It’s Fall y’all, and I am ready to embrace it full force! Bring on the sweaters, pumpkin spice, and pile up those fallen leaves so high there’s (almost) no chance I’ll hurt myself when I run and jump full speed into its cushioned embrace. And what better way to get in the spirit? Attending one of the many fall festivals in Louisville, Ky!
And you know we really love fall in Louisville, ya’ll. Yes, each year we roll out the orange carpet for art shows, music festivals, races, and even a Pride festival! If you can’t find something you want to do on this list, I’m sorry, you’re just not fun.
So here’s a list of my favorite events each month to celebrate my favorite (basic, I know) season of the year.
Check out a few of these other posts:
- 14 Things to Do to Celebrate Fall in Louisville, Kentucky
- 11 Terrifying Haunted Houses in Louisville, Kentucky, & Indiana
- Louisville Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular Visitor’s Guide (& Insider Tips)
Fall Festivals in Louisville, Ky: September
The leaves may not be falling quite yet, but that doesn’t stop me from dragging out all the fall decor and repeatedly asking if all my black clothes match. I am here for Fall, and September in Louisville means the start of some of my favorite events, including amazing flea markets, music fests, and cultural art festivals.
- Bourbon & Beyond – Bourbon & Beyond is a 4-day outdoor music and bourbon festival hosted at the Highland Festival Grounds, near the Expo Center around mid-September. And it’s not hard to see how even international TV stars can get starstruck with past headliners like John Mayer, Stevie Nicks, and Jack White. And let’s not forget all the bourbon, appearances from Old Forester, Angel’s Envy, and Michter’s make the perfect blend of music and bourbon. Single day tickets, full weekend passes, camping, and 2 separate VIP tiers make grooving within your budget a breeze.
- Louder Than Life – Mosh pits, all black outfits, and thrashing guitars set the scene for this 4-day music festival at the Highland Festival Grounds which usually takes the weekend after the aforementioned Bourbon & Beyond festival, towards the end of September. Classic rock bands like Guns N’ Roses, metal stars like Ozzy Osbourne, and other alternative company like Nine Inch Nails, thrash and rage on the Louder Than Life stage. Entrance passes range from full weekend access, to single day tickets for both general admission and VIP, and you can find passes for camping, RV parking, and even luxurious Galt House lodging.
- National Jug band Jubilee – Usually held around mid-late September, this free, one-day music festival at the Brown-Forman Amphitheater along River Road is where else can you go to hear authentic jug band music in the city. It attracts performers from all over the country, like the all female Shake ‘Em Up Jazz Band from New Orleans, and Grammy nominated Jontavious Willis from Greenville, GA. And you better believe Louisville represents with our homegrown Juggernaut Jug Band. Let’s be honest, they CLEARLY have the best name. Update 2023: The National Jug BandJubilee is on pause for 2023.
- Louisville Pride Festival – Not to be confused with the Kentuckiana Pride Festival in June, the Louisville Pride Festival takes place on a Saturday in mid-September and celebrates all things LGBTQ+! A portion of Bardstown road in the Highlands is closed, and you can explore all the vendors and check out live music, drag shows, and even a kids’ area. The event is family friends so put on your rainbow and come out!
- WorldFest – One of the largest festivals in Louisville has to be WorldFest at the downtown Belvedere which has been happening for 20 years. The festival is a jammed packed 4-day affair starting the Friday of Labor Day weekend, with a parade of cultures on the accompanying Saturday. You can literally drop by the festival at any time, because there is always something going on. There are 3 stages each with back to back performances from 11am to 11pm, in addition to the vendor village that includes 150 internationally themed art, merchandise and food booths. Anyone else dream about a restaurant that serves both street tacos and pad Thai? Well here we can have all the best spices around the world in one spot!
- Fleur De Flea Waterfront Market – While the indoor warehouse is open all year long, the Fleur De Flea Waterfront Market at Waterfront Park is double the size with over 150 vendors and is held on the Saturday of Labor Day weekend from 9am-5pm. The event also includes food trucks, pop-up bars, and even a DJ – because how else am I supposed to properly browse vinyls without at least a little inspiration in the background? Bring lots of cash, because nothing bargains better than having bills in hand when you’re negotiating!
- Paristown Flea – At its core, Paristown Flea is an outdoor street lined market packed with a curated assortment of eclectic vendors. But I gotta be honest, it also feels part block party for the entertainment section of the Paristown neighborhood, with the collection of food trucks and pop-up bar. The organizers pride themselves on curating a variety of booths that showcase items that are vintage, antique, art deco, and even midcentury in design. The market is held in both September and October.
- Big Four Arts Festival – Hosted the weekend after Labor Day, the 4-acre lawn is transformed into a fully bustling gallery of talented vendors over two days. Woodworking, painters, and unique ceramics are just a few of the goodies you can find. But I’ve gotta be honest, I’m mostly just a sucker for the miniature makers, everything is just So. DARN. CUTE! I also look forward to the live music, especially when Carly Johnson is performing. Entrance to the festival is $5 and supports Bridgehaven Mental Health Services, and you do have permission to park at the Lynn Soccer stadium, in addition to the other color coded lots around the bridge.
