A Guide to The Kentucky Derby : GoToLouisville.com Official Travel Source

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Kentucky Derby

The Fastest Two Minutes in Sports!

In Louisville, we turn the Fastest Two Minutes in Sports into two fun-filled weeks of food, bourbon, shows, traditions, and fun events! We also celebrate the spirit of the Derby all year with the culture and tradition of the sport of kings and many other opportunities to be at the legendary track.

About the Kentucky Derby

What is the Derby?

The Kentucky Derby is the most prestigious annual horse race in America, and the first jewel of the Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing. It is held at Churchill Downs, considered by many a cathedral of horse racing.

Every year since 1875, the Kentucky Derby brings the world to Churchill Downs in Louisville for a week of excitement, suspense and spectacle. What you see, hear, taste and smell at the Derby may be easier to imagine, but the feeling of being at Churchill Downs for the Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby is unmatched. The Kentucky Derby is a bucket list item recognized in the popular book "1000 Places To See Before You Die".

When is the Derby?

The longest annually held sporting event in the US, the Kentucky Derby is always held on the first Saturday in May. The 147th Kentucky Derby will be on May 1, 2021

Where is the Derby?

The Kentucky Derby is held in Louisville at Churchill Downs, the legendary and historic horse-racing track.

Planning Your Kentucky Derby Trip

How do I get tickets?

While Millionaire’s Row seats may be elusive, there are a variety of other ticket options to see the Run for the Roses up close and personal. Reserved seating tickets for the Kentucky Derby are offered in a variety of outdoor seat locations along the first turn and the finishing stretch of the historic racetrack. Reserved seating tickets are also available in a variety of seat types, such as stadium-style seats and bleacher-style seats. You can register to purchase Kentucky Derby tickets sold as a 2-day package, including both Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks days online here:


You may also wait to purchase General Admission tickets on the day of the event at the gates. The cost of day-of General Admission tickets for the 2016 Kentucky Derby was $60.

Where should I stay?

Every year, the Kentucky Derby draws thousands of spectators and visitors looking to stay in Louisville for the "greatest two minutes in sports.” If you’re planning a trip to Louisville over Kentucky Derby weekend, start looking for your accommodations now and reserve your room early! Mostt area hotels offer three-night minimum stays beginning on Thursday. Another option is to visit Louisville at another time during the Spring or Fall meets when rates aren't at their peak and a "Derby Experience" can still be found.

Where should I eat?

During the Derby weekend, reservations are recommended at most fine restaurants in Louisville. Browse Louisville Restaurants and eateries.

Kentucky Derby Events and Activities

Kentucky Derby Festival

The Kentucky Derby has been called the “Superbowl and Mardi Gras rolled into one.” In Louisville, we’ve taken a two-minute horse race and turned it into a two-week party featuring more than 70 events during the Derby Festival.

Thunder Over Louisville kicks off the two-week celebration with the largest fireworks event in North America, featuring extravagant fireworks and a world-class air show on the banks of the Ohio River. Thunder returns in 2018 on April 21.

Kentucky Oaks

The Longines Kentucky Oaks, or simply “the Oaks,” is considered by some to be one of the most popular horse races in America, attracting about 100,000 people each year.

Modeled after the British Epsom Oaks, the Kentucky Oaks race is held annually on the Friday before the Kentucky Derby. The winner receives a $600,000 purse, a large garland of lilies (affectionately referred to as the “Lillies for the Fillies”) and a silver Kentucky Oaks Trophy.

Every year, the infield of the race track hosts crowd-pleasing musical attractions, boardwalk games, food, and alcoholic beverages for purchase.


If the cost of rooms and tickets is not leaving you much betting money, consider coming another time during Derby Week or another weekend during the Spring or Fall meets.

Churchill Downs offers live racing beginning the last Saturday in April through the Fourth of July weekend. A special September meet is held during Bourbon Heritage Month. And the Fall meet begins the last Saturday in October and runs through Thanksgiving weekend. All meets offer a colorful “Derby-like experience” with locals in hats and southern finery. You can still place a wager, have a slice of Derby Pie and drink a Mint Julep. And on most days get in the track for just $3. Check the full racing calendar here.

Churchill Downs

Live Thoroughbred horse racing in the spring/summer & fall, including Saturday night races under...

Kentucky Derby Museum

Experience Derby Day, Every Day! General Admission includes a 30-minute historical walking tour of...

Kentucky Derby Festival

Over 70 special events two weeks preceeding the Kentucky Derby. We stretched a famous two minutes...