AAA Travel Tips / Equestrian Kentucky

Equestrian Kentucky

AAA/Diana Beyer
By AAA Travel Editor Stephanie Simpson
August 28, 2018
When you hear the word Kentucky, bluegrass, bourbon, Daniel Boone and Fort Knox are probably a few things that come to mind, along with majestic Thoroughbred horses. Equestrian enthusiasts gather at Keeneland in Lexington and Churchill Downs in Louisville to witness horse racing at its finest. Farm tours showcase horses grazing in fields and world-class stables surrounded by post-and-rail fences.
European furniture at The Brown Hotel in Louisville, Kentucky
AAA/Diana Beyer
The Brown Hotel
Louisville, Kentucky
AAA Inspector Rating
(502) 583-1234
This AAA Four Diamond® historic lodging is a beauty with its chandeliers, elaborate plaster ceilings, equestrian paintings, marble floors and intricately carved European furniture. This downtown hotel draws bluegrass music lovers, bourbon drinkers and Derby Day celebrants alike. No visit to Louisville is complete without dining in the hotel’s English Grill and trying “The Hot Brown,” the hotel’s traditional dish. The open-faced turkey sandwich, first introduced in 1926 to feed guests after the nightly dinner dance, is topped with bacon, sliced tomatoes, grated cheese and Mornay sauce. After indulging in the sandwich you may as well tackle a slice of derby pie; filled with a gooey mix of butter, chocolate and walnuts and topped with whipped cream, it’s sure to finish you off nicely.
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Exterior of Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky
AAA/Diana Beyer
Churchill Downs
Louisville, Kentucky
(502) 636-4400
Louisville’s Churchill Downs racetrack hosts the Kentucky Oaks race on the Friday before the Kentucky Derby. The winner receives a $600,000 purse, the “Lillies for the Fillies” garland and a sterling silver trophy with horse-head handles and a silver horseshoe on top. The first leg of the Triple Crown—the derby, a AAA GEM event—is also known as The Run for the Roses and is said to be the most exciting 2 minutes in sports. Started in 1875, this race featuring 3-year-old Thoroughbreds is always held on the first Saturday in May.
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Peach Cobbler
iStockphoto.com / DebbiSmirnoff
Jack Fry's
Louisville, Kentucky
AAA Inspector Rating
(502) 452-9244
When in Derby City, make time to dine at this AAA Two Diamond® iconic restaurant. Jack Fry's was established in 1933 and named for the original owner who was a big fan of amateur boxing and betting on the ponies. His place became a hangout for sportsmen, reflected in the historic photographs that line the walls. Southern food with a French twist, live jazz music, a connoisseur’s wine list and classic cocktails make this fine dining restaurant a local favorite. Enjoy their signature burger, “Jack’s Burger,” made with ground chuck, served on a brioche bun and topped with caramelized onions, lettuce, tomato and spicy Habagardil pickles—cucumbers pickled with a blend of habanero peppers, garlic and dill. And don’t skip dessert. Paired with house-made ice cream or sorbet, seasonal fruit cobbler is one of the restaurant’s specialties.
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Keeneland Race Course
AAA/Nancy Jones
Keeneland Race Course
Lexington, Kentucky
(859) 254-3412
Even if you’re not in town during the two racing seasons in April and October, this Thoroughbred horse racing facility is a destination not to be missed. Watch the horses strut their stuff as trainers get them ready for their next race, daily 6-10 a.m. You will be struck by the beauty of the rolling landscape, and the stone buildings and fences. Admission is free.
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Derby hat display at the Kentucky Derby Museum in Louisville, Kentucky
AAA/Diana Beyer
Kentucky Derby Museum
Louisville, Kentucky
(502) 637-1111
Visiting the Kentucky Derby Museum, a AAA GEM® attraction, is one of the fun things to do with friends while in Louisville. Enjoy “The Greatest Race,” a 360-degree high-definition film about the life of a Thoroughbred; derby footage makes this an exciting sound-and-sight experience. Two levels of exhibits display the history of the race, the champions and the traditions that make the race what it is today. If you’re looking for just the right derby hat or planning a derby party, stop by the Finish Line Gift Shop.
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Horse
iStockphoto.com / Robert Terry
Kentucky Horse Park
Lexington, Kentucky
(859) 233-4303
Of course it’s all about horses at the Kentucky Horse Park, a AAA GEM attraction. Take a horse-drawn trolley ride pulled by draft horses, go horseback riding or take a tour of area horse farms. Two museums, the American Saddlebred Museum and the International Museum of the Horse, are both informative and fun for the whole family. With its top-of-the-line competition facilities, the park hosts events throughout the year. The Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event, a AAA GEM event in late April, is one of the most prestigious equine competitions in the world. Outdoor enthusiasts will love the resort campground, set among the rolling hills.
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Guestroom at Marriott Griffin Gate Resort & Spa in Lexington, Kentucky
Courtesy of Marriott Griffin Gate Resort & Spa
Marriott Griffin Gate Resort & Spa
Lexington, Kentucky
AAA Inspector Rating
(859) 231-5100
The serene grounds of the Marriott Griffin Gate Resort & Spa, a AAA Three Diamond lodging, are surrounded by white split rail fences. This location is a good place to stay during your vacation due to its proximity to nearby equestrian-related points of interest. Contemporary décor with an equestrian theme, a spa, a golf club, a state-of-the-art fitness center, and indoor and outdoor pools make this a great place to relax or work out. For the home stretch, J.W.’s Lounge rustles up some delicious handcrafted martinis, including the Kentucky Peach Martini, made with bourbon and peach schnapps.
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