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Kentucky’s most Christmassy towns

Go “over the top” in London as this southeastern Kentucky town gets decked out for the holidays with lots of lights, a driving tour and more. Photo: Tim Webb
Old Saint Nick looks over the festivities in London. Photo: Tim Webb
Versailles is ready to welcome visitors to its variety of events in celebration of the Christmas season. Photo: Wade Harris
This retro truck might not be revving up for this year’s Lights Around London Christmas Light Driving Tour, but you should! Photo: Tim Webb
A lighted nativity display in London. Photo: Tim Webb
Christmas in Bardstown includes the Kiwanis Club’s Annual Christmas Parade in downtown Bardstown. Photo: Visit Bardstown
Come home for the holidays and experience the annual Georgetown Christmas Parade. Photo: Hannah Sither, Georgetown/Scott County Tourism
See a half million Christmas lights by horse-drawn carriage ride in Paducah. Photo: J.T. Crawford/ Paducah Life Magazine

Blend the childlike wonder of National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation’s Clark W. Griswold, the nostalgia of A Christmas Story’s adult Ralphie Parker and the extravagant excesses of A Christmas Carol’s Ghost of Christmas Present and you have set the scene for the holidays in Kentucky’s most Christmassy towns. 

Following are nine of them. Plan early—many require tickets—and be sure to verify all dates and times, in case there are changes.

London  

Thousands of lights bring a cheery Christmas glow to London, from the rooflines and park downtown to surrounding neighborhoods, where residents compete to give visitors the best Christmas light show. 

“We are over the top with our Christmas festivities with lots of lights, giant programmable Christmas tree, Christmas Book Walk, Christmas concerts and other celebrations,” says Chris Robinson, City of London Tourism’s executive director. 

Don’t miss: The nighttime Randy Smith Christmas on Main Parade of Lights, Dec. 3, 7 p.m. 

New fun for ’21: Weekends in December, in addition to thousands of lights, Town Center Park will have food vendors and Christmas activities. 

Only here Christmassy experience: Lights Around London Christmas Light Driving Tour, Dec. 4–31, with Laurel County residents competing for the best Christmas light display. Visitors cast their votes via Venmo to help raise money for the Shop with a Cop program. 

Versailles 

Lots of events take place at the Amsden, one of downtown Versailles’ oldest buildings that houses the Amsden Coffee Club, Amsden Bourbon Bar and Gathered Mercantile: Letters to Santa, holiday story hours for kids and a special holiday menu.  

Don’t miss: A Wonderful Woodford Christmas with holiday happenings for the whole family. 

New fun for ’21: Activities such as Festival of Trees, through Dec. 4; Christmas Tree Lighting, Dec. 3; Christmas Parade on Main Street, Dec 4, 5 p.m.; Christmas concert, Dec. 17; S’mores with Santa and Ornament Decorating, Dec. 11 and 18, in downtown Versailles. 

Only here Christmassy experience: At the Bluegrass Scenic Railroad and Museum, see Santa and Mrs. Claus arrive by fire truck and board the train. Santa visits with each child during the one-hour ride, December 4–5, 11–12. Purchase tickets in advance, as they sell out fast. 

Bardstown  

If Norman Rockwell had ever decided to capture a Kentucky town at Christmastime on canvas, it may well have been Bardstown. It’s that magical, with the Christmas tree illuminating Court Square, a dinner train departing for the “North Pole” Dec. 4–19; live nativity Dec. 17–19; and Christmas music and plays, distillery open houses, a Christmas tea, gift and craft show and more. 

Don’t miss: The Bardstown Kiwanis Club’s Annual Christmas Parade, Dec. 2, 6–8 p.m., bursts with lights, colors and holiday spirit, and Santa on the Square, Dec. 4, 11, 18. 

New fun for ’21: Beautifully decorated Christmas trees and wreaths will fill Guthrie Opportunity Center during its inaugural Festival of Trees, Dec. 5–9. 

Only here Christmassy experience: Tour My Old Kentucky Home, glammed up with garland and Christmas trees, and learn the origins of such Christmas traditions as mistletoe and the Christmas Pickle during its Merry & Bright event, hourly tours, through January 2. An Old Kentucky Christmas Carol runs Fridays and Saturdays, Dec. 3–18. 

