Kentucky Derby 2019: Tickets & Where to Stay in Louisville

Kentucky Derby 2019-Featured photo-Churchill Downs

Preparations for Kentucky Derby 2019 are underway, and millions of Americans are gearing up for “The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports”! From the two-week long Kentucky Derby Festival to the grand finale Blanket of Roses ceremony, the Derby is one of America’s most loved traditions and holds the title for the longest continually-held sporting event in the U.S. Most fans watch the horse race on television, but more than 150,000 people attend the event at Churchill Downs in person. Join them by learning what to wear, where to stay in Louisville and how to book a ticket for Kentucky Derby 2019!

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Dates for the 144th Kentucky Derby & annual events

The Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks horse races take place at Churchill Downs. Kentucky Derby Festival events are scheduled at various locations near the Ohio River in Downtown Louisville. Downtown Louisville is a 10-minute ride from Churchill Downs.

  • Kentucky Derby Festival: Saturday, April 13 to Saturday, May 4.
  • Kentucky Oaks: Friday, May 3
  • Kentucky Derby: Saturday, May 4

Check In to Rodeway Inn, Step Out to Churchill Downs

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Discover where to stay in Louisville for Kentucky Derby 2019

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History of the Kentucky Derby

The Kentucky Derby takes place on the first Saturday of May at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. The annual race is the first leg of three horse races that lead to the American Triple Crown, one of the most coveted achievements in American sports. To obtain the Triple Crown, a horse must win the Kentucky Derby, as well as the Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes, which take place later in the year. The Kentucky Derby is considered a Grade 1 race where 3-year-old thoroughbreds run 1.25 miles (2 kilometers). The race is sometimes called the “Run for the Roses,” as the winning horse is cloaked with a ceremonial blanket of roses. Established in 1875, the Derby has never been canceled, unlike the Preakness and Belmont, which took short hiatuses during the Great Depression and both world wars.

Buy tickets to Kentucky Derby & Kentucky Oaks 2019

Advance general admission tickets for the 144th Kentucky Derby and 145th Kentucky Oaks, a popular race that takes place the day before the derby, can be reserved on the official Kentucky Derby website. Prices range from $40 to $75. General admission tickets also can be purchased on the day of both events. Same-day tickets are $60 for the Kentucky Oaks and $80 for the Kentucky Derby. General admission tickets include entry to Churchill Downs as well as views from the infield and the historic Paddock Area.

Guests who want stunning views of the legendary track should explore outdoor seating options or a two-day Derby Experience Ticket Package. Grandstand tickets and Derby packages range from $340 to $3,500.

Check In to Comfort Inn & Suites Airport and Expo, Step Out to Churchill Downs

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Discover where to stay in Louisville for Kentucky Derby 2019

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What to wear at the Kentucky Derby & Kentucky Oaks

Women: when it comes to traditional clothing for women at the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks, no fashion statement is too bold – or too Southern! Ladies are known to pull out all the stops for Derby days, particularly during the Oaks. Those sitting in reserved seating areas flaunt lavish spring dresses and pastel-colored suits that complement an array of outrageous Derby hats in the grandstands.

Men: loud and colorful Derby fashions aren’t reserved for ladies! Men are known to pair the boldest striped shirts with the busiest plaid pants in honor of the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks fashion scene. Though, a respectable blue blazer also is a popular choice.

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Kentucky Oaks & Kentucky Derby Festival events

The Kentucky Derby might be one race, but the events leading up to it last for weeks. Make the most of your trip to Louisville by watching the Derby parade, fireworks show and annual hot air balloon fest.

Kentucky Oaks

Almost as attended as the Derby (and one year older), the Kentucky Oaks takes place on the Friday before the Kentucky Derby. More than 100,000 people attend the annual race for 3-year-old Fillies (female race horses). The winner of the Kentucky Oaks receives $600,000, a silver trophy and a garland of lilies known as the “Lilies for the Fillies.”

The Kentucky Oaks is popular because of its cheaper ticket price, and attendees will verify that the host of live musicians, street food vendors, boardwalk games and things to do make up for any remorse of not opting for Derby tickets. Plus, the event raises awareness for breast cancer and ovarian cancer. Not only is the track decked out during the annual “Pink Out,” but all attendees are encouraged to wear as much pink as possible!

Kentucky Derby Festival

The Kentucky Derby race may only last two minutes, but the Kentucky Derby Festival stretches for more than two weeks. In fact, some festival events already are underway!

  • Thunder Over Louisville (April 13, 2019): Thunder Over Louisville is the largest fireworks show in the world and the opening event for the Kentucky Derby. The event takes place on the banks of the Ohio River in Downtown Louisville and is free to attend. The 28-minute show is accompanied by the Thunder Air Show, which features more than 100 airplanes.
  • Half and full marathon: runners take their marks at 7:30 a.m., April 27, in Downtown Louisville for the Derby Marathon and miniMarathon. Participants can register for the event in advance. Spectators can watch for free anywhere along the route.
  • BB&T Great BalloonFest: a series of races that take place the week before the Kentucky Derby, the BB&T Great BalloonFest attracts thousands of spectators and each event is free to watch.
    • Great Balloon Glimmer – 8:30 p.m., April 25, Kroger’s Fest-a-Ville
    • Great Balloon Rush-Hour Race – 7 a.m., April 26, Bowman Field
    • Great Balloon Glow – 6 p.m., April 26, Kentucky Exposition Center
    • Great Balloon Race – 7 a.m., April 27, Bowman Field
  • The Great Steamboat Race: choose a seat on the Belle of Louisville or the Belle of Cincinnati during a race down the Ohio River. The Great Steamboat Race takes place on Wednesday, May 1, before Kentucky Derby 2019. Ticket holders board at 4:30 p.m. The race begins at 6:30 p.m.
  • The Pegasus Parade: the first official event of the Kentucky Derby Festival, the Pegasus Parade starts at 5 p.m. May 2 (the Thursday before the big race) and travels 17 blocks down Broadway Street in Downtown Louisville. The parade features marching bands, floats, inflatables, celebrities and traditional foods and generally lasts two hours.

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Pay a visit to the Kentucky Derby Museum

Kentucky Derby Museum: while the Kentucky Derby Museum is open year ‘round, the landmark becomes one of the most popular things to do in Louisville during Derby month. Visitors can learn about the life of a thoroughbred, the history of the Kentucky Derby and the local pride that developed through the longstanding event. Kentucky Derby Museum is located near the north entrance of Churchill Downs.

Check In to Days Inn by Wyndham Louisville Central Univ & Expo Center, Step Out to Churchill Downs

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Discover where to stay in Louisville for Kentucky Derby 2019

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Where to stay in Louisville during the Kentucky Derby & Kentucky Oaks

Travelers who want to experience the Kentucky Derby and all its traditions should book a stay near Churchill Downs for at least three nights. Choosing a hotel in Downtown Louisville also is a good choice, as most Kentucky Derby Festival events take place downtown near the Ohio River.

Check In to Econo Lodge Downtown, Step Out to Churchill Downs

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Discover where to stay in Louisville for Kentucky Derby 2019

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