Chicago

Actually Cool Things to Do in Louisville This Fall

Make the most of it.

Frazier Kentucky History Museum
Frazier Kentucky History Museum
Frazier Kentucky History Museum

As we wrestle free from summer’s sweaty embrace and step into fall’s crisp and breezy expanse, Louisvillians the city over are primed and ready to emerge from their air-conditioned hovels and once again discover all the amazing riches our beloved region has to offer. And what better way to usher in the autumnal turn than by tackling a whole list of thought-provoking and buzz-inducing activities like drinking your way down the Bourbon Trail, expanding your horizons at a world-class museum, living it up before a Cardinal’s kick-off, or simply posting up at an outdoor patio and downing beers like it’s your job. Here’s everything fun to do in Louisville this fall.

Photo by Marty Pearl
Photo by Marty Pearl
Photo by Marty Pearl

Explore the Bourbon Trail without leaving town…

Between the onslaught of ambitious young microdistilleries rolling onto the scene and the growing number of rural powerhouses debuting fancy new downtown tasting rooms, Louisville’s urban core has never been boozier. Now you can spend a day (or three) strolling from outpost to outpost and sampling all the whiskey you can handle, no designated driver needed. Start at Peerless, a gorgeous family-run operation peddling some of the tastiest rye in town from their riverfront perch, before dropping by Michter’s Fort Nelson Distillery, just a stone’s throw away on Main Street. Other walkable standouts include Angel’s Envy, with their port wine barrel-finished delights, Rabbit Hole’s strikingly modern NuLu headquarters, the iconic Evan Williams Bourbon Experience, Old Forester’s rustic storefront, and, to change things up, Copper & Kings, a brandy emporium showcasing a breezy rooftop bar and restaurant.

Maker's Mark
Maker’s Mark
Maker’s Mark

… or drink your way through the countryside

Snazzy downtown setups are nice and all, but to truly experience Bourbon Country, you’re going to have to trek out to those bluegrass-covered fields and green rolling hills. And even if you’re born-and-bred Kentuckian, a crisp fall day spent traversing the massive and historic distillery grounds dotting the pastoral exurbs of Louisville is never a bad idea. Hitch a full service ride with Mint Julep Tours or grab a GPS and a DD and chart your own course-either way, must-stops include Maker’s Mark with their majestic Dale Chihuly glass sculptures and legendary wax-dipping demos, Heaven Hill and Bardstown Bourbon Company in idyllic Bardstown, Clermont’s pioneering Jim Beam American Stillhouse, plus Four Roses, Wild Turkey, and Woodford Reserve farther east.

Gaze at Old Louisville’s historic homes

Louisville is home to one of America’s largest collections of Victorian homes. The neighborhood, established in the late 1800s, remains a vibrant residential setting, and it’s worth a couple of hours to simply walk around and admire the architecture, saying things like “Are you sure this isn’t Gothic Revivalist?” Stroll down the pedestrian-only side streets and stop by the Old Louisville Information Center to secure a guided walking tour (haunted tours are available, too), if you’re into that. When you’re done, walk a few blocks more to Old Louisville Brewery for a well-deserved beer.

Muhammad Ali Center
Muhammad Ali Center
Muhammad Ali Center

Get cultured at a local museum

Hop on the back to school train and learn yourself something new at one of Louisville’s premiere cultural institutions. History buffs make a beeline to the Frazier History Museum on Museum Row (AKA Main Street) and the genre-defying Roots 101 African American Museum, architecture enthusiasts gravitate toward pristine estates like the Conrad-Caldwell House Museum in Old Louisville, the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory and the Muhammad Ali Center knock it out of the park for sports fans, and science geeks need look no further than the colossal Kentucky Science Center downtown. As for aesthetic curiosities, the innovative 21c Louisville Museum always has something to say, the world-class Speed Art Museum is bound to spur thoughtful conversation, the Carnegie Center for Art and History provides ample context, and the National Corvette Museum in nearby Bowling Green will get your engines going (because cars this pretty definitely qualify as art).

Pick a pumpkin at Huber Orchard & Winery

Speaking of pumpkins, what’s more fun than loading the kiddos up in the car and heading out to a local pumpkin patch? While you’re there, you may as well pick up a bottle of wine and a cheese plate and enjoy them both on the huge outdoor patio because, hey, adults matter, too.

