Sledding and snowy hikes and sparkly lights, oh my! While many of us associate wintertime with hibernation, seasonal depression, and spending way too long scraping off our cars in the morning (ugh!), Kentucky in winter is an exceptionally cozy time filled with so many opportunities to get out and have some fun! Whether it’s enjoying a smooth glass of bourbon, admiring a gorgeous light display, or exploring snowy state parks, there is plenty of charm to go around in Kentucky in winter!

14 Wondrous Things To Do in Kentucky in Winter

Sledding and snowy hikes and sparkly lights, oh my! While many of us associate wintertime with hibernation, seasonal depression, and spending way too long scraping off our cars in the morning (ugh!), Kentucky in winter is an exceptionally cozy time filled with so many opportunities to get out and have some fun!

Kentucky’s winter weather ranges on average from the frosty 20s to the frigid 40s from December through mid-March, with an occasional unseasonably beautiful 60+ degree day. 

The state of Kentucky averages about 11 inches of snow per year, so although we don’t get a whole lot of snow (the U.S. average is 28 inches of snow per year), the weather is perfect for bundling up and enjoying all of your favorite winter activities without all of the borderline frostbitten appendages and low temperatures that make you want to scream wake me up when the winter ends!

Whether it’s enjoying a smooth glass of bourbon, admiring a gorgeous light display, or exploring snowy state parks, there is plenty of charm to go around in Kentucky in winter!

Check out a few of these other winter-related posts:

Bridge stretching over the Ohio River towards the Louisville skyline as steam rises from the river on a winter day in Louisville, Kentucky
Steam coming off the Ohio river in winter!

Things to Do in Kentucky in Winter

While we have included some winter events in Louisville below, it’s mostly spread throughout the state (and some in Indiana), so check out our Christmas events in Louisville post if you’re looking for more Louisville-specific happenings!

Without further ado, here are some of the best things to do in Kentucky in winter!

See also
12 Cozy Things to do in Winter in Louisville, Kentucky
 
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bardstown city hall chirstmas light in bardstown ky
Bardstown turns into a charming Christmas town in wintertime! (Photo Credit: Visit Bardstown)

Check Out Bardstown at Christmas 

Capture the magic of the North Pole in the city of Bardstown, Kentucky in winter. With its enchanting Main Street displays and vast array of holiday festivities, Bardstown in the winter is sure to bring out your inner child, but like with a LOT more bourbon. 

This local North Pole dupe comes to life when the town’s tree is lit, and a massive parade unfolds across Main Street. The event, appropriately coined Light Up Bardstown, transforms the streets of the town into a magical holiday village where joy is in the air and worries can take a backseat. Buildings are vibrantly illuminated, and you can follow a map to see all the best lights Bardstown has to offer. You may even catch a glimpse of Santa himself traipsing down the street!

Visit  My Old Kentucky Home, a 200-year-old mansion situated on scenic grounds that served as the muse for Stephen Collins Foster’s well-known diddy, “My Old Kentucky Home, Good-Night!”. Experience the traditional, and sometimes eccentric holiday customs of the Victorian era with the Merry & Bright tour. Check out An Old Kentucky Christmas Carol to watch a performance of Charles Dickens’ renowned novel, “A Christmas Carol”.

Browse the Bernheim Forest Holiday Open House to find the perfect gift for the nature lovers in your life, or even take a brisk walk through the forest in search of a giant (or three) hiding throughout Bernheim Arboretum and ResearchForest

Bring your littles aboard the North Pole Express (otherwise known as My Old Kentucky Dinner Train), where you will be treated to two hours of scenic views and a memorable experience with a gourmet three-course meal and hot cocoa in your pajamas alongside Mr. and Mrs. Claus.

To remain close to all of the holiday happenings, spend the night in the Talbott Tavern and Inn, decorated accordingly for the holidays and also the oldest western stagecoach stop in America. Or, book a night or two in the Bourbon Manor Bed & Breakfast Inn for a quiet, cozy night in, after all the festivities.

maker's mark in the snow in loretto ky
Maker’s Mark in the snow is like a real-life fairytale! (Photo Credit: Maker’s Mark)

Warm Up with a Bourbon Tasting at Maker’s Mark

Ahh bourbon – Kentucky’s drink of choice. No matter the time of year, you can’t go wrong with this classic drink – but there is definitely something special about a smooth glass of bourbon when the weather outside is frightful. Nothing (and we mean nothing) can warm you up like bourbon can, since it gives you that undeniable “Kentucky hug” (the warming feeling of bourbon going down)!

