The holidays are a good time to take family and friends to great places in your Bluegrass 'backyard'

rcopley@herald-leader.comDecember 19, 2013 

  • MORE SUGGESTIONS

    These are just a few ideas for places to go and things to see in Central Kentucky and the commonwealth overall. Visit Kentuckytourism.com for more suggestions.

Welcome to the holidays.

Many area schools have been out for several days, and as of Friday, lots of folks are on extended holiday breaks.

What to do with the time?

Certainly Hollywood and our nation's retailers have offered numerous options for the pure consumer in you. But if you are in town or have relatives or friends visiting, what can you do after you've played with all your new toys, exchanged some gifts and seen Catching Fire for the third time?

You might get to know some of the Bluegrass's marquee attractions, destinations that are constantly touted to tourists, but residents often buzz right by.

If the weather outside isn't frightful and you want to go exploring your state of residence, here are some ideas to fill your leisurely days.

Ashland, the Henry Clay Estate

120 Sycamore Rd, Lexington. (859) 266-8581. Henryclay.org.

Every day, thousands of people drive by the home site of the Great Compromiser, just off Richmond Road. But Christmas is a particularly opportune time to check it out.

It is hard to miss the estate's 100-foot-tall Norway spruce tree, which is lit nightly on the grounds. But if you venture in you will be treated to the Currier & Ives-themed décor and the rich history of the residence.

Guided tours are available hourly from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays (but not Christmas Day, when the estate is closed) and 1 to 4 p.m. Sundays through Dec. 30. Candlelight tours from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Friday and Thursday include live music, cookies and cider. Tickets are $10 and $5 students for daytime tours, $15 and $7 for the candlelight tours.

Shaker Village at Pleasant Hill

3501 Lexington Rd., Harrodsburg. 1-800-734-5611. Shakervillageky.org.

Any time of year is great to see Shaker Village's marriage of history and craftsmanship. The site was developed to preserve the structures and records of the Shaker religious community that existed there for most of the 19th and some of the early 20th centuries. Today, it is revered for the simple, solid craftsmanship that went into everything from furniture and buildings to household products and food.

During the holidays, there are a number of special attractions, including lunches and teas, horse-drawn carriage rides through the village, sales at the shops, and special performances. Saturdays are a particularly big, with special performances and tours through Dec. 28. This Saturday's guest performers include the Louisville Mandolin Orchestra and Bluegrass Dulcimer Club.

Shaker Village is closed Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Visit the website for detailed information, including a rundown of holiday events.

Visit a small town

We write to you from the heart of downtown Lexington, but we are frequently charmed by the town squares of our small-town neighbors such as Versailles, Paris, Nicholasville, Danville, Richmond and other Kentucky communities.

Berea, with its proximity to Berea College and artisan shops, is particularly appealing, and a visit can include staying or dining at historic Boone Tavern, which has hosted historic figures including President Calvin Coolidge, the Dalai Lama and poet Robert Frost.

Many other area town centers feature mixes of shops, restaurants and galleries, and most of them get gussied up at the holidays with festive, sometimes naturally retro, décor.

Hike, run or ride the Legacy Trail

We have a bit of a mixed bag of weather in the coming weeks, with highs ranging from the 30s to the 60s, so we are not touting too many outdoor attractions.

On one of the nicer days, though, if you have not checked out Lexington's Legacy Trail, it is worth a walk at least to see the various settings of the 8.5-mile path between the North Lexington Family YMCA and the Kentucky Horse Park. There are trailheads with easy parking at the Y, in Coldstream Park off Citation Boulevard, or on Iron Works Pike, across from the Horse Park.

From any of those spots, you may head out by foot or bike to enjoy scenery and exercise. There are some hills and a few intersections to traverse, particularly Citation Boulevard at Newtown Pike. But overall, the trail is accessible to folks of any age or fitness level, and you can do as much or as little of it as you like.

Go to Mylegacytrail.com for more information.

Travel the Bourbon Trail

Bourbon has become crazy popular worldwide the past few years, and there's no better way to remind yourself that the spirit comes from right here in the Bluegrass than to travel the trail of distilleries that winds through the commonwealth.

Experiences on the Bourbon Trail can range from the bucolic serenity of Woodford Reserve in Versailles, featuring holiday lunches through Sunday and on Dec. 28 and 29, to the newest and most urban entry, the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience in downtown Louisville.

There is plenty to see on either end of the trail, including Lexington's Town Branch Bourbon, and in between, including Four Roses in Lawrenceburg.

There is also a Bourbon Trail Craft Tour of smaller distilleries that includes Barrel House Distilling Co. in Lexington.

Go to Kybourbontrail.com for a rundown of locations and events; a number of distilleries are running special attractions during the holidays or have reduced hours.

Irish Acres Gallery of Antiques

4205 Ford's Mill Rd., Versailles, (859) 873-7235. Irishacresgallery.com.

Christmastime is prime time for this gallery and its restaurant, The Glitz, in the Central Kentucky community of Nonesuch. Some families make an Irish Acres excursion an annual outing at the holidays to see the elaborately decorated galleries of antiques and the Glitz, with distinctive dining rooms including the Crystal Alley. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Dec. 20, 21, and 26 to 28.


MORE SUGGESTIONS

These are just a few ideas for places to go and things to see in Central Kentucky and the commonwealth overall. Go to Kentuckytourism.com for more suggestions.

Rich Copley: (859) 231-3217. Twitter: @copiousnotes. Blog: copiousnotes.bloginky.com.

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