Lexington, Kentucky | Where to Live Next | Smithsonian
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A jewel in the bluegrass crown, the Keeneland Race Track, allows the public to watch morning workouts. (iStockphoto/Sonia Schwantes)

Lexington, Kentucky

Lexington, Kentucky

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Population: 270,789 (2006 estimate)
Percentage of retirees: 10.5% in 2006
Cost of living index: Below average
Public libraries: 5
Public transportation: Lextran intra-city bus system
Access to airports: Bluegrass Airport, served by major US carriers, is 10-min from downtown.
Tax breaks: In Kentucky, Social Security, Railroad Retirement benefits, and Roth IRA proceeds are exempt. Exclusion of up to $41,110 for military, civil service, state/local government, qualified private pensions, and annuities. The exclusion will no longer be subject to an annual adjustment on the consumer price index after 2006.
Number of museums: 16
Number of cinemas: 8
Cultural Highlights: Rich in regional music and crafts.
Access to Healthcare: Good, with the University of Kentucky and St. Joseph's Hospital .
Climate: Summers are warm and humid, winters chilly but generally not severe.
Annual precipitation: 45.6 inches
Nearby Attractions: Bluegrass horse country, Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill, Berea (an Appalachian crafts hub), Renfro Valley (a Kentucky version of the Grand Ole Opry), high-end bourbon distilleries all within an hour's drive, Louisville and Cincinnati about 1.5 hours away.
Useful link: Lexington Convention and Visitors Bureau
In the Know: "They have the Donovan Scholars Program [at the University of Kentucky]. And if you're over 65, you can take any course on campus free. There are three of us guys, and I'd say we've taken about ten courses so far. We basically stick to our interest, which is American history and political science. Sometimes you think of Kentucky and you don't think of opera and things like that. But Lexington has always been a high cultural area."
-Tom White, retiree, former Lexington Herald sportswriter

From This Story

Set amid the bluegrass hills of horse country, Lexington exudes a distinctly Kentucky charm. Friendly, easygoing, and affordable, it also boasts two universities within walking distance of downtown—the University of Kentucky and Transylvania University. They ensure good cultural offerings, but the regional arts are the town's great strength, with a particularly strong showing by musicians, potters and visual artists. The city's proximity to Louisville and Cincinnati also makes it easy to take advantage of what they have to offer.

Lexington's old 10-block downtown is in the process of rebirth, with the rehabilitation of some of the historic buildings but with a firm appreciation of the mom-and-pop businesses and restaurants already situated here. Always eager to celebrate its indigenous culture, downtown even boasts its own live-audience radio show, the WoodSongs Old-time Radio Hour, devoted to grassroots music. Local musicians perform at the restored 1886 Lexington Opera House, but the offerings here extend to Broadway classics as well.

ArtsPlace also showcases regional performers and visual artists. It's located in the Gratz Park area, a fine old neighborhood, where historic house museums sit along shady residential streets. The grounds of Transylvania University, the oldest university west of the Alleghenies, anchors the north side of Gratz Park.

Just outside town, Thoroughbred country begins, with perfectly maintained white fences dipping up and down hills topped by elegant stables. For horse lovers, the options are superb: It's easy to find stables that accept riders, visit Thoroughbred farms, or spend a day at one of the several tracks. A jewel in the bluegrass crown, the Keeneland Race Track, allows the public to watch morning workouts, and the expansive Kentucky Horse Park celebrates all things equine, with exhibits and countless competitions throughout the year.

 

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