Ice skating, Christmas markets, twinkling lights, cute cafes, and plenty of Victorian charm: Louisville in the winter is cozy AF! Although we don’t get *much* snow, Louisville in the winter is just cold enough to enjoy some quintessential winter activities without those nose-hair freezing frigid temperatures that make you want to stay indoors until the spring thaw.
Whether it’s sledding down snow-covered hills in a local park, skiing down tree-lined runs on nearby slopes, or enjoying a warm drink at one of the hottest spots in town, Louisville has plenty of winter charm. So let’s check out the best things to do in winter in Louisville!
Wondering what to do this winter? Check out a few of these our posts:
- 11 Spectacular Christmas Events in Louisville
- Where to Find the Best Christmas Lights in Louisville (with a map!)
- Louisville Gift Guide: Kentucky-Themed Art, Bourbon Gifts, & More
- 14 Cozy Things To Do in Kentucky in Winter
The Best Things to Do in the Winter in Louisville
Louisville has no shortage of things to do outside in the winter, and when you need to warm up, there are plenty of cozy little spots to get those fingers thawed out.
Louisville’s winter weather hovers in the 20s through the 40s from December through mid-March (with the occasional gorgeous 60-degree day, thanks to that unpredictable Ohio River Valley weather pattern) – it’s perfect bundle-up weather and a great time to get out of the house.
Here are the best things to do in winter in Louisville, KY!
Take a Spin Ice Skating
Even if you’re not a winter Olympian, why not try some ice skating at one of the two indoor ice rinks here in town, or at the festive outdoor Paristown ice skating rink – complete with its very own Christmas Market?
Whether you’re an experienced skater perfecting your triple lutz, or need to hold onto the wall as you make your way around the rink, ice skating is a great way to get some exercise and, of course, have some fun.
- Fête De Noël – 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 mid-November to early January.
- Iceland Sports Complex – Located in Lyndon, this complex has daily all-skate times and two separate ice skating rinks inside. Their ice skates are lightweight and modern, and you’ll be twirling (or maybe just trying to stay upright) in no time. During the week it’s pretty quiet, so you can practice your triple axels, or just be able to fall without too many people seeing.
- Alpine Ice Arena – Located on Gardiner Lane, this smaller Alpine area won’t include a vast mountain range or a Yeti, but it does feel you’ve taken a trip back in time with its charming retro decor. This rink has windows at one end, so you’ll (almost) feel like you’re outside as the sun warms you up while you skate. It’s a more compact and cozy rink, but don’t you worry because this arena leaves plenty of room for public skate times.
Hit the Ski Slopes
Wintertime brings out the coats, the gloves, and the skiers. These people (like my husband) 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 Louisville!
- Paoli Peaks – Spend your day skiing down the wooded hills of Paoli Peaks! About 46 miles from Louisville, Paoli Peaks welcomes skiers, snowboarders, and those who enjoy the snow tubing. With the beauty of snow covered trees and views of the valley below to inspire you, choose from 1of 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.
- Perfect North Slopes – 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, 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.
Did you know that Louisville has many wonderful local parks and beautiful outdoor spaces? You did? Oh, well, okay then. But did you know that Louisville Park and Recreation is so awesome, they’ve designated certain hills the best and safest to sled in the snow? These hills are moderate to fast runs so while super fun, the little, little ones may not enjoy the speed.
Here are four of the greatest moderate to fast sledding hills in Louisville, just keep in mind sledding is open when you see the “Sledding Hill Open” sign displayed and closes at 11:00 pm.
- Cherokee Park – Baringer Hill at the intersection of Alexander Road and Scenic Loop (otherwise known as “Doghill”) is probably the most popular spot in town – and possibly the fastest. It has a great open hill so you don’t have to avoid groups of trees as you “fly” down. This is an awesome perk for nervous parents and their kids who want a little “sledding independence”, and great if you’re a big kid (er, me) and want something more intense!
- Joe Creason Park – Located on Trevilian Way across from Louisville Zoo, Joe Creason Park has some great fast hills, but here you have to watch for the occasional tree, and it can get crowded, so you also have to watch out for the occasional people, too.
- George Rogers Clark Park – This park is located at 1024 Thruston Avenue, and behind the playground, near McKinley Avenue, there are hills for you but there are lots of trees so be ready to dodge and weave. Not the best hill for young newbies going solo, but great if you like a little danger with your sledding experience.
- Tyler Park – The hills at Tyler Park off Edenside Avenue has slower hills for those who don’t “feel the need for speed.” But still it’s a decent size hill that’s mainly tree-free, with a nice long run at the bottom to stop. It is in a residential area park and there are sure to be plenty of sledders.
