The Best Things To Do In Berea, Kentucky

Craft culture and Southern hospitality set the stage for a perfect getaway in Berea, Kentucky.

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Berea, KY

Courtesy Berea Tourism

If you find yourself smiling as you stroll through downtown Berea, Kentucky, don’t be surprised. The quaint community—home to highly-respected Berea College, founded in 1855—is the type of place that makes visitors feel welcomed with opened arms. Plus, there are pretty things to look at everywhere you turn, so a day trip to the city is like a hug for your senses.

The college is the heart of the city here—both physically and symbolically—and the artisan culture that has become the backbone of the city stems from Berea College’s early work to celebrate and preserve traditional Appalachian crafts. 

Art class in Berea, KY

Courtesy Berea Tourism

Berea is a town that prides itself on sharing its artistic talents. Here, you can join seasonal workshops to learn skills in jewelry-making, fiber arts, blacksmithing, woodworking and more—and even take home a finished project. 

If you're not looking for a hands-on experience, you can stroll Berea shops door-to-door—each of the city’s two distinct artisan districts is easily walkable—to revel in the colorful, handcrafted creations on display. The only thing challenging about a trip to Berea? Selecting just some of the abundance of locally crafted pottery, paintings, jewelry, scarves, wooden bowls, and more as souvenirs.

Artisan Village, Berea, KY

Courtesy Berea Tourism

Where To Shop 

Just across the street from the Berea College campus, the College Square shops offer the ideal launching point for your Berea artisan adventure. Peruse ornate, handmade wooden puzzles and locally-crafted pottery at The Appalachian Fireside Gallery. Browse student-made crafts—including exquisite, artisan-dyed brooms—at the nearby Berea College Visitor Center & Shoppe.

Then, fuel up with an organic, fair-trade coffee at Berea Coffee & Tea before sitting down for a soy candle-making workshop (walk-ins are welcome) at SoYum Candle Company. Finish off your exploration of this quaint district with a stop at the expansive Log House Craft Gallery, where two floors of wares offer a smorgasbord for the eyes—and mouth. Be sure to take clerks up on their invitation to enjoy a local honey tasting.

Berea Craft Festival pottery demonstration

Courtesy Berea Tourism

Next, head to the city’s Artisan Village for a second dose of art inspiration. Explore handmade silver filigree jewelry at Lindsay Gallery or watch woodworker Tim Wade create heirloom-quality wooden bowls at The Cabin of Old Town. Take a short stroll to Adams Street to explore handblown glass ornaments, vases, and suncatchers at Weston Glass Studio. While you’re there, there’s a good chance owner and artist Michelle Weston will invite you into the back of the shop to watch her glassblowing magic in action.

Wrap up your journey through the Berea Artisan Village—home to more than a dozen shops—with a quick visit to the Berea Tourism office, which is housed in a charming former L&N train depot. The staff there can share tips on must-do seasonal activities and events in Berea, such as the popular Berea Craft Festival, held every summer, or the Berea Spoonbread Festival, held each fall.

Hiking in Berea, KY

Courtesy Berea Tourism

Where To Roam

The Berea Pinnacles hiking trails—routinely named one of the best hikes in Kentucky—provide the perfect escape for outdoor enthusiasts, promising spectacular views no matter the season. Meanwhile, country and bluegrass music aficionados may want to carve out time for the 20-minute drive to nearby Renfro Valley, Kentucky, to take in a live musical performance at Renfro Entertainment Center or explore the exhibits at the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame and Museum.

Spoonbread at Historic Boone Tavern
Spoonbread at Historic Boone Tavern.

Curtesy Berea Tourism

Where To Eat

Head to PapaLeno’s on Center Street—in the heart of College Square—to refuel after your Berea sightseeing tour. Order a house specialty pizza or pasta dish with one of the restaurant’s signature, sizable garlic breadsticks, and you can consider lunch successfully covered. 

Want something more formal for dinner? Look no farther than Historic Boone Tavern Hotel & Restaurant, in operation since 1909. Indulge in a classic Southern dish like shrimp and grits or the iconic Kentucky Hot Brown—or opt for cooked-to-perfection salmon or steak. There’s no wrong choice in this bucket-list-worthy dining destination, which exudes Southern charm.

Historic Boone Tavern

Courtesy Berea Tourism

Where To Stay

Historic Boone Tavern Hotel, located in the heart of downtown near campus, offers rooms and suites elegantly appointed with handcrafted wooden furnishings. The historic hotel even welcomes pets, for an additional fee. For a more intimate stay, consider Doctor’s Inn of Berea Bed & Breakfast, where owners Biji and John Baker make it their job to pamper visitors. (Repeat guests in the know often request Biji’s famed eggs benedict as the preferred start to their day.) Situated in a 1940s-era Georgian-style home on Berea’s Main Street, the B&B offers easy access to Berea’s campus as well as both art districts. 

Looking for something a little more unconventional? Homegrown Hideaways—a Berea-based campground, farm, and event facility—delivers. You can book a night’s stay in a teepee, RVs, or even a treehouse to add an additional dose of whimsy to your already colorful Berea craft trek.

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