When I was invited to attend a Media Preview weekend for Christmas at the Galt House, I was thrilled, especially because kids were invited. As a family travel writer, it’s hard to do research without kids, and it’s not often that media invitations include them. As it turned out, only one of my kids didn’t have other activities scheduled, so instead I invited my co-author and one of her daughters to join us. I had stayed at the Galt House before, but not at Christmastime and I’d heard that it was terrific. The holiday cheer starts before you even check in.
As with most large hotels, there are bellmen to help with your luggage, but these aren’t ordinary bellmen. Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, they are Dancing Bellmen! They dance every day at 5 p.m. We were treated to a special preview.
Isn’t that fun?! These aren’t professional dancers posing as bellmen; they’re the regular bellmen who were taught to dance by a choreographer. I love that.
All of the public areas of the hotel are decked out with Christmas decorations.
The Galt House is a great place to get some pictures of your kids with Santa. There’s no charge to take pictures with your own camera and you can even use the Santa Cam to get a free video of your kids talking to Santa.
You won’t want to miss the KaLightoscope Christmas attraction. It is like nothing else anywhere.
What is that? It’s one of several giant luminaries. It’s hard to tell how big these are without a person in the picture for scale. Here’s another.
Not only are these luminaries bright, colorful, and fun, they come from a rich Chinese cultural heritage. They were crafted by artisans from Zigong, China. The techniques have been passed from one generation to another in artisan families. Zigong hosts the world’s largest lantern festival. They are simply amazing.
Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons, Ray-Wu.
Christmas at the Galt House is the only place in the world where the traditional Chinese techniques have been used to create luminaries depicting traditional Western Christmas motifs. Instead of dragons, you will see Santa, gingerbread, and a Nativity scene. The Galt House doesn’t just place an order from China; they bring Chinese artisans to Louisville to create them. During the media preview weekend we had the opportunity to attend a behind-the-scenes presentation about how the luminaries are constructed. After the design is drawn, an artisan (typically male) creates a metal frame by bending the metal into place.
Then the lights are set into place. Finally another artisan (typically female) applies an adhesive to the frame and covers it with satin, working one section at a time until it is completely covered.
Here’s what the complete gingerbread man looks like (without lights).
An interpreter was present so that we could interview the artisans. I wanted to know how they felt about making luminaries that are decidedly non-Chinese; did they think it was a mockery of their tradition or were they happy to share their craft? The artisan replied that he was honored to have the opportunity to share his art outside of China.
Now that you know the background of this unique art form, I hope you’ll appreciate the rest of the pictures even more. You enter the exhibit through a tunnel.
An elf greets you and supplies kids with a Scavenger Hunt page.
Younger kids would probably enjoy the scavenger hunt. My 11-year-old daughter preferred to take pictures with her iPod Touch rather than complete the hunt. Here’s a picture of us with what appears to be Gingerbread Rockettes.
Here’s a giant elf.
Although you can’t tell from this picture, there are spinning elements on this Gingerbread House. You can also walk through it.
Several other luminaries have moving parts too. Check out Snowboarding Santa.
And the spinning snowmen.
One area was designed to look like the underside of a Christmas tree.
There was a giant doll too.
Another section is a Giant Nativity Scene. Here are Mary, Joseph, Baby Jesus, and an Angel.
More angels hang overhead.
And the Wise Men are there as well.
Beautiful, aren’t they? The KaLightoscope tickets include admission to several more attractions that are all family friendly. See a giant gingerbread house.
The Galt House also sponsors a Gingerbread House Contest with some really nice cash prizes. There were three categories: Professional, Amateur Adults, and Amateur Kids. Those of us on the media tour were the judges. This was my favorite.
I also liked Churchill Downs in gingerbread.
Here’s one of the kids’ entries, Starry Night with Gingerbread.
I hope I haven’t lost you yet, because there’s more! One very fun (and corny) feature is the new Santa’s Sleigh Green Screen Experience. It’s included with your admission and they will email you the video. I am unable to embed it into this post, but you can click here and see me and my daughter on a sleigh ride.
Other children’s activity areas include writing a letter to Santa, drawing on a wall, and making fancy paper snowflakes at the Make a Flake station.
They let all the media people make them too. It was quite a sight to see a bunch of journalists sitting around cutting out snowflakes. I made a Songbird Snowflake. Other options included a Snowman and Fleur-de-lis.
Next we visited the Christmas Village.
It’s fun to peek in the windows and look for other surprises.
Little girls will not want to miss the opportunity to meet the Snow Fairy Princess in her castle.
Then enter the Candy Cane Forest where you will be greeted by Mr. Sugar Pine, the Talking Tree.
My daughter felt too old for the Peppermint Express Kiddie Train, but was kind enough to ride it so I could get a picture. Here is where you’ll meet Ernie the Engineer. One of Ernie’s assistants helped get the girls buckled in.
The train is surrounded by over 100 animatronic elves and animals.
And all of that is included in the price of KaLightoscope. Adults pay $14.99 Monday through Thursday and $18.99 Friday through Sunday. A free child’s admission is included with each adult ticket. Additional children pay $9.99. Active or retired military also receive free admission. A family of four would pay about $30 on a weekday and less than $40 on a weekend. With all there is to see and do, I think it’s a good value. Plan to spend about two hours enjoying KaLightoscope.
The Galt House also offers special meals during the holiday season. You can have Breakfast with Santa ($30 kids, $15 adults), an Express Lunch with Ernie the Engineer ($19.99), or Christmas Tea with the Snow Fairy Princess ($19.99). All of those prices include admission to KaLightoscope.
The hotel also offers a Colors of the Season Holiday Dinner Show which includes singing and dancing. Quite frankly, I thought it was a little on the cheesy side, but I looked around the room and the kids seemed to be enjoying it.
This year brings a new event to the Galt House: the Sing ‘n’ Joy International Choral Festival and Competition which takes place Thanksgiving weekend only.
Overnight packages that include accommodations and KaLightoscope are available. Packages start at $159. Higher-priced packages include breakfast or the dinner show. You can choose from either a regular guest room or a suite. For families, I highly recommend the suites. They are very spacious and can sleep 6. I took the following pictures on a previous trip. FYI, your hotel room will not come with a teenage boy on the bed. That is a VIP perk for people like me.
There is also a nice vanity area outside the bathroom with a lighted makeup mirror. I do not recommend the mirror for women over 40.
The living area is simply gigantic.
I really like that there is both a desk and a table in the room.
There’s just one negative about the hotel that I should tell you–it doesn’t have an indoor pool, only a seasonal outdoor pool. That was a disappointment to my daughter.
While you’re in Louisville, there’s lots more to see. Check out my articles on the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory, Louisville MEGA Cavern, and the Kentucky Science Center. The Louisville MEGA Cavern recently opened a new ropes challenge course called MEGA Quest and donated passes as a prize for the Passports with Purpose Program. Find more information about it here.
Ready to visit?
Christmas at the Galt House
140 N. Fourth Street
Louisville, KY 40202
Event runs from Nov. 15, 2013 – Jan. 1, 2014.
Disclosure: We received complimentary lodging, admission, and meals as part of the media preview weekend. We paid for our own transportation. All opinions are my own.