There are few bigger race days on the U.S. calendar than the Kentucky Derby. Churchill Downs plays host to the famous race in the United States annually on the first Saturday in May as the top three-year-old runners from across the country look to make history.
Some of the greatest American horses in history have claimed success in the race, including Secretariat, American Pharoah, and Affirmed.
However, the race is also famous for shock results, including in the 2022 edition when Rich Strike became the second-biggest outsider in the history of the race to claim success.
This year’s renewal is just around the corner, but what tips should those attending Churchill Downs consider before heading to the track?
Kentucky Derby: Tips & Tricks For Visiting Louisville
Buy In Advance
The Kentucky Derby is one of the world’s most famous races, so purchasing tickets for Derby Day before the first Saturday in May is always best. You can find more information on the page of the official sponsor TwinSpires.
It is highly unlikely that any tickets will be available on the day of the races, so it is best to get your tickets as soon as they go on general sale. The prices of tickets differ depending on what you’re willing to pay.
The cheapest is the general admission, which lets visitors watch the action from the infield. These cost $65 and are the most affordable way to watch the famous race. However, if you’re looking for the best possible viewpoint, you can’t go wrong with Millionaire’s Row, which costs $10,000.
Staying In Louisville
The surrounding area offers much more than just Churchill Downs, so many visitors often look to book a week-stay in the Louisville area. Unfortunately, the city isn’t the biggest in the United States, so many of the best places to stay are booked well in advance.
Demand is understandably high throughout Derby week, meaning you must book a hotel quickly if you want to attend the races. However, there are plenty of options aside from hotels, with the most popular being staying in Airbnb.
These have become the cheapest way to stay in the surrounding area throughout Derby week and the best way to experience the local area.
Meanwhile, it is made even more affordable for those traveling in large groups, as there is an excellent selection of accommodations to select from if you’re visiting the Derby in at least a group of six.
Getting To Churchill Downs
Another factor that all visitors must take into account before even assessing the runners that will be competing is getting to the track. There are three different entrance gates at Churchill Downs, but all will be incredibly busy on the first Saturday in May.
Many often prefer driving and parking at the track for the Kentucky Derby, but all passes are sold in advance. Day parking passes are available at the Churchill Downs website but aren’t cheap, given the limited on-site parking.
Therefore, a better alternative is to grab a cab or ride-share. Taxis will drop visitors off near the Barbaro Statue outside the Kentucky Derby Museum. Meanwhile, the rideshare option may be the cheapest, with lifts from Thornberry Avenue.
The bus is the cheapest way to get to the track, costing as little as $1.75. These run regularly throughout the day, with the 4, 6 and 29 routes heading to Churchill Downs.
However, busses back into the city after the races may be slightly busier, so embracing the beauty of an emptying Churchill Downs after the racing to minimalize queues is advised.
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It’s Not All About Saturday
The whole week leading up to the Kentucky Derby is an excellent experience, as there are parties across Louisville. On the track, the racing starts a couple of days before the first Saturday in May, with the headline act before the opening Triple Crown race coming at the track on Friday.
The girls take center stage on Friday as the Kentucky Oaks is staged. This race is for fillies aged three and is one of the best races on the calendar.
It is encouraged to attend this race day if you’re in the area. It offers an excellent opportunity to get into Churchill Downs before Derby Day, enabling you to weigh up the best spots to watch the race before the crowds emerge on a Saturday.
Saving Money Tips
Attending the Kentucky Derby can often be an extremely expensive experience, especially if you haven’t planned the day correctly. To save money for the big day, you should buy tickets for the Derby as quickly as possible.
The preferred option among many is the infield ticket, which offers an unrivaled experience at Churchill Downs for very little.
Bundle tickets are also available, which could save you money if you’re looking to attend the Oaks and the Derby. Public transport is the cheapest way to get to the track, and the service runs faultlessly throughout Derby week.
Bring The Essentials
As well as preparing tickets and hotels, you should also assess what you should bring for Derby day. Given that the racing takes place in May, the weather conditions can drastically alter throughout the day.
Therefore, you should ensure that you bring a waterproof, as well as sunglasses and sun cream in case the sun breaks through.
Women often bring a change of shoes for comfort, while visitors are encouraged to bring their plastic water bottles and a picnic.
Furthermore, if you’re attending the racing in the in-field, you can bring a camping chair to save your legs throughout the day. Another essential would be a phone charger to ensure that your battery doesn’t die before being able to make bets on the races with the leading sportsbooks.