Travel & Culture

What To Pack Before A Trip To Kentucky Derby

April 16, 2024

You know that spring is here when you see the first Sun, and when we start to talk about the Kentucky Derby. Weeks away from one of the biggest horse races in the world, it’s time to get prepared.

Considering that this event is huge, especially this year since the track is celebrating its 150th anniversary, you have to know all the ins and outs of the event. You wouldn’t want to be placed aside for further inspection at the gates for carrying an item that is not allowed on the Derby Day.

Therefore, packing the right things to Kentucky is really important. This is no ordinary horse racing event. After all, most of the attendees are paying more attention to what to wear instead of who is running in the Kentucky Derby.

Yes, we know that you spent a lot of money on the tickets and you want this day to be special, so let’s jump right in and find out more about the Kentucky Derby essentials.

Clothing Essentials

Since the Kentucky Derby is not just a horse race, but also a fashion show, the clothes you pick can make or break your day. You wouldn’t want to be over or under-dressed, so doing some research about the best outfit might be necessary.

Additionally, most people forget to pack multiple outfits. Remember, the Kentucky Derby starts a few days and lasts a couple of days after the race. There are many different special events that you would want to attend, so packing multiple outfits is necessary.

  • Race Day: Opt for your finest attire as per the official dress code.
  • Derby Eve Events: Many attendees partake in celebrations the evening before, requiring cocktail or evening wear.
  • Casual Outings: For exploring Louisville or attending pre-Derby gatherings, pack casual yet stylish outfits.

What to Wear at the Races? (Dress Code)

Churchill Downs might host one of the biggest horse races in the world, but there isn’t an official dress code. However, this doesn’t mean that you can turn up with whatever you feel like.

For Men: Suits or sports coats paired with dress pants, ties, and dress shoes. While not mandatory, wearing a hat is a popular choice.

For Women: Dresses or suits in a range of styles, from sophisticated to fashionable. Hats or headpieces are a must, adding a touch of glamour to your outfit.

Things You Are Not Allowed to Wear On the Kentucky Derby

Despite the lack of a dress code, it seems like everybody knows the appropriate outfit for the races. But just in case, here are some clothes that won’t do you any good at the races:

  • Athletic Attire: This includes jeans, shorts, athletic shoes, sneakers, and flip-flops.
  • Casual Wear: T-shirts, tank tops, and any clothing with offensive language or graphics are not allowed.
  • Excessive Accessories: While hats and headpieces are encouraged, excessively large or obstructive headwear may be restricted.

Weather Preparedness

It’s worth mentioning that the Kentucky Derby weather is unpredictable. Therefore, packing the right things is really important.

Rain Gear: Pack a compact umbrella. However, this might be useful when you are sightseeing the city since you are not allowed to bring your umbrella at the Kentucky Derby. But what if there is rain at the Kentucky Derby? Well, you can pack a fashionable rain poncho to stay dry during potential showers.

Sun Protection: Sunglasses, a wide-brimmed hat, and sunscreen are essential for sunny days at the track.

Practical Items

1. Tickets and ID

Make sure you have your Derby tickets and a valid ID before entering Churchill Downs.

2. Cash and Cards

Kentucky Derby has some of the tastiest food options and some delicious Mint Juleps. You wouldn’t want to miss that out, so make sure you carry both cards and cash.

3. Binoculars and Program

In order to get the best view of the action, make sure to take binoculars with you. That way you’ll be the first to see if your horse wins the race.

However, make sure that they are small. You wouldn’t want to get huge binoculars that are for wildlife hunting. Try to get something more stylish. After all, there is also a bag policy, and anything larger than 12 inches isn’t allowed.

4. Snacks and Water

While food options are available, having snacks like granola bars and a refillable water bottle on hand keeps you energized throughout the day. However, you need to make sure that you are in the right area where you are allowed to bring your own food.

5. Portable Charger

With all the photos and social media updates, your phone’s battery might drain fast. Carry a portable charger to stay connected throughout the day.

Reusable Water Bottle: Staying hydrated is key, so bring a reusable water bottle to refill at water stations and avoid single-use plastics.

Final Words

That’s about it. Your Kentucky Derby packing list is complete. Just remember to pick your most comfortable shoes, create a souvenir shopping list, and do some research on the most popular tourist attractions you’d want to visit.

The last thing is your smartphone, but we all know that you won’t forget it.


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