How to Enjoy the Holidays in Louisville

Downtown and river at dusk

Bob Stefko / Getty Images 

Every holiday—from the Fourth of July to Christmas—is filled with opportunities to visit friends, see the sights of Louisville, and create family memories. It's a city that has countless activities, from parades for the family to parties for the adults. Let's explore what's going on in Louisville during the year's biggest holidays.

01 of 07

Christmas in Louisville

Ice Skating in Downtown Louisville
Dave Dugdale/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

Christmas is a wonderful time of year to celebrate holiday traditions. You might take the kids to sit on Santa's lap, drive around town looking for the best Christmas light displays, or spend some time shopping for the perfect gift. It's an exciting season to be in Louisville.

One of the first traditions you can establish is picking out a live Christmas tree. The Louisville area has a number of farms where you ​can get the tree of your choice. It's a fun family adventure and a great way to spend a weekend afternoon.

The holiday season is also a great time to take part in fun winter activities. Take the family sledding or ice skating or head out to Paoli Peaks for a day of skiing.

While you have guests in town, you might want to take them to some of Louisville's most popular attractions. Of course, a visit to the festive Galt House is a must for locals and visitors alike.

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02 of 07

New Year's Eve in Louisville

Centennial Festival Of Riverboats - Day 5
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We may not have a party equal in size to that of Times Square in New York, but a Louisville New Year's Eve is no less exciting. Parties all over town include black-tie galas and masquerade balls, buffets and five-course meals, champagne toasts and balloon drops.

Fourth Street Live! is a fantastic place to celebrate. In the heart of downtown Louisville, their New Year's Eve party is one of the biggest in town. Tickets get you into the hottest bars in the area and the revelry during the balloon drop makes for a truly memorable night.

For something a little quieter and that is family-friendly, consider a New Year's Eve dinner on the Spirit of Jefferson. This is early in the evening and dining on a riverboat is a perfect way to start the night. If you're up for a late night cruise, they also have the Late Night Bash that runs right through midnight.

Also, check out the New Year's Eve listings for your favorite bars, restaurants, and nightclubs in Louisville. Many book special acts and have great things planned for the night.

When you wake up on New Year's Day, why not get out and see the city? There are many fun things to do and what better way to start the new year than to check some off your list.

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03 of 07

Spring Holidays in Louisville

Mardi Gras beads, Uptown Magazine Street
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Spring is also a great time to catch holiday events in Louisville. It begins with Mardi Gras during which you can head to places like Fourth Street Live or a number of local bars and taverns. Also, many local bakeries offer those delicious king cakes.

St. Patrick's Day offers endless opportunities to celebrate, including beer at local taverns and the St. Patrick's Day Parade in The Highlands.

Come Easter season, you'll find a number of churches hosting fish fries on Fridays. You'll also want to take the kids to one of the exciting local Easter events like the Frankfort Avenue Easter Parade and EGGstravaganza at the Louisville Zoo. The YMCA has a fun Easter egg hunt every year as well.

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04 of 07

The Kentucky Derby in Louisville

2016 Kentucky Derby
Michael Reaves / Getty Images

As soon as the New Year dawns, it's time to ramp up for Louisville's main event: Derby Day! It is, arguably, the biggest day of the year in Louisville and there are many events that lead up to the Kentucky Derby.

Though Derby preparations begin much earlier, the two-week celebration is kicked off with Thunder Over Louisville. During the day you can enjoy an air show and at night sit back and watch the fireworks.

Among the other great events during the Kentucky Derby Festival, you'll want to catch the Great Steamboat Race and the Pegasus Parade. Another must-see event is the Great BalloonFest with wonderful hot air balloons flying day and night.

Of course, if you're headed to the Derby itself, you'll want some insider tips about getting into the infield at Churchill Downs. Plus, you'll need the proper attire and Derby hat to wear.

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05 of 07

The Fourth of July in Louisville

Fireworks and Louisville skyline at dusk
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Celebrate the Fourth of July in pure Louisville style! With so many parks featuring July 4th fireworks, communities hosting Independence Day parades and free concerts, there is no shortage of ways to celebrate the birth of our country.

One of the most popular fireworks displays takes place on the Louisville waterfront. Venues on both sides of the river offer fun family activities and parties to enjoy while you wait for the big show. You can even hop on a riverboat and take it in while cruising the Ohio River.

Other towns near Louisville offer their own fireworks and some are on different nights. Be sure to see what night they're going off this year and try to hit one of the smaller venues. You might find a new family favorite that will surprise you.

Louisville has other great events in July that you'll want to check out as well. Some are around the holiday and others offer things to do later in the month. It's a great time to explore the city.

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06 of 07

Halloween in Louisville

Iroquois Park has been transformed into the site of Louisville's newest must-see Halloween attraction as part of the Jack O'Lantern Spectacular that opens tonight. For three weeks more than 30 local artists have been drawing, carving and chiseling thousands of pumpkins into works of art. These are some of our favorites.
Lou Oms/Wikimedia Commons/CC-BY-2.0

With spooky attractions and family fun free of scares, Louisville is full of ways to celebrate Halloween.

First of all, if you can't wait until October, the last Saturday of August is the annual Louisville Zombie Walk, a fun event that gives you an excuse to dress like a zombie and join others for a night of fun.

In October, you will find many fun Halloween activities and quite a few of them are free. The Highlands Halloween Parade is always entertaining and Frankfort Avenue has a number of events as well. You can also hit one of the great pumpkin patches in the area.

This is a great area for haunted houses and many pop up around the area in October. Beyond the Louisville area, be sure to check out the haunts across the river in Indiana as there are many great ones there as well.

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07 of 07

Thanksgiving in Louisville

Thanksgiving stuffed turkey
Robert Benson / Getty Images

While many Louisvillians spend the holiday at home with family, others spend the day out on the town. If you're among the latter group, you'll want to know what restaurants and businesses are open on Thanksgiving.

You might just want someone else to cook Thanksgiving dinner for you. A number of Louisville eateries offer a holiday meal, though you will want to book early for most of them.

While you're enjoying the holiday, plan the rest of your weekend. You might take out of town guests to some of Louisville's attractions or want to scoop up bargains on Black Friday or Small Business Saturday. Either way, there's a lot going on Thanksgiving weekend.

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