Kentucky Derby 2014 | Suitcasey

Hello again! It’s been way too long since I’ve shared a travel story. I won’t say that my attempt at the Take 12 Trips Challenge was a complete failure, just that I took a three-month hiatus. I’m going to use a lame excuse and blame my busy work schedule but I’m back with another new trip and that’s all that matters, right?

In a last-minute decision, I made the 5-hour drive from Chicago to Louisville and I met up with my travel buddy Lindsay and a large groups of her friends for the 140th Kentucky Derby. It was my first horse race experience so I wasn’t sure what to expect, and boy oh boy, was it like nothing I could have ever imagined.

Let me paint the picture for you.

We began the morning in a parking lot, tailgate-style. Everyone decked out in their nice dresses, big floppy hats, pastel suits, bow ties and american flag-themed apparel. We then hopped on a shuttle bus; the chariot that would deliver us to Churchill Downs as we belted out the Start Spangled Banner in perfect, intoxicated unison.

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Derby day! #kentuckyderby #churchhilldowns

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We purchased tickets at the entrance and made our way through the tunnel to the in-field.


The in-field was packed with a crowd made up of college bros, post-college bros, families, couples, old people, young people, southerners, northerners, fancily-dressed people, shirtless people, tall people, short people and a whole lot of drunk people. It was like a giant backyard barbecue. And watching over this diverse mob were the fine ladies and gents in the suites, grandstand and clubhouse.

As expected, the food and drinks within the Derby were very expensive. But you gotta do what you gotta do. Although the Mint Julep is the official cocktail of the Kentucky derby, I preferred the Oaks Lilly, the official drink of the Kentucky Oaks. It was very sweet but quite delicious, plus you get to keep the adorable glass it’s served in.

There were a number of races throughout the day that in-fielders could catch a glimpse of through the fence or watch on the jumbotron. Right before the main event we meandered through the clubhouse and over to the Paddox to get an up-close look at the horses as they paraded through.

Kentucky Derby Paddox

All of the day’s excitement led up to the 2:03 race and a victory for the favorite, California Chrome.

The highlight of the day for me, however, was not the race. It was the beautiful weather. Extremely sunny. 75 degrees with a slight breeze. I overdosed on sunshine and returned home with lovely third-degree burns on my shoulders because, living in Chicago, I hadn’t seen the sun in 8 months. It was worth it.

All in all, I had a crazy good time and having attended my fair share of sporting events I can tell you without a doubt that there is no other gathering or contest quite like the Kentucky Derby. And if you’re considering attending The Derby in the future, I say do it. It’s not something you want to miss.


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