Peyton Richie is a Margaritaville college ambassador studying business at the University of the Cumberlands. Learn more about Margaritaville University here.
Welcome to Lexington, Kentucky…
…where the nearest Margaritaville restaurant is over 200 miles south in Pigeon Forge. At first glance, landlocked Central Kentucky might look like a place devoid of palm trees, calm seas, and a steady breeze. However, this little area, known for horse racing, bourbon, and some GREAT college basketball, can be anyone’s paradise if you know where to look. If you find yourself in need of an island vacation in the middle of the week, here’s a list of some of the best places to get a little taste of the tropics at the heart of the bluegrass region. Grab your sunglasses and roll the windows down …we’re going on a road trip to Margaritaville.
Crab Cakes at Hall’s On The River – Winchester, KY
Margaritaville smothered in remoulade sauce. What could be better? When you take a bite of these crispy pan-seared crab cakes you’ll instantly feel like you’re surrounded by sand, sea, and palm trees. With a rich history and a richer homemade beer cheese, Hall’s has always been a winner for Central Kentucky natives. Come for dinner and sit on the deck overlooking the mouth of a creek that empties into the Kentucky River. Watch the sun set over the Kentucky hills. Sip a cold beer and talk with friends. Listen to the water flowing below you and Jimmy Buffett tunes drifting from the speakers above you. I promise, there’s nothing like it in our little corner of the world.
Crab-Stuffed Shrimp at The Ketch – Lexington, KY
A little pricey, but totally worth it. Baked with blue crab stuffing, and finished with a creamy Mornay sauce, you’ll understand right away why I included this dish from the heart of Lexington. When you walk into The Ketch, it feels like you’re walking right into the hull of a pirate ship. With eccentric little seaside decorations adorning every wall, any Parrothead will feel right at home here. With this atmosphere and a plate of crab-stuffed shrimp, you’d be hard-pressed to find somewhere local that feels less like a Buffett-type dive. By the way, in case you’re wondering, don’t stop with the crab-stuffed shrimp…go ahead and order a basket of crispy clam strips or Key West-style conch fritters for your table, you won’t regret it.
Green River Floating Cabins – Campbellsville, KY
I’ve been told that this is something everyone should do at least once in their life. Bobbing on the waters by the Green River Marina, these cabins are more accurately described as floating condos. With one or two-story cabins available for rent, these fully equipped cabins are the closest you’ll get to a beachfront resort when there’s not a drop of salt water in sight. Every beautiful cabin has a balcony overlooking one of the most scenic lakes in Kentucky, with sparkling emerald-green water lapping against the shores. What could be more Buffett-esque than sitting on your back porch with a fishing pole in one hand and a drink in the other?
Weekend Drift at Fayette Mall – Lexington, KY
If you find yourself running low on summer-ready clothes, don’t stress out. Weekend Drift, a new store in the Fayette Mall, is here to please. Whether you need to pick up a new pair of flip flops or a Margaritaville baseball cap, this is the place to shop. In Central Kentucky, I know it’s tough to find a beach-oriented store. With a new complimentary valet service at the mall, you really can’t afford to pass up this little boutique. And if they don’t have what you’re looking for, you can always go direct to the source.
Take a Hike at McConnell Springs – Lexington, KY
If you grew up in Lexington, you probably took a few field trips with your class to this little pocket of nature situated in the middle of the city. In my opinion, there’s no better place to get in touch with your Margaritaville state of mind than strolling along the shores of the wetlands on this nature preserve. Walking the paths of McConnell Springs you’ll see wildflowers waving in the breeze, naturally deep-blue bubbling springs, and massive oak trees.
Tour The Historic James E. Pepper Distillery District – Lexington, KY
This is one of the newest little gems in Central Kentucky. This area has grown immensely in the past few years with the addition of several new shops and restaurants. Visitors can store hop and have one of the best times that Lexington has to offer. Grab an enormous slice of pizza from Goodfella’s (located in a renovated distillery), get a drink from The Break Room (a small venue with a great rotation of beers and an outdoor deck area), take a tour of one of the numerous distilleries onsite, get a scoop of Bourbon Honey ice cream at Crank And Boom Ice Cream Lounge, and finish out the night sitting by a bonfire on the outdoor deck with a creek trickling by.
Of course, every once in a while you have a craving that only a real Margaritaville can satisfy, but this itinerary should tide you over between visits. And when you’re in need of the full Margaritaville experience, drive about 3 hours south and visit the Margaritaville Island Hotel in Pigeon Forge. Grab a bite to eat at Margaritaville, stop at the gift shop, peruse the other shops at The Island and finish the night watching the famous fountain show.