Warm Up with a Good Meal
There are days when the colder it gets outside, the warmer I want to feel inside. That’s when I crave my fav comfort foods to keep cozy and warm. I mean, who doesn’t want a real Hot Brown on a real cold day? So, here are the best cozy restaurants that can offer you come warm food in an ever-warmer setting.
- J. Graham’s Cafe at The Brown Hotel – 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 and a delicate Mornay sauce, a parmesan cheese, that’s served hot. It’s the cheesy king of comfort foods!
- 8 UP: This open-kitchen restaurant is located on Chestnut Street on the roof of the Hilton Garden Hotel, offering fabulous views of downtown Louisville! November through March is igloo season so choose from 1 of 6 igloos at their rooftop “igLOU” village. Each one has a comfy heater and a different theme like diamonds and fur, flannel and frost, or the disco lounge and barrel bar—that smells of rich mahogany. Up to 8 people fit comfortably (and can snuggle) inside one of these. Once in your igloo, don’t leave without ordering the perfectly cooked fried chicken sliders. 8Up has an extensive drink menu and you can never go wrong with the house bourbon or an Electric Lemonade. Don’t forget, though, you need to make a reservation and there is a $250-500 minimum depending on the time you go.
- Jack Fry’s: In 1933, a man by the name of Jack Fry opened this establishment with his wife and named it – you guessed it – Jack Fry’s. Jack Fry was a gambler who loved boxing and horses. As a result, Jack Fry’s was decked out in sports pictures of the time that still hang there today – alongside pictures of famous visitors to Louisville who stopped to eat in this classic Louisville restaurant. After closing for some time, and passing ownership, Jack Fry’s moved into high end fare. Today, Chef McClain Brown serves up classic dishes with modern twists, including Lamb Chops, Beef Filet, and the best Shrimp and Grits we’ve ever had (and trust us, we’ve had many). Fun fact: seafood in Louisville is some of the freshest anywhere in the country, thanks to being the national hub of Fed-Ex and UPS. Seafood is shipped to Louisville before anywhere else in the country. So dig in – it’s fresh!
Hide Away in a Cozy Cafe
After taking in all those invigorating outdoor activities, it might be time to sit back and indulge in a warm drink or a super tasty treat. Louisville has so many spectacular cafes and bakeries it’s hard to choose which one to visit, but here are some of the best that won’t leave you standing out in the cold thanks to indoor seating (:wink:)
- Heine Brothers Coffee – Louisville locals know Heine Brothers is where it’s at for awesome fair trade certified organic coffee (:chef’s kiss:). When you walk into any one of their 18 locations, the smell of coffee overtakes you and your hands can’t wait to hold that warm coffee cup. Their daily brew always hits the spot and you can never go wrong with a creamy vanilla latte. Need a treat? Pair any drink with a huge, chewy Kizito cookie that magically manages just the right balance of good sugary sweetness and you’re good to go, too.
- Please & Thank You – I know an outstanding cookie when I eat it, and the chocolate chip cookie at Please & Thank You is arguably the best in Louisville – or the world (seriously, people are obsessed!). It’s chocolatey, gooey goodness comes complete with a satisfying salty crunch that moves this dessert into a league of its own. Hey, don’t forget to wash down your (4th) cookie with a sweet butterscotch latte or decadent ganache latte. If caffeine ain’t your thing, try the next level Mexican hot chocolate.
- Day’s Espresso & Coffee – A Highlands staple and LGBT-friendly hotspot, Day’s Espresso & Coffee has been serving up coffee and cozy community since the 90’s. Walking in, you’ll instantly be warmed by the dining room. It’s cozy and humble, and may or may not run solely off of good vibes, which Is absolutely perfect for a chilly day. Day’s has a variety of seating: booths for friends, a window counter for studying, and curved armchairs for lounging. So stop in a grab one of their espresso specialties, an intensely deep americano, a creamy jolt macchiato, or my favorite, the silky smooth cortado.
For more suggestions, head to our guide to the best coffee shops in Louisville.
Take A Snowy Walk Around Old Louisville
Is there anything more magical than walking around a Victorian court while it’s snowing, surrounded by beautifully ornate homes and an icicle-covered fountain? The answer you are looking for is no.
St. James Court and Belgravia Court are located in the heart of Old Louisville, which boasts the largest contiguous collection of Victorian mansions in the United States. We are talking intricate ironwork, flickering gas lamps, tree-covered streets, with walking paths that wind past these historic homes.
You can almost hear a small Victorian child with rosy cheeks and ringlet curls saying, “Mummy, the yuletide feels so gay with all this snow!”. And yes, yes it does!
