Louisville, Kentucky is the city where I was born and raised, and although I've traveled all over the world, I've never found anywhere quite as special. Louisville is more than just a world class city brimming with art, culture, food, bourbon, and the friendliest people you’ll meet anywhere. It's a big city with a small town feel, as the locals like to say. Louisville has so much to offer and shouldn’t be overlooked for anyone planning a trip to nearby St. Louis, Chicago, Nashville, or Indianapolis! In my opinion, fall is one of the best times to visit Louisville. It’s not just the crisp autumn air and crunchy colorful leaves that brings me back year after year, but also the unique festivals and events, bourbon tasting, museum touring, and a theatre scene that rivals New York City. Here’s my list of things to do in Louisville during the fall!
Psst: We have a bunch of other posts about Louisville! Make sure to take a look at them before your trip:
October is my favorite month to visit Louisville! Halloween in Louisville is a month long celebration. There’s nothing like drinking warm apple cider as you walk through miles of flickering candle-lit works of pumpkin art before scaring yourself silly at a Haunted House!
St. James Court Art Show
- The first weekend of October, the picturesque James Court neighborhood turns into a huge bustling art fair. An annual celebration in Louisville, The St. James Court Art Show feels a bit like the kickoff of Halloween season! Shop local vendors, admire amazing artisan-created crafts and works of art, and get a feel for the vibrant Louisville arts community.
Jack O'Lantern Spectacular
- I can’t tell you how incredibly magical it is to take a glittering candle-lit walk through thousands of impeccably carved pumpkins, all built together to form larger than life works of art. The Jack O'Lantern Spectacular in Iroquois Park is hands down the most special Halloween event in Louisville - do NOT miss it! Fun for all ages, even scaredy cats like me. Tip: arrive a little before dark to beat the lines.
Haunted Walking Tour of Old Louisville
- Beautiful Old Louisville is home to gorgeous turn of the century Victorians and the chilling stories of their former inhabitants. You can get all of the spine tingling details on the America’s Most Haunted Neighborhood Tour through eerie Old Louisville!
Trick or Treating at the Louisville Zoo
- Each year, the Louisville Zoo hosts The World's Largest Halloween Party! As you walk through the zoo, sponsored booths give out candy and more, and interactive spots feature your favorite characters. This is yet another event whose quality is made possible by the thriving acting scene - many of my theatre friends have worked this event year after year! This cheerful Halloween Party is best for kids under 11 and their families.
Visit Cave Hill Cemetery
- The enormous historic Cave Hill Cemetary, filled with ancient graves and haunting mausoleums, could take weeks to explore. Luckily, you can cultivate the spooky Halloween season in an afternoon by taking one of the many guided Cave Hill walking tours hosted by the Cave Hill Heritage Foundation. Or, print out a free informative Cave Hill Cemetary map and go grave-hunting on your own: you'll find the graves of Colonel Sanders and Meriwether Lewis Clark Jr. among many other famous historical people.
Haunted House Tours
- There are are huge amount of Haunted Houses in Louisville annually, a fact that is directly tied to the thriving local theatre scene. Actors love a chance to douse themselves in fake blood and chase after terrified guests while wielding chainsaws. The last time I went on a Haunted House tour in Louisville, my hilarious actor best friend took me to a haunted house run by his acting associates. We got “special” treatment. What I mean by that is that I ended up cowering in a corner trying to escape a dude with a REALLY BIG chainsaw while my friends all laughed their asses off at me. Anyway, if you want some really convincingly scary Haunted Houses, Louisville is the spot - but prepare to be terrified.
Danger Run Haunted House Scavenger Hunt
- As if visiting Haunted Houses weren't fun enough, Louisville took it up a notch: the Danger Run Haunted House Scavenger Hunt combines the thrill of solving cryptic clues in the car with your friends or family while getting lost in creepy corners of Louisville, with visiting multiple Haunted Houses (if you can find them!) - all in one fun packed night! I did this a couple of years ago and it was SUCH a blast. Plus, the entrance fee includes admission to 2 Haunted Houses, so it's a good deal!
Halloween Lights on Hillcrest Ave
- Louisville goes all out for Halloween, but one street in particular celebrates the holiday like no one else. Hillcrest Avenue is the best place to see amazing Halloween themed lights, terrifying figures, graveyards, interactive displays, and more. A walk down Halloween on Hillcrest in October after dark is guaranteed to amaze kids and adults alike!
Can’t travel to Louisville in October? Don’t worry - there are plenty of things to do in Louisville during September, too! September in Louisville means freshly turning leaves, crisp breezy air, and world class art festivals and events. Read on for some fantastic suggestions.
The Bourbon Trail
- Just like California has Napa Valley, Kentucky has The Bourbon Trail. Bourbon is Kentucky’s proudest creation and to this day there is no rival equal to Kentucky bourbon. The secret is in the sweet limestone filtered water which flows naturally through the state. Bourbon distilleries which rely on this sweet natural water source are sprinkled throughout central Kentucky, all within a beautiful 2 hour drive of Louisville. Unlike Napa, it takes a few days to see all of the distilleries on the Bourbon trail, so we typically pick a couple each time we visit - our favorites are Woodford Reserve and Maker’s Mark. An inexpensive visit to a bourbon distillery always includes an informative tour of the distillery and a tasting of several types of bourbon, sometimes paired with chocolate bourbon balls! it’s not just the destination that’s amazing, either: on your way to each distillery, you’ll drive past picturesque horse farms and beautiful forests of brightly colored fall trees. Visiting Bourbon Distilleries is the best way to see the amazing pastoral countryside of Kentucky.
