Whether you’re a fan of horse racing fan or not, you’ve likely heard the Kentucky Derby referred to as the most exciting two minutes in sports. While I can confirm the truth of this statement after experiencing first hand the running of the roses a few weeks ago, what you probably didn’t hear is that the entire derby weekend in the city of Louisville is an experience in itself. The excitement was contagious from the moment we touched down in Louisville on Thursday night. It’s no surprise that the city knows how to do it right though. After all, this isn’t their first rodeo — the Kentucky Derby has been going strong for 143 years.
Races begin on Thursday with the Thurby, which means so does the partying and festivities throughout the city. The welcome reception at our hotel, Aloft Downtown, was in full swing by the time we checked-in and we jumped right into the complimentary hors d’ oeuvres and derby cocktails. The Aloft’s hospitality continued through the weekend with mimosas and screwdrivers provided on Friday + Saturday mornings, along with a professional photographer on derby day free of charge.
Welcome reception at the Aloft — mint juleps and oaks lillies, along with a delish spread.
Derby “survival kits” provided by the hotel. The band aids in particular came in handy 🙂
. . .
On derby day we arrived to Churchhill Downs around Noon. There is so much to see, especially for us first timers, so we wanted to get there early to take it all in.
View of the track from from our seats — to the left are the twin spires.
In our derby best with juleps in hand.
It had been raining all week so the outfield was basically one giant mud pit. Gotta love the derby though, no one seemed to mind and everyone was still having a great time.
. . .
I’m somewhat of a celeb junkie so after finding our seats and getting a mint julep, our next stop was the red carpet at Gate 10.
Kix Brooks of Brooks & Dunn walking the red carpet.
My favorite celeb sighting of the day — Katie Couric.
. . .
After some good ole’ fashion celebratory stalking, it was time to place our bets and focus on the races for the rest of the day; and of course enjoy a few more mint juleps and some derby pie.
. . .
Coming from a self proclaimed non-sports fan (for the record I do like college basketball), I have to admit I had the most AMAZING time. The derby certainly lives up to the hype and is an experience like no other — mint juleps are flowing, there are a gazillion loony hats everywhere you look, and the energy in Churchhill Downs is electric. If you’ve never been before, definitely add it to your list!
. . .
Not only was the derby a bucket list experience, we had a blast exploring Louisville with our friends. Although the city is best known for horse racing, it’s also a destination for delicious restaurants, bourbon, and lively nightlife.
Evan Williams located in downtown Louisville — enjoying the bourbon cocktails
God I’m just so clever aren’t I?
Ribs from Doc Crow’s — the most amazing lunch!
The boys enjoying some Pappy Bourbon Whiskey.
One of the most amazing meals I’ve ever had, no lie, from Jack Fry’s. Worth a trip to Louisville just to eat here!
Post-derby brunch from Harvest A++
Made it out to Maker’s Mark for the tour and tasting. Such a fun afternoon!
. . .
SO now I have you planning your trip to Louisville for next year’s derby amiright? Well, if that is the case, and I hope it is, then I’m going to leave you here with my top ten Kentucky Derby must-dos that might come in handy. Thanks for reading and enjoy 🙂
1. Ladies: wear that hat. Do it or you’ll regret it for the rest of your life! Okay wow, that escalated quickly, but seriously, this is numero uno derby MUST.
2. Gentlemen: Wear a jacket at a minimum. Bonus points for a bow tie.
3. Eat derby pie. Self explanatory.
4. Drink a mint julep. Also self explanatory.
5. Drink an oaks lily, the official drink of Friday’s Kentucky Oaks races.
6. Bet on a horse; even if it’s only $2.
7. Actually watch a few of the races. Sounds crazy to add this to the list but you’d be surprised.
8. Take a picture with the Secretariat statue. Truth time: we did NOT do this, whomp whomp, BUT only because we arrived at the opposite entrance.
9. Find a celebrity — c’mon at least one!
10. Don’t leave without a souvenir. A hat, mug, t-shirt… anything! They even hand out free pins that say things like “First Derby” so make sure to grab something!
. . .