A winter trip to Louisville may not be a warm Southern escape, but Kentucky's largest city has plenty to offer during the months of December, January, and February to keep visitors entertained. Besides holiday events leading up to Christmas and New Year's Day, you can visit a number of museums in Louisville. If it gets too cold, you can always escape underground for shelter (literally). And if you need to warm up from within, a glass of Kentucky bourbon should do the trick.
The underground caves that live below Kentucky make up the most extensive cave system in the world, stretching on for hundreds of miles. The most famous caves are the ones in Mammoth Cave National Park, which is about 90 minutes outside of Louisville by car. Even when the outside weather is icy with subzero temperatures, the interior of the caves stay at a consistent 54 degrees Fahrenheit all year long, comfortable enough to walk around with jeans and a light jacket. Plus, the caves are practically empty in winter compared to the high tourist season of summer.
If you want something a bit closer, the Louisville Mega Cavern is like an underground theme park. This man-made cave is underneath the city's zoo and hosts thrilling activities like ziplining and jeep tours.
Enjoy Holiday Ice Skating
One of winter's most iconic activities is ice skating, so pick up some rental blades and hit the ice at one of Louisville's rinks. The only outdoor skating rink in the city is at the seasonal Fëte de Noel festival, which opens on November 25, 2020, and runs until January 3, 2021. The rink is open from Wednesday to Sunday, with special extended hours on Christmas and New Year's for holiday skating.
Iceland Sports Complex and Alpine Ice Arena don't come with the same Christmas festivities as the Fëte de Noel rink, but these indoor rinks are heated and open year-round, so if you're visiting outside of the holiday season, they make excellent backup options.
Admire Museum Collections
Louisville gets cold in the winter, making a lot of the outdoor options not quite as tenable. Thankfully, there's plenty of indoor museums for all interests to keep you entertained when the weather doesn't cooperate, many of them conveniently located within walking distance from each other on "Museum Row."
For racing buffs, the Kentucky Derby Museum is the place to learn all about this world-famous race. Louisville may not have a major league baseball team, but the city is home to the factory of Louisville Slugger baseball bats, which you can tour to see how they're made and learn about America's favorite pastime. The Muhammad Ali Center is dedicated to the life of the boxing legend and cultural icon, who was born in Louisville. The Frazier History Museum is a part of the Smithsonian and always has eclectic and everchanging exhibitions—and it's the official start of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.
Holiday light displays pop up all around Louisville from Thanksgiving and into the New Year. The city turns on the main light display and annual tree on November 27, 2020, at Jefferson Square Park in front of Metro Hall. For a true Kentuckian holiday light show, drive your car through the Lights Under Louisville event at the Mega Cavern. It's a 30-minute ride underground in your own vehicle through the massive caverns that are decorated with over 3 million lights. Lights Under Louisville is open from November 13, 2020, until January 3, 2021.
Go Sledding and Play With Snow
While there typically is not a lot of snow in Louisville, every once in a while a winter storm comes into town and blankets the city in a few inches of white powder. When that happens, the city has designated hills for sledding and tubing. Grab your sled, inflatable tube, empty pizza box, or whatever you have, and head over to Cherokee Park, George Rogers Clark Park, Tyler Park, or Charlie Vettiner Park. In general, the city requires at least 3 inches of snow in order to sled on park hills.
Dive Into the Ohio River
The Polar Plunge is an annual event that operates just how it sounds: jumping into an icy pool of water in the dead of winter. If that doesn't sound tempting, you can justify this mad event with the knowledge that your actions are helping to raise money for the Kentucky chapter of the Special Olympics. The organization actually has two options and participants can choose to jump off the docks into the Ohio River or into a pool set up in the Brown-Forman Amphitheater in Waterfront Park. There are prizes for the best fundraisers and best costumes, so apart from raising money for a great cause, it’s also a fun community builder.