Experience the Kentucky Derby Infield

Acapella group Pentatonix performs the National Anthem during Kentucky Derby 144

Dia Dipasupil / Staff / Getty Images

An unlimited number of tickets for the Kentucky Derby infield are available to anyone who wants to get into Churchill Downs on the day of the race (which always falls on the first Saturday in May).

However, you may want to brush up on your Kentucky Derby fun facts before heading out to the races. Also, keep in mind when buying tickets that the infield has no seating and there are few places in the infield to see the race.

Fortunately, the tens of thousands of horse racing fans, the joyful atmosphere, and the abundance of alcohol combine to make the Kentucky Derby infield the site of the biggest Kentucky Derby party in town.

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The 144th Kentucky Derby Day
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Advance admission tickets to the Kentucky Derby Infield are available through Churchill Downs, and admission tickets can also be purchased at the gate on the day of the Kentucky Derby. Additionally, ​Churchill Downs does not limit the number of people that can be admitted to the infield on Derby day, so you don’t have to worry about tickets selling out.

Kentucky Oaks General Admission Tickets typically go on sale starting in mid-November the year before the Derby. However, prices generally increase throughout the following six months leading up to race day.

In 2019, advance tickets start at $40 (November 17 to December 31, 2018) and increase to $60 on race day (May 3, 2019).

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Getting There

The 144th Kentucky Derby
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Parking in the Churchill Downs parking lot for the Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby is available only to individuals who purchased a reserved space in advance.

Residents of the area around Churchill Downs will allow you to park in their yards or driveways, but many take the opportunity to make some money and charge a steep fee.

The best way to get in and out of Churchill Downs on the day of the Kentucky Derby is to take a shuttle from Downtown Louisville, the Kentucky Fair, and Exposition Center, or Papa John's Cardinal Stadium. However, keep in mind that there may be a fee for parking in addition to the cost of a round-trip shuttle ticket.

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What to Expect

Fans react as a drummer performs in the infield prior to the 143rd running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on May 6, 2017 in Louisville, Kentucky.
Shaban Athuman/Getty Images

On average, 80,000 people spend their Derby Saturday partying in the infield. As a result, you should be prepared to spend the day around a lot of people if you decide to enjoy the Debry this way.

The Infield is crowded, the ground is the only sitting area, and nearly everyone is drinking throughout the day. Additionally, unless you are one of the first few hundred people to arrive in the infield, you’re not going to be able to get near the few infield spots where you can watch the races. Furthermore, there are not really many covered areas where you can get out of the elements.

While there will be a few families, most of the attendees are going to be rowdy locals and college students. The Kentucky Derby infield is, in essence, a party, and that’s the primary reason people attend.

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What to Bring or Not to Bring

143rd Kentucky Derby
Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Visitors to the Kentucky Derby infield can bring cell phones, cameras, camcorders, chairs, food in clear plastic bags, purses, strollers, and blankets, though certain conditions apply.

Unfortunately, guests are not allowed to bring alcoholic beverages, glass containers, backpacks, or umbrellas. Additionally, no weapons of any kind are permitted in the Infield.

To make the most of your Kentucky Debry experience, though, you'll want to arrive as early as possible to get a view of the track or the giant television broadcasting the race.

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Throw Your Own Derby Party

Racegoers wearing festive hats cheer in the infield prior to the 142nd running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on May 07, 2016 in Louisville, Kentucky.
Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Each year, the Kentucky Derby is streamed live on a major television network, which means folks all around the U.S. can still enjoy the race even if they can't make it down to the Infield on Derby day. If you're one of those who can't make it (or don't want to face the crowds), you might consider throwing your own Derby party at home.

Simply put on the race (which will be aired on NBC in 2019), invite your friends over, and require everyone to wear their best derby attire.

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