* Apology & Disclaimer: Want to know what you get when you combine 50 degree weather, and the wettest Kentucky Derby in history? You get horrible photos from a device you were desperately trying to keep dry during the downpours! No amount of editing could save these! Sorry in advance for the fuzzy photos!
Picking your party at the Kentucky Derby can be as complicated as trying to learn how to place a good bet! The ticket options are limitless at the Derby as are the prices for those tickets!
For those of us trying to not spend our entire savings account on a day the races the choices boil down to two options; Grandstand tickets ( also known as reserved outdoor seating in the beachers) or the Infield ( affectionately referred to as general admission). The price difference between the two seating options can be massive, but so can the difference in the experience. A day in the infield is like a day at a music festival but with posher outfits. A day spent in the grandstands is a little less hardcore party a little more relaxed, and some would argue just a little less fun.
A Derby Day spent in the infield is like an epic all day music festival, sprinkled with insanely awesome fashion, and topped off with amazing athleticism of the horses. Unlike the grandstands it requires a little more planning in order to make the most of your party so we’re rolling 10 quick tips from what we learned to help you survive a day in the infield!
Check The Weather: We feel like this needs to be said! Given our less than dry experience at the Derby, make sure you’re checking the weather for the races. While we would have liked to have enjoyed a beautiful Spring day in Kentucky, that’s not what we got! In fact our visit to the Derby had the highest recorded rainfall in the history of the event. Yup. Make sure you make a plan, and bring a raincoat if it’s looking a little stormy, you’ll be glad you did!
Damp and Dapper Digs!
The derby does sell D over priced plastic ponchos if you’re in a pinch. Preparing ahead of time will save you mad cash and help you keep up your Derby Day look. I snagged this super affordable Coleman raincoat, that folds up and stashes easily in bag from Walmart. Amazon sells a similar option, you can snag one here.
Dress Your Best-ish: Ish, yes, dress your best-ish. While wandering around the Downs you will see everything from thousand dollar outfits to some very creative and very funny ensembles. There’s no dress code so technically you can wear whatever you want but it is the Kentucky Derby so if you’re wanting to do it up a bit, this is your chance. Although those thousand dollar outfits probably like great in the box seats and millionaires row- they won’t make it on the infield. When shopping for an outfit keep these three F’s in mind; fashion, function, fit. Your outfit should without a doubt be fashionable but functionality is also key; dry clean only is a no no, the chances or a spill or a stain happening in the infield is high! Last but not least consider the fit- ladies, maxi dresses in the infield are a recipe for grossness, nothing quite like dragging a long dress through the dirt all day and not to mention the the floors of those aforementioned bathrooms! Eeek!
Don’t Wear Heels: Let’s get the disappointment over with early shall we? I know, I know it’s the Kentucky Derby and it just seems like heels should be happening here. But listen to me, and listen to me good, don’t wear heels. Here’s why; even in the best weather conditions a trip to the Derby and moreover a day spent in the infield means walking in the grass or on gravel and strolling among hundreds of other people in and around the paddock area and betting booths- not to mention the minimum quarter mile walk to the Downs themselves from the parking locations. Swollen feet, and painful blisters can really turn a good derby day. bad So save yourself some struggle and leave the spikes at home. Gentlemen this applies to you too- make sure whatever footwear you choose is something comfy that you’re cool with wearing and walking in for a long day!
Take A Seat: Literally, take your own seat. Infield tickets mean if you want to sit in a chair you’re going to have to bring your own. No chairs= a long, long day of standing around or having to plop your tushy in the grass, not exactly the thing one wants to do when wearing their fancy derby duds. We packed a pair of basic folding camp chairs, and were not disappointed!
Bring Your Own Snacks: Ok, ok it’s true whenever someone says I can bring food into a venue I always turn into that person who packs and entire grocery store- cause well is enough ever enough when it comes to noshing? The Kentucky Downs allows Derby-goers the privilege of bringing in food, as long as it is packed into clear plastic bags ( no more than 2 bags total) and drinks must be either water or soda in sealed bottles. Obviously, they have and strictly enforce the no bring your own booze rules since that’s a major money maker for the day! Bringing in snacks will not only save you from spending a lot of cash but also gives you food options that don’t involve frozen chicken fingers, hot dogs, and creepy not real orange cheese nachos.
Park and Party: Like any big event parking for the Derby can be a real B. So getting there early, finding an open lot and parking with ease is well worth the effort. Plus if you come prepared there’s bonus fun to be had while waiting to make your way to the Downs. We’ve done our fair share of tailgating at concerts, football games, and even in some unlikely situations but it never crossed our minds that tailgating would be a thing at the Derby but it is- it’s a big thing! Fortunately for us, since we were travelling in the van we came prepared for the party, glasses and bourbon included thanks to our cruise along the Bourbon Trail the day before!
Keep It Clean: You’ve heard of BYOB well the Derby wont let you bring your own booze but they will let you BYOT- bring in your own toilet paper, a necessary item for anyone attempting to survive a day in the infield at the Derby. The bathroom attendants work tirelessly to keep up with the volume of people using the bathrooms but as the day wears on and the drinks keep flowing the restrooms quickly turn from lavatories to laboratories with some strange experiments brewing in them if you get my meaning. Be sure to keep it clean and bring your own necessities, a travel toilet paper pack and a bottle of purell can do wonders!
Place A Bet: Normally I wouldn’t encourage you to engage in gambling, it being a slippery slope and all that but it’s the Kentucky Derby and betting on horses is half of the fun. Betting can be a complicated process, there’s lots of lingo to learn, and the outcomes/ how much you win requires math beyond our interest- with all that said it can feel intimidating to saunter up to a window, but on Derby Day there are literally hundreds of noobs out there just like you so the “bet-takers” (is that what they call them?) are really understanding and generally good about working with you to help you understand what your saying. Betting can get incredibly complicated if you’re interested in learning more we’ve heard that,Betting On Horse Racing For Dummies, offers a good read basic on the topic. We kept things simple and stuck to the three simplest bets:
Win- You’re wagering that the horse will win the race (this has the highest payout if you win).
Place- You’re wagering that the horse will either place first or second.
Show- You’re betting that the horse will either place first, second or third.
Take A Lap: You could easily spend an entire day in the infield people watching, partying and watching the horses run right on the rail but if you did you would miss out on alot! The infield is like a big grass pit that the track circles around, it’s huge and it most definitely worth taking a stroll around the see what’s happening in the other areas, but it’s also worth walking through the tunnels and making your way to the paddock. There you can preview the horses and their jockeys before they’re taken out to the track for each race, there are betting windows for last minute choices, food vendors galore, and of course great shopping to snag all your derby souvenirs!
Don’t Forget A Hat: We saved the most important for last! Just cause you’re in the infield doesn’t mean you’re allowed to skip this most sacred of Kentucky Derby traditions. Opulence is the name of the game when it comes to Derby Day hats, the bigger the brighter the better! The options for toppers are endless and creativity is the name of the game but just like with your outfit of choice, consider functionality as well. Too little of a hat is boring, too big of a hat is an inconvenience. Choose wisely my friends. If you don’t feel like dragging yourself to the store Amazon has tons of unique hat options!
It’s true that a day in the grandstands can is a lot more posh but nothing beats the party in the infield! Experience is the best teacher and we learned alot from our first Derby Day, but we’re by no means experts! Been to the Derby? Got tips we’ve missed? Drop us a comment and let us know!
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