Events and festivals in Kentucky that provide the perfect reprieve from the hustle of the holiday season.
Holidays in Kentucky make for one of the most wonderful, unique times of the year. Locals and visitors alike celebrate the temperature changes, basking in the foliage, with festivals and activities that showcase the state’s authentic tastes, sights and sounds. Tis the season to escape the hustle and bustle that comes along with holiday cooking, shopping and decorating. Here’s how to experience the state’s one-of-a-kind charm and unparalleled hospitality this season.
In a state with some of the most striking natural beauty, there are endless possibilities and ways to explore this holiday season, including driving lights tours and shows. For more than 20 years, the Kentucky Horse Park Foundation has hosted the state’s original driving tour of three miles of holiday lights at the Southern Lights Holiday Festival. Spectators can immerse themselves in the grandeur of the horse park while also taking advantage of activities for the whole family, including a mini express train, craft fair, exotic petting zoo and more. The magic of Christmas is alive in the small town of Grand Rivers, Kentucky.
Experience firsthand the Grand Rivers Festival of Lights starting Nov. 3. The festival showcases more than 700,000 lights and hosts musical productions at the Badgett Playhouse, gift shops and cozy lodging along peaceful Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley. Ashland makes winter a beautiful scene with a Winter Wonderland of Lights. Watch as 850,000-holiday lights illuminate Ashland’s Central Park and downtown area.
ChristmasTime at the Ark offers a world-class animated program projected onto a lifesize Noah’s Ark at the free laser projection show, “Encounter the Wonder.” The iconic 510-foot-long ship will become the screen for a groundbreaking new show that is free and open for all to enjoy. Looking for something a little deeper? Dive into the underground this year as the Louisville MEGA Caverns hosts the only underground light show across the globe. The 17-mile man-made cavern located under the city of Louisville lights up 850 characters and 2-million points of light. Visitors can drive through all of the underground passageways to see the transformation take life.
2. Cheers to the Holidays
Featuring authentic distilleries and the rights to claim the fame to “America’s Native Spirit,” it wouldn’t be a Kentucky holiday without bourbon. This year, Maker’s Mark Distillery is hosting self-guided after dark Candlelight Tours featuring holiday décor, seasonal cocktails, and sweet treats. Take advantage of the time at the distillery to preview signature bottles that make for great gifts or the smaller items to fill stockings early.
3. Step Back in Time
In wrapping up its 225-anniversary as a state, Kentucky offers a host of historical adventures, especially during the holidays. My Old Kentucky Home, Kentucky’s most famous landmark – also the namesake for the state song – guides visitors through the Victorian mansion with docents in hoop skirts and tailcoats. Learn about the traditional, and sometimes odd, Christmas customs of the Victorian era, including the origin of the Christmas tree, the yule log, Santa Claus and Krampus while touring each room of the mansion.
Experience firsthand how the early settlement days of Kentucky were spent celebrating the holidays. See and hear the classics at the 18th Century Christmas at Fort Boonesborough State Park with candlelight tours and decorations keeping with the traditions of the time. Lanterns, bonfires, Christmas Guns, music and dance, along with time-appropriate food and refreshments, add to the event’s atmosphere.
Discover the simple gifts of long-ago winter days filled with wonder and laughter at the Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill, while discovering connections to the past throughout the country’s largest private collection of original 19th-century buildings. Shaker Village is home to an impressive collection of Shaker architecture, skilled craftsmanship and spirituality.
For trip-planning assistance, from hotel reservations to restaurant recommendations, as well as a full list of events, visit kentuckytourism.com.