How to Enjoy the Kentucky Derby on Any Budget

Every year on the first Saturday in May, people from across the globe gather for the Kentucky Derby. But despite the glitz and glam of many attendees, you can enjoy the Derby without spending your life savings. Let’s look and the various levels of seating and what comes with each ticket.

On a Budget










Image via Flickr by Brood_wich

The Kentucky Derby offers general admission tickets for less than $100. These lowest-priced tickets still offer access to the paddock area where the horses saddle up, plus the infield. But you’ll only see the race on the 4K video board.  At this level, there are no free concessions, so bring extra cash for the famous mint julep. To save some money for food and drink, you can look at less expensive Louisville hotels close to Churchill Downs through Hotel Planner.

Reserved Seating

Reserved outdoor seating is a step above general admission, and you might actually see the track. Remember, the Derby draws over 150,000, and with that many people, it’s hard to see from almost everywhere. These tickets come as a package, though, that includes the Kentucky Oaks on Friday. This area offers bleacher-style seats and costs several hundred dollars. Buying six or more gets you a slight discount, but you must pay for food and drink.

Hospitality Included

If you want the complete experience, include food and drinks in the ticket price by choosing seating with hospitality. The hospitality package comes with access to the Angry Orchard Club with its all-inclusive food and open bar. Plus, your seats are under cover in case of rain. The hospitality level includes access to private wagering windows, in-lounge televisions, and a souvenir program. You’ll shell out around $1,000, but you’ll sip your mint julep in style.

Top-Priced Tickets

All the top-priced seats include the full hospitality package along with private restrooms and betting windows. Dine on the scrumptious menu at the Club level, including several dishes made with Kentucky bourbon. You must dress up at this level, with women in dresses and hats and men in suits. Not all top-level seats are covered, so it may be hot and sunny, and no parasols are allowed.

Dressing for the Derby

Women’s traditional dress includes a light-colored simple dress and a statement-making hat. There’s lots of walking and standing, so wear comfortable low heels or sandals. Some women decorate their own hats, while others prefer store-bought versions. Either way, the hat is the must-wear accessory.

For men, suits in pastel colors set the tone, and of course, seersucker is abundant. Most fellows like the bright pastels or plaids of traditional Derby wear. Men wear ties, and an ascot or a bow tie is never out of style. Top it off with a fedora or bowler hat for a complete look.

No matter what your budget, there’s plenty to see and do at the Kentucky Derby. So, wear a hat, sip a mint julep, and join in singing “My Old Kentucky Home.” It’s an experience you’ll treasure forever.