I’m about 3 weeks late to talk about my Kentucky Derby experience, but it’s just because I’ve been in Europe for the past two weeks (more on that in another post!). But now that I’m readjusting to the Eastern Time Zone and finally all caught up on my work emails, I have some time to write.
Going to the Kentucky Derby has always been a dream of mine. Dressing up in my cutest Lilly dress and sipping on a mint julep seemed like the perfect way to kick off the summer season. So a few friends and I decided to take the plunge and book a hotel in Louisville for the first weekend of May. Although we didn’t realize that hotel reservations need to be made over a year in advance and were stuck in a smoking room of a two star hotel (we booked in January), none of this mattered as we were off to see one of America’s greatest horse races. Now, the weather forecast appeared to be quite gloomy, as it predicted 55 F and 100% precipitation on Derby Day. So I switched my Lilly dress for a plain coral dress and my L.K. Bennett heels for Hunter Boots while keeping my BP Oversized Sun Hat. At least that’s what I expected to wear.
Turns out 55 and rainy is much colder than I thought! I instead opted for leggings, an underarmour shirt and my raincoat. After a quick breakfast at the classic Waffle House (as a serial egg poacher, I learned the difference between over easy vs. over well vs. over medium…don’t judge), off we went. Settling in right in front of the megatron within the infield made for the perfect seats. Next stop, get a mint julep!
Unfortunately, my first mint julep will be my last. I can’t seem to adjust my taste buds to enjoy drinking bourbon. Instead, I stuck with Lily’s all day, which is a refreshing combination of vodka, cranberry juice and lime juice, topped with fresh blackberries. And the official drink of the Kentucky Oaks, a race that takes place the day before the Derby. Much better!
After a few morning pick me ups, I headed over to the betting booths to make my first and last bet of the day. When in Kentucky, do as the Kentuckians do, right? Although I’ve never gambled before, I struck gold with my pick to win race #2 and won $50 from my $5 bet on No Mo Dough. Truthfully, I picked him because of his name–how cool is the name No Mo Dough? And it won me some drinking money!
The rest of the day was mixed with watching horse races, chatting old and new friends, smoking a cigar and drinking Lilly’s. I already can’t wait for next year! Look below for some tips if you’re thinking of going to the Kentucky Derby next year, drink recipes and pics from my experience. xoxo
- Make hotel reservations 1+ years in advance. To take advantage of cheaper general admission prices, purchase your tickets before December 31st.
- Bring lawn chairs, a tarp and pins to attach to the fence (creating a small canopy) and weather dependent clothes. Everyone else will be dressed up no matter the weather, but you’ll be happier if you dress for the weather.
- Bring food! The options at Churchill Downs are equivalent to fast food.
- Make your bets early and retrieve your winnings at least 30 minutes after the race to avoid the long lines.
- Get to Churchill Downs early to save a prime seating area and check out where everything is located (bathrooms, food booths, betting booths, etc.).
- Find a spot near the bathroom buildings! There are plenty of outhouses but who would choose that over a real bathroom?
- Have fun!