Each year, the holidays bring cheer-filled events perfect for focusing on seasonal joys, bonding with family and friends and escaping from everyday schedules and economic concerns. The following is but a taste of possibilities across the commonwealth. Hop in your car, shut out the world and hunker down for some holiday spirit.
Owensboro’s Christmas Parade
ChristmasParade.com, (800) 489-1131
For the past 73 years, Owensboro has delighted tens of thousands of onlookers with its Christmas parade. This holiday happening has become so popular that the Southeast Tourism Society has named it as a Top 20 Event, and it has landed on the Kentucky Tourism Council’s Top 10 Winter Events.
With the theme “Miracle on Second Street,” this year’s parade features eight marching bands, beauty queens, riders on prancing steeds, clowns, miniature horses, decorated floats and of course, Mr. Claus himself.
This year’s parade – scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 21 – begins at winter dusk, around 4:30, so spectators can be dazzled with twinkling lights on absolutely everything.
Big South Fork Scenic Railway Santa Express
bsfsry.com, (800) 462-5664
The first three Saturdays in December – at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. each day – the Big South Fork Scenic Railway will become the Santa Express, chugging for nearly two hours on its gorgeous route that drops 600 feet into the spectacular gorge of the Big South Fork River.
Along the way, the two enclosed, heated cars will ring with Christmas carols for all to sing. There’ll be plenty of photo ops as Santa and Mrs. Claus greet each child with a goodie bag wrapped in a real railroad bandana.
Should you prefer a nighttime ride, the Santa Express morphs into the Painted Rock and Twinkle Train on the first three Friday and Saturday nights in December, leaving the Stearns station at 6:30. Early arrivals can wander through Stearns’ historic district and chow down on home cookin’ at the Stearns Restaurant.
My Old Kentucky Home Candlelight Tours
bardstowntourism.com, (800) 638-4877
Candles light a journey back into the 1800s at the stately Georgian Colonial mansion in Bardstown known as My Old Kentucky Home. On the weekends of Nov. 27-28, Dec. 4-5 and 11-12 from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m., this central Kentucky touchstone returns to its elegant past during its annual candlelight tours, as guides in elaborate period costumes recount the home’s history to the strains of traditional music.
Formally named Federal Hill, the columned circa-1818 brick home once played host to Stephen Collins Foster, who was reputedly so inspired that he penned “My Old Kentucky Home,” which later became the state song.
Light refreshments are included in the event, and an array of traditional Kentucky crafts offer an opportunity to check off a few needed gifts on your holiday list.
Historic Washington’s Frontier Christmas
washingtonky.com, (606) 759-0505
Though the 1700s village of Old Washington, near Maysville, offers plenty of retail to explore, shopping is only part of this holiday event, which is now in its 42nd year.
“Frontier Christmas is not just about shopping,” explained Marsha Jones, owner of Keepsake Treasures gift shop. “There’s music all weekend, craft demonstrations, seven museums, good food and just a wonderful holiday ambience.”
On the weekend of Dec. 5, the tiny historic hamlet will be all holly-decked mantles, pine-scented rooms and candlelit windows all day Saturday and Sunday. In addition to 20-plus eclectic shops, there’ll be musicians and carolers strolling along flagstone sidewalks, a free play and free concerts, hot cider at Paxton Inn Circa 1810 Museum, exhibits at the Harriet Beecher Stowe Slavery to Freedom Museum, traditional beeswax candle dipping at Mefford’s Fort 1787 Museum, and a Sunday vespers service at the 1848 Old Church Museum.
Grab a steaming bowl of soup at the Row House Restaurant, and save room for goodies such as transparent tarts, cream candy and bourbon balls throughout the village.