Every May, Churchill Downs comes alive, packed with people and horses celebrating the races and excitement of the Kentucky Derby. The crowds have descended on the racetrack every year since 1875, making the Kentucky Derby the longest-running sporting event in United States history.
Take some time out of your packed Louisville schedule to come see the track’s distinctive spires and explore this indelible part of American sporting history. You’ll have lots to see and do year-round.
As you wait for one of the hourly tours to begin, stop in the Kentucky Derby Museum, which explains the history of the track, the jockeys and the horses. Settle in for a wild ride while watching the 360-degree film, The Greatest Race, which has stools that rotate as the immersive video screen shows all the action.
You may not want to leave, but follow your tour guide outside as he or she gives you a lively historical tour of the grounds and the track.
Visit the paddocks to glimpse a few of the magnificent animals in training for races. Walk around the track, imagining when horses such as Secretariat, who still holds the Derby record, thunder down it.
Take refuge from the heat in the clubhouse with a mint julep, which comes with a keepsake glass and offers an excellent opportunity to linger in front of the 36-foot (11-meter) mural of all of the jockeys who have won the race.
Be part of history by placing a bet and putting your feet up, watching the horses run and run.
Churchill Downs is in southern Louisville, a 10-minute drive or 30-minute bus ride from the city’s downtown. Walk here in 20 minutes from University of Louisville’s main campus. Free parking is available at the site.
Choose from a variety of tour options available to book on the racetrack’s website. The racetrack and museum are open daily during business hours with somewhat later start on Sundays. Racing takes place in three meets in spring, summer and fall. The Kentucky Derby is always the first Saturday in May.