While there are dozens of distilleries to choose from all across Kentucky, Maker’s Mark is a household name known for their wax-sealed red bottles and commitment to tradition. It’s also known for its beautiful 1953-built distillery, Star Hill Farm, which covers more than 1,000 acres and includes North America’s first natural water sanctuary. 

The enchanting scenery and historic charm of the grounds makes it the perfect place to step in from the cold, enjoy the views, and sample some amazing bourbon in the winter. 

Events and tours are held year-round at Maker’s Mark. Seasonal events are held each winter, such as Maker’s a Toast for the Holidays, where you can tour the distillery under holiday lights, sample seasonal cocktails, and enjoy a guided bourbon tasting!

Make a weekend of your wintry excursion to Maker’s Mark by staying in the heart of nearby Bardstown, Kentucky, located about 30 minutes away from the distillery. In close proximity to a plethora of things to do, such as touring other bourbon distilleries like Heaven Hill or the Bardstown Bourbon Company. Stay at this luxurious loft on the top floor of the Kentucky Bourbon House is the perfect place to snuggle up after a long day of bourbon tasting. 

Go Hiking and Snuggle up in a Cozy Cabin at Red River Gorge

Red River Gorge is a unique, scenic natural area that hosts thousands of visitors each year…in the warmer months. What most people do not know is that winter is a simply wonderful (and jaw-droppingly gorgeous) time of year to visit the Gorge. When the temperatures drop and the masses retreat to the warmth of their homes, the town of Slade, Kentucky turns into a quaint town full of southern hospitality and great opportunities for peaceful hikes along the scenic trails. 

The peaceful solitude of uninterrupted nature makes braving the cold temperatures more than worth it. On many trails, the only tracks you will see in the snow are those of local wildlife. While there are over 600 miles of trails to explore in the Daniel Boone National Forest, one of the best places to uncover the beauty of winter in Kentucky is the Original Natural Bridge Trail. Hike the 2.5-mile trail to the top of the magnificent arch for a birds-eye view of a breathtaking scene blanketed in a layer of fluffy, white snow. 

Choose from over 65 great trails for hiking in Red River Gorge. Don’t miss your chance to experience the frozen waterfalls situated along Rockbridge Trail, the snowy vistas of Angel Window Trail, or the undisturbed frosty landscape visible along the Double Arch, Courthouse Rock, and Auxier Ridge Loop this winter.

Make a weekend of your arctic escapade by renting a quiet cabin near the trails. Stay in the Bird’s Nest Cabin to watch the snow flurry to the ground with a warm cup of coffee on the wrap-around deck. Warm up by the fire pit and embrace your inner child by staying in the Tiny Tree Cabin- Amazonia – a real-life tree house complete with hammock floors dangling above the kitchen! Or snuggle up in this updated three-bedroom cabin with a hot tub in the heart of Red River Gorge, surrounded by trees and perfect for a relaxing weekend with family and friends.  

See also
Louisville Gift Guide: Kentucky-Themed Art, Bourbon Gifts, and More
patti's 1880's settlement grand rivers ky
Patti’s 1880’s Settlement becomes a beacon of Christmas in the winter! (Photo Credit: Patti’s 1880’s Settlement)

Visit Patti’s 1880’s Settlement 

I don’t know about you guys, but nothing gets us feeling cozier than a delicious, homemade meal with all of the fixings. At Patti’s 1880’s Settlement, you may not be at home, but the friendly, old-fashioned atmosphere and mind-blowing food will certainly have you feeling like you just finished a meal at grandma’s house.

Enjoy a mouth-watering multi-course meal complete with a side of flower pot bread (it’s actually baked in a flower pot!) and homemade strawberry butter. Everything from the 2” pork chops to the catfish filets to the cajun shrimp alfredo is to die for, so you truly can’t go wrong with anything on the menu! Round out your meal with a humongous slice of pie (they’re literally huge) in flavors ranging from apple to Mississippi mud.  

