When you think of Kentucky, you may think of The Kentucky Derby, but right outside of Lexington there lies a hidden treasure that will ignite your imagination and awaken your spirit. That place is The Shaker Village at Pleasant Hill. Shakers were a religious sect that devoted their life to creating sustainable communities dedicated to working with one’s hands. Known for their iconic architecture, skilled craftmanship, and devotion to living off the land, Shakers had villages throughout the United States and Pleasant Hill is one of the the only remaining in existence, restored as an educational destination to hike, cycle, horseback ride, take classes on a variety of subjects from composting to canning, explore the farm, and dine.
Turning onto a winding road surrounded by rock walls, your destination is in the hills of Kentucky. Driving past a beautiful barn and apple orchard you approach the large rectangular shaped buildings that dot the property, some red brick, some white, some gray. During a 105 year time period, the Pleasant Hill Shakers constructed 209 buildings, 34 which survive today that guests can stay the night in. The rooms are simple and equipped with high-quality Shaker furniture and the only modern device on property you will see is a TV, but chances are with so much to enjoy you will not even want to turn it on.
There are no waterslides, rollercoasters, or drones to entertain, but there is the natural setting of the land offering an abundance of outdoor activities. The Shakers were drawn to this site for its rich natural resources—fertile land, plentiful water sources and strong limestone. Today, The Preserve conserves and shares native prairies, woodlands, watersheds, fields, canebrakes and diverse wildlife—all perfectly framed by miles of hand-laid rock walls. You and your family or friends can go on a new adventure every day through 3,000 acres of streams, forests and wide open spaces. The Shaker Village has one of the only accesses to the Kentucky River palisades where you can riverboat or kayak through the steep, scenic gorges. A 40 mile trail system provides incredible adventures full of flora, fauna, and wildlife.
One morning before sunrise I woke up for an early morning bike ride. Riding through The Preserve I watched as the morning sun began peaking above the horizon, glistening along the dew that blanketed the landscape. I made my way past a pond and down a grass covered trail. I looked around captivated by the lushness of the green hills dotted with blue and white flowers. I stood for a moment then I noticed movement in the trail ahead, a deer passed in front of me slowly and then disappeared into the tall grass, it was a doe. Several seconds went by and then the buck crossed the trail too, noticing me he did not pass slowly, and in an instant their white tails popping up in the grass was all I saw as they ran away. It wasn’t much later that I came across another rustling in the grass, I stopped my bike and a mere 5 feet in front of me crossed a small, young skunk. Staying as still as I could, I let him make his way across the path and then disappear into the tall grass. I also counted a dozen bunnies during my journey. All of this happened in just one morning, proving that adventure is around every corner at The Shaker Village.
There are also events throughout each month including special farm dinners, artisan classes, fox hunts, hayrides, and music on the lawn. On special nights the Lexington Philharmonic also plays music on the lawn.
Dine on traditional favorites and seasonal Kentucky dishes prepared with straight from the garden ingredients from the village’s working farm at The Trustees’ Table, the property’s restaurant open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Steeped in tradition, The Trustees’ Table’s menus celebrate Shaker Village’s roots by featuring dishes made of seasonal ingredients from our garden and local farmers. Guests can count on finding classic Southern menu items, such as fried chicken, corn pudding, tomato celery soup, cole slaw and corn muffins. The menus also offer dishes inspired by the seasons, changing based on the freshest locally available ingredients. Farming was at the heart of the Pleasant Hill Shaker community and the village still uses sustainable agricultural practices while tending the property’s garden, orchard, livestock and apiary. In addition to providing fresh produce for The Trustees’ Table, The Farm shares lessons in sustainability with guests of all ages.
So if you are looking for a vacation that brings you and your family closer to nature, closer to peace, closer to the simple things in life, The Shaker Village at Pleasant Hill should be on the top of your travel list.