Fall Races at Churchill Downs
- Everyone knows that Louisville is the home of the Kentucky Derby, the world’s most famous horse race. But the Derby is in May, and this is a list of fall activities in Louisville. But don’t worry - you can enjoy mint juleps, the thunder of hooves, the roaring crowd, and the fanciest hats you’ll ever see throughout fall at Churchill Down’s Fall Meets! Churchill Downs hosts exciting races all season long: check the Churchill Downs Calendar for full details.
Falls of the Ohio
- The historic Falls of the Ohio State Park is a rich fossil bed that has been preserved for thousands of years in the rushing Ohio river. Visit the information center to learn all about the history of the Falls, and then hike down to the river bed to spot ancient fossils!
- Louisville is home to a variety of museums, most of which are conveniently located together on Main street downtown. This stretch of a couple of blocks is affectionately called Museum row. A visit to Museum Row should always include The Frazier Arms Museum, 21c Museum Hotel, The Kentucky Science Center, the Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft, and the Muhammed Ali Museum.
Louisville Slugger Museum
- The Louisville Slugger Museum is also on Museum row, but it deserves its own call out! This one of a kind Museum is the only place in the world where Louisville Slugger bats are made. A must for any baseball fan, the Museum is open and running year round making specialty bats to order for major league teams and fans alike. A tour of the museum includes a walk through its production facility and a chance to see the bats of great heroes in baseball history, such as Babe Ruth, Derek Jeter, and Buster Posey. You’ll also get your very own mini souvenir bat to take home! You can’t miss the Museum - just look for the 3 story tall baseball bat!
See a Play at a Local Theatre Company
- Louisville has an incredible theatre scene. Not only has the city produced Hollywood actors such as Jennifer Lawrence - who I actually studied theatre with in middle school! - Ashley Judd, Jennifer Carpenter, and Tom Cruise, but the independent Louisville acting scene is thriving. Most theatre aficionados have heard of the world famous Humana Festival of New Plays in April, but Louisville produces excellent theatre year-round. Pick up a LEO Weekly to see what’s playing. Some of my favorite local theatre companies and venues are:
- Theatre 
- The Alley Theatre
- Smoked Apple Theatre Group
- Walden Theatre
- Looking for Lilith
- Pandora Productions
- Bunbury Theatre
- The Bard's Town Theatre
- Actor's Theatre Lousville
- The Louisville Repertory Theatre
Hike a Trail in Cherokee Park
- Nestled among Louisville’s Highlands neighborhood is a beautiful, enormous old park called Cherokee Park. Winding throughout the park are well-maintained trails, criss-crossing the main roads through the park and passing through dense forests and luscious hills. It’s a fantastic park for a scenic hike and a picnic in the crisp fall weather.
Visit Old Louisville
- One of the most beautiful neighborhoods of Louisville is Old Louisville, in between the University of Louisville and downtown. The streets are lined with massive old trees, and a walk through the historic neighborhood in autumn is the best way to fully absorb the fall colors and see some truly incredible Halloween displays. Choose from a selection of carefully curated and informative Old Louisville Walking Tours. Be sure to pick up a single origin brew from the Cardinal Boulevard location of Quill's Coffee to sip as you stroll.
Laser Light Show at the University of Louisville Planetarium
- Every Friday night, the UofL Planetarium changes from an educational hub into a laser light party. With excellent selections such as Radiohead, Led Zeppelin, and Pink Floyd, the immersive laser light shows are a unique way to spend a trippy Friday night. If you can, lie down on the floor in the front of the theatre for a truly magical experience!
Tour the Waverly Hills Sanitorium
- If you’ve ever watched a TV show about the most haunted places in the world, you’ve probably heard of Waverly Hills Sanitorium. The old tuberculosis Sanitorium was filled to the brim with the sick and dying during the first half of the 1900s. There were so many dead that the Sanitorium build an infamous body chute to send the deceased directly down the hill to the crematorium. Today, the building is spooky enough to give anyone chills. During the Halloween season, Waverly Hills turns itself into a thrilling Haunted House. There are said to be several ghosts still haunting the echoing halls - where else can you visit a literally haunted Haunted House?
- Celebrating international culture and diversity in Louisville each year on Labor Day weekend, World Fest is the kickoff for Louisville's fall festival season. Enjoy free admission to this festival and experience world food, music, dance, culture and education!
- Resurfaced: The Liberty Build is a Louisville community initiative focused on restoring a formerly unremarkable square of Louisville to a thriving community and arts center. All through September and October, Resurfaced will be hosting events and festivals celebrating the local arts and entrepreneurial scene!
- The very name Kentucky Kingdom incites nostalgia in most Louisvillians. We all grew up going to Kentucky Kingdom every summer. When it was bought by Six Flags and subsequently run into the ground, everyone mourned its closing. But in a classic Louisville fairy tale, the original owners have purchased and re-opened the park, bringing joy and nostalgia to Louisville once more! In September, the park is open on weekends only - check the calendar for details.
Pick Pumpkins and Apples at Huber’s Orchard & Winery
- Technically, Huber’s Orchard & Winery is in southern Indiana, but that’s kind of like Louisville’s adopted half brother just across the river. If the Spiced Apple Wine made from locally grown apples isn't enough of a selling point, the farm is also a great place to experience the best of fall: picking pumpkins and fresh apples, hay bale rides, and more! The Family Farm Park is a fantastic place for kids, too.
And there you have it: 21 reasons to visit Louisville, Kentucky this fall! Which one sounds the most fun to you? Leave a comment below!
Lia is a travel blogger and co-founder of Practical Wanderlust . She is currently backpacking through South America on a year-long honeymoon with her new husband. Follow Practical Wanderlust’s adventures on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter!