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Weekend Wanderings

Holiday happenings

  Come the yuletide season, Kentucky brims with celebrations of all sorts.
Take your pick of holiday home tours, light shows, parades, and rides. Call ahead
for dates and times, keeping in mind that some events are held very early in December. 

House and Community Tours

  During the holiday season, house tours allow you to visit homes not usually
accessible to the general public. 

  Newport’s Victorian Homes Tour, (606) 292-3666, takes place in the East
Row Historic District where privately owned historic residences are decorated
to a fare-thee-well, and traditional food and drink is offered up with a holiday
flavor. Similarly, Harrodsburg’s Holiday Homes Tour Luminaries, (606) 734-2364,
light the walkways of the city’s most historic homes. Check out A Christmas Carroll,
(502) 732-7036, Carrollton’s Victorian holiday celebration with carriage rides
and arts and crafts. Or meander over to Wilmore, where the Old Fashioned Christmas,
(606) 858-3876, has a distinctly musical theme. The artisans and craftspeople
of Mays Lick celebrate Christmas in the Country, (606) 763-6506, with the historic
village decked out in holiday finery. One of the largest community celebrations
takes place at Covington’s MainStrasse Village, (606) 491-0458, a re-created 19th-century
German community.

  Other holiday tours feature some of the Commonwealth’s most historic treasures.
Stanford’s William Whitley House State Historic Site Pioneer Christmas Candlelight
Tour, (606) 355-2881, is a celebration of 18th-century holiday traditions. Or
visit Waveland State Historic Site, (606) 272-3611, in Lexington for a Christmas
tea.

  Additional holiday home tours include Bowling Green’s Victorian Christmas,
Riverview at Hobson Grove, (270) 843-5565; Lexington’s Christmas at Ashland, (606)
266-8581; Paducah’s Whitehaven Christmas Open House, (270) 554-2077; Dawson Springs’
Holiday Homes Tour, (270) 797-3503; and Falmouth’s Christmas House & Church
Tour, (606) 654-3395.

Holiday Rides

  All aboard for the Santa Claus Express, 1-800-272-0152. Santa and his helpers
will ride this special train, leaving from the Kentucky Railway Museum’s New Haven
depot to Boston and back.

Climb on Plummers Landing’s Olde Time Christmas Hayride, (606) 876-3423, for a
ride around the farm, where you can make s’mores by a bonfire, sip hot cocoa,
and cut your own Christmas tree.

Parades

  Nearly every community sponsors a Christmas parade. A few to take note
of are those in Lexington, Richmond, and Berea where Ronald McDonald has been
a featured participant for many years. Dawson Springs’ Mini Parade requires participants’
floats to be no larger than a golf cart. Murray’s parade, (270) 753-5171, features
a stick-to-the-ribs ham breakfast. And Corbin’s Festival of Lights, 1-800-528-7123,
is a candlelight parade complete with music.

Light Shows

  Nothing gives more pleasure to more people than Christmas lights. Ashland’s
Winter Wonderland of Lights, 1-800-377-6249, with 600,000 lights in more than
30 displays, twinkle in Central Park and along downtown streets.

  The Kentucky Horse Park’s Southern Lights: Spectacular Sights on Holiday
Nights, (606) 233-4303, 2.5-mile-long drive boasts racing horses, shimmering snowflakes,
and a moving train.

Christmas Island, 1-800-642-6287, on Somerset’s General Burnside Island State
Park, has a million lights with 300 displays along a 3.5-mile route.

  Other light shows include Henderson’s Christmas in the Park, (270) 826-3128,
and Owensboro’s Holiday in the Park, 1-800-489-1131.

Special Events

Some holiday happenings, like the annual Season of Light program at Eastern Kentucky
University’s Hummell Planetarium, (606) 622-1547, shouldn’t be missed. You’ll
get a look at the winter sky, with well-known constellations, and a tour of the
night sky over Bethlehem between 2 and 3 B.C.

Kentucky State Parks

Our parks really stand out during the holiday season, with facilities decorated
to the hilt. The parks offer a variety of holiday festivities, including Christmas
markets, crafts, and hands-on activities. For a complete listing of all Kentucky
State Parks holiday events, contact: Department of Travel, P.O. Box 2011, Frankfort,
KY 40602, 1-800-225-8747, ext. 67.

Short Stops & Day Trips

Mammoths at Big Bone Lick

  Giant mammoths, mastodons, and ground sloths came here to lick the salts
and minerals from the boggy marsh 20,000 years ago. Many of them became trapped
and died in the quagmire surrounding the salt springs. Their fossilized remains
gave rise to the name Big Bone Lick. 

  Centuries later, bison, and then Native Americans, came here for the salt. 

  Salt-making at Big Bone Lick became a thriving business in the late 18th
and early 19th centuries, to be replaced around 1812 by a health spa, where wealthy
Southern aristocrats came to escape the yellow fever epidemics in the Deep South
and partake of the “curative qualities” of the ancient springs.

  Today, Big Bone Lick State Park in Union celebrates both prehistoric and
early American visitors by way of a museum, exhibits, displays, an Ice Age diorama,
interpretive markers, and a buffalo herd. 

  Year-round park amenities include 3.5 miles of hiking paths; a 7.5-acre
lake containing largemouth bass, bluegill, and catfish; tennis, volleyball, and
basketball courts, softball fields, and horseshoe pits; approximately 40 acres
of picnic grounds with tables, grills, and a playground; and a small museum and
gift shop.

  Seasonal attractions include a 62-site campground with utility hookups
and swimming pool and playground; an 18-hole miniature golf course; and the Annual
Salt Festival, held each October, where 18th-century costumed re-enactors demonstrate
soapmaking, blacksmithing, and saltmaking.

  For additional information about the park, contact: Big Bone Lick State
Park, 3380 Beaver Road, Union, KY 41091, (606) 384-3522.

Outdoor Log

Family hunting tradition

  Glittering like a plate of jewels, the sun reflected off the skiff of snow
covering the hunting fields at Elk Creek Hunt Club & Sporting Clays.

  We always have a good time at Elk Creek in Owenton, one of Kentucky’s pre-eminent
shooting resorts. Curtis Sigretto and Jon Kruger have worked hard to make this
club what it is: 300 acres of upland hunting habitat, a five-stand layout, three
world-class sporting clays ranges, and a first-class lodge with meals and sleeping
accommodations. 

  But this was a very special Christmas hunt. Our youngest son, Chad, was
in for an all-too-rare visit. We’d taken the opportunity to re-create a family
tradition.

  When the boys were younger, we celebrated Thanksgiving and Christmas with
a bird hunt. Sometimes we’d spend the morning waterfowling, gunning the marshes
for puddle ducks and divers. But usually it would be an upland hunt for wild pheasant,
perhaps, or at a nearby hunt club for a mixed bag of quail, pheasant, and chukar
partridge.

After warming up on sporting clays, we hit the hunting fields. We had a pair of
dogs working, and they found lots of birds: coveys of quail; pheasants in singles
and pairs; and one incredible triple that Chad dropped with three well-placed
shots from the little 20-gauge 1100 Special Field. 

  But the truth is, it wouldn’t have mattered if he’d missed every target
and every live bird. We were there to recapture the days when we were all in love
with crisp days afield, and the sun haloing the feathering on the setters’ tails
and bellies, and the sweet smell of Hoppe’s #9 when the shooting was over.

  And that is the real value of clubs like Elk Creek. They provide hunting
and shooting like it used to be. To see for yourself, contact: Elk Creek Hunt
Club & Sporting Clays, 1860 Georgetown Rd., Owenton, KY 40359, (502) 484-4569.

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