22. November 2013 20:47
Although many people consider mid-November to be too early to usher in the Christmas season, it was impossible to be bah-humbug after my wife, Marcheta, and I attended a media weekend Nov. 15-17 in conjunction with the opening of Christmas at the Galt House Hotel in downtown Louisville, Ky.
Brightly colored larger-than-life luminaries created by talented Chinese artisans, restored vintage department store window displays, amusing animated stuffed animals, creative gingerbread houses, lessons in making paper snowflakes, a holiday dinner show with a talented cast of young singers belting out holiday favorites and even hotel bellmen dancing in toy soldier outfits made it hard not to catch the Christmas spirit.
Although Christmas at the Galt House Hotel has many features geared toward children, including an Express Kiddie Train in Candy Cane Forest and a Santa cam that allows parents to download videos of their kids talking with Santa, there is plenty for adults to enjoy and be amazed by. The signature feature of Christmas at the Galt House, an American Bus Association Top 100 Event in North America for groups, is KaLightoscope with its large luminaries that take you on a visit to the North Pole, where Santa is getting ready for the big night. When KaLightoscope debuted four years ago, it was the first time Chinese luminaries had been displayed in the United States on this scale and the first time luminaries had been used to create a non-Chinese Western theme.
Made with wire frames covered with silk and satins in bright reds, blues, yellows, whites, oranges, lavenders and greens and lit from within, the luminaries are an impressive display of craftsmanship and fun to boot. There is a candy house large enough to walk through, Santa frolicking on a snowboard, snowmen dancing on a frozen pond, giant-size toys and Santa and his reindeer flying overhead. The final scene is a Nativity rendered as a stain-glass window.
A new feature this year that was a hit at the media weekend is Santa’s sleigh in front of a green screen that allows you to download a video of yourself driving the sleigh over scenes from around Louisville and share it on social media.
One of our favorites was the window displays from the former Stewart Dry Goods Company store in downtown Louisville that were restored by Lou Nasti of Brooklyn, N.Y., who had helped make them in the 1960s. Marcheta and I have fond memories of standing in front of the windows at Christmas time when we were kids.
Candy Cane Forest also features 100 animated characters that are fun for all ages.
Another new feature this year is the dancing Toy Soldier Bellmen, who will perform at 5:00 p.m. each day in the Suite Tower lobby from Thanksgiving to Christmas Eve. After their dance, the bellmen will turn a page in a Countdown to Christmas book. They did a rehearsal in front of a large crowd on Saturday.
Christmas at the Galt House Hotel runs through Jan. 1, closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas. The Colors of the Season Holiday Dinner Show runs through Dec. 14, with evening shows on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and matinees on Dec. 7 and Dec. 12. It is also closed on Thanksgiving.
14. December 2009 17:26
Though I knew the epic importance of the Alamo from the John Wayne movie, I was interested in finding out where Hollywood ended and where the truth began at the Alamo National Historic Landmark. To prepare, I first watched The Alamo: the Price of Freedom at the Rivercenter Imax Theater and visited the History Shop, where a detailed diorama of the Alamo mission illustrates the sprawling size of the mission when the 200 Texans tried to defend it against the 3,000 Mexican forces.
The only remaining building from the original Alamo mission is the chapel, which served as a sanctuary for the women and children during the 1836 battle. Exhibits and artifacts, such as a lock of Davy Crockett’s hair, William Travis’ ring and James Bowie’s knife, fill the chapel and surrounding buildings to present a more personal perspective on the battle.
When the evening caused the River Walk to once again glow with Christmas lights, I enjoyed a dinner cruise on the river. I floated near where some of the fiercest fighting of the Battle of the Alamo took place and wondered that a place once so full of violence could now look so peaceful.
Inside the Alamo's museum
Dinner cruise on the River Walk
14. December 2009 07:53
At the Saeur-Beckmann Farmstead, I discovered what exactly Little Miss Muffet was eating when she was snacking on curds and whey in the traditional nursery rhyme. The living history farm portrays the working lifestyle of a 1918 Texas farm at the Lyndon B. Johnson State Park and Historic Site in Johnson City. Just down the road from Lyndon B. Johnson’s childhood home, the farm uses costumed interpreters, period farm equipment and live animals, such as the rather intimidating horned Texas longhorn cattle.
I discovered the curds and whey by following my nose to the wonderful smells coming from the farm’s kitchen. The cook working on turning the curds and whey into cottage cheese explained how she used a wood-burning stove to create dishes far and away better than anything store bought.
Nearby, the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historic Park left me feeling as though I knew the Johnson’s personally. On a driving tour, I passed by the president’s birthplace, cemetery and the Texas White House, where he lived from 1951 until his death in 1973. Details, like the presence of a phone on the president’s chair in the dining room, gave insight into the daily life of Johnson. I learned even more about the president's life and the time period he lived in at the Lyndon B. Johnson Library and Museum before an evening looking at more San Antonio Christmas lights.
Lyndon B. Johnson Library and Museum
Lyndon B. Johnson Library and Museum
San Antonio Christmas lights
8. December 2009 11:45
Looking up, it seemed to be raining Christmas lights. The colored Christmas lights hanging down from the high branches of the cypress trees lining San Antonio’s River Walk twinkled downward like water trickling down a waterfall.
The 122,000 dazzling lights reflecting onto the San Antonio River created quite the Christmas wonderland. I happily strolled past shops, restaurants and live music along the stone path before deciding on a barbeque dining establishment.
Earlier that day, I started off my guided trip with Mayflower Tours by learning the Spanish colonial history of the Texas town. Originally constructed in 1731, the San Fernando Cathedral has remained a spiritual center of the town since a group of 15 families arrived in San Antonio from the Canary Islands on the invitation of King Philip V of Spain. Not far off, the 1720 Mission San Jose became the largest Texas mission with amazing stone ornamentation still intact. Both churches, along with the colorful and festive Mexican market, show the mix of indigenous and Spanish influence created when the Spanish originally conquered the area.
San Antonio River Walk
San Fernando Cathedral
San Jose Mission