If you’re unfamiliar with Lexington, it’s a place surrounded by idyllic horse farms, rolling hills and a city center with great shopping, amazing BBQ and some of the friendliest people in the country. At least that’s what my former college roommate and now three year Lexington resident told me. So this summer, when my family had a few days free, we took a little road trip, heading down south to Lexington to see whether or not it lived up to my friend’s complimentary narrative.
And while I could proceed to drag out my thoughts on Lexington, keeping you in rapt suspense and dragging out my sentiments as long as possible, I’ll get straight to the point: Lexington lived up to the hype. After staying there, I can honestly say for anyone looking for a country retreat, it’s one of the most beautiful and relaxing places I’ve been. Everywhere you go you’re surrounded by rolling hills and magnificent horse farms with miles and miles of unspoiled green space, while Lexington itself is simply an inviting city with a wealth of dining and shopping options. Our ideal Lexington vacation did take some planning, however, and it started with picking a hotel that catered to my family’s needs. Our choice? The Griffin Gate Marriott Resort & Spa.
The Griffin Gate Marriott is a place that can be best described as an urban oasis, just minutes outside of downtown Lexington yet set on grounds that are spacious and secluded. The location was one of the reasons we chose the Griffin Gate Marriott, as it’s not only close to downtown for quick access to shopping and dining but it’s also right off the highway, making day trips that required a little more travel, quick and easy.
Recently renovated, from the moment you walk in, the hotel is bright and welcoming with locally inspired art and sculptures found throughout. The lobby is beautiful, and numerous seating options provide business travelers ample places to work. For my family, however, the rooms were the highlight of the hotel. As a family of five, we need space, and the Griffin Gate Marriott’s two room suite offered more than enough for all of us. We had two large and spacious bedrooms with walls of glass doors for plenty of light that were connected by a spacious living area complete with a large dining table, kitchen and sitting area with couch and tv. Outside was a wrap-around patio, offering the option to relax and unwind outside as well. Travel to a larger city, and the square footage would give a Presidential Suite a run for its money. After days of seeing the Kentucky countryside, it was fantastic to be able to come back to the hotel and unwind in such a spacious room. To be honest, it didn’t really feel like a hotel, it felt more like a home away from home. Whether it was sitting in the living room watching a late night movie together or enjoying breakfast in the morning at the dining table, the Griffin Gate Marriott truly made us feel at home.
Venture outside the hotel, and there’s a wealth of great family options. I recommend a visit to the Kentucky Horse Park (a highlight for the kids and a must considering you’re in the “horse capital of the world”), taking a back-country hike at Raven Run, and for the bourbon lovers among you, visiting any of the numerous Kentucky Bourbon distilleries. Once you’ve worn yourself out, head back to the hotel for one of the numerous resort activities, whether it’s taking an invigorating swim indoors or out, soaking in the hot tub, pampering yourself in the spa or playing a round on the Griffin Gate Marriott’s Rees Jones-designed golf course.
Once you’ve relaxed and built up an appetite, your dining options are endless. If you’d prefer to stay in your hotel, I recommend JW’s Steakhouse for melt-in-your-mouth steaks seared to perfection. And while the steaks are good enough to convert non-meat eaters, for those that prefer a lighter option, JW’s offers seafood and chicken selections or what my wife chose and loved: the herb crusted lamb chops with mint julep sauce. Venture out for lunch or dinner and you won’t be disappointed, as Lexington features restaurants of all types and cuisines. I recommend COLES 735 MAIN, a casual yet fine dining experience that is more reminiscent of the French countryside that what you’d expect in Kentucky, or for a true local Southern treat, visit Red State BBQ, which is less than ten minutes away from the hotel. It’s a meal that’s perfect for the whole family, because let’s face it – can you really get better than slow smoked meats served with beer cheese grits and corn pudding followed up with a family serving of peach bread pudding and bourbon ice cream? I didn’t think so.
I’ll be honest – Lexington wasn’t my first choice when it came to a vacation, but after having the great pleasure of visiting, I can say wholeheartedly that for anyone wanting to escape to the country, it’s simply a wonderful place to visit. The people are amazing, the landscapes are breathtaking, and there’s a huge amount of things to do and see. And when you go, the Griffin Gate Marriott Resort & Spa offers everything you need and more, providing a perfect and luxurious way to experience the one and only Bluegrass State.