Berea, the Arts and Crafts Capital of Kentucky, is an easy to find stop on I-75 just south of Lexington, KY. Here are some highlights we recommend when visiting.
Berea College is the largest landholder in Berea and offers tours and accommodations through its historic Boone Tavern Hotel. Berea College is one of the nation’s top liberal arts schools with a mission to serve the Appalachian area. Berea College is known for having an endowment that rivals that of Ivy league institutions and uses those funds to provide students with the rare opportunity to receive a completely free education.
The historic Boone Tavern Hotel is located on the college square. Founded in 1909, the hotel has 63 rooms and is a member of the Historic Hotels of America and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The hotel is owned by the college and the rooms are largely decorated and furnished with items created from student crafts and woodworking.
The Log House Craft Gallery has showcased Berea College Students and other artists in its gallery, filled with unique and wonderful pieces. You can visit the gallery Monday through Saturday to shop for Berea souvenirs and experience folk art.
One of Berea College’s greatest assets is its 8000-acre forest that offers some of the most beautiful hiking trails in the nation. Indian Fort Mountain is the shared starting place for several trails leading all over the property that includes the equally beautiful West and East Pinnacles.
Arts & Crafts
The Berea Artisan Village located on North Broadway in an area known as Old Town. The streets are lined with many of Berea’s working artists and it is a great place to walk from shop to shop in a relaxing environment. The centerpiece of the Artisan Village is the Old Berea Hotel now home to the Berea Arts Council. Nearby the L&N Train Depot is the only standing brick depot left of the historic railway route.
Another popular area to experience the arts and crafts of Berea is the Berea College Square. Located adjacent to the Boone Tavern Hotel, the square is a wonderful place to browse several shops and enjoy some great meals.
The Kentucky Artisan Center at Berea has been both a blessing and a curse for the Berea arts community. While it is a great place to pull traffic off of the interstate with fantastic highway frontage, it has not been highly successful at directing travelers into the town to experience all Berea has to offer. The center celebrates all of Kentucky’s artisans through exhibits and displays and is owned by the Commonwealth of Kentucky.
For a completely different art experience take a drive through the beautiful Red Lick Valley on KY 594 from Berea to Irvine. Several artisans have made the valley their home. This includes the two potteries, Tater Knob Pottery and Alley Cat Pottery. Another thing to do along the way is the Meadow House Studio and if you need a place to stay in the valley, check out HomeGrown HideAways or Happiness Hills Farm & Retreat Center.
Whether you like to shop, eat or simply drive around and see the sights, a great way to end a day of fun in Berea is enjoy one of the many entertainment venues.
The Spotlight Playhouse offers over 150 performances a year and gives the best chance of catching a show on any given week. The Playhouse is home to the Bluegrass Players, The Spotlight Players, and the Spotlight Acting School, where they produce plays, musicals, dinner shows, and concerts featuring some of the area’s best talent. The Playhouse is located on US Hwy 25 in North Berea.
The Berea Arena Theater has been offering top-notch community productions for over a decade. The theater is housed in a Berea College facility located between Berea and Indian Fort Mountian on KY HWY 21. The theater produces a couple of Broadway productions and various concerts each year in addition to its well-known repeat productions of A Christmas Carol, Berea’s Country Jamboree (A Hee Haw inspired variety show) and We Got Talent.
Berea College’s theatre program has thrived for over 125 years. Out of the Jelkyl Drama Center, the department hosts about three productions, annually, that are open to the public.
The Old Cabin Porch in the Artisan Village is a great place to catch live music on the weekends in the summers. With weekly gatherings or as part of the First Friday festivals each month the cabin offers a great place to sit back and enjoy some tune but bring your own chair.
Berea is home to several dancing organizations, but on the 3rd Sat. of each month, anyone can join Oh Contraire at the Russel Acton Folk Center for a genuine Contra Dance. Beginners are invited to attend early to learn dances.