Kentucky winters force visitors and locals alike to face frigid temperatures and snowy conditions, but it is well worth it with the wealth of activities offered throughout the season. There isn't anything quite like a holiday light show to get that warm feeling inside. There isn't anything quite as breathtaking as a stunning ballet performance of the legendary Nutcracker. So bundle up and brave the cold this winter to enjoy these 15 wonderful winter activities in Kentucky.
The Crestwood Festival of Nativities is an annual Christmas celebration and display featuring more than 500 nativity scenes. For each year in December, residents of Crestwood, Kentucky, and its surrounding areas converge to get in the spirit of the holidays. Listen to local choirs sing holiday songs, explore the holiday decorations and nativities—including a living nativity display—and enjoy children's activities like crafting and coloring.
Many families in Kentucky have a holiday tradition of watching a live performance of The Nutcracker. Louisville residents and visitors can catch the Louisville Ballet's live performance of The Brown-Forman Nutcracker each year at the Kentucky Center for the Arts. In Lexington, residents and visitors can watch the Lexington Ballet's annual live performance of the iconic holiday production at the Lexington Opera House.
The Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky, hosts an annual winter event called Christmas Town. At Christmas Town, visitors can wander through the museum's botanical garden, which is covered in lights, giving it the appearance of frigid Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory. A live nativity and roaming biblical characters appear throughout the event, and hot chocolate from Noah's Cafe keeps visitors warm on cold December evenings.
The city of Louisville, Kentucky, kicks off the winter season with the annual Light Up Louisville celebration. The event starts with a parade and ends with the city's mayor flipping a switch to turn on all downtown holiday lights. After Light Up Louisville, residents and visitors can continue to enjoy downtown Louisville's winter season throughout December with food and drink vendors, holiday concerts, and ice skating in and around Jefferson Square.
A variety of events entertain visitors to Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill during the winter and holiday seasons. Visitors can shop for hand-crafted holiday gifts, craft their own personalized presents, enjoy the holiday light displays, and warm up around bonfires with hot chocolate and spiced cider. Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill is a retreat from the bustle of everyday life at any time of the year, but visiting feels especially rewarding during the holiday season when people want to enjoy life's simple pleasures.
Music lovers won't want to miss Christmas in the Valley—a live music series put on annually at the Renfro Valley Entertainment Center in Renfro Valley, Kentucky. The Renfro Valley Entertainment Center boasts two barn theaters where live gospel, country, and bluegrass acts perform for crowds. During the holiday season, live acts put on holiday performances featuring classic Christmas and winter songs.
Each year, the Buffalo Trace Distillery kicks off the holiday season with its Lighting of the Trace Celebration. The distillery and grounds are illuminated with holiday lights and displays, and holiday stores are set up for shopping. After the distillery lights are turned on, visitors can drive through Buffalo Trace any night to see the displays, and Santa himself visits the distillery several times. All holiday events at the distillery are free.
Each year, Kentucky's state parks offer a number of wildlife viewing excursions. Because of the cold weather, fewer people visit the parks, making winter the perfect time to see eagles, elks, cranes, and other park wildlife. Make sure to dress warmly and wear shoes that are unlikely to slip—Kentucky tends to be wet in winter, so invest in a good pair of boots before doing any winter hiking. Check the Kentucky Parks site each year for information about available wildlife tours.