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Churchill Downs - All You Need to Know BEFORE You Go (with Photos)
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Churchill Downs Information
- Facilities 4.5
- Atmosphere 4.0
Just its name inspires romantic images of spectators dressed in their Sunday best sipping on mint juleps as thoroughbreds race past them. Recent travelers agreed – Churchill Downs, the racing facility that hosts the annual Kentucky Derby, is just as idyllic as you might have imagined. In fact, visitors said that if there's only time for one stop in Louisville, this Central Avenue racing complex is the place to go.
General admission costs $3 per person (except on Kentucky Oaks and Derby Days), and reserved seating costs $10 per person. Keep in mind: T icket prices climb higher the more prestigious your perch (in spots like the Matt Winn Dining Room, Millionaires Row, Jockey Club Suites and the Stakes Room). Racing occurs in the spring, from the first Saturday in May to early July, and in the fall from late September to late November. Look here for the schedule. If you're interested in attending the famed Kentucky Derby, prepare to fork over some serious coin. Tickets are sold in two-day packages, with prices that range from $300 to $3,400 per ticket.
If you're not into the pomp and circumstance, visit Churchill Downs in the summer so you can tour the stables. There's no dress code for general admission, but the Downs' official website includes detailed instructions on race day attire and varying ticket prices. Also, be sure to visit the Kentucky Derby Museum (housed inside the Downs) to learn more about the history of the race and its famous traditions.
Kentucky Derby Museum General Admission Ticket
from $ 21.00
Large Group: Makers Mark OR Buffalo Trace OR Woodford or Others
from $ 199.99
Bourbon Tour (03) : Buffalo Trace, Woodford, Four Roses, Wild Turkey, Other
from $ 249.99
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“ . Even though it wasn't the Kentucky Derb y, I just imagined how it would be bustling with people and crazy busy ” in 65 reviews
“ The swivel seats were very Socially Distancing spaced, and this appeared to be the center point of the museum . ” in 69 reviews
“ They had races going on at the same time, so we were able to trick or treat and see the horses at the paddock . ” in 27 reviews
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Location & Hours
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700 Central Ave
Louisville, KY 40208
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Is the gift shop open on a Sunday?
I would like to find out what time tours are available during May after the Kentucky Derby is already over?
Hi Kathy! The tours are run through the Kentucky Derby Museum which is located right beside Churchill Downs. The Museum hours from March 1st-November 30th are Mon-Sat 8AM-5PM and Sun 11AM-5PM. The General Admission to the museum which includes full… more
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We had an absolutely fantastic time visiting Churchill Downs. We almost didn't make it during our "Bourbon Trail" trip to Louisville but I managed to squeeze in a visit during our last half day in town and it ended up being one of the highlights of the trip. We both packed dresses and the biggest rimmed hats we could find in the closet. It was a little bit chilly but we had to make the most of what would likely be the closest thing we would experience to a Kentucky Derby. We must have really looked the part because as we were incorrectly heading to the museum part of the complex, someone on a golf cart drove up to us and said "are you ladies heading to the races?" and immmediately waved us in after we responded in the affirmative. He kindly drove us to the race part entrance. We had absolutely no clue where we were going but the staff directed us to the seating location indicated on our tickets. I didn't even intend to purchase tickets in the rose room (or whatever it's called) but that was a nice surprise! We had just eaten so did not consume any of the edible offerings. We did, however, hydrate with the bar offerings. I, a glass of Prosecco, and GF, a Bloody Mary. We took our seats and flipped through the provided program to choose what horses to place our bets on. Mind you, this was done purely on name alone which I do not recommend because even though I bet on the best odds, just to place in the top three, not one of our horses made it anywhere close. In fact, our horses frequently were mentioned in the context of "so and so is having trouble keeping up with the pack...". Despite losing a few bucks, it was incredibly fun and a really great experience. I highly recommend visiting. Also, btw, the bathrooms are wonderful,.
I thought my first Kentucky Derby would be our Only Derby but we came back 9 yrs later. It's definitely something everyone should experience . Do your research and find seats the best you can afford where you can see well. Between the big hats and crowds it's a challenge to see the horses from some locations on the track. This year everything is all inclusive everywhere but the infield. All drinks (alcohol and non alcohol) and food is included in price of your ticket. (Mint juleps in glass use To be $17 ea). Food included sliders, lobster rolls, chicken wings, Sandwiches etc. lines were sometimes long. It's a long day. Arrive sometime around 10-11AM and leave @8PM. Comfortable shoes a must. Big hats are pretty but wind and crowds, you're happy to get it off your head at end of the day. Read up on betting before you go. Bets placed are cash only. It's a great time!!