Georgetown 

With nearly 40 locally owned boutiques, galleries and restaurants, downtown Georgetown is a holiday shopper’s delight. 

Don’t miss: Downtown aglow with twinkling white lights on Victorian light posts, decorated storefronts (theme: A Kentucky Christmas); Christmas lighting and parade, activities and open houses during Home for the Holidays, Dec 4. 

New fun for ’21: Wave hello to Santa and drop off your Christmas wish list during the drive through Southern Lights at the Kentucky Horse Park, just 3 miles south of Georgetown, 5:30–10 p.m., through Dec. 31. 

Only here Christmassy experience: Tour Ward Hall, one of Kentucky’s grandest manses, which is resplendent with the glow of countless candles during its annual Christmas Candlelight Tours, Dec. 10–13, 17–20. 

Paducah 

With a full season of beloved holiday traditions—performances, light displays, through Dec. 31, Candy Cane Hunt and Christmas Parade Dec. 4; Holiday Artisan Market Dec. 11; and historic architecture dressed in holiday decor—Christmas in Paducah is truly enchanting. 

Don’t miss: Paducah Symphony Orchestra presents an outstanding annual Christmas Celebration, Dec. 11, 7:30 p.m. 

New fun for ’21: Walk, shop and dine holiday-style—with to-go alcoholic beverage in hand, thanks to the new Downtown Entertainment Destination Center designation—during the December Downtown Happy Hour event and throughout the season. 

Only here Christmassy experience: A carriage ride with John’s PASS Carriage Service under the lights at Noble Park or through the picturesque streets of Historic Downtown Paducah. 

Williamstown 

Downtown Williamstown will be in full holiday mode, with a tree lighting ceremony in front of the courthouse, performances by local choirs, decorated shop windows, merchant open houses, vendors, food trucks and more. 

Don’t miss: Grant County’s Country Christmas Parade featuring 100 decorated cars and Jeeps, plus giant selfie globe, Santa’s Sleigh simulator and more, Dec. 4, 4:30–7:30 p.m. 

New fun for ’21: Tame the “Bucking Reindeer,” a throwback to the mechanical bull. 

Only here Christmassy experience: Williamstown Kiwanis Club’s free pancake supper with Santa and magic show, Dec. 4, 4:30 p.m. 

Madisonville 

A new holiday light show set to music dazzles in Madisonville: Think Bellagio’s dancing waters in Las Vegas; Tree Lighting, Dec. 3, 5:30 p.m.; Christmas Parade, Dec. 4, 5–6 p.m.; and Holiday Tour of Homes, Dec. 5, 1–5 p.m. 

Don’t miss: Deck the Park featuring Liquid Fireworks by Waltzing Waters, nightly 5–10 p.m., through Jan. 1; plus Mr. and Mrs. Claus at the Santa House, drive-through light displays and walking trail. 

New fun for ’21: Mistletoe Art Stroll in downtown Madisonville with artisans set up in downtown buildings to show and sell their art, plus music, food and traditional tree lighting ceremony, Dec 3, 5–8 p.m. 

Only here Christmassy experience: Liquid Fireworks by Waltzing Waters, nightly, 5–10 p.m., through Jan. 1.  

Wilmore  

With its Old-Fashioned Musical Christmas and Craft Fair, Dec. 4, 9 a.m.–3 p.m., Wilmore has been celebrating over-the-top holiday fun for some 30 years. 

Don’t miss: Santa’s arrival on an antique Wilmore fire truck, ready to hand out treat bags. 

New fun for ’21: The Annual Homemade Christmas Craft Fair has a new home at the Wilmore Municipal Center, which will showcase the Hall of Trees. 

Only here Christmassy experience: Stroll Main Street as it lights up with solar-powered white Christmas lights outlining buildings and rooftops, and enjoy refreshments and music. 


Let the holiday merriment begin! 

Here are holiday activities planned by some of Kentucky’s most Christmassy towns.

