By Gian Prabhudas, Building Kentucky
FOMO stands for “fear of missing out.” This is your guide to Derby week events in Kentucky so you don’t have to miss a thing.
Every year, around 1.5 million horse racing fans, celebrities and Kentuckians visit Louisville for the Kentucky Derby.
The first jewel of the Triple Crown and the raucous festivities leading up to it have become the largest generator of tourism for the city — bringing in an average of $400 million per year.
With countless galas, parties, tastings, races and conferences to choose from, deciding how to spend your Derby week can easily become a little overwhelming. That is why we’ve compiled a guide to catching all — OK, most — of the best events. Whether you’re getting together with friends and watching from afar or heading to the racetrack, there are plenty of activities for all to enjoy!
Kentucky Derby Festival Marathon and miniMarathon
Saturday, April 30, at 7 a.m. ET
Whether taking part in the run or just cheering someone on, the Kentucky Derby Festival Marathon and miniMarathon are the first Derby week events you can attend to get the full experience.
The races attract around 12,000 participants yearly and are a great way to take in the best parks, attractions and views of Louisville. The miniMarathon is particularly popular and has been named one of the top 50 races in the nation by USA Track and Field Magazine.
The Pegasus Parade
Sunday, May 1, at 3 p.m. ET
The Pegasus Parade is the oldest event of the Kentucky Derby Festival and remains one of the most popular to this day. This year it returns with the theme of Loving Louisville, and floats will include models and imitations of the city’s most cherished landmarks, icons, sports teams, music. It will also feature marching bands and equestrian units. The event will also be broadcast live by WAVE-TV.
Dawn at the Downs
Monday, May 2, 6:30 a.m. ET
Dawn at the Downs is an event where you can enjoy a delicious buffet breakfast as you watch Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks racers conduct their morning workouts. Attendees are also treated to expert commentary on the horses including about their performance history and usual workout routines. It is a great way to take in the Derby in a peaceful environment.
The Great Bed Races
Monday, May 2, at 6 p.m. ET
The Great Bed Races give everybody a chance to embrace their inner goofball. To participate in this event, all you have to do is find four trusted teammates, decorate a bed and put it on wheels, dress in a silly costume and dodge the pylons on your way to the finish line (you can also just watch). This year’s theme is Game On — a tribute to video games and arcades. The festivities will also be covered live by WAVE-TV.
Tuesday, May 3, at 12:45 p.m. ET
Champions Day presents an opportunity to focus on the culture and history that surround the Kentucky Derby and horse racing as a whole. This year, the theme centers on women who have been instrumental in advancing the sport. Attendees will also get the chance to meet famous jockeys and trainers, and part of the proceeds go to thoroughbred care after the races.
International Derby Travels the Runway
Tuesday, May 3, at 7 p.m. ET
As magnificent costumes and hats are a large part of what makes the Kentucky Derby, it may not come as a surprise that Derby week also includes one of the most unique and anticipated fashion shows of the year.
International Derby Travels the Runway attracts local and global designers who show off their derby inspired fashions. It is just one of the many activities part of Derby Diversity Week (DDW) — a conference that features business networking by day and festivals by night, and has quickly become a must-do in Louisville around this time of year.
The Great Steamboat Race
Wednesday, May 4, at 6 p.m. ET
One of the oldest festival traditions involves the Great Steamboat Race between the Belle of Louisville, the Belle of Cincinnati and, this year for the first time, the American Duchess. The best way to enjoy this race is to get a ticket onto one of the actual steamboats, but there are several other great spots to watch the event from, such as the waterfront or the Big Four Bridge.
Thursday, May 5, at 9 p.m. ET
First, take a minute to appreciate whoever came up with the dress-clothes-and-athletic-footwear combination. Then, break out your best suit or dress and your favorite kicks and dance the night away at this unique party with live performances, celebrity appearances and a sneaker photo booth. Sneaker Ball is another can’t-miss set piece of Derby Diversity Week.
The Longline Kentucky Oaks
Friday, May 6, 5:30 p.m. ET
Kentucky Oaks Day at Churchill Downs is the second-highest attended horse race in the United State, outside of the Triple Crown. It is also one of the few horse races in the country that is still being held at the site of its inception. At this event, fillies compete for the grand prize: a garland of lilies. Attendees are also encouraged to wear everything pink in honor of the race’s official flower.
The Kentucky Derby
Saturday, May 7, 6:30 p.m. ET (but there are plenty of great races beforehand)
After your well-spent week of festivities, it will finally be time to place your bets, grab a mint julep and enjoy the most exciting two minutes in sports!