During the 19th century, the Scottish-born James B. Beck was a Lexington lawyer and a respected national politician.
Born in Dumfrieshire, Scotland, on February 13, 1822, Beck received his early ...more
Note: This information will be updated for 2016 in the early fall. Check back for great holiday ideas in the Horse Capital of the World.
Be dazzled by tens of thousands of twinkling lights at the
state's largest animated light display - or bask in the glow of
candlelight at a historic house. Watch your children's faces light up
with excitement at a holiday parade, arts performance or Christmas
sing-along - and lighten the task of finding just the right gifts by shopping at Bluegrass craft shows and unique shops.
From mid-November through the end of the year, the calendar abounds with special exhibits, home tours, performances and family fun. Call the numbers provided to verify dates, times and prices before finalizing your travel plans
A Horsey Highlight
Lexington is the "horse capital of the world," so it shouldn't seem too surprising that the holiday season features some equine enchantment.
At Southern Lights: Spectacular Sights on Holiday Nights at the Kentucky Horse Park, horses of light "race" in front of a cheering crowd, clear a steeplechase fence, and graze in Bluegrass pastures. The unique horse scenes help make Southern Lights one of the most distinctive lights festivals anywhere and a time honored tradition among the locals. With tens of thousands of shimmering lights, it's Kentucky's largest lights festival.
You'll also enjoy animated scenes featuring Santa and his reindeer, elves, snowflakes and other traditional holiday characters as you drive along the four-mile route through the park.
Through December 23, you can park and check out the indoor exhibits and entertainment. Youngsters can pet reindeer and other creatures in the petting zoo and talk to Santa in the park's International Museum of the Horse, where animated figures and a model railway exhibit enhance the regular equine-related exhibits. You can also shop for handmade arts and crafts, or just enjoy cookies and hot chocolate while you listen to local choirs and other entertainers.
Catch Southern Lights nightly from 5:30 to 10 p.m. November 20 through December 31. Admission is $15 per car ($25 on Fridays and Saturdays), $30 per extended van, $50 per mini-bus, $75 per school bus and $125 per motorcoach. The indoor attractions are closed on Thanksgiving Day, and December 24-31, but the drive-through portion remains open every night through the 31st. (859) 255-5727.
Blue Note: This year Southern Lights at the Kentucky Horse Park features the annual Southern Lights Stroll/5K Run to benefit several charities. On November 19, the night before opening to the public, participants will run, walk or stroll three miles along light displays. Back at the Visitor Center, awards and door prizes await. Call (859) 255-5727 for information.
The Glow of Holidays Past
Imagine what Christmas was like in the days before "hot toys" and artificial trees. At historic houses and sites in and around Lexington you can experience the sights, sounds and spirit of Christmas as it was celebrated in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Christmas on the Estate. This year the Henry Clay Estate will open its doors for A Kentucky Christmas at Ashland on Saturday, December 5 from 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. The illumination begins at 5:15p.m. and is free and open to the public. Enjoy candlelight tours after the illumination of the mansion for $10. Vendors will set up tents on the lawn of the Estate. (859) 266-8581.
Antebellum Christmas. At Waveland State Historic Site, you can see what the holiday season was like on a Bluegrass plantation. Antebellum decorations, music, refreshments and costumed historic presenters will be featured at this year's Christmas Candlelight Tours from 6 to 9 p.m. December 4-5 and December 11-12. Refreshments will be served in the plantation's 200-year-old log cabin. Santa wil be there reciting "The Night Before Christmas." Admission is $7 for adults, $6 for seniors and $4 for students. (859) 272-3611.
In the Region
Simple Gifts. The simple beauty of the Shaker celebrations takes on special significance during special holiday events at the restored Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill near Harrodsburg. Among the many special offerings, enjoy a workshop on Saturday, December 5 and create a very special gift. Come to Holiday Reed Stars and learn how to weave the intricate star pattern using reed. Each participant will take home two reed stars. $20 per person includes Village admission. You can pack your lunch or make a reservation to dine at the Trustee's Office dining room. Ages 16 and up. On December 5, 12 and 19, it's Children's Tea Time with Mrs. Claus. At 12 or 3 p.m., enjoy spiced cider, cookies and sandwhiches made for little fingers. $10 per person. On Fridays and Saturdays in December, Illumiated Evenings feature caroling choirs, roaring bonfires, twinkling lights and special visits with Mrs. Claus. Closed Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. (800) 734-5611.
Landmark Christmas. Visit beautiful Ward Hall for a Christmas Open House and Holiday Market. The first three weekends in December are a special time to visit. Christmas candlelight tours are offered at 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. This elegant Greek Revival home, built around 1855 is located on US 460, west of downtown Georgetown. (859) 396-4257.