You can simply wander the area gawking at all the ostentatious splendor, or follow a self-guided walking tour to get to know the area a little better. Also check out Central Park across the street, which is absolutely stunning covered in snow.
Visit Louisille’s Museums
Wanna feel cozy and cultured all at the same time? Well, why not stay warm at one of Louisville’s many museums! Just on Main Street alone (Museum Row) we have 9! Here are some of the best museums to warm up in on a chilly day, and here are all the best museums in Louisville if you want even more suggestions.
- The Speed Art Museum – Walking into the oldest and largest art museum in Kentucky, it’s hard to miss the large wall of windows that looks like something out of the future -the museum itself looks like a work of art. With plenty of large spaces and expert lighting you’ll be able to view flawless displays of European, American, Native American, and African works of art. They also have a solid collection of contemporary art, and even a floor dedicated to their Kentucky collection! This thoughtfully curated museum also has a fabulous gift shop and cafe where you can try a yummy chicken salad sandwich with a snickerdoodle cookie on the side.
- The Frazier History Museum – The first stop on the Bourbon Trail, this museum has one of the largest collections of toy soldiers and historic miniatures in the world (so cool), oh … and there’s bourbon. Yes, the friendly staff at the Frazier will help you plan your bourbon trail experience and even start you off with some bourbon tasting right there! The museum itself dives into the history of Kentucky, with breezy open rooms with war artifacts and smaller cozy ones showing how people would have lived 100 years ago, so you can take your time reading about Kentucky history or historic weapons, or, uh, drink bourbon.
- 21C Museum and Hotel – Like a Transformer in hotel/museum form, there’s “more than meets the eye” at 21C. A 91 room hotel, contemporary art museum, restaurant, and cultural civic center, if you’re looking for a quick taste of modern art, this museum will make a lasting impression. With engaging art work situated in a minimalistic environment, this smaller than average museum is fabulous for an afternoon getaway. It’s also free and open 24/7, so wander in whenever you feel artsy!
- Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory – The Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory is the best place to take baseball fans – it’s where all the Louisville Slugger bats are made. Yes, all of them! Take the factory tour where they show you how the bats are made, and leave with a personalized bat, if that’s your thing.
- The Muhammad Ali Center – This stunning place is all about one of Louisville’s most famous residents, from Ali’s illustrious boxing career to the man himself – including all of his flaws – as well as the racist and conflicted society from which he emerged. Learn about him as an artist, a Muslim, and of course, how he became “The Greatest” boxer of all time.
For more museum suggestions (we’ve got loads) check out our guide to museums in Louisville:
Snuggle into a Festive Bar
Need to a little pick-me-up to get you through the winter months? I get it. And so do all the bars and speakeasies in town. Speakeasy bars became popular (and of course, necessary) in the Prohibition era and Louisville has several throwback speakeasies that’ll make you feel like you’re walking back in time without having to invent a Flux Capacitor.
- Pin + Proof: When you step inside this speakeasy, you’ll see a few bowling lanes divided by brick archways. Then you’ll wonder what old-timey movie set you’ve accidentally walked onto because of the Art Deco decor and Prohibition era photographs. While lounging on your red velvet settee, order up a an 1881 Old Fashioned or a Hard to be Humble (made of gin, chartreuse, lavender syrup, lemon, egg whites, and absinthe) and say “Action!” to get your night “rolling!”
- Hell or High Water: Old brick walls, velvet curtains and couches, and a library full of many leather bound books serve that oh so iconic 1920s vibe in this upscale speakesy. Try a well-mixed drink like Bottom of the Barrel, a drink that combines flavors like Mezcal, Irish Whiskey, and bitters. Or order Red Baron with gin and bitters to feel really like a jazz-aged baby. In order to “get in”, they ask you to book a reservation in advance.
- Alex&nder: This bar sits on the rooftop of the Copper & Kings Distillery, which specializes in brandy, in the heart of Butchertown. The rooftop views are stunning, but the drinks are stunning-er (I know it’s not a word, but it should be!), and during the winter, you can enjoy the views of the city from behind the windows where it’s warm! Try the Drops of Jupiter, a draft cocktail that drinks like a sweet tiki drink. Made with Copper & King’s Moons of Jupiter gin, Falernum, passion fruit, orgeat, and lemon juice.
Sip Bourbon (& Brandy) at a Distillery
Louisville’s nickname is Bourbon City. So I guess you could say bourbon is kinda our thing! But we’re not just a one-trick pony (get it? horse pun): you’ll also find distilleries in Louisville crafting rye whiskey, brandy, absinthe, Scotch, liqueurs, and more.
