In just a few days, the best thoroughbreds today will line up for a shot to win the most famous horse race in the world, the Kentucky Derby. Often referred to as the most thrilling two minutes in sports, winners of “The Run of the Roses” go on to stake a claim in horseracing history, as well as go on to compete for the elusive an prestigious Triple Crown.
Even though the race is short, visitors get to enjoy dozens of great activities and events in the days leading up to the big event. Lets take a look at some of the awesome places and experiences that race fans enjoy before the race.
The Churchill Downs Museum
Watching any event with knowledge of the backstory always ups the enjoyment level. Newcomers can take a trip to the Churchill Downs Museum and dive into the deep, rich 140-plus year history of the race. Conveniently located at the Churchill Downs Racetrack, the museum has tons of historical books, photos, periodicals, and artifacts donated from renowned horse racing figures.
Thunder Over Louisville
If you are anywhere in Louisville, chances are you wont be able to miss Thunder Over Louisville! What started as your run-of-the-mill fireworks display, Thunder Over go here Louisville has grown to become the single largest annual fireworks show in the nation. Thunder begins with an award winning air show in the afternoon, followed by fireworks in the evening, launched from eight 400 ft. barges on both sides of the George Rogers Clark Memorial Bridge. It is truly a sight to be seen!
The Great BalloonFest
One of Louisville’s signature events, The Great BalloonFest has been a fan favorite of Derby fans for years. Each year, thousands of spectators gather to watch hot-air balloons of all shapes, sizes and designs decorate the Louisville skyline. Other events within BalloonFest includea nighttime “Balloon Glow” display as well as a “lift off “ race.
The Great Steamboat Race
First run in 1963, The Great Steamboat Race is an annual event that pits two steamboats against each other in a 14-mile race along the Ohio River. Traditionally, the race features the same two competitors: the Belle of Louisville and the Delta Queen battling it out for the famed Golden Antlers, a trophy that remains on the winning ship until the next race. After the Queen was retired in 2008, the Belle of Cincinnati took its place in the race. The event is quite popular among locals, who love to set up picnics and barbeques along the river to take in the action.
Traditionally held on the Thursday before the Derby, the Pegasus Parade is one of the largest parades in the United States. On average, 200,000 spectators pack along the 1.7-mile route to catch a glimpse at the elaborate floats and live music. Over the years, special guests of the parade have included Gladys Knight, Muhammad Ali, John Wayne, and William Shatner.