Saturday, December 28, 2013

Kentucky Derby Style- Turquoise and Orange

Kentucky Derby Style- Turquoise and Orange

Here's a little something I threw together on Polyvore tonight. Since it's a few days after Christmas, spring dresses haven't quite made their appearance but I did my best!  Hat by Dees Crafts in Louisville (they have the COOLEST hats). Dress is Ted Baker London from Nordstrom. Shoes are Stuart Weitzman from Purse Michaels Kors from Macy's. Jewelry is by Fornash. Nail polish is Cajun Shrimp by OPI.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Lunch at the Kentucky Derby

Don't go hungry. It's a long day and you'll need something to soak up the mint juleps, lilies and beer.

If your ticket doesn't include a lunch buffet, you're on your own for food. I have to say, the food at Churchill Downs is disappointing, to say the least. We've spent most of our years on the east end of Churchill Downs so that's what I know best. You'll find stands selling chicken fingers, burgers and fries, hot dogs, Carolina BBQ, gigantic sausages and one special stand that sells a roast beef sandwich with blue cheese and a lobster roll.

I haven't tried the burgers but I can assume they aren't hand-pattied Angus beef. The hot dogs taste like they're mostly sawdust and the Carolina BBQ? Let's just say I only ate the bun. Of course, this was the year I was hungover at the Oaks so maybe if my stomach wasn't rocking and rolling, I might have liked it better. But I doubt it. It's more like shaved pork loin instead of pulled pork from a pork shoulder. The gigantic sausages were decent. Not great, but pretty tasty after you've had a few drinks and need something with a bit o' grease.

As far as I know, there is only one stand that sells what I actually find delicious at the Kentucky Derby. It's located all the way past the paddock, keep walking past the gift shop, bypass the bank, several bathrooms and go out a set of doors. It's in a covered walkway behind the first floor clubhouse. It sells a roast beef and blue cheese sandwich (it included basil in 2008 but that was the last time I saw it with basil) and a lobster roll. Buyer beware on the lobster roll- Husband claims it was imitation crab and mayonnaise. I have no idea why there's only one place that sells it but the roast beef sandwich is definitely worth the trek if you're in the bleachers or grandstand like us.

Another option is to bring your own lunch in. Churchill Downs has very strict rules about how the food can be brought in, though, and this changes year to year so be sure to check the What to Know page at Last year, after the Boston Marathon bombing, they totally overhauled a lot of rules at the last minute so check before you pack up your fried chicken or club sandwiches!
A few Louisville restaurants sell box lunches just for the Derby. Once the Derby gets a little closer, I'll do my best to post links to restaurants that offer box lunches.

Tip: We always eat a big breakfast so we're not hungry for lunch till later in the afternoon. There are stands selling pretzels and popcorn, if you need a snack.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Where to stay for the Kentucky Derby

Hotels should be ashamed of the prices they charge for rooms during the Kentucky Derby. The Galt House Hotel in downtown Louisville usually charges anywhere from $90-200/night but Derby weekend, they ask (and apparently get!) $1200/night. And they probably have a three night minimum so you're looking at $4,000 for a hotel room for the weekend. You could buy a pretty decent used car for that price!

So where to stay without breaking the bank?

The farther you get from Louisville, the cheaper the rates get. Fort Knox is about 28 miles from Churchill Downs and you can find rooms for less than $150/night. Lexington (80 miles, give or take) has decent rates too. Open Google Maps, find Louisville, find cities along highways around Louisville, go to and start searching.

Or you could do what we do and "slum it" at one of the budget hotels in Louisville. Motel 6, Super 8, and Red Roof Inn all jack up their prices but it's not nearly as bad as Galt House, Sheraton, or Marriott. True, they don't have the greatest reviews on Trip Advisor. I'm not picky, though. The linens might not be 1000 thread count Egyptian cotton and the closest thing to room service is a drive thru down the block but I'd rather spend my money on gambling, juleps and a fabulous hat.

