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.


  1. Thanks for including my website—formerly, now—in your article!

  2. Serious beast mode right there. If you didn't have some little mare things here and there, where would the fun be?! Way to have an awesome time. That twisty table is amazing, too! Lousivlle Home Rental