The Kentucky Derby is home to the most exciting two minutes in sports, with race fans arriving in Louisville from all over the world on the first Saturday in May to experience this thrilling 2km Grade I race for themselves. Whether that’s partying the day away with thousands of others on the infield, or taking in the race from reserved seating, it’s one of the most electrifying weekends of the year. Why not share in the legendary feats of the Derby by donning your most spectacular hat or sit back and enjoy a bowl of one of Louisville’s age-old traditional dishes – there’s an abundance of things to see and do to enhance your exciting weekend at this legendary event.
Thunder Over Louisville
Those who are hitting Louisville a week or two ahead of the Derby will have the chance to catch one of the largest firework displays in North America. The annual kickoff event, entitled Thunder Over Louisville, takes place on April 21st and sets the tone for Derby celebrations. The show lasts 28 minutes from 9.30pm to 10pm and goes ahead every year regardless of weather conditions.
Derby Hat Parade
The one accessory you’ll be sure to see at the Derby? Hats! And plenty of them. The display is so impressive it’s resulted in the Derby becoming dubbed the ‘Derby Hat Parade’. Traditionally, only women donned the hats, but in recent years men have been known to put their spin on the trend too. The Derby is the one time of year you can make a bold statement with your headwear and spectators tend to go above and beyond. The sea of hats isn’t surprising since wearing a hat is believed to bring good luck to the wearer – and if you’re planning to bet on a horse, you might need all the luck you can get!
You can’t watch the Kentucky Derby and not have a mint julep in hand. The refreshing drink of choice for Derby goers contains bourbon, mint and sugar syrup and is almost as famous as the Derby itself. Over 100,000 mint juleps will be poured over the weekend and served up in a souvenir-style glass cup. If you’re feeling like splashing out and helping to raise money for charity in the process, you can purchase a mint julep for $1,000 made from premium ingredients. It’s the ultimate in trackside luxury.
The Derby can be a long day and if you’re starting to feel peckish, look no further than a heartwarming bowl of burgoo. Burgoo is a spicy age-old Louisville dish similar to Irish Stew with meat and vegetables and will keep you full all day long. Our top tip? Fill up on a good bowl of Burgoo before sipping a few mint juleps.
The end of the Derby is always a little bittersweet. Your weekend is over, your horse has either won or lost, and your hat is looking a bit worse for wear. But there’s one last thing to see before it’s over – the winning horse draped in roses. The rose garland has been a long-standing tradition at the Kentucky Derby and came to give the race its nickname ‘the run for the roses’. The garland is made up of over 400 roses and is a truly breathtaking display and unforgettable moment.