If you’re in Louisville for the Kentucky Derby, you may find yourself overwhelmed with all the things to see and do during the city’s biggest and most anticipated event. After many years of experience, we’ve nailed down our best pieces of advice for anyone attending.
What to Wear
One of the highlights of Derby is dressing up in a fashionable dress, fancy heels and a great hat. Our best tip: bring a pair of flip-flops or ballet flats to change into later in the day. After a day of walking between the paddock, spectator seating and the refreshment areas, your feet will thank you.
Check out the Paddock Area
This large, open space is a place to see and be seen, and visitors can get surprisingly close to the horses as they’re paraded through the paddock pre-race. It’s also a great location to photograph the spectacular hats and colorful outfits of the spectators.
For those hoping for a celebrity sighting, check out the Derby Red Carpet at Churchill Downs’ Gate 10, where many celebrities will walk on their way up to their VIP seats. If you want to get even closer to the celebs, you may want to consider attending the Barnstable Brown Gala, the most exclusive event of the weekend.
VIP Seating Options
Speaking of VIP seating, those seats aren’t just for celebrities. If you want the ultimate Derby experience, we can arrange for a spot for you in one of the premium viewing areas including Millionaires Row, the Turf Club, the Finish Line Suites Balcony, and the Stakes Room. If you simply want to make sure you have a covered seat to protect you from the elements, our team can advise on which sections will best suit your needs.
Food and Drink
No visit to Louisville would be complete without two things: sipping a mint julep and having a hot brown: an open-faced sandwich with sliced turkey, bacon and mornay sauce. As far as we’re concerned, there’s no better place to try your first mint julep than at Churchill Downs during the Kentucky Derby. As for the Hot Brown, we suggest trying the original at the historic Brown Hotel, one of our luxury properties.
A popular event with locals, Thursday at Churchill Downs (aptly named Thurby) offers a different experience than Friday or Saturday. There are races of course but there are also musical performances and other entertainment acts. Thurby also provides guests with a great opportunity to explore Churchill Downs.
For more information on how to make the most of your time in Louisville for the Kentucky Derby, download our Louisville Travel Guide.