Kentucky Derby Infield Experience; Tips & Advice for Surviving Churchill Downs

The Kentucky Derby infield experience is one like no other. I have attended countless sporting events, but no event in which not seemingly one out of 50,000 plus people in the infield care at all who wins the event. I traveled from Normal, Illinois with my girlfriend. We stayed in cheap hotels in Indiana the night before and the night of the Kentucky derby to save on costs and to have short trips around the race. We had a hard time finding specific information and tips on the event, so I am writing this survival guide to help others that would like this great experience.

-Arrival
You do not have to get to the track for race 1 if you do not want to. Traffic was still low but the lines were starting to get long when I arrived about 20 minutes before race 7, the derby was race 11. If you want a great spot for the derby and to view the big screens, get there early, otherwise don’t worry about showing up until around noon.

-Attire
Ladies: Do not wear heels! The infield is bumpy and mostly filled with uneven grass and mud. Most women in the infield will wear cowboy boots or rain boots with a standard dress and a hat. Half of the people on the infield will be wearing jeans, the other dressed up a little, both are completely acceptable on the infield. There was a gentleman who wore a Santa suit with a “free hugs” sign, so don’t worry too much about wearing the wrong thing.

-Bathrooms
There are several lines of Port-a-johns, but they get increasingly gross, so be prepared.

-Betting
There are plenty of windows, but try to make your bets for the derby simple as they get very busy the closer you get to the actual Kentucky Derby. Placing your bets before the 8th race would be a smart option.

-Chairs
Bring chairs! Fold up camping chairs work great.

-Coolers
You may bring coolers, but I am not sure if you can bring alcohol, they will look threw it. Next year I will be bringing food and possibly jello shots. The food options at the derby were about the only disappointing thing about the whole day.

-Drinks
There are beer stands everywhere and very strong Mint Juleps served in glass for $10 each.

-Drunks
You will be around countless thousands of drunk people. Almost all were respectful and there to have a good time, but still be careful.

-Leaving
Most infield fans start leaving right after the derby and the line to get out is intense. Plan on staying for the last two races and let the lines die down while everyone else is trying run over each other.

-Pacing
Pace yourself! The drinks are strong and there were many young college girls that could not stand up an hour before the race. Plan on a hot or rainy day, but be extra careful when drinking in hot weather.

-Parking
Found $10 parking about a safe half mile walk away.

-Party
Part of the infield is a complete party with music a stage and a lot of drunk college kids, but you can avoid this area easily, they corner them off.

-Tickets
Kentucky Derby infield tickets are all general admission and there is not limit to how many are sold. Do not buy these off of a secondary ticket website like Stubhub, purchase from Churchill Downs. Tickets with fees were only $44 a piece, while seats around the track can easily cost over $3,000 a piece.

-View
You will not see any horses. Your view on the infield is of many television screens, betting windows, drunk people, and many interesting sights, sounds, and smells. There was one race where I was able to find just the right spot to view several tops of horses heads as they ran around the track for a split second.

I had a great time and will plan on going back each year. If you cannot stand big crowds or drunk people, I would warn you to surround yourself with reliable friends. Please ask any other questions or give suggestions that I can add to this article later.