I fondly remember when I was watching the Belmont Stakes in 2010. I absentmindedly searched for hotels for the 2011 Kentucky Derby (yes, 11 months in advance) and found a room at Super 8 for $65/night. I quickly checked the cancellation policy and booked it. It turns out there was a change in management and no one was paying attention to Derby weekend rates. For 11 months, I periodically checked our reservation; I was terrified they were going to realize their mistake and cancel on me. Luckily, they didn't and that year we saved a fair amount of money!

Which brings me to my final tip, if you think you might go to the Derby, even if you don't have tickets, check hotel rates between May and October. At that time Derby tickets aren't on sale and you might find a loophole like we did.  Just be sure to check the reservation policy before you book anything.
Oh, one more! If you have a big group of people, check out Louisville CraigsList, HomeAway and VRBO. I've heard that people will rent out their entire houses for Derby weekend. This might be the way to go if you have a large group. A few other sites for home rentals: Kentucky Derby Home Rental and Event Home Leasing.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Thursday, December 5, 2013

My Top Three Kentucky Derby Tips

After 5 trips to the Kentucky Derby, I have made a lot of mistakes and each year, I learn something different. My number one, most important tip is....

Tip #1- Don't drink so much the night before that you're miserable the next day.
I made this mistake in 2012. We pulled into Louisville Thursday evening and hit the town. We ate dinner at Bluegrass Brewing Company downtown and then wandered over to O'Shea's for a few (several?)  more beers. I woke up feeling just dandy but as we walked into Churchill Downs, it started to hit me. I was tired and my head hurt. I was dehydrated and it was HOT that day. Our seats were in the blazing sun, water was $4 a bottle and as the day wore on, water became hard to find. I didn't take any ibuprofen before we left the hotel (apparently in my "old age" my hangovers have a delayed onset) so I went to the First Aid office where they only had aspirin and Tylenol. For me, taking Tylenol is about as effective as eating Tic Tacs so I took the aspirin... which turned out to be about as effective as eating Tic Tacs. Then, to matters worse, I had a Kelly Clarkson song stuck in my head and no matter what I did, I could not get it out of my brain. Ironically, it was the song that goes "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger." That day didn't kill me and it sort of DID make me stronger or at least smarter. I learned not to make that mistake again! Not even the age old Hair of the Dog remedy made me feel better! At around 2:30 or 3 pm, I realized the Oaks race was still 3 hours away and I threw in the towel. I looked at my husband and said, "I just can't do it anymore." We went back to our hotel, took a nap in the blissful air conditioning and after getting some decent food in my stomach (food at Churchill Downs is awful but that's another post), I started to feel human again.

How I learned from this in 2013:
I've learned that wine doesn't make me as miserable as beer the next day so I had wine with dinner on Thursday in 2013. Then I simply didn't drink as much that night.  We also brought in our own bottles of water.

Tip #2- Bring a spare pair of comfortable shoes!
 It's a long, long, long day on your feet. Unless you're someone special and/or super rich, you're starting off your day with a good 10-15 minute walk from your car to Churchill Downs. Wear the flip flops from your car to Churchill Downs and change into your heels once you're inside. You'll want to see the paddock and hit up the gift shop and after a few drinks, you'll break the seal and have to use the bathroom ten a couple times. I consider it a success if I'm still in my heels at 3. Don't be the girl walking around barefoot at the end of the day.

Tip #2.5- Wear your back up comfy shoes a few times before the Derby to make sure they really ARE comfy.  You don't want to tear the tags off and find out they rub your feet in a couple spots.

Tip #3- If there's a souvenir you have to have, buy it early in the day.
I learned this one the hard way in 2008 when I decided around noon on Derby day that I wanted the official poster. Nope. Sold out. We almost had this problem last year when we promised our three year old a green Derby shirt. We had to try at least 4 souvenir stands (lots of walking! Remember tip #2!) to find the green shirt in the smallest size. Which is still gigantic on him and it probably won't fit till he's 5 or 6. But we kept our promise! It stinks to carry it around all day but if you have to have it, it's worth it. Or if you're going to the Oaks and the Derby, pick it up near the end of the day on Oaks day.

 The poster that most likely will never grace my walls.