See all photos from Debi R. for Churchill Downs
I have been to many Thurby, Oaks, and one Derby at Churchhill Downs and to Downs After Dark many times as well! I have mainly experienced Oaks and Derby from the Infield but it is always a great time! There isn't really a view of the track from the Infield but there is a large screen to view the races. Everyone gets dressed up and wears pink on Oaks day and it's always fun! The Infield is a more relaxed way to see the races, you can bring food in, a blanket, or chairs to sit on and make a spot to hang for the day. There are betting windows in the infield, restrooms, bars, and food stands. The staff is always friendly. The food and drinks can be pricey, especially on derby week, so you may want to bring your own just make sure to check the website for rules! I have been to Millionaires Row for Thurby and a regular racing day and it was very nice, a bit outdated for decor in my opinion but the food is great and the staff and service are wonderful! There are betting windows in the room and a bar too. The Pink Julep is a favorite drink at Derby time! Downs After Dark is night racing at Churchill Downs, there are the usual races, betting windows, bars, and concession stands but also live music and food trucks making for a fun night. I did hear it was under construction now and will be finished by 2024, I'm looking forward to seeing the new additions and design.
See all photos from Anna S. for Churchill Downs
This stop was part of our city tour. Got dropped off for an hour and half. Got to do a really cool tour here. Went out into the stands and saw the track as well as walk through the museum. There is a really cool video to finish the tour of the history. This is a really cool place and the history was deep. Definitely a must stop for history buffs or people that like horses. Recommend watching Secretariat before going. Or after as you will recognize parts of the movie
See all photos from Bill M. for Churchill Downs
Awesome free Derby Dawn at The Downs! A must do!! Wonderful Louisville Derby experience for locals and out of town guests. You can do a full on breakfast buffet or coffee at the grill!
Dawn at the downs
Dawn at the Downs
Not a typical day at the drowns (Thurby). This is the day all the locals go. Think Derby but a little cheaper and less crowded. All the outfits and hats tho! Churchill is quintessential Louisville and all things southern! Enjoy but bring plenty of money. Credit cards are accepted and ATMs abound! Make sure you hit the paddock for an up close view of these magnificent horses
How fun it was to visit the place where Derby takes place every first Saturday of May! We enjoyed the early morning event of Dawn at the Downs the week before Derby. It was amazing to see the horses, from the edge of the track, train for this event. The horses are beautiful and the jockeys are so strong! We enjoyed an authentic mint julep, and got to keep the souvenir glass!
See all photos from Jaye S. for Churchill Downs
This Review is a notice that Churchill Downs is currently one massive construction site and not very pleasant. If you wish to go, I would advise that you reserve one of the dining area locations upstairs. It is the best choice at this time. 89
If there's a time that Churchill Downs brings me joy, it's the early morning hours on the backside during Derby week, watching the Oaks and Derby horses work for their upcoming races.. The moon is still up. The quiet is broken only by the hooves of the horses on the track and the snorting from flared nostrils. This chilly morning turned into a Spring day, hopefully the final push of Winter into memory. 46
I'm not sure how I've never reviewed Churchill Downs since I frequently attend races during their meets. I have reviewed the Turf Club. I added Millionaires Row to YELP yesterday, checked in, posted a few photos, and now is nowhere to be found. So, here's my take on MR4 (4th floor). It's a large open room with circular tables seating 8. If you have less than 8 in your party, you will share the table. "A" tables are close to the large wall of windows that look out on the track. There are doors to a covered, tiered viewing area outside. The buffet, including a dessert table is OK, but not what you might expect for what you're paying --- $56.50 pp. You have three hours, beginning at 11:30 AM to gorge yourself before the food is removed. There is a cash bar. You have tellers and betting terminals for your wagering. I'd change the name of the room from Millionaires Row as the name obscures the reality of it. Wasn't it previously the Eclipse Room? Robert, our server was friendly and on point. Given the choice, I would always choose the Turf Club over MR4.
Wow!!!! Put this on your bucket list!! We were here for meetings, but we will be back for races! What a beautiful facility steeped in history! The food and staff here were very professional and they had a nice tour we caught part of! First Mint Julep... yummy! I'm honestly so impressed with Louisville! I look forward to reviewing that crazy race day! We got to "place bets" on races and it was even exciting on the screen!