Now, you may be thinking, “Why did you guys choose a restaurant 3 hours away from Louisville for a Kentucky in winter post?”. Well – the truth is that Patti’s goes absolutely ham (which you can order for dinner, too!) for the holidays. 

Each year, Patti’s hosts the Festival of Lights – a free outdoor display of thousands of individual lights illuminating the town of Grand Rivers, Kentucky. This magical light display is complete with dozens of charming photo-ops, festively decorated dining rooms, and even special appearances by the one and only Mr. and Mrs. Claus. Follow your dinner reservation (and you’ll want to make a reservation asap- tables fill up quickly!) with a memorable walk with your loved ones that is sure to become an annual tradition with your family.  

The property also include a small animal walk-through park, an 18-hole miniature golf course, a playground, and remote control boats. The property is huge and like exploring a miniature town of its own!

Make a weekend of your trip to Patti’s 1880s Settlement by staying in an intimate cabin with views overlooking Lake Barkley at My Happy Place Cabin complete with a hot tub. Or, book a bigger Lake House to accommodate the whole family. Or stay at Patti’s very own Patti’s Inn & Suites which is just as fun and kitschy as the restaurant itself!

See also
12 Cozy Things to do in Winter in Louisville, Kentucky
christmas in the park in paducah kentucky
Christmas in the Park is a Kentucky winter wonderland! (Photo Credit: Paducah Creative City)

Visit Christmas in the Park in Paducah

Get into the holiday spirit with a visit to Paducah, Kentucky, located approximately 3 hours from Louisville (and just a half hour from Patti’s!). Each year, Paducah is home to Christmas in the Park, a glorious, family-friendly light show with a purpose other than spreading holiday cheer. 

The event, which features hundreds of holiday light displays at Bob Noble Park, is kicked off with a lighting ceremony each year featuring the big man himself- Santa Claus. On opening night, guests can walk around the light displays in order to get an up close and personal view, drive through the displays, or even take advantage of the free horse carriage rides often sponsored for the event! Take a slow drive as you stare in awe at the whimsical displays (while also keeping your eyes on the road) and sing along to holiday music with your kiddos.

No entrance fee is charged to drive through the park and see the lights, but guests are encouraged to contribute non-perishable food items or monetary donations for area nonprofit organizations. Over the last 24 years, the event has raised almost $800,000 for local organizations and donated more than one million pounds of canned goods! 

Grab your kiddos, your holly jolly hounds, and a couple of cans of veggies and come see all that Paducah has to offer this holiday season. Make a weekend out of your trip and book a stay at the stylish Respite Bed and Breakfast or the homey 1895 Washington Hotel & Spa to remain close to local eateries and attractions in downtown Paducah.

Hot Brown in Louisville Kentucky
You can’t beat the original Hot Brown from the Brown Hotel!

Warm up with the original Hot Brown

The Brown Hotel opened at Fourth and Broadway in 1923 which also happens to be the same year Walt founded a little company called Walt Disney. So, maybe it’s not a coincidence the grand two-story lobby of The Brown feels like stepping into a perfect Disneyland experience with its hand-painted coffered ceilings and fancy marble floors.

J. Graham’s Cafe is their elegant, window-lined casual dining spot, where you can get the Hot Brown, an open-faced turkey sandwich with bacon, parmesan cheese, and a delicate Mornay sauce that’s served hot. It’s the cheesy king of comfort foods!

The Brown Hotel, the original creation site of the Hot Brown, is the perfect place to step in from the cold and stay for a restful, yet elegant weekend getaway. Relish in the classic polish of the hotel while downing Hot Browns (it gets cold in Kentucky in winter, okay?!).

Step outside the double doors to find yourself within walking distance of all the finest attractions of downtown Louisville, including the elegant Brown Theatre and 8Up, a local open-kitchen restaurant serving up delectable fried chicken sliders, an amazing atmosphere, and fabulous views of downtown Louisville from their rooftop, where you can rent on of your very own“igLOU”s.