Ashland 

www.visitaky.com 

(606) 329-1007 

Through January 2 

Winter Wonderland of Lights Festival, Central Park and downtown Ashland, begins at dusk: 60 holiday displays, ranging from dinosaurs to a Christmas candy factory, and 800,000 lights. 

Bardstown  

www.visitbardstown.com 

(502) 348-4877 

Through January 2 

Merry & Bright At My Old Kentucky Home at My Old Kentucky Home State Park. 

Saturdays and Sundays through December 19 

My Old Kentucky Dinner Train’s North Pole Express 

December 2 

Jailer’s Inn Open House 
Bardstown Kiwanis Club’s Annual Christmas Parade, Downtown Bardstown, 6-8 p.m. 

December 4 

Springhill Plantation’s Sip and Shop 

St. Gregory’s Gift and Craft Show, St. Gregory Parish Community Center, (502) 275-6731 

Saturdays and Sundays, December 4–19 

Kentucky Railway Museum’s Santa Express/North Pole Express 

December 4 and 11 

Maker’s Mark Distillery Holiday Open House 

December 4, 11, 18 

Santa on the Square 

December 5–9 
Guthrie Opportunity Center Festival of Trees 

Fridays and Saturdays, December 3–4, 10–11, 17–18 

An Old Kentucky Christmas Carol at My Old Kentucky Home 

December 10 

Beautiful Music of Christmas, Basilica of St. Joseph Proto-Cathedral, (859-481-7094). 

December 11 

Victorian Christmas Open House, Wickland, Home of Three Governors, (502-275-6731). 

December 11 and 16 

Springhill’s Christmas Tea, Springhill Plantation 

December 17–19 

43rd Annual Live Nativity, Bardstown Baptist Church, (502) 348-3866. 

Date/time to be determined; please check website for updates. 

Holiday on the Hill, Heaven Hill Bourbon Heritage Center 

Georgetown 

www.georgetownky.com 

(844) 863-8600 

Through December 31 

Southern Lights at Kentucky Horse Park, 5:30–10 p.m. Three miles, 1 million lights plus pony and camel rides, exotic petting zoo and more. New this year: Visitors can wave to Santa along the driving route and have the option to drop off letters in Santa’s North Pole Mailbox. Other fun: Animal Land, camel and pony rides, food trucks and kettle corn. 

Through the holiday season 

The Georgetown and Scott County Museum invites kids of all ages to write their letters to Santa and post them to a special mailbox. Return two weeks later, unlock your very own antique post office box to find a personalized handwritten note from Mrs. Claus. 

Bethlehem Live Nativity, presented by Georgetown First United Methodist Church, features 11 realistic scenes complete with actors and live animals. Hot apple cider, cocoa and cookies and live music.  

December 4 

Home for the Holidays, with Christmas tree lighting and parade, holiday activities and open houses. 

December 10 and 11 

Virtual storytime reading of The Polar Express with the Scott County Public Library from the Sadieville Train Car (502-863-3566). Reading will be livestreamed via the library’s Facebook page

December 10–13 and 17–20 

Ward Hall Christmas Candlelight Tours. See website for times. 

Grand Rivers  

served by Jackson Purchase Energy Corporation 

www.grandrivers.org 

(270) 362-0152 

Through January 15

Festival of Lights at Patti’s 1880’s Settlement: Christmas lights, live theater, giant Christmas cards at Little Lake Park, breakfast and lunch with Santa Claus, Dec. 4; and Breakfast with the Grinch and Friends, Dec. 4, 11–12, 18–19, 9 a.m. 

London  

www.visitlondonky.com/Christmas 

(606) 878-6900 

Weekends in December 

Christmas at Town Center Park, downtown, features holiday activities, vendors, Christmas display, more. 

December 3 

Christmas Book Walk, 5:30 p.m.: Kids and their parents can listen to readings of classic Christmas stories at various downtown businesses. 

December 4 

London Community Orchestra Christmas Concert, 7 p.m., First Baptist Church. 

December 4–23 

Winter WonderCamp Drive Thru at J.M. Feltner Memorial 4-H Camp, located within Levi Jackson Wilderness Road Park. 

