I didn’t know much about the Shaker community when I was invited to visit Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill in Harrodsburg, Ky. After a little research online, I decided Shaker Village would be an interesting and informative destination for me and my children, ages 9 and 6. So we, along with my friend Stephanie and her two kids, ages 9 and 7, headed to the Kentucky countryside.
Upon arrival, we entered the village, taking in the various buildings loosely gathered together. After checking in, we headed to our building to unload and settle in. Built in 1817, the East Family Dwelling, the three-story building where we stayed, featured guest rooms along with a communal gathering room on the first floor. We headed to the third floor and our guest room. There are no elevators, so we climbed the stairs, carrying our suitcases with us.
Our room turned out to be a spacious room, quite large with two queen beds, two rocking chairs, a chest and a desk with chair. A TV sat on the corner of the desk. The kids were dismayed to find that cable was not one of our amenities; in fact, TV channels were limited to a few showing “The Andy Griffith Show,” sports and news. I, on the other hand, was OK with that. The air conditioning also was a bit lacking, but it was manageable for our two-night stay.
The next morning, we started our day with breakfast at The Trustees’ Table restaurant. We took advantage of the buffet, which contained cereal, oatmeal, breakfast meats, biscuits, scrambled eggs and more. It was a quick and easy start to the day. It’s important to note, though, that the restaurant is not large, and, thus, can be quite busy during high occupancy. Therefore, I recommend checking with the front desk at check-in to see when reservations may be required, especially for dinner.
Afterward, we set out to explore Shaker Village. At the front desk, you’ll find a schedule of the day’s activities so you can plan your day. These include demonstrations of the work Shakers performed each day, such as woodworking and making brooms, as well as musical performances and wagon rides. We began with the Discovery Tour, a guided tour of the village that proved to be an ideal starting point because the guide gives a brief history of the Shakers: the people, their religion and the community. She also provided a short explanation of what each building was and what took place there.
Today, Shaker Village sits on 3,000 acres and includes 34 19th-century buildings. At its peak, the Shakers claimed more than 200 buildings on 5,000 acres. As we wandered in and out of each building, we caught a glimpse of life as it once was for the Shakers. We saw their living quarters, watched as volunteers demonstrated how the Shakers made furniture (their iconic style was based on a belief of building just what was needed, without extravagance or adornment), and heard about their religious services.
I was particularly surprised to learn their religious services actually took place outside the building. The minister would stand in a pulpit inside the building, but he would preach outside to the crowd below. The people would stand outside and dance exuberantly – or “shake” – off their sin. Maybe that’s why they needed to be outside.
It also was fun watching the kids step closer so they could see a loom in action or try on Shaker clothes and pretend to be school students or clean a bedroom. But they especially loved seeing the animals at the barn, which included Percheron horses, chickens and pigs. I think they could have stayed there all day. But we had one more place to go: the riverboat cruise.
At Shaker Landing, a short distance from Shaker Village, guests climb aboard The Dixie Belle, a 115-passenger paddlewheel riverboat, and set out on a cruise down the Kentucky River. Along the way, we saw the Kentucky River Palisades: steep gorges and limestone outcroppings that go on for miles. We also passed under the High Bridge, a 318-foot-high bridge built in 1877 that holds double railroad tracks. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see any trains overhead during our journey under the bridge, but we were enthralled by it just the same.
For me, I loved visiting Shaker Village and discovering the history of its people and this area. When I first asked the kids if they enjoyed Shaker Village, they answered with a collective “No.” Then, slowly, I heard, “Well, I did like watching them make the rug on the loom,” followed by, “Well, I liked seeing all the animals,” and “I really liked the boat.” Before long, the kids were listing all the things they liked and enjoyed during our stay. It turns out, they actually did like Shaker Village. And we didn’t even get to see half of what Shaker Village has to offer. Hopefully, we’ll be able to return again soon so we can catch the activities we missed.
Have you ever been to Shaker Village? If so, what was your favorite activity?
Disclosure: Karon and her family visited Shaker Village as guests of Shaker Village. All thoughts and opinions expressed herein belong solely to the author.
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