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Berea, Kentucky: Historical Family Fun

Relax on the porch of the historic Boone Tavern Hotel.
Mary Casey-Sturk

Berea, Kentucky is well known as the home of Berea College (founded in 1855) the school where Appalachian students have been given so many opportunities through the years. Berea’s arts and crafts traditions have become famous not only in Kentucky and the United States, but around the world.

Today, the town of Berea also makes for a great destination for a day or weekend trip with activities for the entire family.

The Hotel

The Hotel was built at the urging of Nellie Frost, wife of Berea College president William G. Frost , after a very busy season of hosting guests in their home (some 300 one summer alone!). Named for Appalachian hero Daniel Boone, it’s been hosting visitors ever since. For over 100 years, the Hotel and Tavern have continued to provide comfortable accommodations and delicious meals in the heart of the city of Berea and surrounded by the vibrancy of historic Berea College. There are a variety of room types and packages available year round.

A recent renovation has managed to keep the charm in place, while becoming green (Gold LEED). The rooms are comfortable and well appointed and include touches like student made furnishings and woven throws, as a reminder of the uniqueness of the Berea arts and crafts community. Flat screen televisions, WiFi, Keurig coffee machines (for the grown-ups) and a soothing ceiling fan add to the comfort and complement the traditional setting with its high ceilings and tall windows.

The Food

The Boone Tavern Dining Room is rich with southern hospitality. The cuisine is Kentucky traditional with a twist. Executive Chef Jeffrey Newman, is a native of Lexington, Kentucky, studied at the Culinary Institute of America in New York. His creative (and delicious) menu features farm to table samplings with innovative dishes such as: sautéed shrimp with chicken and smoked garlic sausage over Kentucky’s own Weisenberger Mills Grits with crispy shallots, tomatoes, and jalapeño crème and Kentucky’s Sheltowee Farm mushroom and cheese omelet. The Chef still makes room for historical favorites like “Chicken Flakes in a Bird’s Nest” and the world famous “Spoonbread”. Their Sunday brunch is a favorite with visitors and locals alike. Children’s menu items available.

Relax after your meal by perusing the regional treats for sale in the gift shop, find a cozy sofa and open a book, or settle down in a rocker on the lovely porch and catch up with the kiddos.

The Town

Berea is a well known shopping destination and has three distinct opportunities to contribute to the local economy.

Nestled along the side of Interstate 75 (exit 77) is the Kentucky Artisan Center. Featuring over 650 Kentucky artists, here you can shop for everything from books to clothes, have a meal, pick up some tourist information or just relax for a while and see the latest gallery exhibit or catch an artisan in action. Open daily 9-6 p.m (closed some holidays), free admission.

Berea College Crafts can be found at several locations around town. From the whimsical to the practical, there are many options for fabulous souvenirs here including: woven blankets, placemats and throws, furniture, ceramics and wooden kitchen wares.

Visit the Log House Craft Gallery (Estill Street), Boone Tavern Gift Shop (inside the Boone Tavern Hotel) or Student Crafts on the Square (120 Main Street—on College Square) to choose from hundreds of treasures. Unique items for children (including toys and games) and infants are available here. Student staffers enjoy the opportunity to talk about their hometowns and craft.

Fun for all ages: Puppets and Such (315 Chestnut St, open Tues-Sat) is a performing arts company and puppet builder that also has a retail store featuring puppets, toys and gifts. In addition, they have a puppet making craft table always open.

The Old Town Artisan Village offers up ample opportunities to shop, with unique places for pottery, furniture and fiber arts. Old Town Candy Kitchen and Fudge Factory offers up cones as well as a large assortment of fudge-a great spot to take a break.

Jewelry makers will enjoy the large selection of beads and gift items inside Hot Flash Beads and there are several jewelry stores around town to pick out ready made treasures, including the Lindsay Gallery and Nora Swanson Arts.

In a repurposed train depot, you will find the Visitor’s Center with a historic display and helpful staffers. If you’re lucky, you may even spy a train passing by! Check in advance for special events at:

To book your own stay, visit:

If you go-Berea is an easy drive from Greater Cincinnati and is located along Interstate 75 south of Richmond, Kentucky. Exits 76 & 77.

Stops along the way include:

The Kentucky Horse Park-Lexington
The Aviation Museum of Kentucky-Lexington
Battle of Richmond Historic Sites-Richmond

Mary Casey-Sturk is a freelance travel and features writer based in Cincinnati. Her work has appeared in the Cincinnati Enquirer, the Tennessean, Smoky Mountain Living Magazine, Venice Gondolier Sun, Kentucky Explorer Magazine, Nashville Arts Magazine and others.

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