See also
12 Gorgeous Lakes Near Louisville, Kentucky for Swimming & Boating
Carter Caves State Resort Park in olive hill ky
Carter Caves State Resort Park serves up winter whimsy when it gets cold out! (Photo Credit: Kentucky State Parks)

Embark on a Winter Adventure at Carter Caves State Resort Park

Kick your seasonal depression to the curb with a wild weekend of educational adventures this winter at Carter Caves State Resort Park. Each year, the park offers Winter Adventure Weekend – an awesome opportunity to step outside into the brisk winter air and participate in an exhilarating weekend of hiking, canoeing, cave tours, kayaking, rappelling, and so much more! Select a list of activities ranging in skill level from beginner to advanced to do with your family (those ages 6 and up, that is). 

Wake up from your hibernation and step into a winter wonderland where you will learn skills such as winter survival and rock climbing from experienced guides. Step outside your comfort zone, learn some new things, and explore the depths of some chilly caves. 

After an exciting day of frosty enlightenment, stay on-site at the Carter Caves State Resort Park where you’ll be close to the action the next day!

See also
12 Magical Christmas Events in Louisville

Go Horseback Riding in the Snow

Imagine yourself leisurely prancing around on horseback, silently admiring a blanket of snow pristinely covering a wooded trail and listening to the hooves of your horse crunching through the icy snowfall. In Kentucky during the wintertime, this dream can easily become a reality!

As the Horse Capital of the World, it’s no surprise that Kentucky offers many great places to ride in the winter. Double J Stables and Horseman’s Campground, located right on the edge of Mammoth Cave National Park, is the perfect place to enjoy a guided ride across some of the 70+ miles of riding trails located within the park.

Enjoy the serenity of the frigid forest and picturesque views from atop your horse. Afterward, hike the trails within the park or even descend into Mammoth Cave itself. 

Make the most out of your trip to Mammoth Cave with a stay in this two-bedroom beautiful cottage. Featuring a variety of amenities (including a covered porch and a fire pit), this rustic cottage is perfect for families and is located 30 minutes from Mammoth Cave. 

People skating with Maker's Mark Kentucky Hot Cocoa at Fete de Notel Paristown Louisville KY
Go skating and grab Maker’s Mark Kentucky Hot Cocoa at Fête De Noël in Paristown. It will definitely make you a better skater, er, maybe. (Photo Credit: Paristown KY)

Go Ice Skating at Fête De Noël or Triangle Park 

Fête De Noël is Louisville’s answer to a European Christmas market, with plenty of twinkling lights, a holiday market full of delicious treats (helloooo, gourmet hot chocolate!) and Santa’s Workshop. The real star is the large outdoor skating rink (Louisville’s only outdoor rink) where you can rent skates for 60 minutes and enjoy all the holiday atmosphere! Best of all, they have boozy Maker’s Mark Kentucky Hot Cocoa – I never knew I needed bourbon in my hot cocoa (oh wait, yes I did). Fête De Noël runs from mid-November to early January.

Perfect for families, this three-bedroom house is a modern, stylish place to rest your weary head, and it has the best winter accessory, a hot tub! Located in close proximity to the venue of Fête De Noël, this comfy house is located near some of the Highland’s best restaurants and bars!

If you are looking to skate a little further East, look no further than Triangle Park in Lexington, Kentucky. Each year, Triangle Park is transformed into a winter wonderland to put the Rockefeller Center rink to shame. Perfect for a fun family outing or a chilly date night, the Triangle Park Ice Rink is the perfect spot to coast across the ice with the ones you love. The rink is up and running from early November to mid-January, so lace up your skates and glide on over to Lexington!

Stay close to downtown Lexington in a quaint, artistic room complete with unique and modern furnishings at the Elwood Hotel & Suites. This hotel is marked by a beautiful painting on its exterior, and it’s the perfect place to warm up after a long evening of ice skating!

See also
The 17 Best Hikes in Louisville, Kentucky (& Nearby)
snowboarder snowboarding at paoli peaks in paoli indiana
You too can be “shushing” down the slopes at Paoli Peaks! Or you can be inside having a hot chocolate instead. Your call! (Photo Credit: Paoli Peaks)

Go Skiing

Wintertime brings out the coats, the gloves, and the skiers. These people have been eagerly watching the temperatures fall wondering when they can take some time out to put in some time shushing down the slopes (I think “shushing” is a technical term, right?). Here are the best places to hit the slopes close to Kentucky in winter!

