Day Tripper: Old favorites and new fancies

Intermission by Jean-Louis Forain is in Renoir to Chagall at the Speed Art Museum..
Intermission by Jean-Louis Forain is in Renoir to Chagall at the Speed Art Museum..

Just because you think you know a place, don't assume it has nothing new to offer. Here are a few new (and good) reasons to visit, or revisit, some old favorites in the new year.

Lexingtonians are fortunate to live near one of the mid-South's best art museums, but if you plan to visit Louisville's Speed Art Museum before it closes for three years to allow for a $50 million expansion, you'll need to do it before October. (During the renovation, many of the museum's major pieces will be featured in traveling shows at other regional museums.)

A good time to go will be Feb. 3 to May 6, when you can catch the blockbuster exhibition Renoir to Chagall: Paris and the Allure of Color. In addition to Renoir and Chagall, Impressionist and Post-Impressionist artists represented will include Degas, Monet, Pissarro, Cassatt, Matisse, Gauguin and Toulouse-Lautrec.

The exhibition will explore the broad range of subjects that inspired these artists, from ballerinas to beach landscapes.

As far as museums go, you don't even have to travel to Louisville to get a dose of culture. You can stay in Lexington and do the same, thanks to a pilot program that allows entrance to four of the city's museums — the Lexington History Museum, The Art Museum at the University of Kentucky and two Smithsonian-affiliated institutions, the Headley-Whitney Museum and the International Museum of the Horse — with a $20 museum pass.

The pass is available through March, and you can buy it at the Lexington Convention and Visitors Bureau or at any of the participating museums.

About a half-hour drive from Lexington, Danville is fast becoming a go-to destination, thanks to several new restaurants and entertainment venues. It's the town's Community Arts Center, however, that will lure parents and their junior astronauts from Jan. 5 through Feb. 26 with the exhibition Space ... Imagine That!

Developed by the Houston Museum of Natural Science in conjunction with Rice University, the exhibit will feature soaring spaceships, monster storms and raging rivers — all within the family-friendly confines of the center's Discovery Dome.

It's not that far a leap from the future to the past at Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill. As if the picturesque restored community in Mercer County weren't attraction enough, Shaker Village will celebrate the heritage of Kentucky's signature beverage on March 17 with "A Spirited Bourbon Event." A daytime bourbon master class will be followed by a bourbon-inspired dinner that evening, with Mark Williams, executive chef of the Brown-Forman Corp.

Shaker Village appeals not just to bourbon lovers, but to nature lovers, as well. If you fall into the latter category, you'll surely want to sign up for one of the cruises on the Kentucky River on May 5, 12 and 19 to visit a blue heron rookery. The 21/2-hour cruises, departing from Shaker Landing at 10 a.m., will feature a biologist from the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, and they will offer participants an up-close view of a breeding colony during nesting season.

Come July, the (seven) hills of Cincinnati will be alive with the sound of music as it becomes the first U.S. city to host the World Choir Games, on July 4 to 14. The Queen City is hoping that the "Olympics of choral music" will do for it what the Olympics of equestrian sport (the World Equestrian Games) did for Lexington in 2010.

Over the 10-day games, 400 choirs representing 70 countries will compete in 23 musical categories. It promises to be one of our region's most spectacular events.