We’ve tracked down great Derby tips from seasoned attendees and added important updates this year, because we want YOU to have all the tools you need before hitting the track. Want to know where to go for the after party? Check out our top picks this week and get ready to Derby up!
1. Wear comfortable shoes. If you purchase new shoes for the track, make sure to break them in before the big day. Wear them around the house, in your underwear if you like, we won’t judge (WINK). Insoles are a great addition. If you are wearing heels, stuff a pair of flip flops or flats in your purse. We promise, you’ll thank us later.
2. Bring cash. As they say, cash is king and also helps keep you accountable. Determine your budget for the day and bring only that amount in cash. Also bring a credit card in case of emergencies, and no that 10th Mint Julep is not an emergency. Stick to your budget when eating, drinking, and betting.
3. Eat before you head to the track. The track doesn’t have great options for food, so grab brunch at one of our many fine local establishments ahead of time. Here’s a few of our favs: Silver Dollar, Toast on Market, Harvest, Con Huevos, Gralehaus, North End Cafe. If you plan to drink, eat a meal with some sustenance and drink plenty of water.
4. Plan your Driving Route and Parking. There are many different ways to get down to the track and many different parking options. The Kentucky Derby website provides general directions. Below is a map (courtesy of Churchill Downs) of the parking locations around the track. If you park outside of the designated parking areas, be prepared to walk (another reminder to wear comfortable shoes).
5. Purchase a program. The programs not only tell you what horses are racing, but also provides helpful betting tips. These are well worth the money. And don’t forget to throw a pen or pencil in your bag so you can mark down your picks. Want to bet and look like a pro? Be sure to read our New2Horseracing betting tips before you head to the track.
6. Review the list of banned items before heading to the track. Even if you’ve attended Kentucky Derby in years past, it’s always a good thing to review the latest list before you head out the door. The list of items can change and you certainly don’t want to make the long trek back to the car. We’ve included a link to the full list of permitted and banned items and recent updates below for your convenience:
- COOLERS (Styrofoam coolers, ice available at infield purchase points)
- CANS (any size or type), glass bottles or containers
- POP UP OR PATRON TENTS – no poles or stakes of any kind
- Laptop computers or camcorders (not sure who would bring these, but whatev)
- CAMERAS with detachable lenses, or equipped with a lens that is 6” or longer
- PURSES larger than 12” in any dimension
- FIREWORKS, noisemakers, air horns, laser lights/pointers, mace or pepper sprays
- SELFIE STICKS
- REMOTE CONTROLLED AIRCRAFT
7. Pack food for the track. Churchill downs allows folks to bring food to the track as long as food items are in clear plastic bags (max size 18″ x 18″). Have fun with this, treat it like a picnic. Finger foods work best and pimento sandwiches are a local favorite. You can also bring a Derby approved box lunch to the track and we’ve picked a few great options for you: Wiltshire Pantry, Stevens and Stevens, Blue Dog, The Cheddar Box, Farm to Fork, Lotsa Pasta, and Crave Cafe.
8. Pick a designated driver or arrange for transportation. We all know this, but there is nothing wrong with a little reminder. Do not drink and drive. There are plenty of options if you or someone in your party does not want to be the DD. Public transportation TARC, Miller Transportation, Shuttles (prices vary by location), Yellow Cab, ride in style with R & R Limousine, or snatch up one the latest techie transportation additions to our fine city: Uber or Lyft. Be sure to plan ahead for transportation, because 100,000+ people will also be looking for transportation after the races.
9. Plan for changes in weather. When we first moved here, locals told us “don’t like the weather, wait 5 minutes” and it’s true. The weather can change at a moments notice so it’s best to be prepared for rain or shine. Bring a rain jacket (or poncho), sunglasses, sunscreen, and large clear plastic bag to protect your hat or fascinator in case it rains. But don’t bring an umbrella (a prohibited item) unless you plan to donate it to Churchill Downs.
10. Visit the infield. Purchase a general admission ticket (or any other ticket for that matter) and you’ll have access to the paddock area, Gate 10 corridor and infield. The tamer, family-friendly section of the infield is on the first turn (to the right as you head out of the tunnel). If you are up for a real adventure, head to the final turn where there is some serious partying going on.
And there you have it folks, our top tips. If you have any tips or recommendations, please share them with us! And Happy Derby Y’all!