It’s no secret that the Kentucky Derby® is one of the most elite horse races in the country and draws in quite the crowd. Plenty of old and new horse racing fans have “attending the Kentucky Derby” on their bucket list with the dream of crossing it off. But what exactly do you need to know about attending the Derby? We’re glad you asked!
This guide is here to help you navigate Kentucky Derby weekend like a pro. We’re going to prep you to plan ahead and be prepared so when you arrive at Churchill Downs® you know exactly where to be and what to do in order to have the ultimate Kentucky Derby experience!
Take a look at seven things first time Kentucky Derby attendees should know:
1. You Can’t Celebrate the Kentucky Derby Without the Kentucky Oaks!
First things first: “Derby Day” is just a portion of the Kentucky Derby weekend! One of the big things that first time attendees forget is that the Kentucky Oaks is run the day before!
Just like the Kentucky Derby, the Kentucky Oaks is a Grade I race with one exception: While the Derby can be run by colts, geldings and fillies, the Oaks is just for fillies. It’s historically held at Churchill Downs the day before the Derby and the grandstands are flooded with pink!
Why pink? The Kentucky Oaks, or the “Race for the Lilies,” is partners with the Susan G. Komen for the Cure and Horses and Hope, so the Survivor’s parade precedes the race. It’s a wonderful cause to be a part of, and since Derby Experiences' Official Ticket Packages include a ticket to Oaks Day, you’ll be able to experience this spectacular event!
2. Massive Crowds = Plan Ahead
As previously mentioned, the Kentucky Derby draws in a huge crowd! On race day, Churchill Downs is known to host over 100,000 people! Think about all that traffic and parking congestion! And sure, some of those people are from the surrounding area, but think of all the travelers coming into town that need lodging!
With Derby Experiences’ Official Ticket Packages, transportation and accommodations are included in your package. This eliminates the hassle of having to find your own hotel in Louisville and takes away the stress of renting a car, driving in traffic, paying to park and finding a parking space. It’s that simple!
3. Packing a Tailgate? Not Happening.
One of the great things that fans look forward to with the Kentucky Derby is the tailgating! However, because of the copious amounts of people inside the facility on race days, Churchill Downs does not allow coolers, cans, grills, alcoholic beverages or large bags brought in from outside the track. These items must be acquired from inside.
So what would a Kentucky Derby expert do? Get an Official Ticket Package! Instead of just a ticket, an Official Ticket Package includes access to an exclusive hospitality venue – aka the ultimate Derby tailgate! Inside you’ll find a premium open bar or cash bar, depending on what hospitality area you are in, and a complimentary buffet of gourmet food!
4. Be Prepared for the Kentucky Elements!
May weather is unpredictable in Kentucky. On May 1 and 2, it could be beautiful and sunny, rainy and chilly, or super hot! There’s no way of predicting the forecast that far in advance. The one thing that could make you look like a big Kentucky Derby rookie is not preparing for the elements!
Now, if you’re like us, you don’t want to carry around a jacket, cooler clothes or a poncho “just in case” because you’ll be outside all day. The solution? Exclusive hospitality access!
Inside the hospitality area you’ll find an escape from the Kentucky elements. You’ll be able to relax under cover and in air conditioning, and take a breather from the noise and crowds inside Churchill Downs. And since the hospitality areas are inside the track and close to your seats, you don’t have to wander around the huge facility to find your escape; it’s just a few short steps away.
5. “It’s the Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports!” Two Minutes… Literally.
The Kentucky Derby is commonly referred to as “The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports” because that’s approximately how long it takes for the thoroughbreds to run the 1 ¼ mile track. So what do you do the rest of the day? Hang out with your group, tailgate, place wagers on the horses and watch all the pre-race festivities on the track!
With an Official Ticket Package, you’ll have premium access inside your hospitality area with TV coverage of all the pre-race activities so you won’t miss a beat. The hospitality venue also holds wagering stations so you can place your best bets on your horse.
Celebrity jockeys and celebrities also make appearances inside the hospitality venues so you’ll be entertained all day - not just for the two minutes of race time!
The Kentucky Derby is known for the raging parties it throws – that’s half the reason it draws in so many Hollywood stars! With Derby Experiences, we can get you into the biggest parties where you can meet and mingle with A-list celebrities while enjoying the incredible entertainment line-ups!
For Example, Derby Experiences is hosting its annual Fillies & Lilies Party on Kentucky Oaks night!
Mix and mingle with the stars while enjoying heavy hors d’eouvres, a premium open bar and a complimentary bourbon lounge.
7. Don’t Forget to Experience Louisville
Louisville is such an exciting city! While you’re in town for the Kentucky Derby, don’t forget to pack in the Louisville experience with delicious foods, tours and we can’t forget… bourbon!
Whether you’re in the market for traditional comfort foods or looking for a place that will get you that Kentucky taste, Louisville has something for your pallet! And the best part is that since the best restaurants will be full with reservations during Kentucky Derby week, Derby Experiences can help you reserve your place at some of the best eats in town!
And if you’re looking to experience something that Kentucky and Louisville is known for, you’ve got to try the bourbon! Tour bourbon distilleries and taste the flavors or wet your whistle at one of the local bars!
Something else to take advantage of? Tours! It’s time to see what Louisville is all about! Tour horse farms and learn how the breeding and training of race horses takes place, or take advantage of Churchill Downs tours! See the behind-the-scenes of prepping for the Derby and see some of the Derby and Oaks contenders up close before they run in “the most exciting two minutes in sports!”
Now That You’re an Expert, Go to the 2020 Kentucky Derby!
What are you waiting for! It’s Kentucky Derby time! We can hook you up with Official Ticket Packages that can get you unparalleled access inside Churchill Downs for both the 146th Kentucky Oaks and the Kentucky Derby!