Everything You Must Do in Louisville This Winter

You know the drill, Louisville. The air has turned colder. The skies have become grayer. Heck, we even set our clocks back so it gets dark before dinner. That’s right, folks, winter is here. But don’t lock yourself away and mope until spring -- that’s how seasonal affective disorder sets in. Nope, there’s plenty going on around town, and we’ve got the rundown on all the best activities to warm your chilly bones and quiet your chattering teeth. Here’s everything you need to do in Louisville this winter.

Elf Derby Dinner Playhouse
Elf | Derby Dinner Playhouse

Through December 31
Derby Dinner Playhouse
Will Ferrell’s portrayal of Buddy the Elf made the film Elf a holiday classic. This musical follows the story of the young orphan child who mistakenly crawls into Santa’s bag of toys and ends up in the North Pole. Will Buddy ever find his true identity? Only one way to find out.
Cost: $40 and up (most shows sold out)

Through January 1
Holiday Square (4th and Jefferson Streets)
When the weather turns cold and the ice creeps in, there’s no point in crawling under a blanket and praying for spring. Instead, lace ‘em up and get your skate on downtown. Bring the entire family and rent a pair of skates on site if you aren’t packing your own. (Sorry, hockey fans, no body checking.)
Cost: $9-$12 per hour or $45 for a season pass

Through January 4
Louisville Mega Cavern
Lights Under Louisville has become a local holiday tradition -- and to be sure, there’s nothing else quite like it. Featuring 850 illuminated characters with more than three million points of light, it’s a 30-minute ride that takes visitors on a journey through the 17 miles of underground caverns. It’s fun for the whole family, and sure to bring out the kid in you.
Cost: $27 per vehicle

December 14 - 22
The Kentucky Center
The annual family tradition continues with Louisville Ballet’s unique telling of the famous story of a girl and her Nutcracker prince in a classic fantasy tale for all ages. The sets, costumes, and dances are sure to warm you up for the holidays. Pre-show “Sugar Plum Parties” will also be held December 21 and 22 for an additional fee.
Cost: $40 and up ($27-$38 for Sugar Plum Parties)

Candlelight Christmas Tour
Candlelight Christmas Tour | The Conrad-Caldwell House Museum

December 21
Conrad-Caldwell House
Take a candlelit tour of this historic mansion in Old Louisville, taking in beautiful Christmas décor both modern and vintage. Along the way, you’ll learn about how Louisville’s most prominent families celebrated Christmas during the Gilded Age.
Cost: $6-$10

December 21 - 22
The Galt House
Santa Claus returns to the historic Galt House Hotel for a final weekend of brunch for all with special treats for the kids. In addition to holiday photos with the jolly one himself, kids can attend Elf School, ride the kiddie train and get revved up for Christmas morning a little early.
Cost: $38 adults/$15 children (kids four and under free)

December 28 - 30
Kentucky Exposition Center
From toys to vintage clothing and from used books to baseball cards, there’s a little something for everyone at the Stewart Promotions Kentucky Flea Market -- and this edition is their year-end blowout. The New Year’s Spectacular ups the ante to more than 1,200 booths across two wings, not to mention a special 400-vendor antiques and collectibles section. You’ll be worn out, but it will be worth it. Best of all, it’s indoors.
Cost: Free admission ($10 parking)

January 11 - 12
Kentucky Exposition Center
Tailor-made for train enthusiasts young and old, this annual event brings together hundreds of train vendors, huge model train exhibits, fun activities and train rides for kids, plus much more. Put on your conductor cap and bring the whole crew.
Cost: Adults $9-$10, kids 11 and under free

Harlem Globetrotters

January 18
KFC Yum! Center
A visit from the classic Harlem Globetrotters is becoming a January standard in Louisville, and it’s a great way to warm up during those gloomy winter days. So cue up “Sweet Georgia Brown” and don the red, white and blue. The star-studded team, which first formed in 1926, brings its unique version of sports-meets-comedy to town for an afternoon and evening show, wrapped up in pure family entertainment.
Cost: $23 and up per show

January 22 - 26
Kentucky Exposition Center
People in Louisville love few things more than a day out on the boat, and by late January they’re chomping at the bit to get that boat out of storage. Whether you’re looking to get your own boat, planning to upgrade or just want to look forward to warmer weather, this is the perfect event with hundreds of exhibitors selling goods ranging from marine vehicles to campers to trampolines.
Cost: $5-$12

