Halloween has passed, and the winter holiday season is here. While the weather is refusing to cede to frosty moods, here at LEO, we are ready for all the twinkling lights and Mariah Carey Christmas songs you can throw at us. Our staff and writing crew have shared the events we look forward to each fall and winter, including those that are a road trip away. The holidays are a tough time of year for some, but we’re hoping that even if you struggle, you can find something on our list of events that will lift your heart a bit this holiday season. Santa might not be watching, but we are, and we want you to have the best holiday possible.
Lights Under Louisville
Starts Nov. 10
Louisville Mega Cavern
$42.99+ per carload
Lights Under Louisville has become one of the most anticipated events of each holiday season. The underground light show boasts nearly 7 million points of light and a beautiful soundtrack of classic Christmas tunes
Hosted in the Louisville Mega Cavern, Lights Under Louisville is a drive-through experience where the family doesn’t need to walk but can stay in the car with snacks and heat as they drive through the subterranean pathway.
If you’d prefer to see the holiday lights without the obstruction of car windows, the Christmas Express, which offers a 30-minute tour in an open-roofed tram, is the perfect way to do so. —Erica Rucker
The IgLous at 8UP
Starts week of Nov. 12
8UP Elevated Drinkery & Kitchen
$250 – $500
I’ve previously written about the igLous at 8UP as an aspirational destination — though it’s cool to eat in a heated themed (plastic) igloo that overlooks the city skyline, it’s quite expensive to do so.
Still, though their reappearance isn’t an “event” exactly, it’s a good start to the season. Like, you get to eat in an igloo! At a swanky restaurant! Surrounded by skyscrapers! It’s neat!
If you have the means and opportunity to splurge on a night in one of these, I’d say go for it. — Carolyn Brown
Voces Novae: A Choral Renaissance
Nov. 19, 3 p.m.
St. Albert the Great Church (1395 Girard Dr.)
$10+ by age group
Since its founding thirty years ago, Voces Novae has been an elite standard-bearer for choral excellence in Louisville. The ensemble performs year-round and in a variety of settings (members recently joined Foreigner for a concert on the rock group’s farewell tour).
But its perennial holiday concerts are especially treasured events. And this year’s installment, under the direction of Angela Vaughn Hampton, looks to be a marvel: it focuses on repertoire from composers whose careers have flourished in the 30 years since Voces Novae was founded.
This generation of composers – like Moses Hogan, Jake Runestad, Rosephanye Powell, Jake Runestad, Elaine Hagenberg, and Z. Randall Stroope – blend contemporary sensibilities with hundreds of years of tradition to create exquisite music that will carry you away, up, and in.
No matter the final details of the program, you can expect an outstanding musical experience filled with soaring, pulsing thrills and deeply reflective comforts to lift you through the season.
Tickets: vocesnovaelouisville.com and at the door. — Marty Rosen
Fête de Noël
Opens Nov. 24
The construction of Paristown, both the concert hall and the outdoor area, has been a great addition to Louisville, providing multiple ways for people to gather and have fun. The Fête de Noël is the venue’s six-week winter holiday festival, featuring the Crystal Ice Skating Rink, the Brent Street Holiday Market, Paristown Express Trackless Train Rides, food and drinks, movie nights, and special events. Some of those special events include Drag Queens On Ice, Karaoke On Ice, and screenings of the holiday classic “Elf.” To shop and hang out is free, but ice skating and some of the other special events have ticket prices associated with them. One of my favorite aspects of Fête de Noël is that it creates stress-free holiday shopping. There are dozens of vendors at the event selling unique items. You can knock out gifts for several people with a drink in your hand. For more info, visit paristown.com/fetedenoel. —Scott Recker
Dec. 2, 6 p.m.
$15 advance, $25 day of
Christmas is a beautiful celebration of togetherness and hope. Louisville Krampus is a sleazy celebration of a demonic goat-monster.