Harrodsburg Holiday Homes. Six Harrodsburg homes from the 19th and early 20th century and an historic Mercer County church will open their doors for the 24th Annual "Come Home to Christmas" holiday homes tour, December 6 from 1 to 6 p.m. The event is sponsored by the Harrodsburg Historical Society. Purchase $15 tickets ($11 for Seniors) and begin the tour at the Historical Society's office, 220 Chiles Street. (859) 734-5985 or the Tourist Commission at (800) 355-9192.
Love a Christmas parade? Wave to Santa and other celebrants at the Lexington Christmas Parade, December 1, a Tuesday, beginning at 7:00 p.m. The state's largest holiday parade begins at Main and Midland, and proceeds along Main Street to Broadway. Free. (859) 335-8640.
Light and lively! Lexington officially kicks off the holiday season with the lighting of the city tree - a local tradition that dates to 1913. This year the activities will take place during Holiday Live on November 27 at Triangle Park. Festivities begin at 2:00 p.m. and continue through the afternoon with food vendors, arts and crafts vendors, live music and more setting the mood for a delightful day downtown. The traditional tree lighting takes place at 6:30 p.m. Santa Claus will flip the switch. (859) 335-8640.
Glide and Slide. The Unified Trust Company Ice Rink at Triangle Park opens for the season November 14. Bring your own skates if you'd like, but skate rentals are included in the price. The rink is open from 4:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. Kids feeling chilly? Grab some hot chocolate at the cafe beside the rink. And no worries, there are plenty of places to sit and observe if you don't want to venture out on to the ice yourself. The rink will be open through January 11..
Ride the Rails. Board the Lexington Dinner Train behind Rupp Arena and enjoy the North Pole Express. On December 5-6, 12-13 and 19-20, Santa and Mrs. Claus will welcome you and your little ones to ride with them. On board you will enjoy a delicious meal, crafts and Christmas carols. Each guest will receive a special gift to remember this special journey. There are two excursions; one at noon and one at 5:00 p.m. (866) 801-3463.
Blue Note: For information on annual December Kwanzaa celebrations in Lexington, call the Martin Luther King Jr. Cultural Center at (859) 257-4130. Celebrated by millions throughout the world, this African American and Pan-African holiday brings a cultural message which speaks to the best of what it means to be African and human in the fullest sense.
In the Region
A Country Christmas. Renfro Valley (located off I-75, exit 62, about 35 miles south of Lexington) has something for all ages at its Christmas show November 20 through December 19. Christmas in the Valley features a large light display, Santa's workshop, strolling carolers and clogging elves, comedy and an original music performance. Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 7:00 p.m. , plus matinees on Saturdays at 2:00 p.m.(800) 765-7464.
Holiday Express. Climb aboard the Bluegrass Scenic Railway's Santa Claus Special for a scenic holiday train excursion past holiday scenes, elves and Bluegrass countryside. The 45-minute excursions leave from Woodford County Park on December 12-13 and 19-20. Departure time is 2:00 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays, with an added 11 a.m. excursion on December 19. Tickets range from $12 to $19. You can purchase tickets online at www.bgrm.org. (859) 873-2476.
Blue Note: Many Bluegrass communities woo shoppers with unique shops, refreshments and entertainment during the holiday season. Enjoy carriage rides, marching bands and kids' activities at the annual "Downtown Frankfort Candlelight Tour" in Frankfort November 5-7. (502) 875-8687. In Georgetown, explore antique shops during the annual "Holiday Market"in November and December. Call (502) 863-2547 for details. Pick up a piece of Kentucky heritage at the Berea College Crafts Holiday Sale on November 21 from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. (859) 985-3220.
Messiah Magic. If it's just not Christmas without the Messiah, we've got it covered! On December 12 at 8:00 p.m., hear The Lexington Chamber Chorale with The Lexington Philharmonic and guest solists sing excerpts from Handel's Messiah in the stunning setting of The Cathedral of Christ the King on Colony Boulevard. Selections from Vivaldi and moden masters will round out the program. Call (859) 233-4226 for tickets and reservations. Hear the holiday classic performed by The Lexington Singers on December 12 at 8:00 p.m. at UK Singletary Center for the Arts. Enjoy the 150-plus voice choir with special guest tenor Gregory Turay, deemed "one of the brightest natural talents to have emerged from the US in recent years," by the London Times. (859) 257-4929.
Amahl and the Night Visitors. Another holiday classic is brought to life by the University of Kentucky Opera Theatre. Presented at the historic Lyric Theater on December 11 at 7:30 pm. and on December 12 at 2 p.m. (859) 257-9331.
