15 Best Winter Activities to Do in Kentucky!

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.

Lights Under Louisville, Louisville, KY

See Santa this holiday season with a visit to Louisville Mega Cavern's Lights Under Louisville. This tremendous, subterranean attraction offers 900 lit characters, two laser locations, and 6,500,000 points of light, all within 40-themed displays. Get ready for a dazzling holiday activity!

Crestwood Festival of Nativities, Crestwood, KY

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.

Experience the Nutcracker

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.

Christmas Town, Petersburg, KY

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.

Light Up Louisville, Louisville, KY

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.

Ice skating at Triangle Park

Kentucky winters are unpredictable. Temperatures can drop below zero or get as high as 60 degrees, sometimes within days of each other. However, even on a warm winter evening in Kentucky, residents and visitors can enjoy ice skating in Lexington's Triangle Park. Every year, from November through January, an outdoor ice-skating rink is installed at Triangle Park. Ice skates are available for rent on-site, and hot chocolate is available for purchase on freezing evenings.

Southern Lights Holiday Festival, Lexington, KY

Bring the allure of the holidays to life this year and witness Southern Lights! Now in its 30th year, this precious holiday tradition occurs at the Kentucky Horse Park and features over a million glowing lights. The holiday village is a Christmas dream come to life.

Luminate Lexington, Lexington, KY

Luminate Lexington consists of two popular winter events hosted annually in downtown Lexington: a holiday market, a tree lighting event, and the Lexington Christmas Parade. The holiday market and tree lighting event feature holiday shopping, and the evening culminates with the lighting of the city's holiday tree. The Lexington Christmas Parade features favorite holiday characters and winds its way through downtown to the delight of Lexington families.

Holiday activities at Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill

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.

Christmas in the Valley, Renfro Valley, KY

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.

Santa and Mrs. Claus Ride the Rails

Take a magical ride through the winter countryside with Santa! On the 90-minute trip, mingle with the Car Hosts and Conductors as you sing carols and await your encounter with the jolly old elf. Receive a special gift from Santa at the end of your journey and enjoy the sweet taste of a candy cane for the perfect holiday experience. All aboard for a family-friendly adventure with Santa – it's the train ride you won't soon forget!

Lighting of the Trace, Frankfort, KY

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.

North Pole Express, Bardstown, KY

The North Pole Express at My Old KY Dinner Train takes you back to a simpler time of joy and grandeur. Step into an 1840s depot building and be dazzled by the festive decorations that await. Be sure to arrive early to meet Santa and Mrs. Claus, then board the train for a magical holiday dinner experience. Hop aboard the North Pole Express!

Southern Lights Holiday Festival, Lexington, KY

December 1, 2023 at 5:30pm
Experience the magic of the Southern Lights Holiday Festival at the Kentucky Horse Park! See millions of twinkling lights from the safety of your car and explore the Holiday Village, complete with photos of Santa, Animal Land, and model trains. Escape the hustle and bustle of the holiday season and pre-purchase your tickets for a magical night out!

Wildlife viewing

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.

This text was created by the author with the assistance of GPT-3, a large-scale language generation model developed by OpenAI. The author reviewed, edited, and revised the draft language to their satisfaction and is fully responsible for the content of this publication.

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