“The Kentucky Derby: the most exciting two minutes in sports..” is something I’ve heard on repeat for as long as I can remember, and besides KFC, it’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear Kentucky used in a sentence. And I get that – we’re no NYC or LA, but god damnit, we’re pretty cool none the less.
This will actually be my first year attending any races at Churchill Downs, but that doesn’t mean I’ve not participated in Derby celebrations ever since I was of legal drinking (and maybe even a few years before that.)
While the most exciting two minutes in sports is drawing nigh though spending your days (and nights) at the track can be fun – I’d highly encourage out-of-towners and locals alike to venture outside Churchill Downs to celebrate Derby like a local.
Between all the great restaurants we have to choose from and the fact that bars stay open until 6 A.M. on Derby night there’s plenty of fun to be had after a long day at the races.
Where To Eat
- Silver Dollar (1761 Frankfort Avenue): One of my all-time favorite spots in the city. Great for brunch, dinner, or just drinks on their back patio.
- El Camino (1314 Bardstown Road): This happens to be a few blocks from my house, which means I frequent it this time of year for their take on street tacos and Mexican Firing Squads.
- Royals (736 East Market Street): Nashville Hot Chicken with pimento cheese grits. Try it. Thank me later.
- Galaxie (732 East Market Street): A great spot for a quick and easy lunch, or for a snack (Across The Universe) during a long bout of day drinking.
- Gralehaus (1001 Baxter Avenue): Show up early(ish) for brunch, and then once they kick you out around 4 head to the garden out back to continue drinking beer.
Where To Drink
- Garage Bar (700 East Market Street): Work on your tan, hang with friends and sip on Ginger Shandy’s with Bourbon or Basil Gimlets.
- Butchertown Grocery (1076 E Washington Street): If you’ve not already made reservations for Derby weekend you’re not gonna make it in for dinner, but head on upstairs for a burger and their take on an Old Fashioned.
- Proof (702 West Main Street): This is one of the few places that I actually venture downtown for, and if you’re going to have one mint julep while you’re in town this should be the one – see above photo for proof.
- Holy Grale (1034 Bardstown Road): The weather is supposed to be gorgeous this weekend which means the Grale’s garden is gonna be the place to be.
Where To Dance
- Nowhere (1133 Bardstown Road): Voted the best place to dance in Louisville (for good reason).
- Zanzabar (2100 South Preston Street): I’ve spent many a weekend here dancing the night away until they turn the lights on. Pro tip: don’t show up until you’re already drunk. It takes forever to get drinks.
- Seidenfaden’s (1134 East Breckinridge Street): Easily one of the smallest dive bars that I’ve ever been to, BUT also one of the best places to dance in Louisville.
Where To Fuel Up
- Please & Thank You (800 East Market Street & 2341 Frankfort Avenue): Grab yourself a coffee and chocolate chip cookie to help your power through the day.
- Press on Market (252 East Market Street): They serve up Nord’s Donuts on Saturday mornings, and if you’ve never had a Maple Bacon Donut – now is the perfect time.
Where To Shop
- Revelry Boutique Gallery (742 East Market Street): Come for all the local art. Stay because Major is the best damn dog you’ll ever meet.
- Regalo (562 South 4th Street): Local Louisville finds meets the perfect amount of kitsch.
- Scout (270 East Market Street): Need a last minute dirty card to give your Airbnb host? Then you’re in luck – they’ve got a whole wall of them.
Now this is in no way, shape, or form a definitive guide on how to spend Derby like a local, but it’s a damn good place to start – from my POV. If you’re in the area you’ll more than likely see me at all of the above places at some point over the next couple of days, and if you’re not in the area keep up with all the action over on Snapchat.
Photo by Josh Johnson
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