4 Tours You Should Experience on Kentucky Derby® Weekend

Posted by Carolynn Wilcox on Mon, Dec 28, 2015


Derby weekend is one of the most fantastic weekends in the world of sports, there’s no disputing that fact.  The Kentucky Derby itself is arguably the richest and most historic event in American history, and as the surrounding areas have grown up, they’ve etched Kentucky’s name into the history books as well for its role in shaping the horse racing industry.

Aside from horse racing, what else is Kentucky known for?  Bourbon – well, true bourbon, that is.  Bourbon doesn’t technically have to be made within the state of Kentucky in order to be called bourbon, but Kentucky was the birthplace of bourbon and is also where the majority of top bourbon distilleries are still located.

If you want to be immersed in the Kentucky culture over the course of the Derby weekend and learn more about Kentucky’s role in shaping the horse racing and bourbon industries, we’ve got you covered.  These four tours come with exclusive access to a number of locations, including Churchill Downs and Keeneland as well as area stud farms and bourbon distilleries!

Bourbon Distillery Tour

Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, or Sunday

For more than 200 years, Kentucky’s legendary distilleries have crafted the world’s finest bourbons, using secret recipes and a time-honored process passed down from generation to generation.  Discover the art and science of the Master Distiller, savor the distinct, mellow flavor, and see how Kentucky’s perfect natural mix of weather and pure limestone water produces the classic taste and deep amber color of your favorite spirit!

Enjoy a full day tour of a legendary Kentucky bourbon distillery!

Maker’s Mark *

Maker's Mark is aged for around 6 to 7 1/2 years, being bottled and marketed only when expert tasters agree that it’s ready.  Maker's Mark is one of the few distillers to rotate the barrels from the upper to the lower levels of the aging warehouses during the aging process to benefit from the differences in temperature during the process.  A tasting of bourbons will be served!

Heaven Hill Distilleries, Inc. *

Heaven Hill Distilleries, Inc. was founded by the Shapira family in Bardstown, Kentucky shortly after Prohibition ended in the United States.  According to industry analysts, Heaven Hill is now the seventh largest spirits supplier in the United States and is the second largest holder of aging bourbon in the world with an inventory in excess of 800,000 barrels.


* Actual distillery locations subject to change.

Bourbon Distillery Tour

Private Horse Farm Tour

Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, or Sunday

This fun and informative tour takes you through the heart and soul of Kentucky's famous Bluegrass horse country.  See a world-class private farm that is home to current and future Derby stars and studs.  Tour the ivy covered grounds of Keeneland, which also happens to be home to the planet's most expensive horse auction.  Take a peek at the horse farm lifestyle as you go behind the scenes to explore a working horse farm and visit with their famous stallions.

You’ll be taken inside the plank fences and down the shady lanes of central Kentucky.  You’ll see retired racehorses, in-foal broodmares, weanlings, yearlings, and newborn foals.  You’ll also have an opportunity to walk through the ultra-modern barns – but you won't have to clean a single stall!  In addition to touring a stallion barn, you’ll also tour Keeneland Race Course, a National Historic Landmark which serves as both a racing facility and the world’s leading Thoroughbred auction house! 

Check out the sample farm destinations below, and click here for a complete list of locations!

Ashford Stud *

Ashford Stud is home to the best young sires in America, a roster that includes the 2015 unofficial “Grand Slam” of horse racing winner American Pharoah!  Other noteworthy stallions at this stable include 2000 Kentucky Derby winner, Fusaichi Pegasus, as well as 1995 Derby winner, Thunder Gulch, and Giant's Causeway, a multiple graded stakes winner in Europe with a $300,000 stud fee.


WinStar Farm *

WinStar Farm's expansive 1,700 acre property is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and has bred a long list of successful racehorses that includes 2010 Kentucky Derby Winner, Super Saver.  The farm is also home to 3-time sire of the year, Distorted Humor, and 2-time Breeders’ Cup Classic Winner, Tiznow.  WinStar Farm houses and trains stallions, broodmares, foals and yearlings. 

* Actual horse farm locations subject to change.

Private Horse Farm Tour

The Best of Kentucky

Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, or Sunday

Spend the morning traveling through the scenic hillsides of Bluegrass country to an award-winning Thoroughbred stallion farm – here, you’ll be able to visit with world-famous stallions and watch the grooms at work as they care for the horses.  En route, you’ll have the opportunity to see multiple horse farms that are home to previous Derby champs and those that are yet to come.

After stopping for lunch at a local eatery, you’ll tour the Buffalo Trace Distillery*, an establishment that dates back more than 200 years and was recently named to the National Historic Register.  It stands on the site of an ancient buffalo trace that served as a pathway across the Kentucky River.  Buffalo Trace has won more international awards in the last decade than any other distillery, and Blanton’s, the first single-barrel bourbon, is made there!  A tasting of bourbons will be served.

* Actual distillery location subject to change.


The Best of Kentucky

Backstretch Tour at Dawn at Churchill Downs®

Thursday or Friday

There’s no experience quite like the rare chance to spend a morning on the backstretch at Churchill Downs, where you can discover the magic of Thoroughbred racing at the “World’s Most Legendary Racetrack.”  This tour is exclusive to Derby Experiences’ clients and will take you behind the scenes of Churchill Downs!  

You’ll begin your walking tour at Gate 5, where you’ll be met by your tour guide and will have a chance to see the horses out on the track for their morning training before you go to the stables.  There, you’ll be able to get up close and personal with the horses as well as their owners, trainers, and jockeys.

The tour will conclude with a boxed breakfast in the Horseman’s Kitchen.  Be sure to bring your cameras, because you’ll never come this close to the Oaks and Derby contenders and their connections again!


Backstretch Tour at Dawn at Churchill Downs

2016 Kentucky Derby Official Ticket Packages

Want to learn more about the multitude of options that Official Ticket Packages with Derby Experiences offer you?  Click below to see more details on 2016 Kentucky Derby packages!

View 2016 Kentucky Derby Ticket Packages