10 Reasons To Enjoy Winter in the Olmsted Parks

With dropping temperatures and earlier sunsets, you may be tempted to only enjoy the holiday season indoors – but in the words of John Burroughs: “He who marvels at the beauty of the world in summer will find equal cause for wonder and admiration in winter.”

Louisville is home to 17 Olmsted Parks and 6 Parkways that highlight breathtaking natural landscapes and give you the chance to escape from the hustle of daily city life all year round. Whether draped in a fresh coat of sparkling snow, or simply bathed in sunlight, getting outside to experience the beauty of our Olmsted Parks during the winter season has many benefits.

Here are 5 ways you can make the most of the season in the Olmsted Parks, and 5 benefits to getting outdoors this winter:

1. Watch for Native Birds, like the Northern Cardinal

The bare tree branches make it easier to spot native birds, like the Northern Cardinal, in your Olmsted Parks.The male Northern Cardinal’s bright red coloring, which make the bird stand out from the tree’s brown branches, comes from the bright red autumn berries they eat from Dogwood Trees. As the temperature drops, Cardinals create temporary flocks, banding together to spot predators and search for food – making it easier to spot them in places like the Nettleroth Bird Sanctuary.

2. Take a Hike on the Natural Trails

Join us for our Winter Nature Walk in Iroquois Park on January 11 and explore the natural trails through the park’s woodlands. This easy seasonal hike in Iroquois Park is an opportunity to greet the new year, take in the crisp air, observe winter wildlife and learn about the unique trees and plants of this flagship Olmsted-designed park. Tour Guide Matt Spalding (Education and Volunteer Programs Manager) will provide tips for how to identify plants in wintertime by looking at tree bark and leaf buds. Afterward, warm up with complimentary hot cocoa and coffee.

The hike is FREE for members, and $8 for non-members.

3. Stargaze in the Park

If you stick around the park after your evening workout, you’ve likely noticed the beautiful, sparkling winter skies without the cover from the parks’ tree canopies. Enjoy the early sunset or make an evening trip to the park (dressed for the weather and in reflective gear) and experience the wonder of the winter skies from Cherokee Park’s Bonnycastle Hill. Time your trip right and you might even spot Venus or Saturn which set an hour or two after the sunset.

4. Visit a Playground or use Sport Facilities

Open year-round, our Olmsted Parks are full of playgrounds and sports amenities like basketball and tennis courts. A sunny 40-degree winter day is the perfect opportunity to bundle up the kids and bring them to the Shelby Park Music Garden or practice your tennis swing on the new hitting board in Chickasaw Park.

5. Go Sledding

When the forecast calls for 2-4 inches of powdery snow, make sure you have your sled handy! Cherokee Park’s Baringer Hill and Tyler Park (on the east side of the park) are Louisville Parks & Recreation’s best designated sledding areas. Remember to look for the “Sledding Hill Open” sign, which indicate the park is approved for sledding between 9 am – 11 pm.

BONUS: Enjoy Cherokee Park Scenic Loop Car-Free

Getting or giving a bike over the holidays? Take it for a spin around Cherokee Park’s Scenic Loop on Sunday, December 29 – the next #CarFree Cherokee. Vehicle traffic will be prohibited between 8 AM – 2PM so park users can run, walk, and bike the Loop without worry.


Need motivation to get outside this winter?

Taking a daily 15-minute walk or run in your nearest Olmsted Park this winter can help increase your metabolism, boost your immune system, and spark creativity. Here are 5 benefits to getting active outdoors this season:

1. Improve Your Mood and Boost Creativity

According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), the simple act of walking led to increased creativity in 81% of participants, with the best results coming from walking outdoors, as opposed to indoor exercise on a treadmill.

2. Increase your Resting Metabolism

Spending an hour or two outside consistently offers numerous health benefits, including helping you burn more energy outside of exercise – so bundle up and take the dog for a long walk outside, or grab your sled and head to Baringer Hill.

3. Boost Vitamin D in 15 minutes

A 15-minute outdoor walk under the sun 2-3 times a week can help you produce enough Vitamin D, adrenaline, and norepinephrine to help you treat those winter blues.

4. Burn More Energy

Your body isn’t as efficient in the cold weather, so you’re likely to burn even more energy than you would in the summer and avoid the heat stress from hot-weather workouts. Who doesn’t love getting more for less?

5. Boost Your Immune System

When children interact with dirt, bacteria, and animals outside, they are helping to reduce the risks of allergies and autoimmune diseases in the future. Turns out your Mom’s go-to saying, “put on a jacket or you’ll catch a cold” isn’t accurate, but her advice to put on layers to stay warm stands the test of time. Bundle up the family and go foraging for pinecones, leaves, and more while strengthening their immune systems at the same time.


Help Keep our Olmsted Parks Extraordinary

Olmsted Parks Conservancy is a member-supported organization. By making a small investment today, you can help us make a large impact on the future of our parks.

Over a 50-year lifespan, one single tree contributes $31,250 worth of oxygen, $62,900 worth of air pollution control, and $37,500 worth of water absorption, and $31,250 worth of soil erosion control. 

For just $15 a month, you’re supporting our Team for Healthy Parks and Volunteer program, allowing us to nurture young trees through the winter as they grow roots to help extend their life cycle, improving our city’s oxygen and carbon levels, and reducing air pollution.

Fred Facts
Olmsted believed in the power of parks to elevate humankind.

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