Kentucky Derby 2015: What to Do, What Not to Do

kentucky derby festival 2014 featured
Written by Mark Kaelin

Kentucky Derby 2015 is a world-class event. Don’t embarrass yourself, Bucky. The Derby has traditions and a code of … well … here’s what to do and what not to do at the Kentucky Derby Festival. Onward!

aNewDomain — From mid April to early May every year, Louisville puts on hold its normal highly productive midwestern work ethic to have a celebration known as the Kentucky Derby Festival. Of course, everyone knows about the Kentucky Derby, the most famous horse race ever, but not everyone knows that there’s a continuous three-week party leading up to that first Saturday in May.

Attending the Kentucky Derby and the festival that proceeds it should be on everyone’s bucket list, but there are some things you should not do when you attend this event — take it from someone who has lived it every year for over 50 years.

kentucky derby festival race

It’s Not a Secret

One thing you should not and probably cannot do successfully is book your hotel at the last minute. Like any other world famous event, hotel accommodations are at a premium and finding a room close to the city without some advance notice is just not going to happen. Oh, I apologize in advance — the price of any hotel room in Louisville during Derby Week is considerably more than any other week during the year.

That leads to another do not — do not come to the Kentucky Derby thinking it’s going to be an inexpensive trip. I’m not saying it will break you financially, but if you try to do everything on the cheap, you’ll only be cheating yourself. The more you splurge the more fun you are going to have.

For example, don’t play it safe and only visit the national chain restaurants. Take some chances and check out the local cuisine. Louisville has been recognized nationally as a foodie’s hidden paradise — so make sure to tuck in a bit while you’re here. There are three top-notch restaurants within walking distance of my home alone.

Churchill Downs Kentucky Derby Festival

Discipline and Infield

There are some big headaches to avoid on Kentucky Derby Day itself, the first of which is do not expect to park at Churchill Downs. In fact, don’t expect to park anywhere near the track on Derby Day. Don’t even try.

The best way to get to the track on Derby Day is to use the bus system the city has specifically designed to get people to and from Churchill Downs. If you’re staying in a hotel downtown, for example, you can catch a bus at your hotel, ride directly to the track gates and then come back to your hotel, all for about $10.

Once you get there, if you are going to brave the infield, please do not try to sneak alcohol into the premises. Once upon a time, sneaking alcohol into the infield was a fun game of “gotcha” played by patrons and the police. After 9/11 security became serious business, so just accept the fact that you will buy your adult beverages at the track.

Also, the weather at the Kentucky Derby is unpredictable, so don’t forget to wear sunscreen and bring rain gear to cover all bases. And please, for your sake and for the sake of everyone around, do not go overboard on the drinking.


The Kentucky Derby and the festival that precedes it are fantastic fun and, as a lifelong Louisvillian, I welcome you to the event and to our fine city. Just keep in mind that there are some things you should do while here and some things you probably shouldn’t, at least if having fun is your motivation. If you’re looking for advice on restaurants etc., please add it to the comments section below.

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First image: Churchill Downs. Wikimedia Commons

Second image: Kentucky Derby 2014. Wikimedia Commons

Featured image: Kentucky Derby 2014 Early Race. Wikimedia Commons