When I attended the Kentucky Derby earlier in the month, I received a flurry of questions about attending the event. Everything from how to get tickets to where to stay and what to do in Kentucky. I would definitely recommend adding it to your holiday list. I had such a fun time being there, and I would love to head back again. Next year is the 150th anniversary of this iconic race, so if you’re thinking of going, it’s the perfect time to plan a visit! Here’s what you need to know…
How to get tickets
You can do everything online. Just visit Derby150.com to book your tickets. I’ve also been told that there’s a sweepstake running for the chance to win a Kentucky Derby Trip of a Lifetime. You would receive tickets, travel and accommodation, a paddock visit and race day experience, option to walk the red carpet, tickets to one of the galas and more, so definitely enter!
What you need to know about attending
The Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks are all-inclusive events that include beverages and dining on both days for all ticketholders except General Admission.
If you’re looking to have a more luxe experience, there are a variety of more upmarket clubs to elevate your time attending Derby and Oaks. I’ve been told that next year there will be two brand new luxury clubs, the Woodford Reserve Paddock Club and the 1895 Club. The Woodford Reserve Paddock Club is a luxury club with tables to accommodate 2,4,6, or 8 guests and upscale amenities while the 1895 Club offers a Curated Chef’s table buffet and private amenities. The First Turn Club Offers a front row seat to the racing and the famous Kentucky Derby Walkover, where contenders and their connections parade along the track from the barn area to the Paddock prior to the big race.
Where to stay
This is where I was hosted during my stay and it was lovely. It’s a luxury hotel centrally located in downtown Louisville, close to Main Street. It’s a great place to be based if you want to check out the city’s bourbon culture and popular distilleries on Whisky Row.
If you’re an art lover, this hotel is the one for you. Located in downtown Louisville on historic West Main Street, along Museum Row, 21c Museum Hotel is a contemporary art museum and award-winning 91-room boutique hotel. It’s also home to the acclaimed Proof on Main restaurant.
The Galt House Hotel overlooks the waterfront of downtown Louisville (and is the only hotel in the area near the water). It is the largest hotel in Kentucky and it dates back to the 1800s.
A Louisville Landmark since 1923, the Brown Hotel is where the traditional Kentucky dish, the Hot Brown, was born. The Brown Hotel is such a beautiful grand feel to it with its Georgian-Revival elegance and timeless Southern charm.
Where to eat
My advice: get a reservation where you can in advance. Over 250,000 guests head to Churchill Down for the Oaks and Derby, so restaurants can get packed.
If you’re looking for good eats, explore Nulu – East Market Street which is a cute, walkable area near the downtown area with shops, restaurants, bars. Try Biscuit Belly which is a popular biscuits (equivalent to our scones) and brunch spot. La Bodeguita De Mima Cuban Restaurant and Rum Bar serves classic Cuban cuisine & cocktails served in a bright, lively locale with a leafy outdoor patio. If you’re after genuine southern fare and brick oven pies, definitely check out Garage Bar.
For other restaurants in the area, try Jeff Rubys which is a nationally acclaimed steak house. Grab a drink at Nouvelle which is neighbourhood wine bar or for an upmarket take on traditional southern food, try Jack Fry’s which is a high end American restaurant. Sapporo Grill & Sushi is a locally owned, family-friendly restaurant that showcases beautiful quality fish and modern interpretations of traditional Japanese cuisine. Also, add Merle’s Whiskey Kitchen to your must-eat list – this restaurant features an award-winning menu of Southern/American cuisine and hand-crafted cocktails.
What to see
Take a tour on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. Louisville is home to 7 of the 43 bourbon distilleries on the tour. Check out the Old Forester – the bourbon used for the classic Mint Julep. If you’re a sports fan, pay a visit to the Louisville Slugger Museum – this museum showcases the story of Louisville Slugger baseball bats in baseball and in American history. Also, definitely pay a visit to the Kentucky Derby Museum. Learn how the Kentucky Derby got its start going back to the first Derby in 1875. Guests will walk through two floors of interactive exhibits, take a 30-minuted guided historic walking tour and watch the museum’s signature movie “The Greatest Race.”