Kentucky holds its breath all year until the first Saturday in May, also known as Derby Day.
After a glorious week of parades, parties, and other special events around Louisville, Derby Day finally arrives. You join the line to take the elevators up to Millionaire’s Row, a two-story VIP area high above the track. Inside, men in summer suits study racing forms and women wear hats that are works of art.
You’ve read about it and seen it on TV. Now you’re here, at the event that symbolizes the beating heart of the Bluegrass State―the Kentucky Derby.
You might find yourself standing next to Prince Albert of Monaco or Michael Jordan. Women peek from beneath large brims, studying the other hats and shoes, frocks and celebrities. Brooke Shields and Valerie Bertinelli throw off megawatt smiles to match their spring designer apparel.
Churchill Downs, venue for this sporting event (first raced in 1875), also hosts the world’s largest chorus on Derby Day, as 150,000 voices join together for “My Old Kentucky Home.” Even if you’re not a native, you’ll find a catch in your throat as you sing Stephen Foster’s words.
Then the Run for the Roses, the most famous two minutes in sports, starts. Some of the most beautiful horses in the world race by in a thunderous rush of hooves accompanied by the deafening roar of the crowd. The winning Thoroughbred, draped in a garland of 400 roses, senses that something special has happened. He raises his head and sniffs the springtime air. He knows, as does every spectator, that there is simply nothing like this, not anywhere.
WHAT YOU'LL PAY TO SPLURGE: $7,326
Great Steamboat Race: Riding aboard the Belle of Louisville $126
Pegasus Parade: Review-stand seating $26
Marriott Oaks Bourbon Brunch: Charity luncheon $125
Julep Ball: Celebrity charity ball held in the Galt House Hotel ballroom $500
Derby Experiences Package: Includes three nights’ lodging at Galt House and Millionaire’s Row seats $6,399 per person
The Hat: Made at the Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft $150
WHAT YOU'LL PAY FOR JUST A TASTE: $515
Dawn at the Downs: Monday-Thursday before the Derby, enjoy the breakfast buffet, and watch the horses work out on the track. $28
Hampton Inn, Bardstown: 34 miles from Louisville $149 per night/$447 for three nights
Derby Tickets: To the infield $40