Sites & Sights — 19 December 2015
Holiday cheer in and around Louisville, Kentucky.

By Renée S. Gordon

Louisville was named after Louis XVI of France whose aid was crucial to the U.S. during the American Revolution. Ironically, he was deposed and beheaded during the French Revolution with one of the primary causes being his fiscal irresponsibility. Louis and his wife, Marie Antoinette, had a reputation for living a lascivious and luxurious lifestyle, attested to by pamphlets (the 18th Century equivalent of Twitter); in Marie’s case it was probably closer to the truth. In any case, they knew how to party, and Louisville, named in his honor, maintains the tradition of creating spectacular events and attractions. The Christmas holiday season is especially the opportunity to see the city on display.

Any visit to Louisville during the holidays should revolve around a stay in the Galt House Hotel. The Galt House, the only hotel on Louisville’s riverfront, is walking distance to most attractions and one block from the free downtown bus line. The hotel is one of the largest in the state, with 1,310 suites, and seven restaurants on-site—including the award-winning Rivue Restaurant and Lounge, which is located 25-stories up; Jockey Silks Bourbon Bar, a stop on the Urban Bourbon Trail; and Al J’s in the Conservatory, which offers a panoramic city view from a 30-ft. aquarium bar.

Dr. W.C. Galt used some of his land to construct a hotel in 1834 and prior to a devastating fire in 1865 it hosted Lincoln, Grant, Sherman, Jefferson Davis and Charles Dickens. After being rebuilt in 1869, it was again a grand hotel until it was demolished in 1921. The current, family-owned Galt House was constructed in 1973.

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“Christmas at the Galt House” takes place until December 27, 2015. During the season, every corner of the hotel is filled with events and attractions to keep spirits light. The Galt House, renowned for its hospitality and ambiance, is such a happening and gaily decorated place that it claims to be home of one of the world’s largest gatherings of Santa’s elves. Several “elves” stay around to entertain in the “Holly Jolly Elf Show” while guests walk through Winter Wonder Lane. There are 16 sites along the path including an animated English Christmas Village and Mistletoe Marketplace. You can even make a permanent memory with Santa’s Sleigh Green Screen Experience–film yourself keeping Santa company as he delivers gifts in his sleigh
and receive a video via email for sharing.

Charles Dickens stayed in the original Galt House in 1842. I suspect he’d have been thrilled to stroll through “A Kalightoscope Christmas Carol,” celebrating one of his greatest literary works. More than 265 handcrafted silk luminaries, from 6-ft. to 20-ft. tall, light up scenes from the story. Lanterns are made by artisans from Zigong, China, which is renowned as the lantern province since the 7th Century.

The French word “carole” is the predecessor of our word caroling, originally serenading your friends and neighbors at Christmas while standing in a semicircle. In keeping with this tradition, modern carolers in Victorian dress regale guests throughout the day.

Each evening at 5 PM share the exuberance of Galt House’s Dancing Bellmen. Seven of the hotel’s working bellmen dress as toy soldiers and perform a routine to holiday tunes in the lobby. The culmination of the show is the turning of a page in the huge book that counts down to Christmas. The Dancing Bellmen are also available for photo ops.

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More Celebrations Around Louisville…

Louisville KYThe Frazier History Museum has mounted an exhibit throughout the two-story museum. “Holidays Around the World” will be on display until January 3, 2016. Christmas trees are decorated by Louisville’s international organizations to reflect ethnicity and tradition. The displays are augmented with local choir performances. The permanent collection interprets American History from the 1500s through themed galleries, rare artifacts and theatrical performances. Currently two outstanding exhibitions are on view: “Spirits of the Bluegrass: Prohibition and Kentucky” and “The Lewis and Clark Experience.” Here you can stand beside Carrie Nation, hatchet raised to smash kegs of alcohol or sit beside Al Capone for a selfie. Both exhibits are on view through 2016.

Louisville KYThe Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory complex offers a journey through baseball history, a factory tour and a wonderful retail opportunity. “The Art of Rankin/Bass” is one of two holiday exhibits. Rankin/Bass was the company that produced animated holiday programs such as Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman. The gallery showcases artwork, posters and memorabilia. Guests can watch Willie Mays and the Say-Hey Kid and hear the actual voice of Willie Mays.

I defy any adult to fail to find a toy they loved in “The “Best Toys Ever” exhibition. The most popular and best-loved toys, many in the National Toy Hall of Fame, are displayed around a rare interactive model train set. Each toy evokes oohs, ahs and memories. Among the original and antique toys are Star Wars figures, Silly Putty, Monopoly, Teddy Ruxpin, Hula Hoops and, of course Barbie and G.I. Joe. This is a delightful experience.

Louisville Mega Caverns is truly a hidden gem located 100-ft. beneath Louisville streets with 17 miles of wide corridors. The limestone complex consists of an Underground Bike Park with 45 trails, Dual Slalom, BMX, Cross Country and Single Track. Guests can also opt to have an A.C.C.T. trained tour guide lead them on a Mega Quest, the sole completely underground aerial ropes challenge course in the world. A seated narrated Mega Tram Tour of the man-made caverns is offered for those who wish to explore in a less strenuous way.

Mega Caverns holiday special is “Lights Under Louisville,” a self-drive tour through a portion of the trail filled with 2,000,000 lights and more than 850 figures. The tour is offered until January 3, 2016 and has been voted by USA Today as one of the “Top Ten Christmas Light Shows in America.”

Close out 2015 with lights, elves, carols, toys and unique memories in Louisville.

More Information…

Galt House Hotel

Go To Louisville

Visit Kentucky

– Photos by Renée S. Gordon

Featured products, services and/or travel arrangements may have been complimentary in part or in full; this affords the research opportunity but does not sway opinion.

Renee GordonRenée S. Gordon has written a weekly travel column for the Philadelphia Sun for the past 14 years and has published travel articles in numerous publications. Her columns focus on cultural, historic and heritage tourism and she specializes in sites and attractions related to African American and African Diaspora history. Renée serves as a consultant for educational trips and history-related tourist destinations. She considers herself a “missionary journalist” and as such she continues to promote heritage and sustainable tourism. She has been honored with several awards including the 2013 Recipient of African Diaspora World Tourism and Flame Keeper in Media Award for Travel Writing.

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