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A Kentucky State Parks Christmas

Greenbo Lake State Resort Park chooses a theme each year for its holiday decorating scheme. Photo: Tim Webb
Snow dusts the trees on either side of the Cumberland River at Cumberland Falls State Resort Park. Photo: Kentucky State Parks
The annual Merry and Bright celebration at My Old Kentucky Home State Park takes guests from colonial history to the Roaring ’20s. Photo: My Old Kentucky Home State Park
Photo: Waveland State Historic Site
Photo: Waveland State Historic Site
Photo: Waveland State Historic Site

Let your heart be light with these holiday traditions

WITH THEIR HALLS DECKED with boughs of holly, lobbies filled with holiday music, restaurants hosting Santa for breakfast and that “cuddly as a cactus, charming as an eel” Mr. Grinch for lunch, Kentucky State Parks are made for family holiday traditions. This season, experience the magic of park settings transformed into yuletide backdrops for theatrical productions, cozy cabins tucked among the forests and gorgeous mountain views. 

O Christmas Tree 

Each year, the garland and lights trimming the railings outside the picturesque fieldstone lodge warmly welcome holiday visitors to Greenbo Lake State Resort Park. Inside, eight to 10 Christmas trees show off decorations handmade by the Greenup County Extension Homemakers. Holiday greenery spills over the mantle of an impressive copper-hooded fireplace, where stockings await Santa’s Christmastide bounty. Seated beside it, jolly Old St. Nick checks off his list of who’s naughty and nice. 

It is an enchanting setting for a holiday gathering—especially on the first weekend in December when the state park, served by Grayson RECC, hosts its annual Christmas Open House, featuring live music in the lobby and lunch with Santa. 

“The parks are all unique and beautiful in their own way, and are all great places to visit year-round,” says Park Manager Brenda Danner. “When it snows, the trees are beautiful, and what better place to be than in a lodge with a woodburning fireplace, with family and friends gathered around?” 

Holly jolly fun 

Rough River Dam State Resort Park, served by Meade County RECC, is hosting two family-friendly holiday meals on Saturday, December 2: Breakfast with Santa Claus and Lunch with the Grinch will be served in Grayson’s Landing Restaurant. Each event also includes a free crafts session, with ornament making accompanying the morning meal and creating a pinecone angel in the afternoon. 

Blue Licks Christmas 

Blue Licks Battlefield State Resort Park, served by Fleming-Mason Energy Cooperative, kicks off the season with Pictures with Santa, a free program at Worthington Lodge on Saturday, December 9. A week later, the park goes full-on festive with The Noel Express, a murder mystery dinner show. 

The setting: Christmas 1934, London, England. The story: A wealthy young socialite is bringing her new fiance home to meet the parents. The problem? The fiance has vanished from aboard the moving train. 

Bring your sleuthing skills to this interactive holiday-themed dinner party December 16 by asking the characters questions and helping solve the mystery. Detectives have a choice of two packages, including an overnight that includes guestroom, dinner and show, and breakfast for two the next morning. 

Merry and bright 

Travel from Christmas in Colonial times to the early and late Victorian periods to the Roaring ’20s (when Federal Hill was last owned by the John Rowan family) during the annual Merry and Bright celebration at the mansion in My Old Kentucky Home State Park. 

Along the way, see a half-dozen decorated Christmas trees, each aglow with a different Kentucky theme, including the Commonwealth Tree and Meadows in Bloom. Learn about some questionable Victorian Christmas traditions—like why the Victorians depended on an anti-Santa Claus figure named Krampus to punish naughty children and how a parasitic plant— the mistletoe—was romanticized into a custom for kissing beneath this beribboned sprig. 

“With the history of Federal Hill and the Rowan family combined with Victorian Christmas traditions, it is a magical experience,” says Jeremy Riggs, park manager. 

A Kentucky Carol 

Also at My Old Kentucky Home State Park, the Charles Dickens classic, A Christmas Carol, gets a Kentucky makeover as An Old Kentucky Christmas Carol. The family-friendly musical is staged in the rooms at Federal Hill on the first three Friday and Saturday nights of December. 

Follow everyone’s favorite miser as he bah-humbugs along the way to discover the true meaning of Christmas with the help of the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future. 

“My Old Kentucky Home has welcomed visitors from around the world since 1923,” says Riggs. “But as Christmas approaches, most families wish to stay closer to home and we’re a simple drive from any part of the Commonwealth. 

“A visit during the holidays is a beautiful way to create lasting memories and cherished traditions.” 

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