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.”
Light up your holiday world at any of the following:
- November 23–January 1 – Christmas in the Park, Freeman Lake Park, Elizabethtown. In its 26th year, also offers ice skating.
- November 21–December 31 – Christmas in the Park, Bob Noble Park, Paducah, KY U.S Capitol Christmas tree on display November 22, traveling from Idaho to Washington D.C., .
- December 16–23, 26–30, after 5 p.m. – Christmas Town, Creation Museum, Petersburg, KY.
- November 4–January 14, 5–9 p.m. nightly – Grand Rivers Festival of Lights, Patti’s 1880’s Settlement, Grand Rivers, KY. Christmas shows include Big Band Christmas, Variety! Christmas, Down Home Country Christmas, murder mystery, two plays, and Festival of Lights.
- December 2–23 (Fridays and Saturdays only) – Illuminated Evenings at Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill, Harrodsburg, KY
- December 1–January 2 – Lighting of the Trace, Buffalo Trace Distillery, Frankfort. Displays include elves rolling bourbon barrels and buffalo leaping the road.
- November 18–December 31 – Lights Under Louisville, Louisville Mega Cavern
- November 25–December 31 – Light Up Bardstown, downtown Bardstown, KY
- December 15–18 – My Old Kentucky Home State Park
- November 23–January 1 – Light Up the Levee, Newport on the Levee, Newport. One million lights in sync to music, plus carolers, ice sculpting, circus entertainers.
- November 24–January 2 – Magical Christmas in Burnside, Burnside. A mile of downtown lights, Christmas parade December 10, 1 p.m.
- November 23–January 1 – Ruley’s Santa Claus Land, St. Francis, KY, Santa greets kids, over 1 million lights, 250 lit displays, Christmas music, photos with Santa.
- November 18–December 31 – Southern Lights Holiday Festival, Kentucky Horse Park, Lexington, KY.
- November 14–January 8 – Winter Wonderland of Lights Festival, Ashland, KY. In its 28th year, with 42-foot-high tree, parade, train rides, Breakfast with Santa, karaoke with Santa, beauty pageant.