14 Things to Do to Celebrate Fall in Louisville, Kentucky

Halloween is my FAVORITE holiday, so I might be biased, but I think Halloween season is the best of the year in Louisville (other than Derby season, of course)! Fall in Louisville, KY, means crunchy colorful leaves, crisp breezy air, pumpkin picking, and bourbon tasting.

And Halloween in Louisville is a month-long celebration, with an amazing Jack-O-Lantern immersive art experience, terrifying haunted houses (plural, there are lots) filled with way-too-realistic professional actors wielding chainsaws and/or actual legit ghosts, and an incredibly charming Halloween party at the Louisville Zoo.

Then there’s the crisp autumn air and crunchy colorful leaves, the unique fall festivals and events, spooky ghost tours, and gorgeous hikes through some of the most beautiful fall foliage in the USA. Fall in Louisville is pretty freakin’ awesome, y’all.

There’s nothing like drinking hot apple cider as you walk through miles of flickering candle-lit works of pumpkin art before scaring yourself silly at a haunted house. Here’s the ultimate list of things to do during fall in Louisville!

Psst: We have a few other posts to help you make the most of fall in Louisville and the rest of Kentucky. Check them out:

Ways to Celebrate Fall in Louisville, Kentucky

 
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Louisville Jack O Lantern Spectacular Sign, one of the best fall events in Kentucky!

Experience the Jack O’Lantern Spectacular

Louisville’s Jack O’Lantern Spectacular in Iroquois Park is hands down the most incredible and unique Halloween event in Kentucky – do NOT miss it! The walking path through the park comes alive with over 5,000 artist-carved pumpkins and illuminated themed scenes.

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. It’s the most special Halloween event in Louisville!

For folks with sensory processing challenges, there is a special Autism-friendly night without music or special effects – just flickering pumpkins and quiet.

The show runs daily throughout October from dusk to 11PM on weekdays (Sunday-Thursday), and until midnight on Friday & Saturday. I suggest arriving either very early or very late to beat the lines – 10pm is usually pretty quiet. For more tips, check out our insider guide to the Louisville Jack O Lantern Spectacular.

As a bonus, your ticket purchase directly supports the non-profit Parks Alliance of Louisville and the community-driven projects they support in Louisville’s public parks and community centers.

See also
Louisville Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular Visitor’s Guide (and Insider Tips)

Get Scared at the Best Haunted Houses in Louisville

There are a huge amount of Haunted Houses in Louisville annually, which is directly tied to ourthriving local theater scene. Actors love a chance to douse themselves in fake blood and chase after terrified guests while wielding chainsaws!

The last time I went to a Haunted House in Louisville, my hilarious best friend (who is also a local actor) took me on a haunted house tour 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 at me. Apparently the chainsaws in the Haunted Houses in Louisville aren’t real, but like, HOW WOULD I KNOW THAT?!

Anyway, if you want some really convincingly scary Haunted Houses, Louisville is the spot – but prepare to be terrified! Here are our top picks:

  • Haunted Hotel: This haunted house is known around Louisville as the best and scariest haunt, which may have something to do with the fact that the actors can touch you. The thought of that alone will never not freak me out. Haunted Hotel is also the longest-standing haunt in Louisville (they just had their 30 year anniversary) and consistently ranks as the scariest haunted house in Kentucky. It’s extreme in every way, and yes, it’s extremely freakin’ terrifying. Need we say more?
  • Baxter Avenue Morgue: This is one of the most classic haunts of Louisville! Located on (you guessed it) Baxter Avenue, it’s been around for 20 years! It’s kind of the Goldilocks of haunted houses: not too scary, not too boring, but jussssst right.They do a great job with their sets and setup of the story, feeling a bit more theatrical than just noise and darkness. Plus, it’s right by a bunch of restaurants, so after your scare, you can feast!
  • Legend at Pope Lick Haunted Woods: All good cities should have a good urban legend, and here in Louisville, we have the Goat Man: half goat, half man, all evil. Also known as the Pope Lick Monster, this demon is said to haunt the Pope Lick train trestle in Fisherville, right across from the entrance to the Parklands (and right next to where I grew up). And at this haunted outdoor attraction, you’ll get a chance to meet the monster himself, right in spooky Pope Lake Park. Ahhh!
  • The Devil’s Attic: Welcome to the haunted attic where the Devil has collects souls. Your host? Satan! This haunt does a good job having specific theming, but also changes up the cast of characters every year. This one always feels like a winner from the sheer dedication of the actors and the sets.

