Berea is a small city in Kentucky's Bluegrass Region in southern Madison County about 15 miles (24 km) south of Richmond and 45 miles (72 km) south of Lexington. The community has experienced major population growth: 38% from 2000 to 2010, and 16% to 2018. It is known for its active arts and crafts scene and as the home of Berea College, a liberal arts school which serves students from the Appalachia region.

Understand

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Berea was founded in 1854 by the abolitionist minister John Fee (with help from the former slave owner Cassius Clay, of Whitehall in northern Madison County), as an integrated community founded on the principle that "God has made of one blood all the nations of the earth" and hence slavery and racial segregation were sinful. Fee named the town Berea after a town in Macedonia mentioned in the Book of Acts whose inhabitants were open to accepting Paul's new ideas based on a careful study of the Scriptures. The school Fee established grew into Berea College, which flourished in the late nineteenth century as an interracial institution before the state government forced it to segregate in 1904. Thereafter, the college shifted its focus to the education of poor white people from Appalachia. In the 20th century, a craft movement sprang up in Berea dedicated to preserving traditional mountain arts and crafts. This remains a strong influence on the town's culture, with many artisan workshops scattered around College Square and in "Old Town" about a mile away.

Get in

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You'll almost certainly get to Berea by car. Berea is accessible from exits 76 and 77 off of I-75.

When you come in, grab a travel planner pamphlet from either the Traveler's Center just off I-75 exit 77 (see below in Buy) or from the Welcome Center in town.

Berea also has a Greyhound bus station near Oldtown.

Get around

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Map of Berea (Kentucky)

There are two areas that make up the major centers of Berea: Old Town Artisan Village, and College Square. Each is easily traversable by foot.

To get from one end of town to the other, you could walk; it would take about 15 minutes. Parking is easy to come by, though, so you might as well drive.

  • Berea College Visitor Center and Shoppe, 104 S Main Street, +1 859 9853197. M-F 9-7, Sat 10-6, Sunday 11-4. This is the official visitor center for Berea College, which occupies much of the center of the town and dominates it both culturally and economically. At the visitor center, you can schedule tours of the campus (historical, craft, or ecological), watch students engaged in traditional crafts, or buy artisan products and college-related paraphernalia. The visitor center also sells smoothies and other refreshments. You can also walk around the campus on your own.
  • Berea Welcome Center, 3 Artist Circle, +1 859 9862540. Information center for the town (as opposed to the college), located in the heart of Berea's "Old Town." The visitor center, located in a historic train station, has some exhibits on the history of the town, and is surrounded by craft shops which you can easily visit on foot while parked at the center.

There are a number of festivals throughout the year, some of which are juried.

  • 1 Berea College Forest. Dawn-dusk. An 8000-acre forest managed by Berea College. Several miles of trails are maintained by the college's Department of Forestry and are open to the public during daylight hours. The trails lead to several cliff side overlooks with spectacular views. A forestry center includes educational displays, bathrooms, and an information desk.
  • Spotlight Playhouse. 214 Richmond Road. 859-756-0011. Acting school and community theater offering shows nearly every weekend.

Learn

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As a historic college town and a center of Appalachian culture and sustainable agriculture, Berea has an unusual number of learning opportunities for a town of its size, most centering on some form of traditional arts and crafts. Besides the opportunities listed below, many of the artisans listed in the "Buy" section offer classes.

  • Christmas Country Dance School. Dec. 26-Jan. 1. This yearly event (cancelled in 2020 and 2021) brings together people from all over the world interested in country dance and other traditional arts. Classes include English country dancing, Morris dancing, Danish folk dance, storytelling, and various forms of vocal and instrumental music.
  • Festival of Learnshops. This weeklong event in July offers classes in a range of traditional arts and crafts. "Learnshops" are sometimes available at other times in the year as well, and the spinoff Singing Bird Music School[dead link] offers instruction in traditional music.
  • Loyal Jones Appalachian Center offers exhibits on the history of Appalachia as well as hosting various lectures and other cultural events.
  • Carter G. Woodson Center[dead link] offers lectures and workshops on African-American history.
  • Berea College Planetarium. Closed as of May 2022. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, this arm of Berea College's science program offered weekly shows as well as other educational activities.
  • Sustainable Berea runs the Berea Urban Farm as well as promoting sustainable agriculture in the community through a number of outreach endeavors.

