"Berea- Arts Capital of Kentucky" Top 5 Page for this destination Berea by Krumlovgirl

Berea Travel Guide: 70 reviews and 139 photos

Appalachian Arts Capital

There are other towns that can admirably claim to be the "Appalachian Arts Capital" of the World, but I really think Berea has a corner on the market. I love Gatlinburg, but Berea lacks the touristy aspect of that well visited place.

Of course, Berea didn't begin as an arts and crafts place. In the 1890?s, there was a growing national interest in the culture and traditions of Appalachia by writers, academics, missionaries, and teachers. Berea was just far enough east to be considered "Appalachian" (the close-by mountains helped as well) but far enough west to not be TOO Appalachian so it was a safe place for many college donors to invest their money. Back then, some of the Berea College students who couldn't afford tuition would bring things such as homemade quilts in exchange for their chance to study. You can see what happened next-the homemade items became a hot commodity and an idea was born.

The College president, William Frost, took a lot of the items with him on his fund raising trips to the North. Seeing a market for the items he established the first Berea College Fireside Industries. Frost encouraged people to move to Berea, and the college built a loom house and hired a supervisor to train and maintain the quality of student work.

To this day, many shops carry items made by the college students. Some of the shops soley carry college crafts and this is a way that a lot of the students fund their way through school. Some things don't change.

On the Way

Berea is an interesting place. There's such a difference in Richmond and Berea that they may as well not even be in the same county. Where Richmond has become very suburban and is outgrowing its box, Berea has almost no expansion in progress. Settled in the Appalachian foothills, it's a beautiful little mountain town filled with crafts and music. Definitely worth a stop if you're traveling up or down I-75.

More Than Crafts

If you're not into brooms and quilts, Berea offers other activities as well. There are some fantastic hiking opportunities in surrounding parks like Anglin Falls, the Berea College Forest, Indian Fort Theater, and the Owsley Fork Reservoir.

Personally, I love to hike in the Indian Fort Theatre. If you climb up to one of the Pentacles (not an easy walk although the climbing bit doesn't actually come until the end) you can get a great view of the surrounding counties. It's a good place for a picnic.

Yes, all photos are by me unless otherwise noted.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Nice small town feel with pretty countryside and gorgeous crafts.
  • Cons:Don't just visit the Artisan Center! There's more to Berea...
  • Last visit to Berea: Sep 2008
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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Reviews (35)

Comments (6)

  • BruceDunning's Profile Photo
    Mar 3, 2010 at 12:38 PM

    This town sure seems to have a lot of arts/crafts that could take up more than one day-even for me to stroll through. A stay at Doctor's Inn would be memorable. Good presentation

  • hunterV's Profile Photo
    Dec 11, 2009 at 11:43 AM

    It looks like a nice place to visit... Thanx for sharing...><><><><

  • Jan 29, 2008 at 5:06 PM

    I am so glad I found your info on Berea Kentucky. My daughter has been accepted to the college in the fall and we were having a hard time finding info (and photos) of the town. I just wanted to say thanks for taking the time to post this info!

  • Dec 6, 2007 at 8:28 AM

    Sorry to tell everyone but Churchill Weavers closed in the spring of this year..... A company from Indiana bought the equipment and will produce it there. Not sure of the name. Roger

  • johanl's Profile Photo
    Oct 18, 2005 at 11:44 AM

    you got KY under your skin too. Lovely state. So quite and such nice people.

  • globetrott's Profile Photo
    Aug 16, 2004 at 3:10 PM

    great restaurant-tips that made me really hungry...

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