Kentucky Derby 149
May 6, 2023
In Louisville, we turn the "Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports" into a month-long celebration of special events, distinct culinary traditions, and of course... Bourbon. In fact, the city celebrates the iconic Derby cocktail for 30 entire days with Mint Julep Month every April. 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 easy 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".
Planning Your Kentucky Derby Trip
When is the Derby?
The modern Kentucky Derby is traditionally held on the first Saturday in May (with two notable exceptions: for World War II when it was held in June and during the global pandemic of 2020 when it was held in September). The 149th running of the Kentucky Derby will take place on Saturday, May 6th, 2023.
Where is the Derby?
The Kentucky Derby is held in Louisville at Churchill Downs, the legendary and historic horse-racing track.
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: https://www.kentuckyderby.com/tickets
You may also wait to purchase General Admission tickets on the day of the event at the gates.
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! Most 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.
What should I wear?
Fashion is on display at the Kentucky Derby from bow ties and seersucker suits to Spring dresses and colorful hats. Whether you plan to attend the races or a Derby-themed party, it's never too early to start thinking about your outfit!
Learn more about Derby style here.
Kentucky Derby Events and Activities
Kentucky Derby Festival
The Kentucky Derby Festival has been called the “Super Bowl and Mardi Gras rolled into one.” What started as a week-long celebration for locals in 1956 has evolved into a month-long season of festivities and Spring traditions that prepare the city for it's most iconic event.
Some of the festival's signature events include: Thunder Over Louisville, the largest annual fireworks display in North America, featuring extravagant fireworks and a world-class air show on the banks of the Ohio River; the Great Steamboat Race; a full and half marathon; and a parade.
The feeling of anticipation, world-class events and epic parties make visiting Louisville in the pre-Derby season an experience all its own, even if you aren't planning to go to the track. In fact, Louisvillians think of it as a second Christmas season - quite literally, the "Most Wonderful Time of the Year."
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 (May 6, 2023). The winner receives a $600,000 purse, a large garland of lilies (affectionately referred to as the “Lilies for the Fillies”) and a silver Kentucky Oaks Trophy.
Don't forget to wear your pink! Spectators of the Oaks traditionally wear pink in support of breast cancer awareness. They even drink pink - with the official cocktail of Oaks being the magenta-hued Lily.
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 you can get into the track for just $3. Check the full racing calendar here.
Discover 70+ events in the weeks leading up to the Kentucky Derby.
Experience live Thoroughbred horse racing.
Experience Derby Day, Every Day!
Make it minty all of April!
Visit Louisville distilleries and sip your way through the Urban Bourbon Trail.