If you’ve never been to the Kentucky Derby, you’ll quickly realize the day is more about dealing with the horde of humanity that’s all around you even before you set foot on the track grounds. Unless you’re lucky enough to be escorted to a private box, you’re guaranteed to some less than wholesome human behavior, especially once you venture into the outfield. But hey, it’s the Kentucky Derby and you should soak in all of it, the good, bad and ugly, because it’s one of those days you’ll never forget and you’ll have plenty of stories long after the Derby winning horse gets adorned with a blanket of roses. Here are a few tips to keep you from losing your sanity at Churchill Downs.
With so many people inundating one place at the same time, parking becomes a big priority. All of the parking spaces within the Churchill Downs property are reserved in advance. You can park at nearby Papa Johns Stadium for $15 and take the shuttle for another $15 but, if you don’t mind walking, you can also hoof it to the track. The Kentucky Derby Website has more detailed info on parking and where you should enter the track. You can also pay to park in peoples yards in the neighborhoods around the racetrack on race day for a fee that’s usually around $25.
Get There Early
Gates open at 8 A.M. and the first race starts at 10:45. Yes, it makes for a long day but, it is the Kentucky Derby and you should soak it all in and a nap isn’t out of the question but beware where you choose to catch forty winks especially in the infield where you might end up with something weird written on your face.
Do The Infield
Even if you’re not a party animal, the infield is truly a sight to see. Spend at least a little time perusing all the folks who have spring and derby fever at the same time.
Go The Day Before The Derby
The fillies run for the lilies on the day before the Derby in the Kentucky Oaks and it’s become an event that rivals the big race. Locals consider this their day to experience Churchill Downs during Derby week but, each year more and more folks from all parts of the world turn up to mingle with the locals. Some locals have even taken to going to the track on Thursday because they consider Oaks Day too crowded with outsiders.
Go To Lexington
The beautiful Keeneland Race Course in Lexington has also become a tradition over the years for those who don’t want to battle the crowds in Louisville. If you’re looking for a more genteel experience, Keeneland is the place to be.
Keep Calm and Carry On
If you do decide to attend the Derby, keep your cool. Prepare yourself for long lines, inebriated patrons and lots of walking. A sure way to make Derby Day a bad memory is by getting in a fight and going to jail.