LOUISVILLE - St. Nick gallops in on a racehorse, gaily-wrapped gifts flowing from a pack on his back. Jockeys stand in a row, draped in Christmas garlands and clad in elf shoes and Santa hats.
Jockeys and racehorses? Must be Louisville.
The fourth annual Christmas at the Galt House Hotel is under way with a touch of Louisville’s famed horse heritage. The historic hotel on the Louisville riverfront is offering even more attractions this year along with package deals for overnight guests.
“Louisville is a very convenient driving destination for many areas of our country and the Galt House is right in the heart of Louisville,” said Lisa Haller, Galt House executive director of sales. “It’s a central location and a wonderful place for families to create lasting holiday memories.”
On a visit with my “little” girl – well, actually, my Kelly is over 21 – we enjoyed staying in the Galt House and strolling through the Christmas wonderland. The KaLightoscope Christmas alone is worth the visit. It features dozens of handcrafted luminaria filling a 14,000-square-foot pavilion on the hotel’s grounds. It was such a pleasure to have so many things to do without venturing outside.
Twenty-one Chinese artists spent more than a month at the hotel creating the luminaria, a modern version of a 12,000-year-old Chinese tradition. “They are beautiful,” an awestruck 6-year-old Amber Henderson said, posing for a photo for her mother.
That is one thing that Kelly and I both noted – the Galt House Christmas which began on Nov. 16 and runs through Jan. 1 is a great place to make family photos and greeting cards. In fact, this year the Galt House Christmas is offering a nifty technology to share with friends – Santa’s Sleigh Green Screen Experience.
If you’ve never seen one of the videos, the way it works is that you pick a holiday hat to wear and sit in a Santa sleigh in front of a green screen. But what the video actually shows is you soaring over the rooftops through a star-studded sky. After watching an example on a big screen TV while they await their turn in the sleigh, most people know what to expect and react, often hilariously. Then you are sent a website link to your completed sleigh ride video and you can share it with family and friends.
Entertaining elves guide guests through KaLightoscope where you’ll see a gigantic snowboarding Santa, skating snowmen and a Nativity scene with a beautiful stained glass window. A t the Christmas Village, step into the Snow Fairy Castle where she’ll sprinkle some magic dust in your hand so you can make a wish as you blow the sparkling dust away.
The Candy Cane Forest has youngsters stopping in their tracks when Mr. Sugar Pine, the talking tree began to chat and sing with them. The enchanted forest has more than 100 animatronic forest animals and elves busy at work preparing for Christmas.
Children can climb aboard the Peppermint Express Kiddie Train Ride and meet Ernie the Engineer, a new character this year. Other active options are a Draw on the Wall where children can share a Christmas message, write a letter to Santa (the finished letters are put into his magic bag), create various crafts, and put your name on the Naughty or Nice list. Strange but I never saw anyone putting their name on the Naughty side of the list.
Character events include Breakfast with Santa, Christmas Tea with the Snow Fairy Princess and Ernie the Engineer’s Express Lunch. Kelly and I chose a more grown-up dining option on the 25th floor of the Galt House. Overlooking the Ohio River, the Rivue serves some wonderful cuisine. We dined on turkey and all the trimmings while watching the riverfront from our revolving dining room.
A lighted atrium that joins the hotel’s two towers is beautifully festive with luminaria depicting Santa riding a Thoroughbred. In a nearby nook, Santa Claus waits for children to share their Christmas wishes. Parents can get a recording of the conversation. Standing watch are jockey statues with stocking caps and bright red bootees. Never forget that this is horse country.
Even the hotel bellman get into the holiday spirit. Each day at 5 p.m. in the main hotel lobby, the Dancing Bellmen don toy soldier hats and put on a very amusing break dance for an appreciative audience. The event is free to the public.
Kelly and I liked the Galt House Christmas so much that we hope to make it an annual family event. It’s an easy drive to Louisville, the prices are right and the experience is magical for all ages.
Price: Admission to KaLightoscope Christmas is $14.99 Monday through Thursday and $18.99 Friday through Sunday. Children 12 and younger are admitted free with an adult ticket purchase.
Where to stay: The Galt House Hotel at 140 N. Fourth St. has overnight packages starting at $159 for four guests in a deluxe guest room, plus admission for two adults and two children to KaLightoscope Christmas.
Other attractions: The Galt House Hotel is within short distance of several popular attractions including the Louisville Slugger Museum, Kentucky Center for the Arts, Louisville Science Center, Frazier History Museum, Actors Theater of Louisville, the Urban Bourbon Trail and the Muhammad Ali Center.