The Kentucky Derby was a must stop on our 2018, 50 states in 50 weeks, RV trip around the United States.  This was our family’s first time.  Learning about the derby started with calling a ticket salesman.  I learned more about the derby in 15 minutes than I could find online in one hour. 

Now I have a personal understanding of the derby since I attended with my husband and three little girls.  Then I ran into a derby fan who previously lived in Kentucky the Sunday after the derby.  She gave me loads of information that would have been helpful before going to the derby.  Now I am sharing this information with you.  

Three days of horse racing

So apparently there are three days to Derby and events around town the week of the derby.  Thursday is called Thurby.  This day of racing consists of horses who didn’t make it into the derby day races.  Tickets are cheaper and there are fewer people.  As far as what to wear, that is entirely up to you.  Thursday is less relaxed but you can dress up as little or as much as you feel comfortable as long as it is in accordance with the dress code.  

Friday is called Oaks day.  Everyone wears pink if they can and the lady horses race.  People dress up a little fancier and tickets are more expensive than Thurby and less expensive than the Derby day.  

Derby day everyone dresses to the nines.  Men will wear suits and hats.  The women will wear anything from dresses to jumpsuits and the tickets are pricey.


How to choose your hat

You choose your outfit (dress) first and then you make the hat to perfectly match the outfit.  Now you can match feathers and flowers and netting yourself or you can take it to a professional.  Professionals have the ability to perfectly match your hat to your outfit.  This is what I learned from a die-hard derby fan at church the day after the derby. Dee’s crafts is a great place to start.  You can buy undecorated hats and the adornments to apply yourself or you can have them make exactly what you want.  If finished hats are what you are looking for, they have those also.

The visitors center in town also has a lot of choices of hats and fascinators (fancy headbands) which are cheaper than purchasing a hat in the Kentucky Derby Store at Churchhill Downs.  Amazon even has hats and fascinators for sale.

One of the most memorable experiences at the derby was making our hats! Our hats were made the day of the races so we had to make some quick stops.  Target was where we purchased our plain hats.  Walmart was where we found our flowers and adornments and I didn’t know about Dee’s until after the races were over.  

Seeing all the hats and outfits at the races was a lot of fun.

Where to stay

For RV parking on the derby, we could’ve spent 500 bucks to be right close to the event. But we chose to park at the fairgrounds for $20 a night.  A shuttle from the fairgrounds to Churchhill downs was provided so we hardly had to walk. RV Share put together a great list of the top 10 places to stay if you are coming to town in an RV.  

What tickets to purchase

As far as getting tickets for the derby there are booths, there is grandstand seating, and there is general admission. The general admission allows you to walk around the grounds and go on the inside of the track but not see the actual races.  If you want to be close to the fence where the horses are racing, the 100’s are the place to be.  

The 200 section is partially covered.  If you want shade/shelter then look for seats in the back four rows of the 200 section.  The grandstands will provide an elevated view of the races and the booths and suites have shelter and windows of which you can walk out to see the races.


The Kentucky Derby was probably one of my favorite stops so far on our 50 states in 50 weeks trip.  I hope this information gives you a good starting point and that you have a great time at the derby!  

Look online and share your favorite hat in the comments below.