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Bright lights, big displays for Christmas


  • light-up-bardstown-waiting-for-santa-to-arrive
    The holiday crowd at Light Up Bardstown, which runs November 25 through December 31 this year, waits for Santa to arrive. Photo: Robert Augustine
  • lightsunderlouisville1
    Drive through miles of underground passageways lit with over 2,000,000 points of light. Photo: Louisville MEGA Cavern
  • Trey Clark Stillman gets his face painted by Rachel Todd.
    A local elf paints faces at Light Up Bardstown. Photo: Randy Patrick/The Kentucky Standard
  • khp-southern-lights-0235
    Illuminated horses welcome vehicles to Southern Lights Holiday Festival at Lexington’s Kentucky Horse Park. Photo: James Shambhu
  • christmaslightszipline
    Zip above Creation Museum’s Christmas Town, Petersburg, on the Screaming Raptor Canopy Tours, as shown by District Manager Mateo Mancas. Photo: Deb Menard
  • khp-southern-lights-horses-1
    Illuminated horses welcome vehicles to Southern Lights Holiday Festival at Lexington’s Kentucky Horse Park. Photo: James Shambhu
  • pattis-settlement-manger-scene
    A manger scene glows at Grand Rivers’s Festival of Lights at Patti’s 1880’s Settlement. Photo: David McGowan
  • colors-of-christmas-nelson-county-courthouse
    Colors of Christmas light up the Old Nelson County Courthouse during Bardstown’s Light Up Bardstown. Photo: Robert Augustine/Special to The Kentucky Standard

Walk, drive, or zip line your way through sparkly holiday fun

Nothing can spark warm, fuzzy holiday feelings quite like an array of glittering lights. Across the state, wow-inspiring displays have spread sparkling cheer for years, while others have plugged in more recently. All are great ways to take a family-friendly, nighttime break from an overloaded calendar.

At Lexington’s Kentucky Horse Park, the Southern Lights Holiday Festival has added a stable with depictions of famous horses—think Man o’ War and John Henry—to the myriad light displays on its 3-mile driving route. After the drive-through, Santa greets kids, who can enjoy a petting zoo, mini train, live entertainment, model trains, tiny dollhouses, and giant building blocks.

“It’s our 23rd year,” says Laura Klumb, executive director of the Kentucky Horse Park Foundation. “We’re now seeing grandparents bring adult children they brought as kids, and those are bringing their children. We keep the evening affordable so families can keep coming.”

In Blue Grass Energy’s co-op area, Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill at Harrodsburg offers a step into the past during its annual Illuminated Evenings.

“White plank fences along our turnpike twinkle with 10,000 feet of lights marking the path of our Jingle Bell Shuttle,” says Amy Bugg, director of Marketing and Communications.

Among the array of events at the 3,000-acre National Historic Landmark are musical performances, hot chocolate, bonfires, children’s crafts, Tea with Mrs. Claus, community caroling, and holiday breakfasts and luncheons.

Bring new hats, gloves, and scarves to hang on a giving tree to be donated to a local charity.

Lights above and below
Folks get an eagle’s-eye view of the gorgeous Garden of Lights at the Creation Museum’s annual Christmas Town from a zip line that zooms over a wide lake.

“You can see more lights from the zip line than on the ground,” says Mateo Mancas, district manager for Screaming Raptor Zip Line Canopy Tours, which partners with the museum. “The view is awesome.”

Also at this Owen Electric Co-op area attraction in Petersburg, you can take in a live nativity, Magi presentation, and planetarium show.

You’ve got to get down to see the world’s only underground holiday light display. Lights Under Louisville covers about 2 drivable miles through its 100-acre Mega Cavern. Each shining section has a different theme, including Kentucky Christmas and White Christmas.

“We encourage visitors to keep their windows down to hear music accompanying each display, which changes with the displays’ themes,” says Jeremy Priddy, director of Social Media and Marketing. “We’re one of a kind.”

A month of lights
In addition to distilleries bedecked in festive finery, “The Bourbon Capital of the World” splashes the town with color during the month long Light Up Bardstown. Even the old Nelson County Courthouse overlooking a magnificent community Christmas tree is bathed in reds and greens, like a multihued prop from The Nutcracker.

“The lighting of our community tree brings downtown to life,” says Lisanna Byrd, executive director of the Bardstown Main Street Program.

Meanwhile, My Old Kentucky Home celebrates in period style in mid-December, with garlands, strolling carolers, actors dressed in costumes of the area, and candelight throughout.

“We feature periods of Christmas from the early 19th century to the 1920s, except our 12-foot-high Commonwealth Tree,” says Matthew Bailey, director of My Old Kentucky Home State Park. “It’s covered with gold ornaments representing Kentucky—tiny basketballs, the state seal, even Churchill Downs’ twin spires.”

If your idea of holiday fun is stringing lights on every available outdoor surface and gracing your yard with inflatable, lighted Santa Clauses or snowmen, find out how to set them up safely.

DESTINATIONS
Light up your holiday world at any of the following:

 

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