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Where to Be and What to Wear: The 2018 Kentucky Derby


2018 marks the 144th Kentucky Derby, an annual American tradition that has attracted crowds from all over the country since 1875.

The legendary horserace pits 20 of the world’s top thoroughbreds against each other to win the gold at the renowned Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky.

The Kentucky Derby is held on the first Saturday in May every year. As the oldest annual sporting event in the country, the event draws around 155,000 people every year. There’s never a shortage of celebrity appearances, dapper gents — and huge, creative hats, of course.

Know where to be and when and, most importantly, what to wear!

Opening Night 2018

This year’s derby kicks off with Opening Night on Saturday, April 28. Opening Night is a one-of-a-kind affair over dinner and drinks, featuring over 150 artists, 20 live performances and art installations to wow and thrill attendees.

Women showcase their unique headwear and hair pieces at this Southern dress-to-impress occasion — a time-honored display of the signature derby accessory, as wearing a hat to the Kentucky Derby is said to bring good luck!

Tickets for opening night start at just $10 a person.

Derby Day

On Derby Day, wagering windows open 30 minutes before the first race, which begins around 11 am. The main race isn’t until 6:30 pm.

Mint juleps, the trademark drink, will be available as soon as the gates open. Be sure to dress for the occasion — the Derby is about donning your Southern best: sundresses and large hats for women; loud suits and dapper wear for men.

Like the national anthem, attendees join together to sing “My Old Kentucky Home” before the main event. The song has been performed by the University of Louisville Marching Band almost every year since 1936.

Once the main race starts, don’t blink — it’s only two minutes long, and the winning purse rakes in about $2 million every year.

Around midday, celebrities and royalty can be spotted at a red carpet event. Past attendees have included Kate Upton, Kim Kardashian, Cheech Marin, Dean Norris, Chris Rock and Ne-Yo.

Lodging and Travel Arrangements

Louisville offers numerous lodging options that exude Southern hospitality. Reaching out to one of the Official Hospitality Partners of Churchill Downs is the easiest way to arrange your accommodation needs.

The Galt House Hotel, Louisville’s only independent hotel, is a favorite destination for Derby-goers, but Louisville offers many other high-end options for a luxurious derby weekend.

Arrive in Style

Chartering a private jet with Mountain Aviation means arriving to the Kentucky Derby in style and luxury. Get a quote for your flight today >

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