December 4–31 

Lights Around London Christmas Light Driving Tour. (Listing of participants and Google map available Dec. 1.) Visitors vote for their favorite light display via Venmo, with proceeds benefiting London’s Shop with a Cop Chapter. The 2020 tour had 60 participants; more are expected this year. 

December 5 

Southeast Kentucky Community Christmas Chorus, 4 p.m., at First Baptist Church. 

Madisonville 

www.visitmadisonvilleky.com 

(877) 243-5280 

Through January 1 

Deck the Park Liquid Fireworks, Madisonville City Park, nightly, 5–9 p.m. 

December 3 

Mistletoe Art Stroll, downtown Madisonville, with artisans setting up in various buildings to show and sell their wares, 5–8 p.m. 

Tree Lighting Ceremony, downtown Madisonville, 5:30 p.m. 

December 4 

Madisonville-Hopkins County Christmas Parade sponsored by Madisonville Noon Kiwanis, downtown Madisonville, 5–6 p.m. The county’s largest Christmas parade features marching bands, floats, lights and Santa Claus. This year’s theme is Light the Night. 

December 5 

The Woman’s Club of Madisonville hosts its annual Holiday Tour of Homes, featuring five decorated homes, (270-821-4171), 1–5 p.m. 

Paducah 

www.paducah.travel 

(800) 723-8224 

Through December 31 

Christmas in the Park Holiday Light Display, Bob Noble Park: Drive-through experience with a half-million lights plus horse-drawn carriage ride through the park’s light display. Reserve carriage ride with John’s PASS Carriage Service. 

December 4 

City of Paducah Christmas Parade, Historic Downtown, 5 p.m. This year’s theme is It’s a SUPER Christmas! and participants will have the opportunity to celebrate their favorite superheroes, hometown or make-believe. 

Candy Cane Hunt, part of Paducah’s “There’s No Place Like Local for the Holidays” celebration, downtown, begins at 11:45 a.m. 

December 11 

Holiday Artisan Market, part of Paducah’s “There’s No Place Like Local for the Holidays” celebration, downtown. Vendors show off locally crafted goods at the Paducah Homegrown Farmers Market. 

Paducah Symphony Orchestra Christmas Celebration, Holiday concert, 7:30 p.m. 

Versailles 

www.reservewoodford.com 

(859) 214-4510 

Through December 4 

Festival of Trees in various businesses in Woodford County. 

December 3 

Christmas Tree Lighting, Versailles Court House 

December 4 

Christmas Parade on Main Street, 5 p.m. 

December 4–5 and 11–12 

Bluegrass Scenic Railroad and Museum Ride with Santa and Mrs. Claus; December 4 and 11: 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.; December 5 and 12: 2 p.m. only. Purchase tickets in advance on website, www.BluegrassRailroad.com

December 11 and 18 

S’mores with Santa and Ornament Decorating at the Amsden building downtown. 

December 17 

Christmas Concert by Metronet, Versailles Baptist Church. 

Williamstown 

www.visitgrantky.com 

(800) 382-7117 

December 4 

A Country Christmas, 4:30–7:30 p.m.: Parade featuring 100 decorated cars and Jeeps, plus free wagons rides, giant selfie globe, carousel, live nativity, Santa’s Sleigh simulator and “Bucking Reindeer.” Also, tree lighting, performances by local choirs, merchant open houses, vendors and food trucks. 

Williamstown Kiwanis Club’s free pancake supper with Santa and magic show, 4:30 p.m.   

Wilmore  

www.wilmore.org 

(859) 858-4411 

December 4 

Old Fashioned Musical Christmas, downtown Wilmore, 9 a.m.–3 p.m., featuring decorations, seasonal music, lights, model train displays, arts and crafts markets, family-fun events and the arrival of Santa Claus. The Community Christmas tree is lit with a musical celebration on Main Street. 

Lake Cumberland/Burnside

www.lctourism.com

(800) 642-6287

Through January 2

Christmas Island returns this year at Burnside Island State Resort Park! Plus, find lots of other local holiday activities, including Skating on the Square ice rink.


Catch the Christmassy spirit on video

Watch Bardstown “Light Up” in this short video and take a look back at Christmas parades past in Paducah here

2018 Lighting of the Tree, Georgetown.
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