See all photos from Sue E. for Churchill Downs
My Tip: Wear comfortable shoe; flip flops was my choice. Sparkling flip flops but still...flip flops. By the end of the night, people were saying how smart it was and others were looking at my flip flops...wishing they had them on as they limped along. We had Millionaires Row tickets again for Day of the races at Churchill Downs. Another amazing dinner table right next to the window. I could literally get up from my table and walk straight outside on the most beautiful balcony with breath taking views of the races and the city. The vibe was Power. Strength. and Beauty. The horses were an amazing force. The views and breeze were intoxicating. There is nothing like the sounds at Churchill Downs. After a Mint Julep and the intoxication of the breeze, the pours seemed to get very generous and even stronger. Dinner was interestingly just ok. Lots of tables. We had a table with no one next to us...just the windows on one side and the open floor on the other. Just perfect. Churchill Downs is not about the food so expect it to be mediocre which did not impact this review. The only part of the experience that was off putting this year was the parking. It was so chaotic. You had employees directing people to the wrong area. Everyone wasted so much time dealing with parking. You really needed a drink by the time you made through the gates. The golf cart pick ups were great that took us to / from the gates to make up some time lost with the "who's on first" directions from the parking employees. The experience is ABSOLUTELY everything it is hyped up to be!!
What an amazing historic site!! Obviously a must visit went in Louisville or even in Kentucky it's worth making your way here. Stopped in on a Saturday afternoon to bet on some ponies. Of course had to try my first mint julep too! Placed some fun bets and left for the few dollars in my pocket. All the staff that I interacted with was very nice. The facility is laid out very well and you're able to get down to the rail on the side of the track as well as see the horses parade around before entering the track. Admission is cheap and you don't have to reserve a seat. Programs are free. Again this is a must stop! I will absolutely be back if ever passing through Kentucky.
See all photos from Dave B. for Churchill Downs
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- Plan a Visit
Ultimate Churchill Downs Tour
Monday through saturday.
Get ready to embark on the most comprehensive tour that the Kentucky Derby Museum has to offer! The Ultimate Churchill Downs Tour guides you through the fabled history, pageantry, and legacy of the Kentucky Derby. You’ll visit some of the most exclusive dining and event spaces at Churchill Downs including Millionaire’s Row, the Stakes Room, and the Turf Club*. Step onto the balconies overlooking the racetrack for incredible views of the Louisville skyline and the iconic Twin Spires™. Then you’ll get an intimate view of Thoroughbreds training for upcoming races from vantage points railside in the Grandstand and on the Backside of the track. Travel through the Infield tunnels to ride between the green-roofed barns of the Backside where legendary Derby winners have been stabled during the season’s racing meets. This vibrant community on “the other side” of the track will be teeming with action and excitement as you see how horses are trained and cared for by teams of skilled horsemen. Finish your tour by returning to the Museum to explore the exhibits and enjoy our immersive 360° film, “The Greatest Race."
*Areas are subject to change based on availability.
*Please note that the Ultimate Churchill Downs tour no longer includes lunch.
Ultimate Churchill Downs Tour Times
- Daily during the racing and training season 8:00 a.m.
- All times are in Eastern Daylight Time
Ultimate Churchill Downs Tour Details
$150 per person
Maximum 6 guests
Guests must be at least 10 years old
While guests will be transported via golf cart for portions of this tour, please note there is also significant walking, including stairs
Includes General Admission to Museum and a viewing of our epic 360° film, “The Greatest Race”
Please note: Due to construction projects at Churchill Downs, the Ultimate Churchill Downs Tour is not currently wheelchair accessible. If you have any accessibility concerns, please contact the Kentucky Derby Museum Visitor Services Department at (502) 637-1111 or please select our general admission & Guided Track Visit option, which is wheelchair accessible.
Important Information for Your Tour
The time you select is the departure time for your Ultimate Churchill Downs Tour. All tours depart on schedule and unfortunately, cannot be delayed for tardy or missing ticket holders. We recommend arriving at least 15 minutes prior to tour departure.
When choosing a time for your tour, please make sure that if you are purchasing additional tours that the start and end times do not overlap.
Tours are conducted rain or shine. Umbrellas are prohibited for the safety of Thoroughbreds and riders on the track. In the event of rain, we suggest bringing ponchos and rain boots. Ponchos are available for purchase in the Kentucky Derby Museum Store.
Please note: On rare occasions, tours are subject to change without advance notice and may be rerouted. Check our calendar to view amendments to our normal hours of operation.
All tickets are NON-REFUNDABLE. For our ticket policy, please check here.