Courtesy of Omni Louisville Hotel
Courtesy of Omni Louisville Hotel
Courtesy of Omni Louisville Hotel

Book a staycation in the city

Beat the end-of-summer blues with a luxe vacation in your own hometown. Standout accommodations comes in all shapes and sizes here, from the 21c Museum Hotel Louisville’s unbeatable triple threat (award-winning bar and restaurant, incredible onsite gallery, and cozy contemporary guest rooms), and the sleek Omni Louisville Hotel with its skyhigh pool, to stately classics like the Brown Hotel and and the Seelbach Hilton. Elsewhere, boutique newcomers like the Moxy, Hotel Distil, and the Grady offer a handsome respite from the buzzy scene below.

Hell or High Water Bar
Hell or High Water Bar
Hell or High Water Bar

Descend into a sexy speakeasy

A rash of intriguing new covert drinking dens has been steadily amassing throughout the city and it’s high time you strap on your best suspenders and see what all the fuss is about. Reserve a table at Hell or High Water to enjoy top shelf tipples inside their polished, library-like subterranean escape, slip inside the unmarked doors of North of Bourbon in Germantown for vintage vibes and a stellar bourbon collection, post up at venerable NuLu haunts Taj and Gertie’s Whiskey Bar, or snag a dimly lit lane at Pin + Proof, a rowdy throwback bowling alley and bar beneath the Omni Hotel.

Louisville Cardinals
Louisville Cardinals
Louisville Cardinals

Get your tailgate on near Cardinal Stadium

College football season is back in action, which means tailgating has once again taken over your Saturdays from now until that very last kick-off. And after a shaky 2020, UofL is granting us a brand new place to party by way of The Alley, a giant public courtyard on the corner of Boxley and South Floyd. With room for up to 2,000 Cards die-hards, the space features turf greens for reenacting your favorite plays, live entertainment, food and drink vendors, and more, and is free to enter (though you can always ball out by scooping up a VIP membership pass).

Enjoy the great outdoors at the Parklands of Floyds Fork

Louisville has public park facilities that could rival most cities, and the Parklands of Floyds Fork might be the cream of the crop. Comprised of five different parks with varying amenities, you and your pals can paddle, hike, fish, enjoy playgrounds and spray parks (especially if kids are involved), bike, garden, play sports, and even bring your dog(s) along for the ride.

La Bodeguita De Mima
La Bodeguita De Mima
La Bodeguita De Mima

Chill out with a stogie at a Cuban cigar bar

Channel your inner Hemmingway at NuLu’s show-stopping La Bodeguita de Mima, a banana yellow landmark building bursting with the spirit of 1950s Cuba. After you’ve cleaned your plate of blockbuster standards like Arroz con Pollo a la Chorerra, Shrimp Ceviche, and overstuffed Cuban Sandwiches, head upstairs and retire to the sultry lounge for a glass of finely aged rum and a hand-rolled selection from the humidor. You deserve it.

Racing Louisville FC
Racing Louisville FC
Racing Louisville FC

Cheer on the home team at a state-of-the-art stadium

Lynn Family Stadium, home of your own Racing Louisville NWSL team, is open and play is under way through October 16. The 15,000-capacity facility is one of the league’s top venues-and its newest-so you come out sporting your best lavender mask, fill up on signature drinks and eats from multiple local vendors, and cheer on international superstars like Yuki Nagasato, Freja Olofsson, Ebony Salmon, and Nadia Nadim.

Hang out with the giants at Bernheim Forest

Take a stroll in the woods without too much worry (assuming there are no bears around), and get up close and personal with, yes, some giant creatures at Bernheim Forest. Walk a two-mile loop to marvel at this fascinating sculpture exhibit, on loan for a limited time.

Do Boo at the Zoo with the kids

Boo at the Zoo has been Louisville Zoo’s signature fall event for more than 40 years, but as one might guess, trick-or-treating amid an ongoing pandemic can be, well, extra tricky. Just like last year, the event is going down with safety procedures in place. Special tickets are required for all guests aged three and up, and entry gets you a full evening of fun by way of character meet-and-greets, trick-or-treating for kids 11 and under, live music, free onsite parking, and reduced nightly capacity to lessen traffic delays.

Welcome the jack-o-lanterns back to Iroquois Park

The Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular is a Louisville tradition like no other, with more than 5,000 illuminated pumpkins carved in festive fashion. This year, the party’s back in full force, inviting spectators to cruise the glowing walking path at Iroquois Park throughout the entire month of October. Lace up, mask up, and grab your tickets here.

