By Katie McBride

It’s a Friday afternoon at Eastern. All of a sudden, the hustle and bustle of the week has died. Parking lots are left empty as students cruise down Interstate 75 to their homes, refusing to come back to campus until Sunday night or possibly Monday morning. A lone tumbleweed blows across Kit Carson Drive. Well, just kidding about the last part.Eastern is regarded by many as a “suitcase college.” Students come to class Monday-Friday, but when Friday afternoon rolls around, they are lugging their belongings to their cars as fast as they can to make it home in time for dinner. A lot of this behavior comes from the idea that there is nothing to do in Richmond on the weekend.

Well, this idea is not true. Within just an hour of Richmond, students can find numerous activities to interest them from Friday to Sunday.

Richmond alone has plenty of activities that students can enjoy during the weekend. Lake Reba is just five minutes from campus. The park has a lake, a walking path, and even batting cages and miniature golf. Adventure Falls, Lake Reba’s miniature golf facility, is open until 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and until 9 p.m. Sunday, according to www.adventurefalls.com.

Gibson Bay Golf Course is located along Lake Reba, and is a popular attraction in Richmond. Opened in 1993. the course was named an honorable mention for best public golf course in the United States by “Golf Digest,” according to gibsonbay.com.

Richmond is also home to the Hummel Planetarium, which is located on Eastern’s campus. The planetarium puts on different programs for the public. Admission to the current feature program, “More Than Meets the Eye,” is $3.50 for students, according to planetarium.eku.edu.

But let’s say that students want to get out of Richmond for the day. Instead of going home and sacking out on the couch, Eastern students have a wealth of different opportunities within an hour of Richmond.

Berea is probably the closest option, at only 10 miles south of Richmond. Known as the folk arts and crafts capital of Kentucky, Berea is home to 25 working artisan studios and retail galleries, according to berea.com. These studios showcase crafts ranging from woodwork to glass creations and jewelry.

Berea is also home to the Kentucky Artisan Center. The Artisan Center is open to the public seven days a week, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. There is no admission charge, and there is even a café that operates until 7 every night, according to kentuckyartisancenter.ky.gov.

If you go on a Saturday, from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., the Artisan Center hosts demonstrations by artisans. During these demonstrations, visitors can see an artisan create a thrown vase, a woman mat, or a painting, and they are even allowed to occasionally participate .

Berea is also home to many outdoor activities. Berea Forest, owned by Berea College, is a great place to take an afternoon hike, according to www.trails.com.

The forest has several overlooks. Indian Fort Mountain is a popular hiking area with many cliffs and great views. The hikes are not too difficult, and the location is close enough to make Berea Forest a great day trip.

If the outdoors are not for you, Lexington has a great array of shopping opportunities. Fayette Mall, located on Nicholasville Road, is home to 111 stores, including Ann Taylor, New York and Company, the Body Shop and Godiva Chocolatier.

Fayette Mall is located next to a Target, an Old Navy and a movie theatre, for those who want to make a day out of it. The mall is open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and from noon until 6 p.m. Sunday, according to shopfayette-mall.com.

Lexington, known as the horse capital of the world, is also home to many horse parks.

Probably the most popular for Eastern students, Keeneland Race Course is located on Versailles Road and is open year-round.

The grounds are open to visitors from 6:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Grounds tours are free, according to visitlex.com.

General admission to the races is $3. Benches are available on a first-come, first-serve basis. Dining is not included in general admission, but visitors are welcome to purchase from concessions located in the complex.

Nearby Versailles is also home to the Woodford Reserve Distillery. The distillery is open Tuesday-Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 12:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

The distillery offers the “Woodford Reserve Bourbon Discovery Tour” for $5. The tour is offered hourly on Saturdays year-round between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m, according to woodfordreserve.com.

The tour includes an educational session explaining the history of bourbon, the maturation and bottling process and everything in-between.

At the end of the tour, guests older than 21 are allowed to taste during a special sampling at the visitors center.

The distillery offers more in-depth tours during the week and additional information can be found by visiting woodfordreserve.com.

Georgetown, just a few miles north of Lexington, offers some activities as well, including a walking tour of downtown Georgetown, the Bengals Training Camp in August and several places to fish.

All this month, Georgetown is home to the Harvest Festival at Evans Orchard and Cider Mill. The orchard hosts pony rides, pumpkin picking and a play area for children. The orchard plans to have cookouts every weekend while the festival is taking place, according to evansorchard.com.

For those students interested in taking in nature, the Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill in Harrodsburg is a great place to visit.

Daily activities include a wildlife habitat trail, a bird observation blind, nature workshops, walking trails, bike trails, fishing in the village pond and an opportunity to canoe and kayak in the Kentucky River.

Information about the village can be found at www.shakervillageky.org.

So the next time you get the urge to throw your laundry in the car and head down I-75 for a boring weekend on the couch, take a second and reconsider. Kentucky is home to a wealth of outdoor activities, shopping and tours of local attractions. The worst that can happen is you will discover a new hobby, meet new people and broaden your horizons. Oh, and your laundry might have to wait.