Going to be blunt here – this isn’t going to be the most affordable destination race.
It’s smack dab at the start of Louisville’s most exciting and tourist filled weekend, with hotels that see prices upwards of $1,000’s per night. The Kentucky Derby Half and Full is DEFINITELY worth the expense though (especially if you’ve never been). To this day, it is still one of my favorite races of all time – second only to my first Boston Marathon.
Below are my recommendations based on my race week. These are the places I stayed and had success with, but let me know if you find better deals or have a different experience worth editing for!
Hotel: I stayed for three nights at the Downtown Marriott in Louisville, and surprisingly, it looks like the prices from Thursday-Sunday right now are reasonable (go, go, go)! If you can connect with another runner or a partner, splitting this would be ideal! The hotel is in a really cool spot – uber-able to the start line, next to the Louisville Slugger Museum AND next door to some of the best bourbon bars in the world.
Flights: Checking out my trusty Expedia account, Delta pops up as $250 round trip from Thurs-Mon out of the Northeast. Also, contradicting myself because I anticipated as I began this research everything to be MUCH higher. There’s very few direct flights out of Louisville, so if you can find one – snag it!
Things To Do: We got SO lucky – I do know someone that lives there that was able to provide us some free tickets to Derby Opening Night at Churchill Downs (which was a blast). Essentially, you get all the excitement of Derby Day at a MUCH lesser cost. Tickets start at $15 per person for general admission. Of course, I went all out with the fascinator and drank about a million mint juleps. After the race itself, the finish line loops you into the Annual Kickoff Carnival for Derby week on the fairgrounds – which is a fun hangout/meet up spot with your friends and family. Also, the closer you can get me to food after a race the happier I am, so obviously I demolished a funnel cake.
Race Course: I did the half, so can only speak to that portion. Someone I did travel with though PR’ed on the full, so I would assume it wasn’t half bad!
Weather/Temperature: Despite pouring ran, it was warm enough to wear short sleeves/sleeveless. What is up with my favorite races being in the pouring rain (i.e. it downpoured when I ran Boston too and was FREEZING) – could you imagine how I would feel if the weather was nice on these days?! April in Kentucky is far enough south to give you some warmth – which is a blessing coming from Massachusetts this time of year.
Overall, this one is definitely worth saving up for – when else are you going to be able to do a lap on the dirt tracks of Churchill Downs?!
FTA: Some links are affiliate links. All opinions are my own.