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Every year, our guests ask for tips and tricks for making the most out of their Kentucky Derby experience in Louisville, KY. This includes what to wear, how to get tickets and what to expect. Here, we’ll share some top Kentucky Derby tips plus our favorite mint julep recipe and some Kentucky Derby party essentials.

When is the Kentucky Derby?

The Kentucky Derby is always held the first Saturday in May in Louisville, Kentucky at Churchill Downs. The 2020 Kentucky Derby will be the 146th time the “Run for the Roses” horse race has occurred. The race itself takes off around 6:50 p.m. EST but be sure to watch all day for great horse racing! The next Kentucky Derby is Saturday, May 2, 2020.

The day before the Kentucky Derby is another important day. The Kentucky Oaks horse race celebrates the top three year old fillies (female horses) and is attended by nearly as many people as the Derby itself. It is traditional to wear pink on Oaks Day for breast cancer awareness.

How much does it cost to go to the Kentucky Derby?

VIP Car to Kentucky DerbyBuying a ticket to the Kentucky Derby can be costly. Prices range from general admission tickets for the Infield start at $60 but you could spend thousands of dollars per ticket for suites and select seating, if you can find it. More expensive seating is also grouped into a full suite or box, so bring friends!

Also keep in mind that Louisville is jam-packed with people attending the iconic horse races, so hotels and restaurants reservations should be made well in advance and will cost significantly more than any other weekend of the year. For example, it costs $3 for a general admission ticket to Churchill Downs on nearly any other race day.

Mint Julep Experiences offers VIP transportation services for Kentucky Derby day along with Oaks Day, Thurby (the Thursday before Derby) and any other time. For rates and availability, call us at 502-583-1433 or fill out our online request form. Plan ahead, some vehicles and specialty tours sell out months in advance.

What do you wear to the Kentucky Derby?

A Derby hat is a must. Pick a wide-brimmed hat with feathers and bows or a simple fascinator to fit in. Hats of all sizes and shapes are celebrated for men and women ranging from elegant to eccentric. Much of the seating for the Derby is uncovered, so a large hat can also be practical staying cool during the long day outside. Women often wear spring colors and festive dresses. Men will be in southern seersucker or sharply tailored suits. If you’re in the Infield, prepare for a messy experience – mud boots may be more practical than heels.

What to serve at a Kentucky Derby Party?

Mint Julep Derby Food TourTraditional Kentucky Derby party recipes include bourbon balls, benedictine dip, pimento cheese and biscuits, and, of course, mint juleps! A cocktail so iconic we named our company after it, the mint julep is a Derby tradition made with bourbon, simple syrup and fresh mint leaves. Mix it up with a mint julep bar of syrups, fruits, herbs and more for your guests to mix their own creations.

Make Our Best Mint Julep Recipe

What are the best things to do in Louisville during Kentucky Derby season?

Louisville starts celebrating the Kentucky Derby with a festival more than two weeks before the big race. While the horse race is only 2 minutes long, the party lasts nearly all month! Kentucky Derby Festival top events include Thunder Over Louisville (a massive fireworks show), Great Steamboat Race and the Chow Wagon.

More Spring Events in Louisville

Mint Julep Experiences offers special Derby Week tours each year visiting Kentucky bourbon distilleries and horse farms. Plan your trip to Louisville to include time for a Bourbon Country, Horse Country or Best of Kentucky tour!

Read About the Best Horse That Never Ran the Derby


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About the Author – Rachel Nix

Rachel Goldenberg - Mint Julep ExperiencesRachel Nix has been Director of Marketing at Mint Julep since 2017. Her extensive bourbon education includes becoming an Executive Bourbon Steward through the Stave & Thief Society and graduating from Woodford Reserve’s Bourbon Academy. She is a Certified Tourism Ambassador and enthusiastic advocate for her adopted hometown of Louisville. When she’s not promoting Mint Julep’s portfolio of southern experiences, she can be found walking her dog or enjoying a drink on a Germantown patio.

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