Getting a good seat at Churchill Downs can cost a mint (and we're not talking julep), but there are plenty of opportunities for Kentucky Derby fun elsewhere. Without breaking the bank, here are some ways to enjoy the day that makes Kentucky world-famous.
Keeneland Race Course
Keeneland's Derby Day celebration has grown to be one of the Lexington race course's biggest events when the track isn't running. Last year, more than 18,000 people came to watch and wager on Derby Day, Keeneland spokeswoman Amy Gregory said.
The track, 4201 Versailles Road, also hosts festivities on Friday, Kentucky Oaks Day.
Admission to Oaks events is free, but it's $5 for Derby Day on Saturday. (Kids 12 and younger are free both days.)
Keeneland has something for kids to posh partiers. Tables in the dining rooms, clubhouse and the Derby Bash at the Keeneland Entertainment Center are sold out Saturday, but Oaks Day tickets are available for Martinis on the Lawn ($40 each), from 3:30 to 7:30 p.m. Friday. It includes a light buffet, cash bar, live music and a simulcast of the Oaks from Louisville.
On Derby Day, if you're looking for something a little less pricey, you may picnic in the paddock and watch the race on one of Keeneland's 1,000 or so TVs. The grandstand, paddock and North Terrace areas are open to the public, with full concessions, bars, live music, pony rides and kids' activities. Mint juleps in an official souvenir Kentucky Derby glass will be on sale.
A few rules: no pets, no outside alcohol, and no tents, canopies, grills or glass in the paddock, walking ring or terrace. Coolers are permitted but are subject to inspection.
If you are really pressed for time, there is always drive-through betting — at Keeneland, The Red Mile, and the Thoroughbred Center on Paris Pike. Advance wagering on the Kentucky Derby and the Oaks/Derby Double is available Friday beginning at 8 a.m.
Info: (859) 254-3412, 1-800-456-3412. Keeneland.com.
Kentucky Horse Park
You also may bet at the drive-through wagering booths set up by Keeneland at the Kentucky Horse Park, 4089 Ironworks Parkway. Show your betting ticket and get half off general admission to the Horse Park (regularly $16 for adults, $8 ages 7 to 12).
The Horse Park also has official Derby merchandise at its gift shop and two Kentucky Derby winners on the grounds: Funny Cide (2003) and Go for Gin (1994).
At the International Museum of the Horse, on the Horse Park's campus, you may celebrate the 10th anniversary of Funny Cide's Derby and Preakness wins and view one of the largest collections of Derby and Triple Crown trophies anywhere. Seattle Slew's and Affirmed's 1977 and '78 silver is there, as is the Calumet collection.
On Friday and Saturday, the park will have music, cloggers, stick-horse making and a coloring contest for kids.
Info: (859) 233-4303, Kyhorsepark.com.
In Frankfort, Gov. Steve Beshear and first lady Jane Beshear will host the Governor's Derby Celebration with a farmers market, entertainment, children's activities, crafts and food, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
"Jane and I are thrilled to host visitors once again to our historic capital city for this family-friendly Derby celebration," Beshear said in a news release.
At the Thomas D. Clark Center for Kentucky History, 300 West Broadway, you may make and decorate Derby hats.
Disturbingthepeace, a retired Thoroughbred racehorse from Old Friends equine retirement home in Georgetown, will be on hand at Capital City Museum, 325 Ann Street.
Frankfort also has the YMCA Derby Dash for children ages 2 to 12 on Broadway, stick horse races on the Old State Capitol lawn and a free concert in front of the Old State Capitol beginning at 10 a.m. Saturday.
For more information or to register your child for the races, go to Frankfortymca.org/Programs/SpecialEvents/DerbyDash.aspx.
Kentucky Oaks: 5-6 p.m. May 3 on NBC Sports Network. Oaks post time is 5:45 p.m.
Kentucky Derby: WLEX (Channel 18) devotes almost the whole day to the Derby on May 4. The local coverage starts at 8:30 a.m., and NBC Sports national coverage is 4 to 7 p.m. Derby post time is 6:24 p.m.
Learn more: Kentuckyderby.com