January 24 - 25
Mercury Ballroom
Founder Holly Harvest and husband Tom Foolery (you can’t make this stuff up, folks) will gather some of the best talent around for a midwinter burlesque spectacle. Bourbontown Burlesque claims to be comprised of “51% corny comedy” and a variety of fun ingredients including expert striptease, aerials, magic, and plenty more in their biggest show yet.
Cost: $40-$280

January 25
Diamond Pub Concert Hall
Things will get hairy once again as the Derby City Whisker Club presents its fifth annual WhiskerMania. Competitors of all levels from all over the world will go beard-to-beard in a variety of categories, from chops to goatees to full beard freestyle. (There are even categories for fake beards, so no one feels left out.) Sorry, though, no participation trophies here -- just a good time. And don’t miss the Rookie Royal Rumble, a brand new event for the facial hair newbies.
Cost: $15-$100

January 30 - February 2
Broadbent Arena
Now in its 95th year, Kosair Shrine Circus once again will bring classic circus fun to town, featuring everything from trained animals to clowns to acrobats. Presented by an organization dedicated to supporting children’s charities, elephant and pony rides will also be available. Take the whole family out to have a blast at this longtime Louisville tradition.
Cost: $20-$30


February 1 - 2
Kentucky International Convention Center
Louisville is about to be invaded once again by giant plastic bricks. From massive LEGO displays and a LEGO castle to themed sections and life-size sculptures, if it’s LEGO, you’ll find it here. But whatever you do, don’t walk around barefoot.
Cost: $15-$18

Ohio Valley Military Society and the Show of Shows
Ohio Valley Military Society and the Show of Shows

February 19 - 23
Kentucky Exposition Center
This event has its sights set on anyone who loves antique arms and military items. Expect nearly 2,000 tables of items for sale, from military clothing and artifacts to daggers and swords to vintage rifles and pistols.
Cost: $10 per day or $18 for a weekend pass

February 22 - 23
Kentucky Exposition Center
Get your popcorn ready: The Louisville Kids Fair is bringing 130,000 square feet of fun to town in the form of the region’s largest indoor carnival. This one has it all including carnival rides, pony rides, a petting zoo, ziplines, miniature golf, stage entertainment, and plenty more.
Cost: $8-$12

Bourbon Classic
Bourbon Classic

February 26 - 29
The Henry Clay
Nothing warms chilled bones like a neat pour of bourbon, and the Bourbon Classic is a damn good place to find exactly that. This signature event unfurls four days of bourbon-centric entertainment, from bourbon-infused culinary tastings to selections of fine bourbons such as Pappy Van Winkle. It’s the place to be for any serious bourbon lover or budding bourbon enthusiast.
Cost: Varies based on event

February 29 - March 1
Kentucky Exposition Center
Now in its 54th year, the KYANA Swap Meet bills itself as the largest indoor automobile swap meet in the United States. From hot rods to heavy metal, there will be cars from all eras and from all over the world, with vendors wheeling and dealing all weekend long.
Cost: $10 per day for adults (children under 12 free)

March 7
Bowman Field
One of the top beer festivals in the region (and, frankly, the country), Tailspin is Louisville’s “local, hopped up, hometown event”, with its Winter Warmer winding up the days before spring via some 250 beers from roughly 75 breweries. Now in its seventh year, this one seems to get better every time. Take a Lyft, because you won’t be walking out of here in a straight line.
Cost: $53 general admission or $80 VIP

Hot Wheels Monster Trucks Live
Hot Wheels Monster Trucks Live | Hot Wheels

March 14
KFC Yum! Center
Let’s get ready to rumble, Louisville. This monster trucks event brings together the baddest of the bad including Bone Shaker, Tiger Shark, V8 Bomber, and more for all the thrills and spills you can handle. This year the original monster truck, BIGFOOT, will make an appearance and the popular Crash Zone Pre-Show Party returns, giving attendees free access to their favorite trucks and drivers for two-and-a-half hours before each of the afternoon and evening performances.
Cost: $29-$39 ($11 for kids ages 2-12)

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Kevin Gibson is a Louisville, Kentucky-based author who writes about everything from food to beer to the great city he calls home. In his nearly three decades as a writer, he has won numerous awards but doesn’t know where most of them are now. He is the author of Unique Eats of Louisville, Secret Louisville, Louisville Beer and other books. He currently lives in the Clifton neighborhood with his dog, Atticus.