Spend your day skiing down the wooded hills of Paoli Peaks! About 46 miles from Louisville in Paoli, Indiana, Paoli Peaks welcomes skiers, snowboarders, and those who enjoy snow tubing. With the beauty of snow-covered trees and views of the valley below to inspire you, choose from 1 of 17 runs to soar down. Later, you can stop in their cafeteria-style restaurant (with more seating than your average airport) when you need a slice of pizza as big as your head. Click here to check out their First Timer’s Guide

Located about 4 miles from Paoli Peaks, this private and cozy cottage is the perfect place to warm up for the night after a long day on the slopes. Curl up around the fire pit and enjoy the peaceful quiet of winter with your partner.

With ski runs beautifully nestled near lines of tall trees, Perfect North Slopes is perfect for anyone looking for a smaller, more manageable ski/snowboarding experience. One-hour and thirty-minutes from Louisville in Lawrenceburg, Indiana, you’ll find skiing, snowboarding, and scenic hillside outlooks open all day long–with snow tubing available for half the day. And, of course, when your thighs are on fire after all the shushing, there’s a no-frills restaurant where you can grab a pizza or a burger–and a stone fireplace (with real fire!) where you can grab some warmth.

Cuddle up for the night in a room overlooking the Ohio River at the DoubleTree Hilton in Lawrenceburg, located about 7 miles from the slopes and featuring all of the amenities you could want out of a hotel.

shaker village of pleasant hill in winter in harrodburg ky
Shaker Village in the snow is like stepping back in time. (Photo Credit: Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill)

Explore Shaker Village 

Sprawling 3,000 acres, Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill is a gateway to yesteryear and a wonderful place to soak in all the beautiful things about Kentucky in winter. Home to the third largest Shaker community in the United States between 1805 and 1910, Shakers believed in peace, equality of race and sex, and freedom from prejudice. The group is recognized for their iconic architecture and skilled craftsmanship. The breathtaking scenery coupled with the warm, welcoming atmosphere makes Shaker Village the perfect destination for wintry recreation.

With 34 original Shaker structures (which look absolutely stunning against the bright snow), the site is home to the country’s largest private collection of original 19th century buildings and is the largest National Historic Landmark in Kentucky. Shaker Village offers experiences curated to ignite curiosity and inspire discoveries of years past. Discover the Shaker Village story and view priceless artifacts at your own pace throughout The Historic Center. Head out to The Farm to meet the animals and take a chilly walk across the frosty grounds for a glimpse into the Shaker way of life in the winter. 

Shaker Village features a variety of winter programs to warm up your brain and body each year. Take a gentle, serene night hike to absorb the wonders of the prairie and gaze at the bright winter stars. Attend a lecture series to learn more about the Shaker experience. Eat a delicious, filling meal consisting of traditional Kentucky favorites prepared with garden-fresh ingredients, such as classic biscuits and gravy for breakfast or the decadent stuffed squash, at the Trustees Table.

Come in from the cold for the night at The Inn at Shaker Village. This cozy inn features 72 guest rooms, suites, and cottages spread throughout 13 historic Shaker Village buildings. The warm hospitality of the village has even landed it the title of a top hidden travel destination by BBC News!

See also
Fall in Kentucky: 14 Cozy Things to Do this Autumn

Experience an Underground Holiday Light Show

Experience the ONLY underground holiday light show in the world at Lights Under Louisville hosted by Louisville Mega Caverns. This underground experience attracts visitors from around the world and is located in a 100-acre limestone cavern right under Louisville.

With over 6 million points of light, visitors are immersed in a holiday wonderland complete with over 40 themed displays, 900 lit characters, multiple light tunnels, and a megadose of holiday music sure to spread cheer to even the grumpiest of folks. 

Establish a new family tradition by driving your own vehicle through the cavern. Sit back (unless you are driving, of course) and enjoy a 30-minute ride through over 17 miles of illuminated underground passageways. Or, you can even hop on the Christmas Express, for a guided, open air tram tour of the cavern! Load up your littles for a trip through the winding caverns, sure to leave them merry and mesmerized. 

