Planning a Trip to the Kentucky Derby: What You Need to Know

Kentucky Derby

The Kentucky Derby is just around the corner. This massive sporting event draws in crowds from all across the country every year. People come to dress up, place bets, and have a good time. If you’re planning to attend Kentucky Derby this year, make sure you read up on all our important tips first! These 8 things will have you prepared for the run for the roses.

1. It’s a Week-Long Affair

Most people who have never been to the Kentucky Derby assume it’s just a weekend event, but there’s actually something called Derby Week. Derby Week includes entertainment, dinners, and events leading up to the big weekend. So, if you want to make the most of your trip, make sure you read up on the schedule and come a little early to get the full experience. 

A crowd at the annual Kentucky Derby
Via @derbyexperiences on Instagram

2. Book Your Flights Early

The Kentucky Derby is one of the state’s biggest events of the year. If you know you’re going, try to book your flights as early as possible. Leaving the booking too late can mean you pay twice as much!

An American Airlines plane in the air

3. Only Buy Your Tickets From the Official Site

Many people resell Kentucky Derby tickets online, but you have to be aware that you could end up with fake tickets if you buy from a stranger. Only buy your tickets through the official website. If you’re interested in purchasing packages that include experiences, accommodations, and more with your tickets, book these through the official Derby partner – Derby Experiences. 

A crowd of people enjoying themselves at the Kentucky Derby event.
Via @derbyexperiences on Instagram

4. Have Fun With the Fashion

The Kentucky Derby is just as much about fashion as horse racing. Take this opportunity to dress up and wear something fun, colorful, and even over-the-top. 

For ladies, wearing a simple summer dress is ideal. Your clothing doesn’t have to be extravagant because it’s all about the hat. Make your hat the priority. It should be the first part of your outfit that you find, so you can choose a dress that matches the hat. Your outfit should play second place to whatever fabulous hat you get for the Derby. 

Men also have an opportunity to have some fashion fun. Many men choose to wear bold colors and patterns and wear a blazer or sports coat, dress pants, and nice shoes. 

A woman in an oversized black and pink hat.
Via @derbyexperiences on Instagram

5. Place a Bet (Or Two)

You don’t have to necessarily bet when at the Kentucky Derby – but we strongly encourage it! It helps you get into the spirit of the event and have some extra fun. And who knows – you might even win big!

If you’re uncertain about how to bet, the official program guide has a section that walks you through the process. 

A couple looking over the betting playbook at the Kentucky Derby
Via @kentuckyderby on Instagram

6. Have a Mint Julep 

People in Kentucky love a good, strong drink. The Mint Julep has been the traditional beverage served at the Kentucky Derby for several decades. This simple bourbon-based cocktail includes powdered sugar, water, and mint leaves. It’s wonderfully light and refreshing on a hot day and is the perfect treat as you get enthralled in the races. 

A tray of mint julep drinks
Via @derbyexperiences on Instagram

7. Think About Parking or Transportation Ahead of Time

The Kentucky Derby has over 150,000 attendees, so getting into and out of the venue is a little hectic. If you’re planning to drive, make sure you arrive early. Many people who live close to the Derby offer up paid parking spots in their driveways, and some of these can be reasonably priced. The other option, of course, is to take a Lyft or Uber in, but expect surge pricing during the Derby. Lastly, if you’re with a big enough group, it might be cost-effective (and fun) to just split a limo ride. 

Horses racing on the track at the Kentucky Derby
Via @kentuckyderby on Instagram

8. Bring Cash

You’ll find plenty of ATMs around the Kentucky Derby venues, but these typically have long lines. Save yourself some time and bring cash to purchase food, drinks, and place bets. 

Pro Tip: Speaking of placing bets, you are not allowed to place bets with a credit card, so cash or debit will be your only option. 

Woman holding American cash

And the most important tip of all is to remember to have fun, take some pictures, and make some memories!