For more spooky suggestions, head over to our guide to the best haunted houses in Louisville (plus a couple in Kentucky and Indiana, too)!

See also
11 Terrifying Haunted Houses in Louisville, Kentucky, and Indiana

Complete the Danger Run Haunted House Scavenger Hunt in Louisville

As if visiting Haunted Houses weren’t fun enough, Louisville takes 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 and visiting multiple Haunted Houses in Louisville (if you can find them!) – all in one fun packed night!

My husband and I did “Danger Run” a couple of years ago with our friends (the same ones who had me cornered at a Haunted House. Actually, that was the same night. Those d***s.)

Of course, we got horribly lost – or thought we did! The route is specifically designed to take you on strange roads you’ve never seen before, through areas you didn’t even know existed, until you’re afraid that you’re lost in the back roads of Louisville forever and will never see your home again – until you figure out the next clue!

Danger Run is SUCH a blast (chainsaws notwithstanding). You’ll particularly enjoy Danger Run if you’re extremely competitive, like we are. What’s better for bonding than screaming in terror at your loved ones while you’re all stranded in the middle of a haunted field somewhere on the outskirts of Louisville? (Answer: screaming in terror WITH your loved ones at a haunted house, which is also part of the fun!)

Pick up your tickets online at the Danger Run Haunted House Scavenger Hunt website.

See also
9 Dog Parks in Louisville, Kentucky (and 2 Dog Park Bars!)

Halloween decorations at a spooky haunted house

See the Lights at Halloween on Hillcrest

You know how there are those certain neighborhoods that get REALLY into Christmas light displays? Like, aggressively so? To clarify: we fully plan to be those competitive a**holes in the future.

Well, that’s how Halloween in Louisville is. Most of 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 light displays, complete with graveyards, interactive displays, and – last time I was there – a zombified Selfie Booth. A walk down Halloween on Hillcrest in October after dark is guaranteed to get you in the Halloween spirit!

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.

See also
14 Incredible Museums in Louisville, Kentucky

Attend the Ultimate Halloween Fest

The Ultimate Halloween Fest is a 6-week long Halloween festival, and it’s epic. From live performances, music, movies, an escape room, jack-o-lanterns, circus performances, monster makeovers, spooky campfire storytelling, and more, you can have a different experience every weekend!

Revel in Halloween and Halloween-adjacent things as you dance the time warp during the Rocky Horror Picture Show, try to remember your Thriller moves as you watch performers who actually have the dance memorized, shout out all the words to Hocus Pocus, drink beer, and look for the legendary Pope Lick Monster in the haunted forest. (For what it’s worth, I grew up 5 minutes from Pope Lick and the monster – and his haunted train trellis – are very much part of local lore!)

Ultimate Halloween Fest is designed so that you customize your Halloween experience: if you are looking for a scare, you can find it. If you’re looking a classic fun, fall Halloween experience without the scare, you can find that too! The Halloween fest is kid-friendly (and pet-friendly!) so you can bring the whole family to experience all the different activities.

  • Location from Sept 24-Oct 23: Pope Lick Park, in the Parklands of Floyds Fork, 4002 S Pope Lick Rd, Louisville, KY
  • Location from October 29-31: Paristown (near the Original Highlands), 720 Brent St, Louisville, KY

Go on a Haunted Walking Tour of Old Louisville

Old Louisville is one of the most beautiful neighborhoods of Louisville (actually, it’s my favorite neighborhood in all of Louisville. Sorry other neighborhoods, I love you too, but Old Louisville is bae).

The streets are lined with massive old trees and the largest collection of historical Victorian homes in the world. A walk through this historic neighborhood in autumn is the best way to fully absorb the fall colors and see some truly incredible Halloween lawn displays.

As you explore blocks of gorgeous, mansion-esque Victorian homes, you can uncover the chilling stories of their former inhabitants: bourbon barons, racetrack royalty, and tobacco titans in the booming 1800s. That’s right, Old Louisville is one of the most haunted places in Louisville! You can get all of the spine-tingling details on the Old Louisville Ghost Tour.

