10 ways to make the most of Kentucky Derby week

  • Kentucky Derby

    The Kentucky Derby: An American tradition

    For one week each spring, Louisville hosts the most prestigious event in horse racing, the Kentucky Derby. Twenty thoroughbreds will race one and a quarter miles in "the fastest two minutes in sports," as more than 150,000 people watch live from Churchill Downs and over $100 million in bets get placed.

    Photo courtesy of Louisville Convention & Visitors Bureau

  • Churchill Downs

    Churchill Downs: Home of the Derby

    The iconic twin spires of Churchill Downs are the backdrop for the derby races. The 147-acre property is home to the main dirt track measuring one mile in circumference, a turf track, a clubhouse and the Kentucky Derby Museum. While you might find about 50,000 people at the Downs on any given race day, the first Saturday in May – derby day – sees crowds of over 150,000.

    Photo courtesy of Kentucky Tourism

  • Museum gallery

    History at the Kentucky Derby Museum

    In 1872, Col. M. Lewis Clark came up with the idea of the Louisville Jockey Club when traveling through France and England. A few years later in 1875, about 10,000 people gathered to watch as Aristides won the first Kentucky Derby. Visitors to Louisville can learn all about the history of the Derby and thoroughbred racing at the Kentucky Derby Museum.

    Photo courtesy of Kentucky Derby Museum

  • Winner with his garland

    Garland of Roses

    The winner of the Kentucky Derby receives a 3.5-pound 14-carat gold trophy and a garland of roses, hence the phrase "Run for the Roses." Each year, 400 red roses are handsewn onto a green satin backing with a single "crown" rose pointing up in the center to symbolize the struggle toward victory. The finished winner's garland weighs over 40 pounds.

    Photo courtesy of Kentucky Derby Museum

  • Mint julep

    Mint Julep : Official drink of the Kentucky Derby

    Mint juleps and the Kentucky Derby have gone hand in hand for over a century, and some 120,000 of them are served at Churchill Downs over Kentucky Derby weekend. To do it, the mixologists go through 1,000 pounds of mint and 60,000 pounds of ice. If you win big at the tracks, consider purchasing a $1,000 Woodford Reserve Mint Julep, made with Woodford Reserve Kentucky Straight Bourbon, 2 leaves of Kentucky Colonel Mint and 1 teaspoon of Kentucky Sorghum syrup, all served in a silver cup crafted by local jeweler, From the Vault .

    Photo courtesy of Kentucky Derby Museum

  • Derby Hats

    Derby fashion: It's all about the hats

    A royal wedding isn't the only event that attracts some crazy hats. Fashion has long been an intricate part of the Kentucky Derby fabric, and the hats are the stars. Wide brimmed, small, feathered and flowered, these often ostentatious headpieces come in all sorts of styles. Spectators seated in the grand stand and clubhouse are usually decked out in frilly pastel dresses, sport coats and seersucker suits.

    Photo courtesy of Kentucky Derby Museum

  • Infield party

    Infield: A Kentucky tailgate

    Not everything at the derby is prim and proper. The infield is akin to a wild football tailgate party, complete with coolers, blankets, tarps and an anything-goes attitude. The 80,000 revelers who pack into the infield are divided into two camps. At the third turn, you'll find that the college-aged crowd puts Mardi Gras to shame. At the first turn, you'll find a more family-friendly picnic area.

    Photo courtesy of Kentucky Derby Museum

  • Taste of Derby

    Derby week events

    The week leading up to the big race includes a packed lineup of events. Watch the horses and jockeys practicing at Dawn at the Downs, mingle with the big names of racing over world-class cuisine at the Taste of Derby, and don pink for the Kentucky Oaks.

    Photo courtesy of Kentucky Derby Museum

  • Belle of Louisville

    Explore Louisville

    After the races are over and the ladies have swapped their heels and hats for flats and jeans, you'll still have all of Louisville to enjoy. Take a river cruise on the Belle of Louisville, stroll past the largest collection of Victorian homes in the country in Old Louisville and enjoy the Southern city's excellent shops, museums and restaurants.

    Photo courtesy of Louisville Convention & Visitors Bureau

  • Louisville Slugger Museum

    Sports of Louisville

    The Kentucky Derby isn't Louisville's only claim to sporting fame. Brush up on your baseball history at the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory, home of the famous baseball bat. At the Muhammad Ali Center, learn all about the life and ideals of The Greatest in the two-and-a-half floors of interactive exhibit space.

    Photo courtesy of Louisville Convention & Visitors Bureau