gap