See also
The 26 Best Louisville Breweries (& Southern Indiana)

Tour the Waverly Hills Sanitorium

If you’ve ever watched a TV show about the most haunted places in the world, then you’ve probably heard of the Waverly Hills Sanitorium – it’s featured on just about all of them. In the early 1900s, Jefferson County was ravaged by an outbreak of tuberculosis, known as the “White Plague,” and the Sanitorium was built to house the sick and dying.

Louisville’s old tuberculosis Sanitorium was filled to the brim during the first half of the 1900s. There were so many dead that the Sanitorium built an infamous body chute to send the deceased directly down the hill to the crematorium. Creepy!

Later on, the building became a prison, had a brief stint as the proposed site of the world’s largest statue of Jesus (plans fell through), and finally, came to rest in peace as a haunted attraction.

Today, the building itself is spooky enough to give anyone chills. But 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. Ahhh!

Bourbon Tasting on The Kentucky Bourbon Trail

The spicy, oaky taste of bourbon pairs perfectly with crisp fall air and crunchy leaves, but that’s the the only reason why bourbon tasting is one of the best things to do in the fall in Louisville: taking a day trip to visit distilleries on the Kentucky Bourbon trail is also the best way to see the beautiful countryside of Kentucky, with its rolling hills, colorful fall foliage, and scenic horse farms.

A visit to a bourbon distillery always includes an informative tour of the distillery and a tasting of several types of bourbon, often paired with chocolate bourbon balls!

Pick a couple of distilleries within 2 hours of Louisville for a day trip. Our favorite bourbon distilleries are Woodford Reserve and Maker’s Mark. On your way to each distillery, you’ll drive past picturesque horse farms and beautiful forests of brightly colored fall foliage.

Or, to make things even easier, book a tour with a Louisville-based tour company who will take care of the planning (and most importantly, the driving) for you. This tour visits 3 bourbon distilleries of your choice!

If you’d rather keep it local, you can stay in town and visit the many bourbon distilleries right in downtown Louisville:

Horse on the Track at Churchill Downs in Louisville 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 things to do around fall and Halloween in Louisville.

Well, guess what? You can enjoy Mint Juleps, the thunder of hooves, the roaring crowd, and the fanciest hats you’ll ever see throughout the fall at Churchill Down’s Fall Meets!

Churchill Downs hosts some of the best Halloween events in Louisville which include exciting races all season long: check the Churchill Downs Calendar for full details.

See also
The 63 Best Things to Do in Louisville, Kentucky

Attend One of Louisville’s Fall Festivals

Louisville LOVES its festivals, and fall is no different! There are so many fall events in Louisville to take part in, all celebrating things Louisville loves: food, drink, culture, and the arts. Here are just a few of our favorites:

  • St. James Court Art Show: the most famous of all Louisville fall festivals! The first weekend of October, the picturesque James Court neighborhood in Old Louisville 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 in Kentucky! Shop local vendors, admire amazing artisan-created crafts and works of art, and get a feel for the vibrant Louisville arts community.
  • Kentucky Bourbon Festival: Head to Bardstown, less than an hour from Louisville, to partake in bourbon sampling, a ridiculous Bourbon barrels race, BBQ, a relay, car show, rare bourbon auction (for big ballers), live music, and more. Or just to go to drink bourbon. I mean, this is Kentucky.
  • UnFair Art Show: Offered as a counter-fair to the St. James Court Art Show (and just a block away), the UnFair embraces vice and subversiveness. It is also an art show, for locals by locals, that strives to exemplify Louisville culture. The eclectic mix of creative minds that participate include a wide variety of styles and techniques.
  • Fright Night Film Fest: Calling all lovers of horror! The annual Fright Night Halloween and Horror Convention spans the gamut of sci-fi, horror, supernatural, thriller, gore, and campy-but-also-kinda-scary. The festival features dozens of events ranging from spooky burlesque performances and cosplay to live metal shows and meet & greets with iconic horror movie characters like Pinhead and Michael Meyers. There are also a handful of workshops, like a special effects makeup demo and a body art expo, as well as movie screenings, a costume contest, and Scaryokee (howling encouraged).
  • World Fest: the free kickoff for Louisville’s fall festival season is on Labour Day Weekend along the Belvedere at the Waterfront!
  • LGBT Film Festival: Held in mid October at Baxter Avenue theatre, the Louisville LGBT Film Festival is an annual showcase of outstanding films that focus on the LGBT community. Each year, the festival screens several feature-length and short films in a variety of genres ranging from coming-of-age dramas to light-hearted comedies. Attendees can catch viewings of recently released independent films and support quality films that illuminate the LGBT experience.