Cave Hill Cemetery & Arboretum
Cave Hill Cemetery & Arboretum
Cave Hill Cemetery & Arboretum

Spend an afternoon in Cave Hill Cemetery

It’s Halloween season, and what makes for a better fall outing than spending some quality time in an eerie boneyard? Not only is Louisville’s Cave Hill Cemetery the final resting place for notable Kentuckians like Muhammad Ali, Colonel Harland Sanders, and Pappy Van Winkle, it also doubles as a rolling, gorgeous, green space, complete with lush cremation gardens perfect for pondering the afterlife.

Tour the Falls at the Ohio State Park

Just across the Ohio River lies the Falls of the Ohio State Park, spread across the site of a 386-million-year-old Devonian fossil bed. Explore an interactive museum detailing the area’s history, the aquatic life that called it home eons ago, the importance of the Falls in the settlement of Louisville, and much more. When you’re finished, head directly to the beds (assuming the river isn’t up) to study them for yourself.

Walk the Big Four Bridge to Indiana

Thank goodness we still have the Big Four Bridge, a breathtaking attraction we can enjoy any damn time we please. The former eyesore is now one of the coolest places in town, where you can make your way across the roughly one-mile span to Indiana to enjoy the quaint downtown vibe of Jeffersonville, rife with places to dine, shop, and drink. Parlour Pizza is a preferred stop at the foot of the bridge, while Pearl Street Taphouse, just a block or so away, is a fine outpost for craft beer and excellent burgers.

The Hub Louisville
The Hub Louisville
The Hub Louisville

Crush beers or take down a meal under the stars

Enjoying al fresco food and drink is fun anytime (weather permitting), but fall’s temperate evenings only heighten the experience. Thankfully, Louisville has loads of outdoor patios where one can do just that. A few standout options include The Irish Rover, Falls City Brewing Company, Chik’n & Mi, Garage Bar, Con Huevos, the Silver Dollar, La Bodeguita De Mima, Agave & Rye, The Hub, Everyday Kitchen, and Mussel & Burger Bar, among so many others.

Cruise historic Frankfort Avenue

Frankfort Avenue corridor is a two-lane road through the Clifton and Crescent Hill neighborhoods where one can stumble upon any number of historic homes, restaurants, bars, shopping, and other enticements leading right into the buzzy St. Matthews district. But it’s in the areas between Mellwood and Stilz Avenues where you’ll find upscale bourbon bars, regular-scale bookstores, and solid restaurants like the Irish Rover, El Mundo, Con Huevos, Volare, and Blue Dog Bakery.Want more Thrillist? Follow us on InstagramTwitterPinterestYouTubeTikTok, and Snapchat.

Meredith Heil is a Senior Cities Editor at Thrillist.

Kevin Gibson is a Louisville, Kentucky-based author who writes about everything from food to beer to the great city he calls home. He is author of Unique Eats of Louisville, Secret Louisville, Louisville Beer, and others. He currently lives in the Clifton neighborhood with his dog, Atticus.

Chicago

Robyn DaCultyre Is Doing It for the Culture

"The cool thing about Ohio is that there is literally a place for everyone."

Photo by Kayode Omoyosi
Photo by Kayode Omoyosi
Photo by Kayode Omoyosi

I was introduced to Robyn DaCultyre at an Untitled Queen show at C’mon Everybody in late January, and it was one of the most unique drag shows I’d seen in a while. Afterwards, I tracked down this self-described “drag creature” and video chatted about her drag origin story, the state of drag in her native Ohio, and the dual identities that make up her persona. Thrillist: I want to ask you about how Robyn DaCultyre came about and your point of view behind your performance.

Robyn DaCultyre: I’ve been travelling around the country from a young age in ministry and Christian studies. I moved to Chicago right after high school. Four years later, moved back to Columbus and decided I didn’t really want to do church anymore; that wasn’t where my heart was.

I had a really low point in my life and had a suicide attempt and then really found drag and started doing drag as a coping mechanism and way to let off steam. I started in July of 2019, and it was really a lot of punk and metal music. I created this drag creature of sorts and they were really out of this world and celestial and all of those fun alien type terms.

