Lexington, at the heart of Kentucky's Bluegrass Region, is a very special city and a wonderful place to live. As someone who has lived in Central KY all my life, you might assume I'm a bit biased (which I am) but having spent 5 years traveling around the country earlier in my career, it wasn't until I'd had a chance to see most of the U.S. that I came to realize just how special Lexington really is.
I could think of lots of reasons why Lexington is a great place to live, but since space is limited, I've compiled a list of the "Top 10 Reasons to Live in Lexington", which will fall far short of describing everything that's wonderful about this area, but will give you some idea why I and so many others love it here and why you may want to make it your home.
1. Proximity to Louisville, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Nashville and Knoxville
Sometimes referred to as a "big small town", Lexington retains a great deal of small town charm despite its rank as Kentucky's 2nd largest city. But, no matter how great Lexington is, it's nice to know that you have easy access to other major metropolitan areas, and Lexington is located within a few hours of many.
Situated at the intersection of I-75 and I-64, Lexington is just over an hour away from both Louisville and Cincinnati and approximately three hours from Indianapolis, Nashville and Knoxville. Additionally, Bluegrass Airport, located across from historic Keeneland race track on Versailles Road, offers competitive fares that are frequently lower than rates in Louisville or Cincinnati.
2. Low Crime Rate
With a lower-than-average crime rate, Lexington is a city where people feel safe walking around the city at night and with good reason. While Lexington's rate of violent crime is consistently lower than national averages, an analysis of major crime rates in Lexington showed a reduction in crime rates over the past few years, with a dramatic drop of 8.4% in 2007 alone. Despite a significant growth in population over the past 30 years, the rate of major crime in Lexington is as low as it's been since 1974, according to Mayor Jim Newberry.
3. Shopping and Dining
For a city of its size, Lexington offers a plethora of shopping opportunities. Featuring the largest mall in the state (Fayette Mall), Lexington boasts dozens of national chain stores as well as numerous boutique and specialty stores scattered throughout this pretty, historic city.
In the area of dining, Lexington, which is purported to rank among the top in the nation for restaurants per capita, features not only dozens of national chain restaurants, but also features a large number of unique, locally-owned eateries as well.
4. Strong Economy
With its abundance of healthcare, government and technology jobs, the Lexington economy is one of the nation's most stable. Economists have referred to Lexington as having "a fortified economy, strong in manufacturing, technology and entrepreneurial support, benefiting from a diverse, balanced business base".
As of July 2008, the Lexington Metro Area had an unemployment rate of only 5.4%, compared to a national average of 6.1%. Due, in part, to its strong economy, Lexington has been named to several national lists as one of the country's most desirable places to live: it was named the 5th best city for "Businesses and Careers" in 2008 by Forbes Magazine, and the 5th best city for Young Professionals in 2008 by Kiplinger.
5. Lots of Greenspace
If you've ever been to Lexington, KY, you won't have to wonder why the city is known for its natural, scenic beauty. Strict zoning enforcement helps ensure the city continues to grow at a moderate rate while helping to ensure it continues to exhibit the charming southern horse-farm atmosphere we're famous for.
Lexington is home to over 100 parks, ranging in size from the tiny but lovely Smith Street Park (.2 acres) to the 659-acre Masterson Station Park, which is home to several horse shows and other events throughout the year. The city is also home to Raven Run Nature Sanctuary, a 734-acre nature preserve situated along the Kentucky River Palisades. Raven Run features over 11 miles of back-country hiking trails which range from wheelchair-accessible paved trails to difficult single-track trails.
Other outdoor attractions include six public golf courses, several private golf courses, three dog parks, two public 18-hole disc golf courses and a public skate park at Woodland Park, featuring 12,000 sq ft of ramps, bowls, platforms and pipes.
6. Cost of Living
For the 3rd year in a row, Lexington, KY has been ranked 3rd among mid-sized cities as having the lowest cost of living in the United States. In a report compiled by KPMG LLC, Lexington ranks exceptionally well when comparing several factors, including the cost of transportation, property taxes and how much people pay for electricity.
