LOUISVILLE, KENTUCKY — My vision as we drove though the hills of Cincinnati and onward to my first Kentucky Derby: me wearing a fancy hat, pearls, and a pretty dress. Sipping mint juleps while cheering on the races from the bright white stands. A hot, sunny day with celebrity sightings abound.
The Kentucky Derby you see on TV is not the real Kentucky Derby. For $40 on the day of the Derby, you can waltz right up to a gate, hand over your cash, and walk through a tunnel that will take you to the center of the race track. This is where you find the real party.
- Drunks run across the tops of the port-a-potties while others throw empty bottles at them.
- If the roof of the port-a-potty caves in while you’re peeing, it’s just a drunk running above you.
- You can bring coolers, chairs, and tarps. If you don’t bring a chair, you’ll have nowhere to sit.
- You won’t see any horses unless you watch them on the jumbo screen (or find this small gated section pictured below).
The good news is that you can still order a delicious mint julep (with a complimentary glass!) and you can bet on horses. Tents with state fair-style food plus hard liquor (Woodford Reserve is the official booze of the Derby) are all over. Also, some ladies and gentlemen do dress up for the infield so don’t feel silly rocking a fancy hat or suit. Just know that it might get covered in mud. And booze.
Although it was exactly the opposite of what I expected, I’m heading back this weekend. It’s only $40 and there’s easy-to-find $10 parking! Even if it’s raining, I know I’ll have a good time at the Derby. It’s just a different kind of good time.