Take a Hike through the Fall Foliage

Louisville is full of natural beauty and lush forests. I mean, hello, we’re home to the USA’s largest urban forest, AND giant urban park designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, who also designed NYC’s Central Park!

Hiking in Louisville is one of the best ways to take in the beauty of fall foliage, whether you’re hunting down an abandoned theme park, exploring caves and waterfalls, or just befriending wildlife (ethically) in the forest. Below are a few of our favorite places to go hiking in Louisville in the fall!

  • Cherokee Park: Nestled among Louisville’s Highlands neighborhood is a beautiful, enormous old park called Cherokee Park. While many visitors to Cherokee Park spend most of their time on the paved Scenic Loop, the real magic of Cherokee is found on the Cherokee Park Trail, a meandering loop that takes you through the true heart of Cherokee Park. The trail passwa through dense forests and luscious hills. It’s a fantastic park for a scenic hike (or drive) and a picnic in the crisp fall weather in the heart of Louisville. Take your leaf-crunching shoes with you for the most satisfying walk possible.
  • Jefferson Memorial Forest: Jefferson Memorial Forest is the best place to go to get away from the city while still being within Louisville’s borders. Located just 15 minutes from downtown, Jefferson Memorial feels like stepping out into undisturbed nature – and at 6,500 acres, it is the largest municipal urban forest in the United States! We recommend Scott’s Gap Trail: you’ll climb up a hill to a gorgeous overlook and head along the ridgeline, with canopies of trees overhead and dipping ravines and hills surrounding you. We also recommend hiking Yost Ridge to Mitchell Lake, which begins at the visitor’s center and takes you to the top of a ridge where you can sometimes get a glimpse of downtown Louisville through the trees, 7 miles away, before plunging deeper into the woods lined with pine trees to a scenic pond and lake, the perfect place to stop for a packed picnic lunch.
  • Charlestown State Park: Located just across the river in Indiana just 30 minutes from downtown Louisville, the reason you’ll want to add the Rose Island Loop to your fall hiking list is because of the spooky abandoned amusement park. In 1923, Rose Island was a fabulous and thriving amusement park, but it was destroyed in the Great Flood of 1937 (along with 70% of the city of Louisville). Today, you can discover the ruins of a bygone era by taking creatively named Trail 3 down a steep, paved path to the Rose Island Bridge, which will take you over to the ruins of what was once a jazz age hotspot. You can visit the old swimming pool (now filled with gravel), the old dance hall ruins, the central walk with large iron archways which were once garlanded with roses, and you can get close to the water and see where the ghosts of yesteryear would have arrived by boat.
  • Bernheim Arboretum and Forest: located about 30 miles south of Louisville, Bernheim Forest is well worth the drive to discover the 16,137 acres of land and over 40 miles of hiking trails. The biggest attraction at Bernheim are the famous Forest Giants, a collection of three larger-than-life giants made from natural materials – you can see them on the Forest Giants Trail. We also recommend hiking the Elm Lick Trail, which winds from the hilltops down to the forest floor, over creeks and riverbeds, and an abandoned grain silo. After your hike be sure to check out the Canopy Tree Walk, which is located a short drive from the trail. The bridge takes you 75-feet over the forest canopy and is absolutely stunning in fall when you can see the bright red, orange, and yellow leaves! Bernheim Forest also has an annual Colorfest festival in October, a two-day event with a pumpkin launch, hay maze, mud pies and hayrides.
Display at a country store at a pumpkin patch

Pick Pumpkins & Apples at a Farm

In less than an hour’s drive from Louisville, you can be knee-deep in pumpkins, fresh apples, corn mazes, hay rides, and other fall fun!