And then we went into a global pandemic and I had a lot of time to figure out who I wanted to be. Digitally I was still doing a lot of drag creature-esque numbers and all of that, but I had this moment where we’re on the front lines getting hit with pepper spray and rubber bullets and pepper spray-all of those lovely things. And I said, I have this platform and I need to start showcasing what’s happening.

Untitled [Queen] stepped in at the right time and messaged me and said, “I’m doing this show for Independence Day called Untitled in America with 52 different performers and I want you to be a part of it.” It was at that moment I was able to take the footage I had been recording on the front lines and incorporate it into digital content. I did a song called Black Like Me by Mickey Guyton that talks about white picket fences, but if you want to see how America is, then you should try being Black like me. The imagery of what’s literally happening in Columbus in that digital performance really spearheaded me into focusing on people who look like me.

Nina Simone is one of my biggest inspirations, and one of her quotes that resonates with me is that it’s the duty of the artist to resonate with the times. My art is politically charged. I like to entertain, but there will definitely be a time when you come to a show expecting to have your drink and be chill and that might not be the case.

How did the name Robyn DaCultyre come about?

I was smoking with Ursula Major, who was on season one of Dragula, and the first time I introduced myself to her I was Robyn Banks, which is my drag name originally. She said, “Well, do you just not want to be original at all?” [Laughs] And I sat with that for a couple of months, and I got really stoned one day and was listening to Janelle Monae, and she talks about doing it for the culture, and I said “I do it for the culture, too!” And the rest is history.

And you started a series called Melanated.

We started Melanated last February. I told the idea to my show director that there were no shows specifically run by Black people that only featured Black entertainers. I wanted to do this show for a night and she said, Why don’t we do it once a week for the whole month? The first show happens, and it’s a sold out crowd, and [my director] comes back and says we should do this every month. So I sucked it up and here we are a year later.

Melanated is the only fully Black show in all of the state. It’s a horrible marketing tool and not something I want to promote, but it is just a fact. It amazes me that we are the 13th largest city in America and there’s nothing here that’s fully focused on Black entertainers. The name also comes from Janelle Monae; she says she’s highly melanated and I said, that works.

Photos by Chay Creates LLC (left) and Bridget Caswell (right)
Photos by Chay Creates LLC (left) and Bridget Caswell (right)
Photos by Chay Creates LLC (left) and Bridget Caswell (right)

You refer to yourself as a drag creature, as opposed to drag queen or king…

This is actually the first time I’m making this public. I am in this place where I want to separate the alternative creature from who this melanated goddess or whatever is. DaCultyre is definitely the person who runs Melanated and then Robyn is this drag creature that is out of this world and really loves punk and alternative music. And both intertwine to make Robyn DaCultyre.

You also do pageants. Tell me about that.

In 2020 I was appointed by Nina West, who is from Columbus, as the representative from Ohio for National Entertainer of the Year in Louisville, Kentucky. I placed ninth out of 13 contestants and I really fell in love with the system and fell in love with the pageantry and loved the idea of reigning and being different. I want to show that we as alternative performers, as bearded performers, you can come into these systems and shake things up.

Is there a uniquely “Ohio” style of drag?

No, and I think that’s one of the things that makes it so amazing is that everyone has their own unique style, and it’s all pretty much accepted. I started as a performer and a drag creature and there was space that was afforded to me and I transitioned to more glamor and pageantry and that’s afforded to me as well. I’ve been a bearded entertainer for a year now. The cool thing about Ohio is that there is literally a place for everyone.

I think I have everything I need. Is there anything else I didn’t ask you about that you want to bring up, or‚Ķ

I don’t think so. Are there any generic questions you haven’t asked?

Generic questions‚ĶI think I asked all of them already [laughs]. I like to ask what you’d be doing if you weren’t doing drag?

It’s a great question. I have a day job that is very demanding so I need drag to get away. I’m also very creative and artistic. I used to do web design and all these other things to pull into my creativity. Drag is the longest thing I’ve stuck with in all parts of my life, so I don’t think it’s going anywhere anytime soon.

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John deBary¬†is a drinks expert and writer. His first cocktail book,¬†Drink What You Want, is available now, and his next book,¬†Saved by the Bellini, is expected in early 2023. He is also the co-founder and president of the¬†Restaurant Workers’ Community Foundation, which is dedicated to improving the lives of hospitality industry professionals through advocacy, grant making, and impact investing.

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