On the first Saturday of May the horse racing world converges on Louisville, Kentucky for the running of the Kentucky Derby. Though the race only lasts a little more than two minutes on that Saturday, tens of thousands call Louisville home for weeks leading up to Derby Day. Here are some events and places to visit if you plan on visiting this horse racing mecca.
Fest-a-Ville and Chow Wagon:
Held at the Waterfront Park along the Ohio River, this festival has a little bit of everything. From beer gardens to rows of food vendors, helicopter rides to free concerts, Fest-a-Ville and Chow Wagon continue to grow in popularity each year. This year’s highlight of Waterfront Jam is a Friday, May 2nd concert featuring country artists Scotty McCreery with special guest Cassadee Pope. Horse race? Did someone say something about a horse race?
The Pegasus Parade:
Held in downtown Louisville since 1956, this family-oriented event is filled with marching bands, inflatable characters, and of course “horses”! Running along Broadway between Campbell and Ninth Streets in the heart of Louisville, the Pegasus Parade is the longest running Kentucky Derby Week event. This year’s parade is on Thursday, May 1st.
The Kentucky Oaks:
Traditionally held the day before the Kentucky Derby, “The Oaks” celebrates the finest three-year fillies in the thoroughbred world. Lilies and the color pink highlight this prestigious race to honor and celebrate women and breast cancer awareness. Tickets for this day long event can be obtained in advance from the Kentucky Derby website or the day of the race at Churchill Downs.
The Kentucky Derby:
“The Run for the Roses” will take place on Saturday, May 2nd this year. Gates will open at 8am with tickets available online ahead of time or at the gates the day of the race. From dedicated horse race enthusiasts to well-known celebrities, the stands, infield, and rail of Churchill Downs will be packed with mint julep-sipping fans excited to be part of “the most exciting two minutes in sports”. With thousands women wearing stunning (and outlandish) hats, the playing of “My Old Kentucky Home”, and the garland of roses for the winning horse and jockey, the Kentucky Derby is filled with tradition and pageantry.
Though it is known as the Home of the Kentucky Derby, Churchill Downs is also the location of the Kentucky Derby Museum. Often referred to as “the next best thing to being at the Derby”, the Kentucky Derby Museum is filled with memorabilia and artifacts from years gone by. And not only does Churchill Downs celebrate its past, but it is excited with nearly 75,000 square feet of new and renovated grandstand space along with a new $12 million outdoor, state-of-the-art video board.
The Louisville Slugger Factory and Museum:
This iconic factory has turned into more than just baseball bat making facility. From the moment your walk up to the front of the building, the six-story high, 68,000 pound bat welcomes you to what will surely be a memorable experience. This hands-on museum contains baseball memorabilia galore and artifacts from the sports such as Babe Ruth’s bat the he hit his last homerun with as a Yankee. Visitors can even have their own personal bat made for them during their stay. The factory and museum is open seven days a week with admission only $12 for adults and $7 for kids 6-12 years old (Under 5 yrs old are free).
Louisville Slugger Field:
Keeping with the baseball theme, Louisville Slugger Field is home to the minor league baseball team named——-wait for it——- “The Louisville Bats”. Even if you’re not a big baseball fan, there is fun to be had at all home games, especially Thursday home games which feature $1 beers and live music throughout the game. This Triple AAA farm team of the Cincinnati Reds plays in front of nearly 14,000 fans each home game.
The Louisville Zoo:
Open all year round, the Louisville Zoo is so much more than a place to go and see the animals. Featuring Sky Ropes and Sky Tykes for kids, this series of rope trails take participants over the zoo visitors below. 5K run/walks, concerts, and kid camps are also offered throughout the year at this community zoo. With dozens of exhibits located inside and outside, animals like polar bears, tigers, penguins, and gorillas all call the Louisville Zoo home.
Louisville Mega Caverns:
What can only be described as ‘Magnificent’, the Louisville Mega Caverns are one of Louisville’s must-see attractions. Located just off Interstate 264, whoever knew you could have a day full of fun 100 feet underground? The MegaTram is an hour long tour through the nearly seventeen miles of cavern trails steeped in history, education, and fun. MegaZips is a different kind of tour through the caverns. It is a 2-hour long tour using zip lines and a registered guide. MegaQuest is an aerial rope course that takes visitors to places throughout the cavern they won’t believe. The Louisville Mega Caverns are capable of hosting birthdays, team-building, and other events up to 200 people.
The historic area of Louisville known as Old Louisville is filled with rich architecture and history dating back to the late 1800s. Located north of downtown Louisville, this area has streets lined with classic victorian homes and neighborhood squares like St. James Court. Being located between downtown and the University of Louisville has made Old Louisville a favorable place for relocation in the area.
The Muhammad Ali Center:
The museum’s Mission Statement just about says it all: “The mission of the Muhammad Ali Center is to preserve and share the legacy and ideals of Muhammad Ali, to promote respect, hope, and understanding, and to inspire adults and children everywhere to be as great as they can be.” This breath-taking facility was created to share with the world the life of the great boxer and humanitarian, Muhammad Ali. This interactive museum also hosts seminars, special community events, and educational programming. Many of the photos and memorabilia held in the Muhammad Ali Center are priceless, one-of-a-kind artifacts from “The Greatest”.
Fourth Street Live:
When you are done sightseeing for the day, why not join a few thousand of your closest friends in the heart of Louisville? Fourth Street Live is conveniently located just a few blocks from the Ohio River in the middle of historic Louisville. Billed as your “one-stop destination for dining, entertainment, and shopping”, Fourth Street Live is packed with sports bars and night clubs, famous restaurants and name-brand stores, as well as live entertainment. Country stars Big and Rich will be performing on Thursday, May 1st, and Fall Out Boy will be in concert on Friday, May 2nd as part of Fourth Street Live’s Derby Week. The concerts are free for those in the area before 7pm, with a $5 cover for those arriving after seven o’clock.
Whether you’re planning to be on the rail for the big race or just heading to Louisville for all the festivities, the town is ready for you. From zip lining through 100 foot deep caverns to taking a selfie next to a 60 foot baseball bat, the City of Louisville has events and attractions to keep you entertained before, during, and after the Kentucky Derby.