From Folk Art to the Great Outdoors: 10 Reasons to Visit Berea, Kentucky
By Jason Macumber
When it comes to Berea, Kentucky, every experience is unique. Whether you’re watching artists at work in their studios or hiking the Pinnacles in the Berea College Forest, a variety of adventures await the urban and outdoor explorer.
Are you ready to #experienceBerea? Check out this list of reasons why this town should be on your vacation bucket list.
1. Berea is the Folk Arts and Craft Capital of Kentucky.
Berea lives up to its title as the Folk Arts and Crafts Capital of Kentucky. Visitors can experience this firsthand by visiting local shops filled with handmade crafts and watching resident working artists as they create art in their studios, including glassblowing, enamel jewelry, silversmithing, quilting, woodworking, and broom craft, to name a few. You’ll also find public art displayed throughout the city, from vibrant murals to sculptures in College Square – perfect for a self-guided art walk.
2. Berea offers visitors an opportunity to learn a new craft.
Berea Tourism partners with local artists throughout the year to provide LearnShop opportunities that allow visitors to learn new skills from accomplished local artists. Whether you’re visiting for the weekend or staying for a week, LearnShop workshops include blacksmithing (learn to forge spoons), jewelry making, broom craft, painting, calligraphy, papercraft, glasswork, pyrography, sgraffito (pottery scratching), and many more.
3. Berea is a certified Kentucky Trail Town.
Berea’s beautiful natural areas can be explored in many ways. From walking and hiking trails of all skill levels to kayaking and mountain biking, outdoor enthusiasts have many options. Hike the Pinnacle trails, explore the Daniel Boone National Forest or bike in Berea City Park. Berea is also a designated Kentucky Trail Town, meaning you’re near all the outdoor action but also close to conveniences such as lodging, dining, and entertainment.
4. Berea’s local dining combines upscale Southern classics with the town’s unique history.
Berea is home to many dining options, but two establishments are standouts: The Historic Boone Tavern and Honeysuckle Dining and Bourbon House. The Historic Boone Tavern has been a staple of Berea’s College Square for 114 years and has served famous visitors like the Dalai Lama, former presidents, and countless dignitaries. The restaurant and hotel are both staffed by Berea College students who participate in a work-study program. Order the Boone Tavern Hot Brown, a tradition for 98 years. At the Honeysuckle Dining and Bourbon House located in the former Churchill Weavers, a local business that became renowned for its luxury hand-woven fabrics, dig into seasonal dishes like deep-fried frog legs and pan-seared trout with fresh vegetables.
5. Berea offers a wide range of lodging options.
Whether you’re looking for a comfortable stay in a historic hotel or something more adventurous like a treehouse or yurt, Berea’s got your lodging needs covered. In town, enjoy all the amenities for a relaxing stay and close proximity to shopping, dining and fun activities. Or, find serenity and make memories in the surrounding outdoors with a stay at local cabins, campgrounds and even covered wagons!
6. Berea’s unique history is celebrated throughout the city.
Berea College, founded by Reverend John G. Fee in 1853, became the first desegregated college in the South, educating men and women together regardless of gender, race, and financial situation. Today, the college offers visitors unique shopping, dining and outdoor excursions via The Berea College Trace, which connects the college’s history to the city. Shop until you drop at The Berea College Visitor Center & Shoppe. Check out The Log House Craft Gallery. And enjoy farm-to-table delicacies at The Berea College Farm Store.
7. Berea’s featured events bring in thousands of visitors each year.
Berea is a destination for celebration! Between the Berea Craft Festival, the Spoonbread Festival, and the Mayor’s Merry Mingling, visitors can experience some of Berea’s most iconic features and make lasting memories by participating in festivals and events. Explore a forest full of high-end arts and crafts, sample Berea’s famous buttery and sweet Spoonbread, or sip cocoa at the annual Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony!
8. There’s always something going on in Berea.
Can’t make it to Berea’s featured events? That’s okay! Something is going on nearly every day in Berea. There’s rarely a dull moment around town, from trivia nights and art exhibits to weekly jam sessions, country dancing, and improv comedy. Enjoy a show at the Spotlight Playhouse or the Berea College Theater, stroll through the Saturday morning farmers market, or enjoy an evening of live music at one of Berea’s outdoor concerts!
9. Berea highlights and promotes local and international culture.
Berea honors its cultural and international heritage in many unique ways. Berea is home to Celtic Fest, which hosts a series of concerts, workshops, and lectures across the city every August. At Berea College you’ll find the Loyal Jones Appalachian Center Gallery, an incredible resource for Appalachian history. Berea is also part of a unique sister city program with Hokuto City, Japan, where delegates from each country visit with one another to promote education and community at an international level.
10. Berea will welcome you with open arms!
Be prepared to receive genuine Southern hospitality when you visit. Berea is considered one of the friendliest cities in Kentucky, and the residents will welcome you with open arms. The art, history, outdoor adventures, and events are all great reasons to come to Berea, but it’s the people who bring charm and a personal touch to these experiences.