What to Wear to the Kentucky DerbyBy Judith K. Tingley; Updated June 08, 2017
Mint juleps, jockeys and jaunty hats: Inspiration for your Kentucky Derby outfit
The Kentucky Derby isn't just one day or just one race or just one party; it's Louisville's way of welcoming springtime with something special for everyone.
Sounds like a plan
If you want to attend the events surrounding the Kentucky Derby – especially the race itself – make plans as soon as possible. Louisville is clogged with tourists for two weeks straight during the Derby festivities, some of whom have made their reservations a year in advance.
Tip: Consider seeking out a local B&B where the host can provide tips that only insiders know.
Where to go, what to do and what to wear
Tip: If Louisville’s
The Great Balloon Fest: This is a series of hot-air balloon events held
Tip: A Pegasus pin can be ordered online and taken along in a small purse. It’s cheap and can be used for free admission to several derby events.
The Kentucky Derby itself
The Derby is one of the most crowded, diverse, eccentric, colorful, exciting events
Tip: If an enormous flowery hat seems to be just too much to carry off, try wearing a fascinator, an ornamental headpiece that isn’t quite a hat, but is still truly impressive. A fascinator typically includes feathers, flowers and/or beads attached to the hair by a comb or headband.
Pack according to plan
Louisvillians are in general an easygoing bunch, and it’s
Tip: Louisville’s fried chicken is some of the best anywhere. Try Shirley Mae’s Café on S. Clay Street for scrumptious, crunchy chicken, plus a mind-boggling variety of sides and desserts.
What to pack when you’re heading home
The first step of planning the trip home is packing right for the trip in. If flying, bring along an empty carry-on bag. If driving, leave half of the backseat empty. This is truly planning ahead intelligently, because no one comes back from Louisville without at least a few treasures. It's a marvelous shopping city, and a walk along Bardstown Road in the Highlands neighborhood tempts the visitor with many chic boutiques, galleries filled with work by local artists and artisans, bakeries and homemade candy shops, antique co-ops, record stores, bookstores and other enchanting places. Here is where the Derby-bound visitor can find a glorious hat just in time for the big event, as well as Derby memorabilia galore. Just one note of warning: During Derby season, with 1.5 million folks celebrating all over the city, driving in town may not be the best idea. Louisville has an excellent public transportation system, and strolling through neighborhoods like Old Louisville is so much more pleasant than driving.
Enjoy the visit. Louisville is one of the world's friendliest cities and welcomes visitors with open arms!
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