Sledding in Cherokee Park Louisville KY
“The hills! They call me!” Says every sledder in Louisville on a snow day.

Challenge Everyone You Know To a Sledding Competition

When temperatures are below freezing and a thick layer of fluffy snow is on the ground, break out of your winter funk by challenging your friends, partner, or even your kids (we all know they are driving you crazy on their snow day) to a friendly-ish sledding competition!

All over Kentucky lie hills perfect for cruising down on a sled- just make sure enough snow has accumulated (by checking to see if blades of grass are poking through the snow layer) before setting off! In Louisville, several parks boast top-notch sledding hills ideal for sailing across the snow. In fact, Louisville Parks and Recreation has designated certain hills that are the best and safest to sled when it snows! Create your own sled competition circuit with these four moderate to fast sledding hills in Louisville!

  • Joe Creason Park– Located on Trevilian Way across from Louisville Zoo, Joe Creason Park has some wonderfully fast hills to sled! Here, you must watch for the occasional tree and the occasional person, because it can get crowded.
  • George Rogers Clark Park– Located at 1024 Thruston Ave. and near McKinley Ave. behind the playground, this park features several great hills. BUT- it also features lots of great trees, so it may not be the best destination to hold the beginner round of your sled competition. 
  • Tyler Park– Perfect for beginners, the hills of Tyler Park off Edenside Avenue have slowed-paced hills for newbies and those who do not “feel the need for speed”. This decently sized hill is mostly tree free, with a long run at the bottom to get stopped. Since it is in a residential area, there are sure to be plenty of sledders hitting these hills.
  • Cherokee Park– Baringer Hill at the intersection of Alexander Road and Scenic Loop (otherwise known as “Doghill”) is definitely one of the most popular spots in town- and also definitely one of the fastest. It has a wonderful, open hill so you do not have to swerve and weave to avoid groups of trees as you “fly” down. This is the perfect park for safety-conscious parents and big kids (umm me!) who need a little adrenaline in their lives. 
See also
20 Cabins in Kentucky with a Hot Tub: For Couples & Groups!
buffalo trace in the snow in franklin county, ky
buffalo trace in the snow in franklin county, ky Photo Credit: Buffalo Trace

Experience the Holiday Magic at Buffalo Trace Distillery

For over 200 years, Buffalo Trace Distillery has been a staple of the community in Frankfort, Kentucky- and for the last 24 years, it has been a staple on the list of things to do over the holidays. Each December, Buffalo Trace Distillery is illuminated with a kaleidoscope of sparkling lights and captivating displays during a month-long event appropriately called Lighting of the Trace.

Come out and say hello to Santa Claus during a few select weekends and send your letter to the big man in red in the “Letters to the North Pole” mailbox. Grab a treat from one of Santa’s elves to enjoy as you cruise through the magical display. And did we mention the best part? This event is FREE to the public! You don’t even need to pay postage on your letter to Santa!

Stick around for the weekend and take your pick of several tour options, such as the Trace Tour, for an incredible introduction to the history and science of bourbon and Buffalo Trace or the picturesque Arboretum and Botanical Gardens Tour (or do them all- we’re not stopping you!) to enhance your holiday cheer.

Book a night in the center of the vibrant downtown area at the Broadway Loft, perfectly sized for two and a short walk away from the best the city has to offer. Or, spend a night or two at Double Shot on Main, a cottage located in nearby Lawrenceburg, Kentucky, fit for a family and complete with an in-house lounge and lots of game options (pool, anyone?) ideal for a night-in, out of the cold.


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Check out a few of these other winter-related posts:


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Sledding and snowy hikes and sparkly lights, oh my! While many of us associate wintertime with hibernation, seasonal depression, and spending way too long scraping off our cars in the morning (ugh!), Kentucky in winter is an exceptionally cozy time filled with so many opportunities to get out and have some fun! Whether it’s enjoying a smooth glass of bourbon, admiring a gorgeous light display, or exploring snowy state parks, there is plenty of charm to go around in Kentucky in winter!
 
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