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The Bluegrass State’s signature event is back on Saturday, May 7! The Kentucky Derby has been a longstanding tradition since 1875, and this year promises to be as exciting as ever. From fancy hats to the classic Derby drink (a mint julep, of course), here’s everything you need to know if you’re planning to attend America’s Greatest Race in 2022.

Churchill Downs with tulips galore.

The Kentuck Derby is nearly here! So, what can you expect?

Your Ultimate Guide to the 2022 Kentucky Derby

WHAT TO EXPECT

In a nutshell, you can expect horseracing, parties, great people-watching, and a darn good time! A limited number of Derby single-day tickets and two-day packages are available, and all reserved seats include food and beverages — both alcoholic and non-alcoholic. Premium seating options and special experience packages with hotel accommodations, parties, and tours are also available. Visit kentuckyderby.com for more information.

WHAT TO BRING

If you’re a regular attendee of events at Churchill Downs, keep in mind that The Derby Week bag policy — which has additional restrictions — goes into effect on Saturday, April 30.

Each guest is permitted to bring in only one bag, and you will need to pay close attention to the size restrictions. Prohibited items during the event week include:

  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Backpacks, duffel bags, and luggage
  • Bags larger than 12″ x 6″ x 12″
  • Balloons and inflatables
  • Banners or signs, unless pre-approved
  • Cameras with detachable lenses or equipped with a lens that is 6” or larger
  • Canopies and tents
  • Cans (any size or type), glass bottles, or containers
  • Collapsible chairs
  • Confetti
  • Coolers
  • Drones and remote-controlled aircraft
  • Fireworks, noisemakers, air horns, laser lights/pointers, mace, or pepper spray
  • Grills
  • Hoverboards, skateboards, and scooters
  • Illegal substances
  • Personal music players without headphones, portable speakers, and sound systems
  • Pets, except for trained service animals
  • Poles or sticks of any size
  • Projectile items, balls, and frisbees
  • Seat cushions larger than 15″ X 15″ that contain metal arms or backs, zippers, pockets, or flaps
  • Selfie sticks
  • Thermoses
  • Tripods
  • Umbrellas
  • Wagons
  • Weapons (including guns, knives, and cigar cutters)
  • Any items deemed dangerous or inappropriate

Food and beverages are also prohibited, except for boxed lunches or food items in clear, plastic bags or containers that do not exceed the maximum bag size. It’s important to reiterate that guests may bring in one bag only — for example, bringing in a purse in addition to a food bag is prohibited. Attendees may also bring in up to two sealed, clear, and unopened water bottles. Baby bags and diaper bags are allowed if accompanied by a child. They are, however, subject to search. The same goes for strollers.

Kentucky Derby starting line as the horses and jockeys take off.

And they’re off!

WHAT TO WEAR

This year, the mask requirement is out — but all of the fabulous fashion surrounding this beloved event is still in! There are no rules when it comes to dressing for the Derby, but when it comes to reserved seating areas, typical outfits include spring dresses, pastel-colored suits, or bold separates that coordinate with Derby headwear and accessories. Keep in mind that the historic grounds at Churchill Downs can be tricky to traverse, especially if it happens to rain, so consider packing flats or flip-flops. You’ll thank us later.

Check out featured milliner and owner of Formé Millinery Co. Jenny Pfanestiel, who has been internationally recognized for her award-winning craft. Using the highest quality and rare materials from all over the world, Jenny hand creates and sculpts each of her hats. Mention the kentuckyderby.com offer to have 12% of your purchase donated to the Churchill Downs Foundation.

Christine A. Moore is another featured milliner for Derby 2022. She has been creating beautiful and elegant Derby pieces for years, and she’s offering 15% off each purchase with the promo code KYDERBYFEATURED147.

Woman modeling pink and yellow Kentucky Derby hat designed by Formé Millinery

Derby hat from Formé Millinery Co. | Image: Facebook

Woman wearing all-pink outfit and matching Derby hat designed by Christine A. Moore

Derby hat from Christine A. Moore | Image: Facebook

WHAT TO EAT & DRINK

The Derby is an all-day affair, with the first race starting at 11 a.m. and the “most exciting two minutes in sports” wrapping up after 7 p.m. If you’re planning to pack your own meals, why not stick to Kentucky classics? Benedictine — the cucumber and cream cheese spread served up as finger sandwiches — is a Louisville original, and you can whip it up with this recipe. And, of course, no day at the races would be complete without the quintessential Derby drink, a mint julep. Just drink it before you get to the gate, as no outside alcohol is permitted.

Not interested in prepping your own Derby meal? Wiltshire Pantry has three types of Derby lunch boxes available for pickup at the downtown bakery and café location. Choose from turkey, beef tenderloin, or vegetarian southern antipasto. The packages start at $22 each and include a chocolate pecan pie square.

Sandwich from Wiltshire Pantry in Louisville, KY

Grab a Derby meal from Wiltshire Pantry. Image: Facebook

Noosh Nosh is also offering track-approved $19 Derby box lunches, including one sandwich with chips and dessert. Choose from turkey or ham with Swiss or cheddar on rye, wheat, sourdough, or gluten-free bread. There’s also a club sandwich with turkey, ham, bacon, lettuce, tomato, and mayo, or a Caprese sandwich with mozzarella, tomato, basil, and balsamic on a ciabatta bun. Each box includes housemade chips and a chocolate chip cookie or brownie. Email [email protected] or call (502) 205-2888 for more info or place an order.

HOW TO BET

If you’re betting for the fun of it, feel free to proceed by picking horses based on their names or their jockey’s silk colors. But if you’re in it to win it, review our betting guide to ensure you’re ready to go on Derby day, either in person or online.

Churchill Downs exterior

Whether you’re betting for fun or betting to win big, Churchill Downs is the place to be!

MORE DERBY READING

For even more Derby inspiration, check out these fun articles from our archives:

See you at the races! 

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