If you want to see Berea and its artists up close and personal, go downtown and just walk the streets. Many artisans have workshops there, and are open to the public (typically 9AM-5PM).

  • 1 Kentucky Artisan Center (Traveler's Center), 200 Artisan Way (I-75 exit 77), +1 859 985-5448. Spring-Fall daily 8AM-8PM; café 8:30AM-5PM. Winter (roughly Jan 4-Mar 10) 8:30AM-6:30PM; café 9AM-4PM. If you're looking for a one-stop shopping location, this is the place to go.

Old Town Artisan Village

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  • 1 Boone Tavern Dining Room, 100 Main St., +1 859-985-3700, toll-free: +1-800-366-9358, . Fine dining featuring locally grown ingredients from the Berea College Farm. Dress attire is tastefully casual and reservations are recommended for evening meals. Alcohol now available by the drink.
  • PapaLenos, 108 Center Street, 859-986-4497. This popular and unpretentious Italian restaurant, focusing on pizza, has been open since 1984 and sits just around the corner from Boone Tavern on College Square.
  • Noodle Nirvana[dead link], 112 South Main Street, (859) 756-3733. Asian noodle dishes, including soups. Customers can build their own dish by choosing a noodle, a sauce or broth, and a protein, or pick from seven set options. Familiar dishes such as pad thai, pho, drunken noodles, and Thai curry share the menu with lesser known options such as a Thai vegetable soup including potatoes and tomatoes, a spicy lime soup, and a sweet peanut sauce. Alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks are offered, including Thai iced tea and a range of Mexican jarritos. The staff is paid a higher wage than in most restaurants and all tips go to charity.
  • Happy Jack's World Sandwich Bar, 204 Center Street. Same ownership as Noodle Nirvana and shares their website. Sandwiches and salads with an international flavor. Also serves breakfast.
  • Native Bagel Company, 436 Chestnut Street. Made Food & Wine Magazine's 2021 list of the 50 best bagel shops in the country. During the evenings a restaurant/pub operates out of the same space (see under "Drink").
  • Dinner Bell, 127 Plaza Drive. Southern country cooking.
  • Honeysuckle Dining and Bourbon House, 100 Churchill Court.

Drink

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Berea used to be a "dry" community, but since 2015 restaurants have been able to serve alcohol. Bars and the sale of packaged alcohol are still prohibited. The nearest community where alcohol is widely available is Richmond; most of that city is completely "wet" (with package alcohol sales in addition to restaurant sales). If traveling to the south on I-75, the next town that allows alcohol by the drink in restaurants is London, slightly more than a half-hour's drive away, and the next town that allows package sales is Corbin, about 15 minutes further south.

  • 1 Berea Coffee & Tea Co., 124 Main St., +1 859 986-7656. A local coffee shop featuring sustainable and free trade products. A wide variety of drinks, bakery items, and sandwiches are available.
  • Nightjar, 436 Chestnut Street. Serves food as well as alcoholic beverages, in the same building as Native Bagel but during the evening hours.

Sleep

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Bed & Breakfasts

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Campgrounds & cottages

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  • 3 HomeGrown HideAways, 500 Floyd Branch Rd, +1 859 986-3478. A privately owned campground located on working farm. RV and tent sites with electric and water hookups are available. The campground has a bathhouse with flush toilets and showers are available April through October. No pets are allowed and cell phone service is unreliable.
  • 4 Oh! Kentucky Campground, 562 Paint Lick Rd., +1 859 986-1150. A privately owned campground featuring 70 campsites ranging from primitive to full hookups. The campground features a store, pool, laundry facilities, and shower houses.
  • 5 Walnut Meadow Campground & RV Park, 711 Paint Lick Rd., +1 859 986-6180. A privately owned campground featuring 103 campsites ranging from primitive to full hook up. The campground features a store, shower houses, Wi-Fi, and laundry facilities

Hotels

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Connect

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Go next

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Routes through Berea
LexingtonRichmond  N   S  LondonKnoxville



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