- Schnitzelburg Walk & Rock – The annual Schnitzelburg Walk & Rock held in mid-September (and again in mid-May!) is kinda like one big block party. Hickory St. is taken over by over a 100 different merchants, food booths, and live music. The center of the action tends to take place around Monnik Brewery, so you know there’s plenty of craft beer to be had! The Schnitzelburg Walk happens twice a year, once in the spring and once in the fall. Don’t be afraid to just bring a lawn chair and sit in the middle of the intersection of Burnett, with a bratwurst and beer to listen to some blues, most locals will be doing the exact same thing until late into the night.
- NuLu Fest – NuLu Fest is usually held towards the end of September, and is jam-packed with local food, a performance stage for live music, and a whole hellavuh lot of alcohol. In addition to the tented booths, Market Street is extremely walkable with close by businesses and eateries that participate in the neighborhood fest. City brewed craft beer, bourbon cocktails, and even speciality drinks from the neighboring bars are available for the entire one-day festival. And don’t be surprised if you see some goats, they’re kinda like the NuLu mascot. The fest opens at 11am and goes to about 10pm, and is unfortunately not pet friendly.
- Kentucky Bourbon Festival – Hosted in September in Bardstown, Kentucky, the trademarked Bourbon capital of the world, the Kentucky Bourbon Festival is a 3-day event that not only celebrates bourbon, but also the experts and the community that are obsessed with wooden-barreled spirit. There are educational events, industry discussions, and lots and lots of tastings. Tickets are sold only in advance online, and come in a variety of options. Full weekend passes, 1-day samplers, culinary add-ons, and a Master Distillers’ Bottle Auction. With the exception of the barrel relay race, the entire weekend events are 21 and over.
- Jeffersontown Gaslight Festival – The Gaslight Festival is held the third weekend every September, with the week leading up to it hosting events like a motorcycle rally, car show, 5K, parade, and balloon glow. But the main event is the Friday-Sunday festival, where you peruse over 200 local arts and crafts vendors and sip local beer with live music plays in the background. This festival is going 50 years strong and has a strong community building element, but it is a pet free event, so leave your pup at home!
Fall Festivals in Louisville: October
Does the first day of October have you immediately belting the Danny Elfman classic This is Halloween, this is halloween… Same girl, SAME! But obviously October is more than just themed holiday events and a wide array of haunted houses, so here are the best events in October, all the Halloween, community festivals, and flea markets to embrace the season change.
- Jack O’Lantern Spectacular – Located in Iroquois Park, this is hands down the most incredible and unique Halloween event in Louisville – do NOT miss it! The spectacular combines 5,000+ illuminated pumpkins with more than 100 pumpkins carved and crafted into works of art along a ⅓ mile trail. You will be amazed at how intricate these pumpkin canvases can get as they recreate things like iconic movie scenes and celebrity portraits in realistic detail. The Spectacular opens in early September and continues till the end of October, with trails opening at dusk, and check out this insider guide to the Louisville Jack O Lantern Spectacular.
- Halloween on Hillcrest – Throughout the month of October, this Crescent Hill neighborhood street is the best place to see amazing Halloween light displays, complete with graveyards, interactive displays, and – last time I was there – a zombified Selfie Booth. You know how there are those certain neighborhoods that get REALLY into Christmas light displays? This is that neighborhood for HALLOWEEN. If you’re lucky, maybe you’ll be able to witness a fight between 2 dads who have been competing for years for the best Halloween lawn display. Gosh, darn-it Brian, Steve has just about HAD IT with your strobe light BS.
- Great Chili Cookoff – What used to be held in the Clifton neighborhood, the Great Chili Cookoff has now moved to NuLu (I am just gonna say it, booooo) and is held in early October. Here you can try chili from competitors from around the city and buy “vote tickets” which goes towards charity. Some of the chili is excellent, some is try terrible (sorry not sorry), so grab a beer and make your votes count!
- Boo at the Zoo – The Louisville Zoo’s annual Boo at the Zoo fundraising event has been a long running tradition for many Louisville families. During the month of October every Thursday – Sunday is open for family-friendly trick or treating along the 1.3 mile route is lined with princesses, super heroes, and more famous friends to meet and greet. Along the trail, there are also 20 treat booth stops for everyone 11 and under. With your ticket you also get acess to the Spooktacular Carousel, the Headless Horseman Trail, the Not So Itsy Bitsy Spider House (eek!), and even free parking. To get the scoop on tickets and tips for your first time check out our super helpful guide!
- Harvest Homecoming – Around the second week of October, the Downtown New Albany river bank that overlooks the Louisville skyline is transformed into a wide vendor village and carnival fair amusement park. There are a ton of events leading up to the street closed vendor booths, including an opening ceremony, a parade and a local business window display contest. But the real treat here is the vendor booths which take over almost all of downtown New Albany. You’ll know which booths are legends for the locals by the look of the lines. They may be selling glazed donuts, Amish ice cream or Boy Scouts Chicken N’ Dumplings!