Excellent Barn Tour
We took the barn tour on the golf cart with Darrell and it was wonderful. We loved visiting the barns and seeing trainers and the horses on the track. This is the only way to tour Churchill Downs in my opinion. Darrell is so knowledgable and we loved listening to him.
— Karolyn H., Tripadvisor May, 2021
ATTAINABLE ADVENTURES FOR EVERY SEASON OF LIFE
Historic Walking Tour at Churchill Downs
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When you visit the Kentucky Derby Museum in Louisville, make sure that you take advantage of the 30 minute guided historic walking tour at Churchill Downs that is included with your admission.
Walk the Concourse
You will hear stories of famous racing horses whose names are on display throughout the concourse. This tour also takes you to the paddock and the grandstand where you will see the famous twin spires.
These tiles are made from recycled rubber and every horse walks on them before the big race.
The track at Churchill Downs is known as one of the safest tracks to ride on.
The Grandstand and Famous Spires
A Legendary Jockey
At the end of your tour, you may see a resident Thoroughbred which changes periodically.
I highly recommend taking the tour. It’s a great way to see the racetrack in a new light and it’s very informative with lots of great photo opps.
Additional Tours and More Information
The Kentucky Derby Museum has additional tours available that give you behind the scenes access for an additional fee. You can find more information on the Historic Walking Tour at Churchill Downs schedule from the Kentucky Derby Museum website. You can read more about our visit to the museum here.
The Kentucky Derby Museum is located at 704 Central Ave, Louisville, KY 40208.
Local Dining Options
Located across the street, Wagner’s Pharmacy is a MUST if you want a great breakfast in a building that has lots of connections to the horse racing industry.
Looking for more unique places to eat in Louisville? Make sure that you read this post.
Disclosure: I received complimentary admission for review purposes. All opinions are my own.
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Churchill downs tours and activities.
- Things to do
I only need accommodations for part of my trip
Visit Churchill Downs
Every May, Churchill Downs comes alive, packed with people and horses celebrating the races and excitement of the Kentucky Derby. The crowds have descended on the racetrack every year since 1875, making the Kentucky Derby the longest-running sporting event in United States history.
Take some time out of your packed Louisville schedule to come see the track’s distinctive spires and explore this indelible part of American sporting history. You’ll have lots to see and do year-round.
As you wait for one of the hourly tours to begin, stop in the Kentucky Derby Museum, which explains the history of the track, the jockeys and the horses. Settle in for a wild ride while watching the 360-degree film, The Greatest Race, which has stools that rotate as the immersive video screen shows all the action.
You may not want to leave, but follow your tour guide outside as he or she gives you a lively historical tour of the grounds and the track.
Visit the paddocks to glimpse a few of the magnificent animals in training for races. Walk around the track, imagining when horses such as Secretariat, who still holds the Derby record, thunder down it.
Take refuge from the heat in the clubhouse with a mint julep, which comes with a keepsake glass and offers an excellent opportunity to linger in front of the 36-foot (11-meter) mural of all of the jockeys who have won the race.
Be part of history by placing a bet and putting your feet up, watching the horses run and run.
Churchill Downs is in southern Louisville, a 10-minute drive or 30-minute bus ride from the city’s downtown. Walk here in 20 minutes from University of Louisville’s main campus. Free parking is available at the site.
Choose from a variety of tour options available to book on the racetrack’s website. The racetrack and museum are open daily during business hours with somewhat later start on Sundays. Racing takes place in three meets in spring, summer and fall. The Kentucky Derby is always the first Saturday in May.
Plan a trip to see Churchill Downs
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Reviews of Churchill Downs
5/5 - excellent.
Go early in the morning to beat the crowds. The Barn and Backside Workout Tour was interesting, but would have been much better if an open air vehicle was the mode of transportation as opposed to the van. It was difficult to see anything, and pretty cramped if the tour is full.
Bought reserve seats under the overhang for $34. Sat next to everyone who paid $17 for exposed seats and simply moved up to the better seats. No one checking tickets.
TARC transportation, the Louis Lift picks up in front of the hotel and will take you to Churchill Downs (with a few stops) for free!
Got there at 10:30am. Tours don't start until 11am
did not visit
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Backside of the Track Tours at Churchill Downs
Backside of the Track Churchill Downs
As the early morning sun splashed above the twin spires at Churchill Downs, we set off for the backside of the track at Churchill Downs. Here, you can belly up to the rails to watch horses stride the track to warm up for races. And during Derby, you can expect a media frenzy as the world’s fastest thoroughbreds prep for the run of the roses.
