Big hats, sundresses, mint juleps, bow ties and everyone dressed to the nines; the Kentucky Derby is known as the most exciting two minutes in sports for a reason. Although our experience with the Kentucky Derby was the rainiest Derby in history, I can still say Jake and I enjoyed spending time together. We plan to go back in the near future, since its drivable from Birmingham. I am excited to share what we will do next time to make sure we have the best experience, rain or shine.
Note: Most of these pictures were mostly taken prior to the Derby or with my iPhone, since you cannot bring a camera in with a detachable lens.
- Purchase Tickets With Covered Seats: Our seats were perfect….if it hadn’t rained. We were in a pretty good location if the weather was good, but it was not a covered area. This is our biggest regret for the trip. Thank goodness for ponchos and being able to take cover in the concession stand areas, but we were pretty miserable toward the end when it was pouring down rain. Although tickets for covered areas are a splurge, they’re worth every penny. I will not go back until we can get covered seats. We still had fun, but our day would have been a million times better with covered seats.
- Buy Tickets In A Package: If you buy tickets in a bundle, you’re more likely to get a better deal. You can buy packages that include everything from your hotel room to transportation to/from the derby to meals to your actual tickets. Next time, we will buy a package that includes transportation because we had to walk over a mile to reach a place Uber could even pick us up at, then we had to wait around forever for an Uber. And then Uber had major surge pricing, too. Next time I would love to do one of the tent packages. This year Vineyard Vines was one of the sponsors and they offered a tent with food included and covered seats. Looking back, this would have been so worth the price.
- Plan Now: If you plan to go to the Derby, start planning today. You will likely get a better deal on tickets and get the best pick of seat location.
- Stay At An Airbnb: Although our Airbnb was not the fanciest, I do suggest finding an Airbnb. Hotels will easily run you between $500 to $1,200 a night. Like I said earlier, start planning now to get the best deal. Ours was a little outside of Louisville, so the sooner you plan the closer you will find, too.
- Bring An Extra Pair Of Shoes: Although heels might complement your outfit best, I was glad I brought some comfortable shoes too. I also ended up changing into different shoes than I originally planned due to the amount of walking I anticipated. The distance from the Uber to Churchill Downs was a bit of a walk. Also, my extra shoes ended up getting destroyed by the rain. If I could go back, I wish I had $1 Walmart flip-flops for for my extra shoes.
- Bring A Small Tote: The rules were you can bring 2 bags and they must be under 12” in all dimensions. I brought a small purse and also a tote that was just under 12”. It was nice to have something to carry my extra shoes and ponchos.
- Pack A Poncho: even if it’s not in the forecast, I have heard it’s common for it to rain on Derby day.
- Bring Snacks/Water Bottles: You can bring snacks and sealed water bottles, so I recommend bringing some. We went a little overboard and had to carry it the whole time, so I don’t recommend bringing too much
- If it’s sunny, I recommend bringing sunscreen. We obviously didn’t need it, but if it was sunny we would have definitely needed it. Most of the common areas were covered, but not all.
What To Wear:
- For ladies, a hat or fascinator is a must. I honestly recommend a hat though because it helped shield my face from rain and, if it was sunny, it would help keep the sun off of my face.
- For Gentlemen: Many guys also wore hats like Jake. Some guys went all out with patterned suits, while some guys just wore something simple. The common theme was most guys were dressed in bright colors.
- The more colorful the better: The Derby is the time to wear your brightest spring dress. Next time, I want to wear a hot pink hat.
- Wear A Functional Dress: You will be doing a lot of standing up when the races go on and siting down in-between, so I wouldn’t recommend a strapless dress unless it fits perfectly.
If you have any questions about attending the Derby, please comment below! Jake and I are off to Napa and San Francisco for our big trip to celebrate his upcoming graduation (finally less than 10 days away!). This will be our last trip for a while because we move in June. Traveling has been amazing, but also exhausting. Stay tuned, I will share my full NYC guide next week.
On Courtney: Dress: Ted Baker (sold out) Hat: Dillards (not online)
On Jake: Brooks Brothers
One day I’ll make it to the Derby! Thanks for the tips! I would have never thought to splurge on a package deal. Have a blast in Napa!
Yes you have to try to go. Yes the packages are absolutely the way to go. You end up saving in the end. Thanks Amanda
Oh my gosh Courtney,, how gorgeous you look? that dress is definitely 10 / 10 . The hat is so pretty on you too. I didn’t get to see it all but surely the cameras caught you at some stage! Jake looks very Dapper also. I don’t know if we will make it to the derby but you have some great tips in there, especially regarding Footwear and rainwear. I hope you have a great time in Napa and San Francisco, hopefully the link I sent helped you have a wonderful day hugs Terri xo
Aw thank you so much, Terri. I had fun planning this outfit. Yes, your link you sent me was sooooo helpful. Thank you so much. I have done a lot of research for this trip and that link definitely helped 🙂
Looking forward to the posts Courtney!
Thanks, Terrri 🙂 I think they’ll start going live next week.
That is a super cute dress! Love your tips. I have never been to one but would love to in future.
Thank you so much. You’ll have to visit sometime. 🙂
These are such great tips and you totally nailed what to wear! That dress is GORG!
You are so sweet! Thank you 🙂
Attending Kentucky Derby is one of my bucket list items so I will definitely use these tips. Thanks for sharing!
Yes!! You need to go someday. I hope the tips help 🙂
One day I would love to attend the Kentucky Derby. For now, we get dressed up and go to a friends’ house for the party!
Yes you’ll have to someday! Derby parties are the best though 🙂 I love that so many people get dressed up and have parties for it.
y’all look amazing!!! Love the looks!!
Thank you so much, Ruthie. We had so much fun picking our outfits out 🙂
My husband and I have always wanted to attend the Kentucky Derby! I’ll have to bookmark this post for future reference. I never would’ve thought to buy covered seats. And holy smokes! I can’t believe the hotel prices! Your tips were all fantastic. And you two had the cutest outfits ever!!
Y’all should! It was a fun experience. We didn’t want to splurge on covered seats, but next time will. So worth it. They sadly are pretty pricy though, so it might a while before we go back. Oh I know, can you believe it? AirBnB is the way to go for sure. Thank you 🙂