The Kentucky Derby has been on my bucket list for some time – not so much because I love horse racing (which I do) but because of the pomp and circumstance of this event and its history – it truly is the “Greatest Two Minutes in Sports.” Turns out it’s much bigger than “The Kentucky Derby.”
- It’s Thurby (horse racing event on Thursday with bourbon drinks and music)
- It’s the Taste of the Derby with cuisine from nationally renowned chefs, wine (in this case from the appropriately named 14 Hands) and a rocking live band.
- It’s Dawn at the Downs with a great buffet breakfast while watching the contenders workout.
- It’s Friday’s Kentucky Oaks all day races for 3-year old females with a $1 million stakes race.
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- It’s Friday night parties of which there are several official ones.
- And then the BIG day, Kentucky Derby day with races all day culminating in the big race at about 6:30 p.m. EST.
One other fun surprise I want to share was after we arrived in downtown Louisville on Wednesday afternoon. Tired after a day of travel, we found a fabulous restaurant in walking distance of our hotel, Vincenzo’s Italian Restaurant. We met the owners, brothers Agostino and Vincenzo Gabriele, who started this wonderful restaurant over 20 years ago. It is in what looks to be an old but very ornate bank building and the interior is beautiful. They were so warm and welcoming and helped their servers prepare most of our food at our table.
As you can see from the pictures, the food was amazing and our waiter, Rick Morton Stout was also amazing. We describe the experience as Southern charm meets Italian hospitality.
Both the Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby events were unparalleled fashion events with both women and men decked out in various forms of sartorial splendor – crazy, outrageous, beautiful, quirky, odd, and yes, hideous! Here are some of our most memorable, but there are plenty of pics all over the internet.
Here’s some tips for the trip:
- Book now if you want to go next year as the best areas to sit and park sell out fast as well as hotels, rent cars, parties and special events.
- Quint Events is the official Churchill Downs partner and they can help you with the entire experience.
- You can bring in a clear plastic big bag and I would suggest a raincoat plus a cover for your hat if it rains (umbrellas are not allowed); binoculars; food (unless you are in a special section with food, the Derby food is OK but not great and there’s not much choice) and the most important item – flat shoes. I wore my spiffy heels each day but after a few hours of going up and down steps to bet, and walking on the uneven bricks and stones, I opted for my flats. I noticed that at the end of each day, many heels had been switched to flipflops (which by the way, they sell there).
- You don’t really need a car if you stay downtown as there are cabs, buses, Uber, and private cars to take you back and forth the the racetrack which isn’t far from downtown.
- Every place – hotels, stores, visitor centers – is selling hats so if you don’t want to tote a hat, you can buy one there and have the hotel ship it home.
- My final advice: the multi-day experience can be very expensive – so if it’s a one and done bucket list, then experience it all and pay for it all! I’ve been asked if I would go again, and my enthusiastic response is “Absolutely.”
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