Throw on your cutest fall outfit, grab your camera, and head to one of these close-to-Louisville farms:

  • Shady Lane Farm: Located in Shepherdsville, KY (less than 30 minutes from Louisville), Shady Lane is a working farm with a U-Pick Pumpkin Patch on weekends in September & October. You can also ride a wagon to a pumpkin patch maze, carve Jack-O-Lanterns or gourds, and buy fresh-picked apples, hay bales or corn shocks. For lunch during your visit, you can order hot dogs, chili, beans & cornbread and various other snacks, drinks and desserts. Shady Lane Farm also sells farm-raised grass fed Black Angus Beef (by the pound) plus fresh country eggs, year round!
  • Huber’s Orchard & Winery: Located in southern Indiana just 30 minutes away across the river, Huber’s Orchard is one of those places everyone goes to on a field trip at some point. But it’s worth a return trip as a grown up, and here’s why: Spiced Apple Wine made from locally grown apples. Yasss. If that isn’t enough of a selling point, the farm is also a great place to experience the best of fall in Louisville: picking pumpkins and fresh apples, hay bale rides, and more!
  • Gallrein Farms: Located in Shelbyville about 40 minutes from Louisville, Gallrein is a working farm that turns into a fall wonderland. If you visit early in the fall, you can pick up some fresh-cut sunflowers (or cut your own!) Starting in mid-September, you can pick pumpkin, enjoy a corn maze, train ride, obstacle course, haunted house, super slide, petting zoo, apple cannons, and “hillbilly basketball” among many other fall activities. Try the homemade fudge and apple cider donuts.
  • Mulberry Orchard: Also located in Shelbyville, Mulberry Orchard is the best to go for fresh apples! You’ll find trees full of Ginger Gold, Gala, Mollie’s Delicious, Ruby Mac, & Honey Crisp Apples, plus local produce, honey, eggs, meats, and other goodies for sale. In the fall, you can take a hayride through the orchard, visit the animals, pick pumpkins and have an adventure in the corn maze, as well as snack on apple cider donuts and caramel apples, pick up a fresh apple pie, and try a pulled pork and apple sandwich on a pretzel bun. Yum!
  • Happy Jack’s Farm: About an hour away in Frankfort, you can take a wagon ride to the 20-acre pumpkin patch with over 75 varieties of pumpkins, gourds and squash. Visit with farm animals, stroll through an impressive two-acre corn maze, or stop by the farm stand and purchase a variety of fall must-have’s.

Psst: we’ve got a whole post about the best pumpkin patches in Kentucky, including a bunch of farms within 30 minutes of Louisville!

See also
35 Epic Pumpkin Patches in Kentucky to Visit This Fall

Wander Through the Graves at Cave Hill Cemetery

The Highlands’ enormous historic Cave Hill Cemetery, 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 Cemetery map and go grave-hunting on your own: you’ll find the ornate graves of Colonel Sanders, Muhammad Ali, and Meriwether Lewis Clark Jr. among many other famous historical people.

See also
The Highlands Neighborhood Guide: Where to Eat, Drink, Play and Stay

Attend the World’s Largest Halloween Party

During the month of October, the Louisville Zoo hosts the world’s largest Halloween party each night from 5-8:30 PM!

The adorably named “Boo at the Zoo” transforms the Louisville Zoo into a living storybook, with characters brought to life, music, and trick-or-treating for kids 11 and under. It’s all kooky Halloween fun and none of the spooky – perfect for little ones.

Keep an eye out for the Headless Horseman of Sleepy Hollow, your favorite princesses and superheroes, the Spooktacular Carousel, Mumpkin the Giant Talking Pumpkin, and the “not-so-itsy-bitsy” Spider House.


Which fall in Louisville activity are you most excited about? Do you prefer spooky Halloween events, or more general fall activities? Drop us a comment below!

Psst: We have a few other posts to help you make the most of fall in Louisville and the rest of Kentucky. Check them out:


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4 Comments on 14 Things to Do to Celebrate Fall in Louisville, Kentucky

  1. There are so many great things to do here in the fall, and all of the fall colours make the city look even more beautiful. I’d love to go pumpkin picking and see the Halloween lights!

  2. Halloween sounds like so much fun in Louisville. I love that people go all out with their Halloween decorations. I don’t think that should just be reserved for Christmas!

  3. So many awesome things to do for Halloween and fall! Ok I seriously want to visit next fall to see the Louisville’s Jack O’Lantern Spectacular, the Danger Run and all the lights in the one neighborhood. That’s so cool as I’ve only seen that at Christmas time. Oh and seeing some foliage and bourbon would be a bonus too!

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