12 Reasons to Celebrate Halloween in Louisville, Kentucky: A Local’s Guide

A local's guide to why you need to spend Halloween in Louisville, Kentucky this year!

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, Memphis, or Indianapolis!

Luckily for me, since Halloween is my FAVORITE holiday (costumes AND candy?! Omg. Yes. Heaven) Halloween season is the best time to visit Louisville (other than Derby season, of course). It’s not just the crisp autumn air and crunchy colorful leaves that brings me back year after year, but also unique autumn festivals and events (like a massive Jack O’Lantern immersive art experience) an incredible array of terrifying haunted houses (Halloween in Louisville is SO EPIC), yummy autumn bourbon tasting, and gorgeous scenic drives and walks through some of the most beautiful fall foliage in the USA. 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 and download our printable Guide to Louisville!

Why Louisville Halloween is the BEST

Fall in Louisville means crunchy colorful leaves, crisp breezy air, pumpkins, bourbon, and apple cider. But 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 one of the best haunted houses in Louisville!

What would a visit to Kentucky be without bourbon tasting? The Kentucky Bourbon Trail is one of the best day trips from Louisville, and Woodford Reserve is one of our favorite bourbon distilleries to visit!
The Kentucky Bourbon Trail is one of the best day trips from Louisville, and Woodford Reserve is one of our favorite bourbon distilleries to visit! There’s nothing like a roaring fire, a chocolate bourbon ball, and a glass of Woodford to warm you up on a chilly fall day.

1. Bourbon Tasting on The Kentucky Bourbon Trail

Just like California has Napa Valley (and Paso Robles), Kentucky has The Bourbon Trail. Bourbon is Kentucky’s proudest creation. Sure, it’s legally possible to create bourbon outside of Kentucky, but I’ve never had anything that compares (so you guys might as well just stop trying).

The secret behind Kentucky bourbon is 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 for a day trip. An inexpensive 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!

Our favorite bourbon distilleries are Woodford Reserve and Maker’s Mark. There are also a few distilleries in Louisville itself, but the gorgeous countryside makes the drive well worth it! On your way to each distillery, you’ll drive past picturesque horse farms and beautiful forests of brightly colored fall foliage. You can also opt to book a tour with Louisville based Mint Julep Tours who will take care of the planning (and most importantly, the driving) for you. Visiting Bourbon Distilleries is the best way to see the amazing pastoral countryside of Kentucky!

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2. 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 the 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. Creepy!

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. Where else can you visit a literally haunted Haunted House but in Louisville, Kentucky?

3. 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 stuff to do around 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 exciting races all season long: check the Churchill Downs Calendar for full details.

Pick up a coffee at Quills in Old Louisville to sip as you chase ghosts on a spooky haunted walking tour! It's one of the best ways to celebrate Halloween in Louisville, Kentucky!
Pick up a coffee at Quills in Old Louisville to sip as you chase ghosts on a spooky haunted walking tour! It’s one of the best ways to celebrate Halloween in Louisville, Kentucky! (Sadly this picture is not from Quills. But it’s totally fitting, right?)

4. 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. Suck it, San Francisco! 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. 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 America’s Most Haunted Neighborhood Tour through eerily beautiful Old Louisville.

Oh, and be sure to pick up a single origin brew from the Cardinal Boulevard location of Quill’s Coffee to sip as you stroll. It’s one of our favorite coffee shops in Louisville.

  • Quills Coffee | Address: 327 West Cardinal Boulevard, Louisville KY
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5. Attend One of Louisville’s Fall Festivals

Louisville LOVES its festivals, and all 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.

There’s World Fest, the free kickoff for Louisville’s fall festival season on Labour Day Weekend. Or how about Chocolate Fest? Or CRAFT Louisville, where you can stuff your face with locally made pizza & beer? There’s an LGBT Film Festival, and a weekly Trolley Hop through local art galleries.

But the most famous of all Louisville fall festivals is the St. James Court Art Show. 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 season! Shop local vendors, admire amazing artisan-created crafts and works of art, and get a feel for the vibrant Louisville arts community.

6. Experience the 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 incredible and unique Halloween event in Louisville – do NOT miss it! Local Tip: Arrive a little before dark to beat the lines.

A local's guide to why you need to spend Halloween in Louisville, Kentucky this year!
Take a scenic drive or drive through stunning Cherokee Park to take in Louisville’s gorgeous fall foliage! Fair warning: you’ll get lost. Just expect it. It’s all part of the ~adventure.

7. Take a Scenic Walk Through 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 which criss-cross the main roads through the park and pass 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. Take your leaf-crunching shoes with you for the most satisfying walk possible.

8. 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!

