Give The Gift Of Experiences This Holiday Season: #GiftGuide

JC Phelps

2021 Kentucky Experiences Gift Guide

Hey, y’all! ‘Tis the season for gift guides. Where did the year go? As crazy as it seems, it’s December — and time is running out to buy your friends, friendly, and loved ones the perfect gift. However, to kick my gift guides off this year, I’m giving y’all a new option: to give the gift of experiences. We all have so much stuff (and as a maximalist, I love it, trust me); that said, there’s no better gift than time well-spent with those that you love. As such, I’m excited to share my Kentucky Experiences Gift Guide 2021 with y’all today!

Eden Roots Flower Farm: Bulb Planting

We often associate planting with warmer months — but, Eden Roots Flower Farm changes that with their gorgeous bulbs this holiday season. I love the Jumbo Amaryllis Bulb, which comes dressed with moss and a bow (retails for $25). Plants are the gifts that keep on giving, y’all! Learn more about Eden Roots Flower Farm here; shop here; check them out on Instagram here. You can also shop them in-store at Weathered Oak in Simpsonville (6950 Shelbyville Rd).

Fun fact: only 2% of the amaryllis bulbs in the world are greater than 26 cm; Eden Roots Flower Farm only sells bulbs that are 30 cm in diameter or greater. That means one thing: they will produce the most flowers possible!

Pet A Kangaroo At Kentucky Down Under: Hart County

Did you know you can visit kangaroos in the Commonwealth of Kentucky? Either way – meet Kentucky Down Under, which is conveniently located off of I65 in beautiful Hart County! Pet a kangaroo; feed rainbow lorikeets; watch sheep herding; visit the miniature farm; enjoy the horse-drawn wagon rides and bird show; meet a rare white bison. All of this is possible, and more, at Kentucky Down Under. Open year round except Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and in extreme weather. Purchase tickets here; learn more about Kentucky Down Under here.

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Bryn Young, Unsplash

Explore Hidden River Cave: Hart County

Hidden River Cave is the centerpiece of the beautiful National Register of Historic Places Commercial District in tiny downtown Horse Cave, Kentucky, just about 10 miles from Mammoth Cave National Park. The impressive entrance is the largest natural entrance in Kentucky’s cave area. It lies directly adjacent to Main Street, and the cave runs beneath the town’s streets and sidewalks.

Famed naturalist John Muir described Hidden River Cave on his 1867 A Thousand Mile Walk to the Gulf. “The entrance seems like a noble gateway to the birthplace of springs and fountains and the dark treasuries of the mineral kingdom. This cave is in a village … which it supplies with an abundance of cold water, and cold air that issues from its fern-clad lips. In hot weather crowds of people sit about it in the shade of the trees that guard it. This magnificent fan is capable of cooling everybody in the town at once.”

Open year around, no reservations are needed except for the Off-Trail Adventure Tour. To reserve a ticket online ahead of time, click here; learn more about Hidden River Cave here.

Tour The Dutch Country Safari: Hart County

Dutch Country Safari Park is located on a family farm in Hart County, Kentucky. The family work and operate the attraction – and also live on-site. What seems to be an unassuming place in rural Kentucky proves to be chock-full of well-cared-for biological diversity. Many of the species are native to Africa.

The Safari Park is a drive-thru experience — which lends itself nicely to being up close and personal with the animals. The path is 3/4 mi. in length and visitors go through it at a very slow pace, giving you ample time to observe, photograph, and enjoy the sights.

They are open mid-March through October. Learn more here. Individual ticket + season passes are available to purchase over the phone (270-925-4417) or at the park.

Have A One-of-a-kind Getaway at Horse Cave KOA

Roast marshmallows by the fire. Stay in a Conestoga Wagon. Sleep amongst the trees – literally – in their newly opened treehouses. Camp. Bring an RV. Horse Cave KOA is unlike any other KOA in the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

I recently stayed at the treehouse and it was such a wonderful experience. You can read more about my stay here. Learn more about Horse Cave KOA + book your reservation here.

Attend a Painting Class at Shaker Village

Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill is a landmark destination that shares 3,000 acres of discovery in the spirit of the Kentucky Shakers. With 34 original Shaker structures, the site is home to the country’s largest private collection of original 19th century buildings and is the largest National Historic Landmark in Kentucky. You’ll love exploring the property, staying overnight, and enjoying a delicious meal at their restaurant. That said, they also offer many exciting events throughout the year. One that is coming up is a Watercolor Painting Class with Lexington-based artist Charley Jolly on March 12th, 2022. Class size limited. Visit the website to book or contact Shaker Village directly (859-734-5411).

Class specifics: Watercolor Painting for Beginners at Shaker Village, Saturday, March 12, 2022 – 10 a.m.-4 p.m. $105-$125. 6-hour workshop is designed for the beginners. All supplies are provided, as well as lunch, admission to the village, and 20% voucher to dine at the Trustees’ Table.

Tour the Barn and Backside at Churchill Downs, Exclusively Through the Kentucky Derby Museum

Did you know there’s a vibrant community of horses and horsemen who live and work on the Backside of Churchill Downs? (Yes, there’s even a church onsite!) In this guided van tour, you’ll ride among the signature green-roofed barns that are home to 1,400 horses during the racing and training season. In addition to the horses, you’ll also see some of the hundreds of people who live and work on the Backside as they care for and train the world-class Thoroughbreds. You never know who you may see on the Backside – a legendary Derby trainer or even next year’s Triple Crown winner! Bring your camera for panoramic views of the racetrack, Grandstand, and the historic Twin Spires™.

Y’all have heard me say it before: the Kentucky Derby is my favorite holiday. And there’s no better place to learn about the Kentucky Derby than the Kentucky Derby Museum at Churchill Downs.

Learn more about the KDM here; book tickets for the Barn and Backside Tour (daily March 15 – November 30) here. The winter Barn and Backside Tour is offered in the off-season, though horses are not on property.

Specifics: Guests must be at least 8 years of age and 57 inches tall. Museum General Admission and a viewing of 360°-degree movie “The Greatest Race” are included in price.

Attend a Class at the Craftery

The Craftery is Louisville’s first & only DIY studio + full bar where you can sip cocktails while making a one-of-a-kind project. Grab a seat at the Craftery & discover a whole new way to DIY, y’all!

You can see their current roster of craft projects here; I particularly love the painted ornaments and the string art!

If you have a creative to purchase a gift for, look no further. Learn more about the Craftery here.

Give the gift of Kentucky experiences this year for the holiday season, y’all! They are sure to be the hit of your gift-giving extravaganza.

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JC Phelps is a Kentucky-based food + southern lifestyle writer.

Louisville, KY
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