Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill has been a popular tourist destination for generations of families. In fact, I remember visits to Shaker Village from my childhood. As an adult, I got to experience a visit with a fresh perspective and appreciation.
One of the first things you will notice when you step on the property is how peaceful it is there. It looks like an old New England town with 34 of the 260 original structures still on the property. The road between the buildings was once the main road that took travelers to Lexington into the 1970’s. Shaker Village has become a recent Discovery Destination because of all of the hands-on engagement opportunities available to visitors.
So who were the Shakers?
The Shakers were America’s largest and best known 19th-century communal society. A small group of them came to Central Kentucky in 1805, and on a small farm near Harrodsburg, they started a community called Pleasant Hill. By 1823 it had grown to Shakers and 4500 acres.
I learned several interesting things about the Shakers during my visit. They were a celibate community which is why the community died out over time but they were not opposed to alcohol. At the peak of its day, there were around 6,000 members. 3/4 of the kids in the community eventually left. They received an 8th-grade education and a trade. The Shakers believed that their work was worship and were known for their quality craftsmanship. They were also known for their quality livestock, packaged seeds (which they invented) medicinal herbs, and brooms (they sold about 50,000 brooms a year). The name “Shaker” was a description of how they moved during their services. Their official name was “United Society of Believer’s in Christ’s 2nd Coming.” They were progressive for their time because they believed in gender and racial equality. They also avoided a lot of epidemics because they were so clean and lived on average 20-30 years longer.
Make sure that you don’t leave the property without enjoying a meal. The farm to table restaurant serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. If you have never tried the lemon pie, I would highly recommend it. They still use the original Shaker recipe and it’s unlike any lemon pie I’ve ever had before. It’s made with the entire lemon rind and has no seeds. While you are dining, take note of the pegs in every room. The Shakers were very practical in their simplicity and the pegs offered a lot of solutions for keeping areas clean and tidy. They could even adjust the light in a room by adjusting their candleholder up or down on the peg.
While you are on the property, there are several buildings to explore. I encourage you to ask lots of questions when you encounter a historical reenactor. It is also a good idea to get a schedule of activities going on that day so that you don’t miss any of the hands-on demonstrations, performances, or tours.
If you are looking for a unique gift to remember your visit, there are two areas on the property where you can purchase gifts.
That afternoon we took a tour of the property by hayride. We enjoyed a Bourbon Mulled cider, gorgeous scenery, an education on communal farming, and a beautiful Kentucky sunset.
That evening we took a candlelight tour led by visitor engagement coordinator, Elsa Wachter. This experience gave us a unique perspective and the opportunity to ask as many questions as we could think of. She was a wealth of information and made the tour very interesting.
That evening, I stayed overnight on the third floor of the Trustees’ office which gave me a nice view of the other buildings. My room had a Keurig, private bathroom, and television. I decided to stay partially unplugged by keeping my tv turned off that evening. I really enjoyed the quiet. There are 72 overnight guest rooms throughout the village. If you have younger kids, you might want one of the options that is more private. There are some buildings where you could be the only guests.
The following day, I took a few final views of the grounds before we departed.
I was sad to leave this charming destination but I definitely want to come back again to try out some of their more unique adventures that Shaker Village offers like the GLOW Paddle. I really want to try their Paddle + Yoga Weekends too. Shaker Village offers lots of opportunities to connect and explore for ages young and old year round. You can find out more for planning your visit to the 3,000 acre Shaker Village by visiting their website.