Christmas in Louisville has its own special meaning. Imagine a downtown decked for the holidays with lights, greenery strung, Christmas trees on every corner, strolling carolers and even Santa. It’s a story the Galt House Hotel in downtown Louisville not only imagines but brings to life. Christmas at the Galt House transforms the inside and outside of the massive Louisville hotel into a winter wonderland, but it’s just one way the River City comes to life during the holidays.
Christmas in Louisville is a story of possibilities, one that continues to grow with new offerings built on older traditions. Whether it’s Santa’s Safari at the Louisville Zoo, holiday home tours or the world’s only underground light show at Lights Under Louisville, Christmas in Louisville has something for every taste.
Downtown Louisville is the centerpiece of much of the action with Christmas at the Galt House and all its festivities. But a new Christmas in Louisville event in 2015 is Holiday in the City, a month-long celebration that transforms the plaza at Fourth and Jefferson streets into a Holiday Square with an outdoor ice-skating rink, bourbon and beer village, and a market. The square is complete with the city’s massive Christmas tree and lights and decorations throughout.
Holiday in the City is just a taste of the full seasonal flavor that comes at Christmas at the Galt House, the two-tower hotel a couple of blocks away, and the only hotel that overlooks the Ohio River in the city.
In its sixth year, Christmas at the Galt House is more than just beautiful decorations. Yes, the hotel has plenty of lights, Nativities and trees. Guests are welcomed daily at 5 p.m. with the dancing bellmen. Imagine the Rockettes, only it’s the hotel’s actual bellmen who volunteer each year to learn a choreographed holiday routine and countdown to Christmas every day.
The hotel is transformed into a cozy winter wonderland, something that stretches throughout the two buildings’ common areas that often feature roving carolers.
But beyond the beautiful lobby much of the hotel’s meeting spaces on the third floor are transformed into Christmas at Galt House. The winter wonderland is a journey of rooms filled with gingerbread houses, an elf show, Santa and so much more.
The journey begins with everyone’s favorite elf from the North Pole, because, really, how can you expect to keep a child’s attention through everything else if his mind is on Santa?
Once the visit with Santa is complete it’s off to the elf show, a new event in 2015 that is a fun 15-minute sing and dance to get even the grumpy kids in a better mood. It’s a precursor for the true gem of Christmas at Galt House, KaLightoscope: A Christmas Carol.
KaLightoscope is in its sixth year in 2015, and it features a different theme each year. It features 270 handcrafted luminaries that illustrate Charles Dickens’ classic holiday tale in a walkable journey.
Beginning in October, it’s set up in a 100-foot covered and heated pavilion outside the hotel. But before that, hand-drawn pictures of what is wanted is given to artists in Zigong, China, which is known as the lantern Provence. Those artists come to Louisville in October to finish their creations.
A lot of destinations do Christmas displays, programs and events. Not all are that unique.
Unique? Tiny Tim seems to think so.
Yeah, at Christmas at Galt House the luminaries are reminders of the quality that could be at a Disney property. It’s an imaginative way to tell a story, and since it’s different every year, there is something new to see on return visits.
After the luminaries the journey winds through a Christmas village where children have the opportunity to write a letter to Santa, build a snowman or have a visit with a snow princess.
If the family still has energy after a morning enjoying Christmas at Galt House, walk a couple of blocks south to Holiday in the City to ice skate. The rink is open until the end of January to keep the winter spirit alive.
A couple of evening options include Lights Under Louisville and “Pam Tillis & Friends: A Kentucky Christmas Dinner Show.” Country music singer Tillis creates a Christmas dinner show with dancing and music that is an entertaining option for the whole family.
And if a stay for Christmas in Louisville stretches over a couple of evenings, make sure to drive to the nearby Lights Under Louisville display. This underground light show at Louisville Mega Cavern is the only one of its kind in the world, which takes visitors on a journey through part of 17 miles of underground passageways.
Visitors remain in their cars and slowly wind their way through the caverns enjoying the light displays with a variety of holiday music playing throughout.
Editor’s Note: I was part of a Kentucky holiday media tour of Louisville, Bardstown and Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill. As a professional journalist it’s important that you know all opinions stated here are my own and are not paid for by my gracious hosts.