While Louisville has quite few distilleries and tasting rooms of its own – take a look at our guide to Louisville distilleries to learn about them all – don’t forget that we’re also just a drive away from the distilleries along the Kentucky Bourbon Trail! And y’all can guarantee that there won’t be crowds of tourists in the middle of December.
Here are the best distilleries to visit in the winter:
- Angel’s Envy – Located in NuLu, the Angel’s Envy distillery is a small batch bourbon distiller. Angel’s Envy makes a delicious finished bourbon: after the usual aging process, Angel’s Envy bourbon is then aged in port barrels. The end product? A deliciously complex bourbon, perfect for both sipping and mixing into cocktails. Try it along with a Rye Whiskey finished in Caribbean rum barrels! You can take a full tour of the gorgeous Louisville distillery along with a bourbon tasting (of course).
- The Evan Williams Bourbon Experience – Evans Williams bourbon is a staple in Louisville. You’ll find it everywhere, which is not surprising because Evan Williams was Kentucky’s first distillery, opened in 1783! Evan Williams is actually distilled at the Heaven Hill Distillery, and at their downtown location you can learn about the distilling process, take a unique trip back in time to a Prohibition-era speakeasy, and most importantly, sample bourbon! They have several different tours and experiences to choose from and will be sure to thaw those fingers out!
- Rabbit Hole Distillery – This distillery opened in NuLu 2012 when its founder risked his twenty-year psychology practice and took a plunge down the Rabbit Hole (get it?!) to make Bourbon and Rye spirits instead, best exemplified in their rye-forward Heigold Straight Bourbon Whiskey. During the one-hour, immersive guided tour of the contemporary, industrial-chic distillery, you’ll learn about how grains are transformed into whiskey, how Rabbit Hole’s philosophy is changing the bourbon industry, taste a 4-grain Kentucky Straight Bourbon, and end at the Overlook lounge for a generous bourbon tasting with a view.
- Visit distilleries on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail – Although there are plenty of distilleries in Louisville, the Kentucky Bourbon Trail is a whole different experience. As you drive out of Louisville and into the rolling, snow-covered hills of Kentucky horse country, you’ll see what I mean. Hands down, our favorite distilleries to visit are Woodford Reserve and Maker’s Mark: if you have to limit yourself to just one single day trip from Louisville, those are the bourbon distilleries we recommend. We also recommend booking a tour – they will take care of the planning (and most importantly, the driving) for you.
Attend a Winter Festival
The holidays just might be our favorite time of year in Louisville (other than Derby season, obviously). If you’re looking for some holiday fun this Christmas in Louisville, then look no further than these must-see Christmas events that will help you get into the holiday spirit!
- Light Up Louisville: Typically occurring just after Thanksgiving, Louisville’s annual Christmas Tree lighting event occurs on the Jefferson Square and Metro Hall lawns, and the lights last all season long. The festive display includes rainbows of colors for all the best winter holidays, from Christmas to Hanukkah to Kwanzaa, and celebrates Louisville’s diversity. On the evening of the kick-off event, you’ll watch the 45-foot tall tree light up to mark the beginning of the holiday season. You’ll meet Santa Claus when he arrives on Jefferson Street for the “Lots Of Lights” parade. A Vendor Village will be filled with local food and craft vendors, as well as a Children’s Activity area. Kids can have fun writing letters to Santa or taking photos with their family in a photo booth.
- Lights Under Louisville: Located near the Louisville Zoo, the Mega Caverns is a 100-acre limestone cavern, which during the holiday season, becomes an underground light show featuring 900 lit characters and over 4 MILLION lights. Really! Lights Under Louisville is 30-minute drive through attraction winds through part of the 17 miles of underground caverns and features music, and of course, all those brilliant lights. They even have something called the “Christmas Express,” which will take you through the caverns on an open top trailer!
- Paristown’s Fête De Noël (“Festival of Christmas”) is a 6-week long winter wonderland! This winter holiday festival includes Louisville’s only outdoor ice skating rink, a holiday market full of delicious treats (helloooo,gourmet hot chocolate!) and Santa’s Workshop. The Holiday Market runs on weekends. You can shop for fresh cut trees and holiday wreaths, gifts, art, local food and more from over 20 local and regional vendors. To skate underneath the twinkling lights, general admission tickets are $15 per person and include 60 minutes of ice time and a complimentary skate rental.