Winter Blast. Head downtown to the atrium of The Square on December 13. The UK Opera Theatre will breathe new life into many Christmas standards at their annual Holiday Celebration of Song at 5 p.m. and at 7:30 p.m. Here's your chance to sing along with award-winning vocalists. Free. (859) 257-9331.
Toe Tapping Family Fun. The Central Kentucky Youth Orchestra will perform side by side with the Lexington Philharmonic for the annual Candy Cane Concert on November 29 at 3:00 p.m at the UK Singletary Concert Hall. This year's program of holiday favorites aso features a reading of The Night Before Christmas by popular local weatherman, Bill Meck. Tickets $12. (859) 233-4226.
Holiday Ballet. It wouldn't be Christmas without "The Nutcracker." At the EKU Center for Arts, you can see Lexington Ballet's interpretation of this holiday classic December 12 at 2:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.. For ticket information call (859) 233-3535. See the Bluegrass Youth Ballet's one act version at the UK Singletary Center for the Arts on December 18 at 7:00 p.m. and December 19 at 3:00 p.m. . For information call (859) 257-4929. Kentucky Ballet Theatre's Nutcracker will be performed at Lexington's lovingly restored Opera House on December 12 at 2:00 pm and 7:00 pm, and December 13,19 and 20 at 2:00 p.m. Sugar Plum Teas will follow the Saturday matinee performances. (859)252-5245.
It's a Blue (grass) Christmas, without You! So get your tickets to the December 4th show of three-time Grammy® nominees Dailey & Vincent at the Norton Center for the Arts in Richmond. The duo, along with their band, will perform traditional and contemporary holiday hits plus the Bluegrass favorites that their fans know and love. Their spin on traditional country and gospel Bluegrass music has garnered them numerous accolades, and their Christmas tour is highly anticipated.
Bourbon Traditions. On December 3 from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort kicks off another holiday season. Come out to the gardens of Buffalo Trace for their annual Lighting of the Trace. While you are there you can visit the George T. Stagg Gallery featuring historic photos and bourbon artifacts and listen to the Kentucky State University Choir . And, of course, the Gift Shop! Arrive at 6 p.m. for a candlelight tour of the distillery. Santa will arrive at 7 p. m. Santa will stop by the Visitor Center on December 11,12,18 and 19 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. in case you don't get a chance to tell him what you want on the 3rd! (502) 696-5930.
Oh, Christmas Tree! Looking for the perfect pine, the best balsam, the most fabulous fir? You can find it - already beautifully decorated, to boot - at the 29th annual Trees of Life: A Festival of Trees, November 22 through Christmas, downtown at The Shops at Lexington Center. On November 20, attend the grand unveiling of this year's trees at "Christmas Carnivale" at the Grand Reserve Event Center at 7:30 p.m. See this year's selection of beautifully decorated trees and the participants in the new Wreath Contest. There will be games, prizes, entertainment by Out of the Box, and food by Bluegrass Catering and Bonefish Grill plus samplings from other area restaurants. (859) 277-8259.
Shop for the Greater good. Locals look forward to the annual Holly Day Market presented by the Junior League. Proceeds help further many worthwhile projects. You'll find more than 70 vendors with fabulous boutique-style items unique to the Bluegrass Region. Vendors sell jewelry, toys, books, holiday decorations, art; food and clothes for women, men and children. It's held at the Alltech Arena at the Kentucky Horse Park November 13 - 15. Admission is $10.
Kick start your Shopping. The Lexington Christmas Show will feature over 200 vendors from across the region selling thousands of Christmas gift items! Kick off Black Friday at 10 a.m. at the Lexington Center's Heritage Hall, and continue shopping through Sunday at 4 p.m. Shop for quality Christmas decor, handmade crafts, jewelry and more. Meet Santa all three days. The first 500 children each day will receive a free 4x6 photo with Santa! (859) 233-4567
Simpler Shopping. Escape the hectic pace of mall shopping and drive to Shaker Village for the Pleasant Hill Craft Store . A village admission ticket is not required to shop in the two craft stores. After shopping and visiting with craftsmen, enjoy a meal or tea in the Trustee's Office dining room. (800) 734-5611.
Stocking Stuff-a-rama. Gift shops at Lexington's top attractions are great places to find that special something with a Kentucky connection. The gift shop at the Kentucky Horse Park, 4089 Iron Works Pike, has everything for the horse lover. Many items are Kentucky-made. Another haven for equine themed gifts is the gift shop at Keeneland Race Course, which carries items ranging from jewelry to kidstuff to Keeneland logowear. The Museum Shop at Ashland, The Henry Clay Estate on Richmond Road, has julep cups, cookbooks, and a host of items relating to life in the Victorian Era.