- Via Colori – Via Colori is a free street art festival at Waterfront Park near the Big Four Bridge Lawn that happens for two days in mid-October. The winding sidewalks and paved walking paths are transformed into canvas’ of artistic expression where artists both big and small can register to showcase their chalk skills and promote their creative brand. And if you were born with more limited art talents, you can even visit their website to sponsor an artist you like, because you never know they could be the next Frida Kahlo. The street art festival also features family friendly activities, street performers, and a performance stage for live music.
- St. James Court Art Show – The first weekend of October, the picturesque James Court neighborhood in Old Louisville turns into a huge bustling art show. St. James Court is already one of the most beautifully well kept historic streets in the country, and combine that with over 600 insanely talented artists with wares from blown glass, paintings, sculptures, wearable art, and way more than can be listed. Even if you’re strapped for cash until next pay day, you should definitely still attend. The event is free and so is basking in all the creativity, but unfortunately is not pet friendly.
- The UnFair – We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the UnFair which is held at Mag Bar the same weekend as St. James Court Art Show. Here you can find affordable, eclectic, subversive, local art along with good drinks and live music. It’s the like “Keep Louisville Weird” version of St. James- without being associate with St. James – and you should stop by and support local art while in the neighborhood!
Fall Festivals in Louisville: November
What is November but a mere swan song to everything pumpkin spiced. It’s basically an entire month of leftovers and the transition of multi colored leaves to multi colored twinkling lights. So here are the best events in November, which is usually just a lot of winter holiday prep!
- ColorFest – ColorFest is a two-day family-friendly event in early November in the 16,000+ acres of Bernheim forest. Here you can celebrate the changing leaves and welcome in fall with fun activities like a mud pie kitchen, slingshot, and the giant slides (yesssss). There is also live music, hands-on nature activities, unique local foods, and Kentucky art and craft vendors, all in a gorgeous natural setting with plenty of autumn ambiance. You can’t beat that!
- Light Up Louisville – The Friday after Thanksgiving in Jefferson Square Park Downtown Santa comes to town and lights up Louisville for the holiday season! We are talking a “Lots of Lights” Parade that marches down Jefferson Street, to a vendor village complete with food, drinks and children’s crafts. And once Santa’s parade float arrives it’s time for him to plug in the magic plug into the city’s largest electrical socket to power all of downtown’s holiday lighting – the entire event is sponsored by LG&E municipal electricity provider, if you can’t tell. The event is free attendance and there’s even a firework show to end the night!
- The Festival of Trees and Lights – This 3-day annual fundraiser for the Norton Children’s Cancer Institute and is hosted at Slugger Field around the second week of November and includes activities for children and shopping for adults. Kids can participate in things like photos with Santa, unlimited train rides, crafts, and even Hanukkah activities as well. But for the adults, I really love marveling at all the designer decorated decor. There are rows of fully decorated trees, wreaths, and other holiday decor designed by incredibly talented designers. Best part is everything is for sale, so if you really want to have a coordinating winter wonderland of your dreams to be THAT impressive neighbor, you can.
These are a few events that are somewhat staples of Louisville but aren’t exactly fall festivals. But they are too cool not to include!
- Dracula at Actors Theatre – It’s a Louisville tradition to enjoy the spooky season with tickets to the stage production of Dracula at Actors Theatre, and they have updated it to a new production called “Dracula: A Feminist Revenge Fantasy, Really“. This production stabs a stake through the patriarchy and toxic masculinity – something to really sink your teeth into!
- Turkey Trot – The annual Thanksgiving Day run, the Turkey Trot, is hosted by the Northeast Family YMCA. With a bit more emphasis on family friendly paces for all ages, the Turkey Trot is slightly less about the rigid competitive edge of a traditional race day. Feel free to walk or run, all speeds are welcomed! However if you are a competitive finisher, or just really need to burn some calories to make room for 5 different types of casseroles, there is a 5k and 10k option to race. All participants (including the kiddos) receive a commemorative T-shirt and finisher medal to show off at the dinner table.
- Urban Bourbon Half Marathon – This half marathon is usually hosted the first week of October and is hosted by Jim Beam, and has a post race party that features a three hour concert from the Louisville Crashers, bourbon tastings, craft beer, local pizza and bowls of Kentucky famous burgoo to replenish all your lost calories. Well deserved after the 13.1 mile journey! And don’t worry if you’re not at your desired PR, as long as you’re over 21 years old and can keep a 15 min walking pace, you are welcome to participate! And you should, because the course is a great way to see the city. It goes along River Road, through Butchertown, and across the river to Jeffersonville and Clarksville, Indiana. Just don’t forget to register!
What are your favorite fall festivals in Louisville, Ky? Did we miss any? Drop us a comment below!
Before you go, be sure to check out these other posts:
- 14 Things to Do to Celebrate Fall in Louisville, Kentucky in 2022
- 11 Terrifying Haunted Houses in Louisville, Kentucky, & Indiana – 2022 Visitor’s Guide
- Louisville Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular Visitor’s Guide 2022 (& Insider Tips)
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