April 23, 2019 By Tammy Mick

First Kentucky Derby: Everything You Need to Know Before Attending

Did you know over 157,000 people attended the Kentucky Derby in 2018?

Rain or shine, there’s nothing that can put a damper on Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May. From the ladies’ hats to the mint juleps to celebrity sightings, there’s no day like Derby Day.

Are you lucky enough to be attending your first Kentucky Derby? From how to get there to how to enjoy every minute of it, we’ve got you covered.

Read on for 5 insider’s tips to the one and only Kentucky Derby.

1. Arrange Your Transportation

Unless you have a pre-assigned parking spot, don’t even think of driving to Churchill Downs on Derby Day.

150,000 converging on the same venue makes for a parking disaster. You’ll see people who live nearby advertising parking spaces at their home for $30, $50, or even $100.

A smarter (and saner) route is to arrange for private dropoff and pickup. From sedans and vintage cars to busses for large groups, our fleet has something for everyone.

2. Know What You Can (and Can’t) Bring

Security is understandably tight at the Kentucky Derby.

You’re free to bring in lawn chairs, blankets, and even boxed lunches (in clear containers). But there’s a long list of prohibited items you’ll want to leave at the hotel.

These include:

  • Coolers, cans, and glass beverages
  • Computers, camcorders, or cameras with detachable lenses
  • Tripods and selfie sticks
  • Purses, backpacks, or bags larger than 12 inches
  • Umbrellas (even if it’s raining)

If in doubt, don’t bring it. Better to leave those items in the room than lose them at the security gate.

3. Check the Weather

Some Derby Days dawn warm and sunny. Others are chilly and drizzling–or downright pouring.

Check the forecast before you head to Lexington to make sure you’re prepared. Sunscreen and hats are vital for sunny days, while a plastic poncho could be your best friend if it rains.

4. Be Sure to Dress the Part

The Kentucky Derby is one of the world’s most outrageous (and fun) fashion shows.

Ladies, buy a hat for the occasion–you’ll regret it if you don’t. Wear your most colorful springtime dress and shoes, but bring a comfortable pair of flip-flops to change into if your feet start to ache.

Gentlemen, if you’ve got any flamboyant suits lying around, now is the occasion to wear them. If flashy isn’t your style, get into the spirit with a bowtie, fedora, or bowler hat.

5. Pace Yourself

Our final tip for your first Kentucky Derby is to pace yourself–it’s going to be a long day.

The gates open at 8:00 am, but the actual race won’t go off until after 6:00 pm. In between, there are plenty of other races, photo ops, and people-watching to enjoy. 

A mint julep is obligatory on Derby Day, but don’t overdo it on the alcohol. Take a break in the shade if the sun gets too hot. Make sure you have plenty of energy left when the horses (finally) reach the starting gate.

Ready for Your First Kentucky Derby?

It’s not called the most exciting two minutes in sports for no reason.

When you attend your first Kentucky Derby–or your twentieth–you’ll understand why this race has captivated spectators for 145 years.

Have you arranged your transportation to and from the race? Don’t sit in a traffic jam–plan to arrive in style.

Contact us today for more information about transportation around Lexington.

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