How much does a trip to the Kentucky Derby cost?

Thomas Kelley /

For horse racing fans, the Kentucky Derby – often referred to as “the most exciting two minutes in sports” – is the ultimate. The 148thth The edition, at Churchill Down’s Holy Land in Louisville, Kentucky, is set for May 7, with more than 150,000 people expected to attend.

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It’s on your bucket list, so why not this year? It’s not too late to plan a last minute trip to Louisville, and the cost depends on the type of experience you want. You can spend conservatively, as a person who will not bet more than $ 2 on the race, or go all out as a high roller. Or somewhere in the middle.

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With these parameters in mind, GOBankingRates came up with exactly what you can spend on a last-minute trip to attend the Derby, and even Kentucky Oaks the day before. To determine the cost of travel, we chose Chicago as a starting point, and then examined everything from the price of accommodation to entry to the ever-important clothing to arrive at estimated costs.

Here’s what a trip to the Kentucky Derby would cost.


It’s 525 miles from O’Hare International Airport in Chicago to Churchill Downs in Louisville.

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2 $ Bettor: To drive there takes about 5½ hours. If your car reaches 30 miles per gallon and at a national average gasoline price of $ 4.16 per gallon, you can drive for about $ 45 each way. Set aside some money for tolls too.

The Midstretch: The round-trip flight that takes you there in time to Friday’s Kentucky Oaks starts at $ 381. Add a full size rental car for $ 176.

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The High Roller: Sentinet Jet is the “preferred private flight partner” to Kentucky Derby and Churchill Downs. It offers all-inclusive rates and a 25-hour flight, regardless of starting destination. The company guarantees availability with 24 hours notice. The price is stated directly to the consumer, but you can imagine.


Hotel rooms – and rates – are at a premium during Derby Week, but GOBankingRates found these options on

2 $ Bettor: Head about 130 miles east to Georgetown, outside the state capital Frankfort, where you can stay at the Microtel Inn for $ 275 for two nights.

The Midstretch: Book two nights at the Holiday Inn Louisville Airport, 1.5 miles from Churchill Downs, for $ 1,569. If you are inclined, go to the track to save the hassle – and cost – of parking.

The High Roller: Another Holiday Inn – the Express Louisville Airport Expo Center – can accommodate you for $ 3,465 for your stay.


You can experience the Derby in a variety of ways, grabbing everything from a piece of lawn on the plot (without a view of the track) to a luxury box. Here are some of your options.

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2 $ Bettor: A general entrance ticket takes you to Churchill Downs. On race day, it’s $ 85, or save $ 5 if you buy in advance. (A ticket to both Kentucky Oaks and Derby is $ 135.) Bring a chair or sit on a blanket and watch the race on the huge 4K video board. To save money, carry in a lunch box or groceries in clear plastic bags or containers no larger than 12 inches by 6 inches by 12 inches – limit one per participant. You can also bring up to 24 ounces of water in unopened plastic bottles.

The Midstretch: Buy infield, uncovered reserved stands, which give you access to the front of the racetrack and the garden areas. The cost of $ 475 includes entry for both competition days, as well as food and drink.

The High Roller: First Turn Reserved Seating complements your track view with access to the Kentucky Derby Walkover, where you will see the horses parade from the barn to the paddock to the competition area. Enjoy all-inclusive food and drink along with dedicated toilets. A two-day ticket costs $ 1,076.


All on-site parking at Churchill Downs is reserved during Derby Week and seats are no longer available for purchase.

2 $ Bettor: TARC – Transit Authority of River City – will provide public transportation to the Kentucky Derby. Single rates (excluding transfers) cost $ 1.75. Schedule information is available on the website.

The Midstretch: For $ 30, park at Cardinal Stadium on campus at the University of Louisville, then walk to Churchill Downs.

High Roller: Let someone leave you, but you have to pre-sell a pass to the Derby Drive drop-off zone. The pass costs $ 100 per car and is great for both Kentucky Oaks and Derby days.


After all, the Kentucky Derby is as much a fashion show as a horse race. Derby’s website recommends spring colors. For men, it says, “sun-soaked, tropical colors in bold stripes or busy plaid and bright pastels steal the spotlight. Even if you want a more polished look, a classic navy blue or seersucker blazer is always in style.” For women: “Spring dresses, pastel-colored suits or bold clothes that go well with their Derby headgear and accessories.”

2 $ Bettor: If you sit on your blanket in the general admission section, you will not exactly see and be seen. Wear something comfortable from your wardrobe. Although Churchill Downs does not have a dress code, the course also reserves the right to ask you to leave if you are wearing anything inappropriate.

The Midstretch: The Rent the Runway website has a section dedicated to Kentucky Derby clothing, which allows a woman to wear a dress she would not otherwise buy. Try a blue and white Lilly Pulitzer sundress or a light purple lace dress from Dress the Population for 30 USD. Customize the outfit with a hat – a Derby brand – from an official painter in the race.

The High Roller: The sky is the limit for the cost of Derby attire, although the Courier Journal in Louisville took a look a few years ago at what the well-equipped woman can wear and what the ensemble can cost. It started with a Monique Lhuillier tea-length dress, an accessory of a Jacquie Aiche necklace, a clutch from Jimmy Choo, Jamie Wolf earrings, Christian Louboutin pumps and a pair of Chanel sunglasses. The total? $ 21,690.

And that does not include the price of a hat.

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About the author

Jami Farkas holds a degree in communications from California State University, Fullerton, and has worked as a reporter or editor for newspapers in all four corners of the United States. She adds GOBankingRate’s experience as a sports editor, business editor, religion editor, digital editor – and more. With a passion for real estate, she passed the real estate license test in her state and is still considering whether to take the step into selling homes – or just write about selling homes.

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