For more suggestions, check out our guide to Christmas Events in Louisville:
Check out the Best Christmas Lights
Driving through Louisville, you’ll be astounded by the diverse architecture ranging from detailed Victorian-era mansions to sleek mid-century modern ranches. But there’s nothing like those ginormous houses that like to decorate for holidays! You may not believe it, but there’s one with a working roller coaster and even homes that sync their lights to rockin’ music! WHAT?!
So grab your holiday mix tape (clearly, with Amy Grant on it) and head out to see some lights during the holiday season:
- Windemere Palace Neighborhood – This neighborhood is a small subdivision off of Lowe Road that some say is the best place to see Christmas lights. Almost all of the houses participate in the light display, so plan to wear your sunglasses when you drive though. (You know, because it’s so bright.) It’s good to know there’s no outlet to this neighborhood so head down the main street and then back through all the cul de sacs to get your holiday light fix. Address: Ashfield Ln, Louisville, KY.
- Lake Forest Neighborhood – If you’ve been wanting to see big, fancy houses with massive amounts of twinkling lights, then head to this subdivision off of Shelbyville Road in Middletown. Not every house here is decorated, so it’s more of a “holiday light seek-and-find,” but it’s worth it – especially if you have hot chocolate to sip while your exploring. Address: Lake Forest, Louisville, KY.
- The Roller Coaster House – This is not a drill! This house is not only decked out with more Christmas light-ups than you can shake a stick at, it also has a real working roller coaster. No not big enough for you to ride, silly, but reindeer pull a Santa doll in a sleigh around a roller coaster track that fills the owner’s entire front yard. It even does a loop-dee-loop! There is also a Ferris wheel, but you will find yourself standing there bouncing like a kid at the excitement of watching the roller coaster go around the track again and again! It is also close to the last two holiday houses, so you know this neighborhood is lit (literally). You can even watch a video of the roller coaster in action. Address: 6907 Green Manor Dr, Louisville, KY.
For more suggestions – and a handy map to take with you on your phone – check out our entire post on Christmas lights in Louisville!
Cozy cabin getaways
If you’re feeling the need to explore the wild and natural areas outside of Louisville, there are tons of options for day trips and overnight stays. One of the best places for a winter retreat, and for those craving a forest with a view, is Red River Gorge about an hour and a half away.
Here are a few cozy cabins in Red River Gorge to fit your wintery adventure needs:
- Quiet getaway near Natural Bridge: This cabin sleeps 10 and has two full baths, so you won’t have to wait long to brush your teeth even with all the sharing happening. Nestled up against a treelined cliff, you’ll feel “one with nature” while you hang out in your 2 story wood cabin. If you’re a fan of the Country Chic style: quilts on every bed, wooded furniture, and comfy couches that you can sink into then this is your jam.
- Shipping container cabin: A combination of rustic meets industrial style, this two bedroom handcrafted cabin sleeps 4 people. This getaway cabin has floor to ceiling windows that show off excellent views of the outside cliff lines. It’s the little modern details, like the wooden crate wall fixture and the vessel sink in the bathroom, that make this one super memorable.
- Soul Sister family cabin: This bright and breezy cabin with it’s vaulted white ceilings and clean, airy design will leave you feeling upbeat and cheery after your weekend stay. Located in the Red River Gorge Geological Area, this one bedroom cabin has a sleeper sofa and sleeps 4 comfortably (or just have a romantic weekend!). Featuring waterfalls, caves, and hiking, it also has a fully equipped kitchen and charcoal grill so you can (obviously) make your S’mores when the mood strikes.
Need more cozy cabin inspiration? We’ve combed through vacation rentals on every site to find the best of the best! Check out our ultimate guide to cozy cabins in Kentucky and cabins in Red River Gorge with hot tubs.
About the Author: Tonilyn Hornung is an essayist, having written a humorous self-help book How to Raise a Husband: A Bunch of Ways to Build a Strong and Happy Marriage. Her essays on parenting and relationships have been seen in The Washington Post, HuffPost, Cosmopolitan, Good Housekeeping, Harper’s Bazaar, Insider, SheKnows, Mom.com, Cafemom, The Mothership, Truly Mama, Milk-Drunk, Romper, CircleAround, Scary Mommy, Today’s Woman Magazine, LA Parent Magazine, and others.
What are your favorite activities to do in winter in Louisville, KY? What questions can we answer? Drop us a comment below!
Before you go, be sure to check out these other posts:
- 11 Spectacular Christmas Events in Louisville
- Where to Find the Best Christmas Lights in Louisville (with a map!)
- The 15 Best Coffee Shops in Louisville, Kentucky
- 14 Wondrous Things To Do in Kentucky in Winter
If you want to purchase a one-of-a-kind gift this holiday season, check out our Louisville Gift Guide!
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