In 2008, Lexington was also named 5th on Forbes' list of "Best Places for Businesses and Careers." This ranking was based on comparing several factors, including the rate of job and income growth, cost of living, cost of doing business, crime rate, number of universities, the level of educational attainment and the variety of culture and leisure activities.
On average, in 2008, Lexington had a cost of living 14% lower than the national average while consistently ranking among the top in the nation for quality of life and economic stability.
7. Affordable Housing
One of the factors considered by Forbes Magazine when naming Lexington 5th on their list of "Best Places for Business and Careers" was Lexington's excellent level of housing affordability.
Despite the difficulties of the past two years in the national real estate market, the Lexington KY real estate market has remained relatively stable. A big part of this is due to the fact that while other parts of the country were seeing home values shoot up 50% or 100% within a few short years, values in Lexington grew at a more modest, realistic rate and therefore haven't come crashing down like so many markets in the U.S.
Along with the stability the Lexington market offers, you'll also find a great deal of value for your money. The median home price in August, 2008 was a mere $152,900, and the average home price is $75,000 lower than the national average. Unlike in many areas of the country, it's possible in Lexington to get a very nice house for under $200,000 and an executive-level home for about $300,000.
According to a recent article by Bloomberg News Columnist John F. Wasik, Lexington ranks among the lowest in the nation in risk of losing home equity based on a study he cited by HouseMartReport.com. Of the six cities he listed as having a very low risk of losing home eqity, he indicated Lexington was the only one that offered a "true housing bargain."
8. Educated Residents Lexington,
According to the most recent U.S Census, is one of the most educated cities in the nation. Of those over the age of 25, 22.4% have bachelor's degrees, 11.4% have master's degrees and 3.1% have an advanced professional degree. The census indicated Lexington ranks 10th in the nation in a list of the country's most educated cities with a population of more than 250,000, ranked by percentage of residents 25 or over holding bachelor's degrees.
With two traditional universities (University of Kentucky and Transylvania University) and several smaller colleges located in Lexington, educational opportunities abound. In k-12 education, Lexington offers a strong public school system and a variety of private schools to fit the needs of virtually all families with children.
Although the world-famous Kentucky Derby is held in nearby Louisville, it's Lexington that's known as the "Horse Capital of the World." Home to several highly-acclaimed thoroughbred horse farms, numerous Kentucky Derby winners have been bred and raised in Lexington and the Fayette County countryside is dotted with beautiful horse farms with their picket fences and gently rolling hills. The city boasts two horse-racing tracks -- Keeneland and the Red Mile, which is the 2nd oldest horse racing track in the nation.
Lexington is also home to the American Saddlebred museum and the world-famous Kentucky Horse Park, located along scenic Iron Works Pike in northern Fayette County. A working horse farm and an educational theme park, the Kentucky Horse Park will play host to the 2010 World Equestrian Game.
10. Moderate Climate
If you're looking for a place with four distinct seasons, Lexington is the place for you! With an average temperature of 54.9 °F, you'll find moderate winters with occasional snow, warm summers with moderate night-time temperatures and wonderfully comfortable springs and falls -- both of which last 2-3 months in this region.
Summers in Lexington can become fairly humid, but with temperatures in July and August typically maxing out in the upper 80's, you'll find the weather quite appealing winter, spring, summer and fall! Extended periods of high heat, pouring rain, freezing cold and large accumulations of snow are rare.
11. Friendly People
Okay, this makes 11, but think of it as a bonus. The friendliness of a city is something you simply can't measure on a computer, but we all know it when we experience it. You know people are friendly when they make eye contact and say, "Hi" in the elevator; when people not only go out of their way to give you directions, but you become friends somewhere between "turn left where by the big tree" and "go right by the white picket fence."
Again, I may be biased, having lived in this area all my life, but after traveling all those years across the USA, I found many places I liked, a few I loved and some that had genuinely friendly people, but none compared to the warm "welcome home" that envelopes you each time you step off that plane onto the dew-covered bluegrass. As a well-traveled native Kentuckian, I dare say that Lexington epitomizes the best of what is known as Southern hospitality.