VOL. 130 | NO. 238 | Tuesday, December 08, 2015
The Daily Traveler
Christmas in Kentucky
By LANCE WIEDOWER
A brisk late afternoon in early December is made more enjoyable under warm blankets while sipping bourbon ciders on a hayride through the Kentucky hills. The sun sets on a blue sky afternoon in Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill, and the white lights hanging from the trees begin to flicker.
It’s Christmastime in Kentucky, and the historic community just west of Lexington is where some 34 buildings that date from the early 1800s remain of what was once a vibrant community of the United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Coming. That group last occupied the village in the early 1920s, but today, it’s a historic destination frozen in time.
During the holidays, the village is transformed into a Christmas wonderland, with candlelight tours, lights strung across part of the 3,000-acre property, beautiful music and more.
The Kentucky region around Louisville is home to a number of holiday events beyond Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill. In the middle of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail sits the quaint town of Bardstown, and about a 45-minute drive north is Louisville.
All three communities are worth their own visits, but when combined make an enjoyable extended stay during the holiday season.
Of course Louisville, Bardstown and Shaker Village are unique any time of year, and just a couple hours north of Nashville, it’s a trifecta that touches on all tastes and sets up well for an extended weekend or even a weeklong visit.
Louisville is the largest city in Kentucky and a good place to center a visit. The city sits on the banks of the Ohio River, and the segment of Main Street in Downtown features several sites, including the Louisville Slugger Museum, Frazier History Museum, the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience and Bluegrass Brewing Co.
A good place to center a visit is the Galt House Hotel, the only lodging option in the city that sits adjacent to the river. And if visiting from mid-November through Christmas, the hotel is transformed into a winter wonderland with dancing bellmen, holiday shows, a Christmas village and activities for kids. But the centerpiece is the telling of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” through nearly 300 luminaries that are created in China specifically for the display.
Downtown Louisville is transformed with Holiday in the City, which includes an outdoor ice rink that remains open through the end of January. And Lights Under Louisville features a glowing underground journey through part of 17 miles of passageways at Louisville Mega Cavern.
Beyond Louisville, Bardstown is the center of action of bourbon. Within an 18-mile radius of the town, nearly 3.5 million barrels are stored.
But there are additional reasons USA Today and Rand McNally named Bardstown the Most Beautiful Small Town in America in 2012. Downtown Bardstown is filled with shops, art, historic buildings and homes, restaurants and the first Catholic cathedral built west of the Allegheny Mountains.
About 60 miles to the east of Bardstown is Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill, a destination many day-trippers consider for its garden-to-table restaurant, historic buildings and workshops on such things as making brooms or soap.
But it’s a real gem for overnight visits, too, with accommodations spread across the historic buildings.
Shaker Village at Pleasant Hill is a history lesson on communal living from a bygone day, but it’s also a place to sit back and relax. And if it’s during the holiday season, it’s an opportunity to bask in the peaceful glow of white lights, trees and candles spread around the massive property while gazing at the stars above.
Lance Wiedower can be reached at tripsbylance.com.