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Weekend Guide To The Kentucky Derby

The Kentucky Derby is one sporting event that everyone should attend at least once in their lifetime. This event is more than just a horse race, it is an experience and an adventure. There are many different activities planned around the Derby, including parades, fireworks, parties and much more. This is definitely one sporting event that is like no other you have ever attended before.
Photo Credit: Elsa/Getty Images Photo Credit: Elsa/Getty Images

The Kentucky Derby is hosted at Churchill Downs in Louisville on the first Saturday of May. This event attractions more than 150,000 spectators, guests and party goes every year. Cost of admission starts at $30 per person for general admission and goes as high as $3,400 for the Luxury Trackside Club. The price for tickets will vary upon the seats, days and experiences you are looking for. General admission will get you into the paddock or the infield areas, which means, if there is standing room only, you can enter the area.

What To Expect

Your experience at the Kentucky Derby will be unlike that of any other sporting event. You will find unique activities throughout the event featuring everything from fashion to food and beverages to betting. This event attracts more than 150,000 people who gather to watch one of the "greatest bucket-list sporting events" in the country. With so many people gathering at Churchill Downs, you will want to make sure you arrive early to find a parking spot. Parking is limited and there are not enough spaces to accommodate all of the people expected to attend. If you have to park elsewhere, you can take advantage of shuttle services that run continuously to designated parking locations, or just opt to take a taxi from your hotel.

Related: Best Places To Watch the Kentucky Derby In LA

Photo Credit: Elsa/Getty Images Photo Credit: Elsa/Getty Images
Festival Guide

It may only last approximately two minutes, but the party that celebrates the Kentucky Derby Festival lasts all month long. Celebrating both spring and the Derby, the Kentucky Derby Festival offers fun and excitement for the entire family. This is the time to celebrate everything associated with the Derby when more than 1.5 million people gather to celebrate.

The festival is a chance to celebrate the derby and beautiful spring weather. Some festivities planned include Thunder Over Louisville (A fireworks display), half and full marathons, hot-air balloons, The Great Steamboat Race on the Ohio River, The Pegasus Parade and much more. Other festivities expected during the Kentucky Derby Festival include concerts, wine-tasting events and cocktail hours that are pet-friendly.


There are a variety of food vendors at the Kentucky Derby, making it possible to find something to eat easily. You will find an assortment of menu options, including pizza, chicken tenders, hamburgers and turkey legs. If you prefer, you can pack a lunch in a plastic, clear bag or container and bring it in with you. You will also find a few bars throughout the venue, serving up both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. Just make sure that you at least try a Mint Julip before the Derby is over.

Related: What You're Drinking: Best Kentucky Derby Inspired Cocktails In LA

What To Wear

For some, the Kentucky Derby is one big fashion show. Everyone who attends the event gets dressed up in their finest attire and shows off their new spring outfits. You are sure to see some of the finest spring fashions at the Derby. Both men and women dress according to what they plan to do the day of the Derby. For example, those sitting in the grandstands, staying in the clubhouse or enjoying a suite or corporate hospitality area tend to get dressed up a little bit more.

Women will wear spring dresses and pastel colored suites. Don't forget the hat. This is a Kentucky Derby tradition and sets the event apart from any other sporting event. In fact, wearing a hat to the Derby is believed to bring good luck.

The Kentucky Derby is an excuse for men to get dressed up and just as decked out as the ladies. Modern day men get to experiment with a bright and unparalleled color palette. This includes anything that is bright and bold in both stripes and plaid. Don't forget the matching jacket that will help complete your fashion statement and, just like the ladies, men tend to wear fedoras or bowler hats.

Louisville And More

If you plan on staying in Louisville, you will find plenty of things to do throughout the area. There will be many events themed around the Kentucky Derby and some other completely unrelated to the big event. The Louisville area is home to a thriving arts and culture that offers plenty of things to do for just about everyone visiting the area. Some activities you can enjoy include theatre productions, historic sites, gallery shows, museum exhibitions and a variety of workshops and seminars.

Some of the must-see things in Louisville include:


There are some things you will want to remember to help make your experience at the Kentucky Derby the best it can be. Here are some of the top tips to keep in mind when planning your trip to the Derby:

  • Do not wear high heels
  • Bring a lot of cash
  • Arrive early
  • Purchase tickets for admission in advance
  • Bring and use plenty of sunscreen
  • Bring a sharpie and purchase a program to keep notes on
  • If you plan on betting on the Derby, do it well before the Derby
  • Leave either before the Derby ends or wait awhile for crowds to disperse after it is over
  • Try not to drink too much
  • Bring a poncho, because umbrellas are not allowed
  • Bring everything you need with you because re-entry is not allowed

Celebrate spring and everything Kentucky Derby related this year in the Louisville area. This is one event you do not want to miss. Those planning to experience the Derby will have access to parties, events, races, food, alcohol and anything else imaginable to make this sporting event a celebration of a lifetime.

Heather Landon (Heather Leigh Carroll) is a freelance writer with more than 20 years of experience. She has combined two of her passions - writing and travel - to share her experiences with others. You can read more of her articles at
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