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I recently saw a crowd-sourcing post on Facebook from a newly transplanted Louisvillian who was inquiring about which was the best shuttle to take from downtown on Derby day. There were little to no answers from the Louisville crowd, most of them saying to themselves, “Nobody takes the shuttle.” Well, at least nobody who lives here.

Louisville Derby Logistics

The venerable Twin Spires, the mothership for Louisvillians

Last week, I read a news article about what entrance you needed to use depending on your tickets. The article was online, and plenty of comments ensued, all from people who were super-confused about what their tickets said in relation to the entrance and on and on and on. Folks, there are really only two entrances that we the people go in, and they aren’t too hard to find. Just look for the swarm of humanity around some gates. If you are in the wrong place, simply walk down to the other main entrance. Easy peasy.

Let’s be honest, we Louisvillians don’t need all this extraneous information that comes out every April about the track and where to park and blah, blah, blah. The last big piece of news that came out of Churchill Downs was that your purse could only be 12 inches in any direction — now that REALLY impacts my life at the Derby. The other stuff, not so much.

Here’s why this annual Derby news really doesn’t impact us: Ask any Louisvillian, and they already have a plan – a tried-and-true method for getting to the track, parking their car and entering and exiting the building intact. This other informational news is all for our out-of-town guests or for the local hotel concierges to pass out.

This is the real information about the logistics of Derby weekend. You can choose to pass it along or just nod your head in agreement, because you are a Louisvillian, and you are already supporting all these premises.

Louisville Derby Logistics

You can always spot the locals when this song is played before the Derby. They are the ones with tears streaming down their faces!


Parking and Transportation

This is a big deal. Parking is a huge pain unless you know what you are doing and have a plan. Here are your options (and the reality of those options):

Parking pass

I read about people who have parking passes to park on the grounds at Churchill Downs and I think, Who are these people? I’ve never known one person in all my 20 years of going to the Derby who had a parking pass for the grounds. Who Churchill Downs is giving these passes to is beyond me, but it is definitely not the locals.

RELATED: Kentucky Derby Trivia: Fascinating Secrets & Little-Known Facts


Sounds like a great idea, right? No. Every year when we are all leaving the track, in varying stages of sobriety and monetary stability, we look out to see the massive lines of poor, unfortunate souls waiting for their bus to come pick them up. From there, after what appears to be a one-hour wait, they board the bus back to downtown and then have to figure out how to get home or back to their lodging for the night. Some hotels include this in their Derby stay package, but nonetheless, it’s a long dang wait after a long dang day.

Neighborhood parking

You may have a place that you park every year, whether that be a nearby home or business within walking distance. For years, we had a prime spot at a bank where my husband used to work on Fourth and Central. Those days are over, but we, of course, “know a guy” who has tucked us back behind a neighborhood house for the last couple of years. The local neighbors around the track are smart and have taken to renting golf carts to transport all their charges on this day, and considering the bad weather the last few years, this is always optimal. Parking in this neighborhood near the track — at whatever your favorite location — is equal to going to Target on a normal day or Paul’s during Christmas. You are guaranteed to see everyone you know — even more than the third-floor clubhouse. Note: Central Ave. will be restricted between Crittenden and Taylor on Thurby, Oaks and Derby.

Louisville Derby Logistics

As you head back to the neighborhood to get your car, and be sure to stop for the fantastic home-cooking, sold street-side, along the way.

Driver drop-off

This is my favorite option because there is zero stress – well, for the passengers at least. A trick I learned a few years ago is that you need to book your sitter and your driver early. I used to hire a college kid to take all of us down to the track in my big ol’ Suburban. We looked like high schoolers packed in this car, filled to the brim with hats and sport coats and ‘go cups. I can tell you that I have sat in the trunk of my Suburban balled up in the fetal position, and I’ll never do it again. The driver simply puts up with his or her charges for the 20-minute ride in and then rides back home in peace. Then, they come to pick us up, and — God bless their hearts — transport us all home or to a restaurant.

Uber, Lyft or Taxi

NOPE. Charges are so high it would be cheaper to put a down payment on a new car. You need to save that money for gambling.

RELATED: A Local’s Guide to Louisville

Entering and Exiting the Building

Right before entering the track, all Louisvillians must make the annual pilgrimage to Salvation Sidewalk, located right in front of the Kentucky Derby Museum on Central Avenue. This is where the people doing the work of God come to tell us on homemade sound systems with microphones or on a bullhorn that we are all going to hell. They usually bring a large cross for added effect. Amongst the saved are always some cute kids selling their chocolates, waters or flip-flops for us sinners. It is quite humorous how much pleasure I derive from being called a sinner on this day. Sick, really.

You know, sir, I think we’re past the point of no return.

When talking about entrances, please refer to the above, where I reference looking for the swarms of humanity going to one of two main entrances. If you are headed to the infield, well then vaya con Dios, my friend. You do have another entrance than the ticketed folks do. Infielders, you might want to get a blessing before you go through that tunnel of misery to the land of Dilly Dilly.

Also note, admission gates have been renamed to reflect where they’re located in the venue. Guests will enter through one of three gates: the new expanded Paddock Gate (previously Gates 1 and 17), the Clubhouse Gate (previously Gate 10) or the Infield Gate (previously Gate 3). Only guests with General Admission tickets can enter via the Infield Gate.

Louisville Derby Logistics

Every year I love this picture even more … and I wonder where these gentlemen are now.

Exiting is an art form similar to entry but on a much faster and more hurried pace. Funny how we can spend all day languishing at the track, chatting with friends, drinking mint juleps and glancing up to see an occasional horse race, but my goodness, one second after the Derby is over, it’s like the running of the bulls to get outta there. Many locals are rushing to get to their dinner reservations or after parties, but most are just rushing to get home, eat a pizza and put their comfy clothes on. (I would be the latter.)

No expectations or judgements are made on Derby night, as everyone considers the Derby race the finale of a month of preparation and partying. It is perfectly acceptable to go straight home and go into your cave of recovery until Monday.

Louisville Derby Logistics

Time to go!

The countdown is on! See you in the neighborhood or in line for entry. :) Go, baby, go!


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