I say that affectionately — Louisville Krampus is actually really fun. Last year, there was Krampus-themed burlesque, a magic act, live music, a costume contest, cool creepy art, and other fun, spooky ways to kick off the Christmas season. The whole thing is very Keep Louisville Weird (and therefore very LEO), so I highly recommend it. — Carolyn Brown
The Brown-Forman Nutcracker
Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts
I’d argue that a Louisville Christmas would be incomplete without seeing “The Nutcracker.” The Louisville Ballet always puts on an excellent production of this eternal classic, and the tunes are inextricably connected to the holiday season anyway. I don’t get out to see ballet as often as I’d like to, but “The Nutcracker” is always unmissable. — Carolyn Brown
Saturday, Dec. 9
Louisville, Lexington, Nashville
The holiday season can sometimes feel structured and redundant, like you’re getting pulled in several directions, not many of which you actually want to be heading. That’s why throwing a wild and weird event into the mix is nice, and SantaCon certainly qualifies. The yearly event is a bar crawl where people dress up as Santa and other holiday characters while raising money for charity. The owners call the event “a charitable, non-commercial, non-political, nonsensical Santa Claus convention that happens once a year for absolutely no reason whatsoever.” And that’s the magic of it. SantaCon has a cult following and generally hits a solid string of bars.
The starting location will be announced the day before the event. But the details don’t actually matter much — just buy the ticket, grab a costume, and take the ride.—Scott Recker
Road Trip Events
50 Days of Lights
French Lick Resort, Indiana
Nov. 11 – Jan. 7
Prices vary from free to hotel reservation required
Seriously, if you’re going to do holidays at a resort, French Lick does it big. With two tree lightings (one at French Lick Hotel and the other at West Baden), Santa’s Workshops, storytimes, drive-in movies, holiday light shows, and letters to Santa, and so much more, this event goes all out for the holiday season. 50 Days of Lights has something for everyone in the family. Oh yes, there are carolers dressed in Dickensian-style clothing. —Erica Rucker
The House on the Rock
Spring Green, Wisconsin
Nov. 16-Dec. 31
Wisconsin is an especially beautiful place during the winter months, and in Spring Green, Wisconsin, you can visit an attraction like nothing else in the whole country. Alex Jordan’s The House on the Rock is an eccentric wonderland with warehouses full of random collections that create a demented, one-of-a-kind atmosphere.
For the Christmas season, the House is decorated in 6000+ Santa Clauses, placed in the original house and its Infinity Room and throughout the Streets of Yesterday. Some exhibits are off limits during the Christmas season, but the House’s most impressive feature is the tour’s finale – the World’s Largest Carousel. Populated with animals, mythical creatures, and historic figures, the giant moving playground is watched over by hundreds of human-sized angels hanging from the ceiling.
Though the Santas aren’t quite as otherworldly as the rotating mermaids, or the halls of automatons, just by keeping the giant squid and whale company, they add a festive air to the other-worldly ambiance.
Spring Green, WI, is also the hometown to another eccentric genius Frank Lloyd Wright, and visiting his home and school Taliesin is quite the companion experience for The House on the Rock! —Tracy Heightchew
Saturday, Nov. 18 through Jan. 6
In its seventh year, the Winterlights event at Newfields in Indy just keeps getting bigger and better. This year, they’ve added 700 feet of new pathways called the Twinkling Trail, a giant ornament photo booth, and more. There will be the usual s’mores from the Girl Scouts and so many other fun, family-friendly activities.
Each year, Winterlights features more than 1 million lights and a light display in front of the Eli Lilly House set to music. This year, there is a new score created for the light display at the Lilly House recorded by the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra.
The base admission is $24, and there are plenty of food and drink items for purchase, as well as add-ons like blinky lights and snowflake glasses. There are two experience passes: the Premier Package and the Winter Wonder pass. Each of these includes specific upgrades for your Winterlights enjoyment. —Erica Rucker