And you never know who you might see. I ran into Hall of Fame jockey, Pat Day. His career spans 30 years with more than 8800 winning races. Day is also the all-time winning jockey at the legendary Churchill Downs racetrack, an achievement that includes his signature win in the 1992 Kentucky Derby aboard Lil E. Tee – one of his nine individual Triple Crown race victories. Other famous mounts include Easy Goer, Awesome Again, Lady’s Secret, and Wild Again.
Carri Wilbanks with hall of fame trainer, Pat Day at Churchill Downs
Outside of Derby week, tours of the backside of the track are offered . Check out the more than 1,400 stalls or even catch a glimpse of a 2-year-old training to win next year’s Derby.
$11.00 per person (children 4 and under FREE)
Museum Admission Required
Available March 15 – November 30
(Not available May 4 – May 5, 2012)
Barn and Backside Tour Schedule: Available March 15 – November 30
Monday – Saturday 7:00 a.m., 8:30 a.m., 10:00 a.m., 11:30 a.m.,
1:00 p.m., 2:30 p.m.
Sunday 11:30 a.m., 1:00 p.m., 2:30 p.m.
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Get ready for your visit to historic Churchill Downs with helpful tips and event information.
FIRST TIME AT THE RACES?
Take our guided experience tour and learn more about planning your trip. Complete your check list to get ready visit Churchill Downs!
Explore our guided experience
WHAT TO EXPECT CHURCHILL DOWNS
Tickets are non-refundable and all tickets are accessed digitally.
If you see something, say something. Text the word DERBY to 69050 and you will be placed in touch with Guest Services.
Safety and security of all of our guests is taken very seriously. Your bag may be searched, and you may be wanded by security upon entry.
While there won’t be 150,000 people at the track like there is on Derby, large crowds are often present at large stakes race days and featured event days.
While there typically isn’t the need to dress up like Derby, there are some instances and areas that have dress codes or where themed attire is encouraged.
Races are a rain or shine event be prepared as a large number of seatings are outdoors and uncovered.
We will do our absolute best to accommodate persons with disabilities. We are unable to provide wheelchairs for rent or storage.
There is public Wi-Fi available on race days.
WHAT TO EXPECT
TRAVEL: PARKING & TRANSPORTATION
There is plenty of on site parking. See more information on directions to specific lots for each meet.
Taxi or rideshare pick-up and drop-off should be encouraged to take guests to the Clubhouse or VIP gates.
There will be ADA-accessible parking in our parking lots.
EXPLORE TRAVEL INFORMATION
Arrive early to accommodate search procedures at all admission gates.
Get all of the information surrounding the races.
Review the list of items that are permitted and those that cannot be brought into the racing facility.
Download to access your tickets, facility maps, wayfinding and more!
EXPLORE ALL EVENT INFORMATION
VISITING US FAQs
Our goal is to make sure you have a memorable experience at Churchill Downs. Please see our helpful guide of frequently asked questions.
View More Questions
When is live racing held?
Typically, Churchill Downs has three meets a year where live racing occurs. There is the Spring Meet which begins after the Kentucky Derby. Later in the year there is also the September and Fall Meet which concludes after Thanksgiving weekend. Check out the calendar to see all of our race days here.
What time do races start at Churchill Downs?
The exact race time can vary from day to day during the meet. We encourage you to review the calendar to see all post times for the day you plan on attending the races.
What are some other events and activities you have during a race meet?
Churchill Downs has a number of race days with unique features. This can include family adventure days with activities for children, Twilight Thursday for evening races with discount drinks and food trucks and Downs After Dark which have night time racing and themes to name a few. We encourage you to check out the specific featured events for the upcoming meet.
Are there restrictions on what I can bring into Churchill Downs?
Yes, there are restrictions on items you can bring, including bag size limitations and prohibited items. Check out the full list for the most up-to-date information .
What is the dress code for Churchill Downs?
While there typically isn’t the need to dress up like Derby, there are some instances and areas that have dress codes or where themed attire is encouraged. Downs After Dark for example are night time races with themed events and encouraged. In some locations, like membership clubs and suites, there are certain levels of dress required. Follow this helpful chart and check the seating areas pages you are attending for specific Do’s and Don’ts.
What happens if it rains on a race day?
Churchill Downs race days run rain or shine. It's a good idea to check the weather forecast and bring appropriate attire, including rain gear, if necessary. Check out the full list for the most up-to-date information .
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