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9. Get Scared at the Best Haunted Houses in Louisville

There are are huge amount of Haunted Houses in Louisville annually, a fact that is directly tied to the thriving 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 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 with my life while my friends all laughed at me. Apparently the chainsaws in Haunted Houses 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.

10. Complete the 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 and visiting multiple Haunted Houses (if you can find them!) – all in one fun packed night! There’s Haunted Houses in Louisville, and then there’s Scavenger Hunts & Haunted Houses in Louisville. 2 for 1?! Sold!

Jeremy 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.) and it was SUCH a blast, chainsaws notwithstanding. You’ll particularly enjoy Danger Run if you’re extremely competitive, like we are. You’ll be screaming in terror at your closest friends while stranded in the middle of a haunted field somewhere on the outskirts of Louisville in no time. Oh, THAT explains the chainsaw thing…

There's nothing like a cemetery to get you in that spooky Halloween mood. Particularly a giant, historic one like Cave Hill Cemetery in Louisville, Kentucky: you can spend hours chasing the ghosts of famous Kentuckians in this gorgeous graveyard.
There’s nothing like a cemetery to get you in that spooky Halloween mood. Particularly a giant, historic one like Cave Hill Cemetery in Louisville, Kentucky: you can spend hours chasing the ghosts of famous Kentuckians in this gorgeous graveyard.  Original photo credit: “Autumn Cemetery” (CC BY 2.0) by edenpictures

11. Wander Through the Graves at Cave Hill Cemetery

The 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 Cemetary 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.

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12. 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.

A Chocolate Bourbon Donut from High 5 Donuts in Louisville, Kentucky. If this isn't fancy enough for you, you can create the DIY donut of your dreams!
Other things to do in Louisville: eat. Everthing. Like this, for example: a Chocolate Bourbon Donut from High 5 Donuts in Louisville, Kentucky. If this isn’t fancy enough for you, you can create the DIY donut of your dreams!

More Things to Do to Louisville

There are so many things to do in Louisville – here’s a guide to our favorites. While you’re in Louisville, be sure to try some of the delicious foods that Louisville is famous for, like the Hot Brown or Derby Pie (or it’s un-copyrighted knock-off versions). And of course, you have to get some famous Louisville drinks, like a Mint Julep or an Old Fashioned!

We have a few other posts about my beloved hometown of Louisville! Make sure to take a look at them before your trip and download our printable Guide to Louisville.

Oh my god you guys, I have so much nostalgia right now. Have I convinced you to spend Halloween in Louisville, KY yet or what?! What gets you in the Halloween mood? Do you love Halloween as much as we do? Leave us a comment below!

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From Haunted Houses to bourbon tasting to Ghost Tours, a local's guide to why you need to spend Halloween in Louisville, Kentucky this year! | USA Travel Destination | #Halloween Travel | #Kentucky Travel | United States Travel | Fall Foliage| #Autumn Travel | Fall Break | Where to Go in #October | Midwest Travel Destinations

Note: This post was originally published in September 2016, but we completely updated it in September 2017.

Hey, I'm Lia! I'm a Kentucky native living in San Francisco. I'm extremely practical and also entirely addicted to travel, which I'm forever trying to reconcile. If I had a patronus, it would a spreadsheet. Or a llama. Possibly a llama creating a spreadsheet. I'm married to Jeremy and I'm obsessed with him and it's super gross, unless you're us, in which case it's the best.

9 Comment

  1. Yay! Thanks for mentioning The St James Court Art Show! October 6-8 this year. Come home and I will get you Hospitality Tent tickets 🙂 I love your blog!

    1. Lia says: Reply

      I literally just went and looked at flights 😛 You’re so kind to offer! Sadly a flight home is not in our budget right now 🙁 hopefully soon!

  2. Oooh so autumny! Love all the pumpkins! Thanks for sharing.

  3. Omg all of those pumpkins! And the fall colors! I’m in love. I wish we had more scenes like this out here in California during the fall. So dreamy!

  4. I’ve always had Halloween in my small hometown. It sounds like so much more fun in a bigger city. I love the idea of going to the sanitorium! So creepy!

  5. Looks like such a fun city to celebrate Halloween and fall! Outside of the horses, you don’t often hear much about the town, but this shows you how much more there is to do! On our list now for sure! Thanks!

    1. Lia says: Reply

      Louisville is a total underrated gem. There is SO much to experience there and people really don’t give it enough credit! I have mad hometown love <3

  6. Not sure I’m brave enough for the danger run! Might just stick to the coffee and twinkling lights! Autumn is my favourite time of year, and I can only imagine how cray your hometown gets for Halloween – looks like they go ALL OUT,

  7. Looks like a great Halloween destination! Thanks for sharing. We will have to add it to our list of places to visit.

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