Kentucky Derby

Kentucky Derby Infield - Tickets, Atmosphere & Tips

Event Track / Kentucky Derby / Planning Guides / Kentucky Derby Infield - Tickets, Atmosphere & Tips

Article Summary

  • The infield tickets for the Kentucky Derby can be had for as low as $60 and do not sell out.  They can be purchased up to the day of the event.
  • The atmosphere in the infield is far more laid back and casual than what is shown on TV for the Kentucky Derby
  • While the tickets allow you to attend the party they do not allow you to get a great view of the race, you will likely be watching on the jumbotron
  • If you do go to the infield head early to try to secure a good spot

The fastest two minutes in sports gets all the attention, but the truth is the Kentucky Derby is an all-day event.  The cheapest way to experience the Kentucky Derby is through the general admission passes, which one can obtain for as low as $60.  Tickets are still available on the day of the Kentucky Derby but they will rise to $80.  These prices are as of the 2017 running of the Kentucky Derby.  The experience you have at the Kentucky Derby will really vary depending on where you get tickets.  This article is about what you can expect if you decide to go to the route of infield / general admission tickets. Let me warn you: it is not the fancy party you may expect based on what you've seen at the Kentucky Derby on TV.

Kentucky Derby Infield

What is the Kentucky Derby Infield?

It’s the area that’s inside the actual track.  You can see in the picture above that the area has a lot of people there and it is fully encompassed by the race track of Churchill Downs.  When you purchase a general admission pass this is the only area you gain access to for the Kentucky Derby. 

Kentucky Derby Infield Atmosphere

The entire Kentucky Derby is a festive and fun atmosphere, but the infield takes it to another level.  It should be noted that this might not be for everyone, nor does this description apply to everyone, but the Kentucky Derby Infield is essentially a giant frat party.  If you don’t believe me I strongly encourage you to go to YouTube and do a quick search.  There is mud wrestling, drinking games, fighting, and all other forms of drunken debauchery. Actually, I'll save you the search:

Now there are still people who go to the Kentucky Derby infield and dress up and partake in what you tend to think of when you think Kentucky Derby.  However, this is much more common in the grandstand and other seating areas.  The infield, due to its lower price point, is just a different type of party.  The infield does consist of people of all ages, but it is primarily a younger crowd of 20 and 30 somethings looking to have a good time.  The atmosphere is overall more relaxed and fun.

Kentucky Derby Infield

How the Infield Area Works & What You Can Bring

It’s important to know what you can and cannot bring to the Kentucky Derby to ensure you have a good time.  The full list can be found here.  The big ones are you can bring your own food, water and soft drinks assuming they are in plastic bottles.  I would suggest bringing these with you.  The infield gets incredibly crowded, and thus making your way to vendors is a giant inconvenience.  Life is just easier if you have your own stuff for the Kentucky Derby.  You can bring your own chairs and blankets to sit down on, which again you probably should do.  If it rains you will be happy you don’t have to stand or sit in the mud all day long.  Some of the important no-no’s and things you cannot bring include purses larger than 12”, coolers, anything in a can, selfie sticks (sorry duck face ladies), backpacks, or alcohol of any kind.  Security is pretty tight so there is very little leeway for any of these items.

Once you get to the Kentucky Derby everyone sets up their little area.  As it gets later in the day there will be less open space so the earlier you get there the better the spot you will get. From then on just make sure you hold your spot so no one takes it over, and enjoy the festivities.  There are vendors selling alcohol all over the infield and you will likely make a friend or two throughout the day.  You won’t have a problem finding a mint julep vendor; they are everyone hawking their overpriced cocktails in souveneir glasses.  Keep in mind that the Kentucky Derby infield is a giant party, by the end of the day the infield will be torn to shreds with trash and debris everywhere.  Exiting is a pain as everyone rushes to the exit so just be patient on your way out the door.

Tips for Surviving the Kentucky Derby

There are some important things to know before you go to the Kentucky Derby and enjoy the day from the infield.  These are my top pieces of advice for Derby Day.

  • If you want to see the actual race you are going to have to get there early.  The Kentucky Derby infield holds tens of thousands of people, and there is limited areas that see the actual track.  Only a few hundred of the approximately 80,000 people in the infield will be able to grab a spot at the fence.  The first race is at 10 a.m. so you will need to be there well before that.

  • There are 10+ races that day, and you should bet them all early if you are going to gamble.  Everyone knows of the Kentucky Derby race but many don’t realize it is a full day of racing with the first race going off at 10 a.m.  You can bet all of the races early in the day, you do not need to wait until that race is next in the queue.  I assure you the lines only get longer throughout the day.  It’s really crappy when you miss one of the races because you are waiting in line to bet.

  • You can’t bring in your own alcohol to the Kentucky Derby but it’s not impossible to sneak it in if you use your imagination. I'll just say these little guys have served me incredibly well in the past.

  • You may see some weird things: somethings you wish you could unsee

Kentucky Derby Infield

  • Bring your own food and water.  Once the full crowd gets in (80,000+) you will find it very hard to weave between all the people.  It can also become difficult to find your group once you move out into the massive crowds so stay together as much as possible.

  • Do NOT forget sunglasses or a hat – its Kentucky in May, it’s going to be hot and sunny, so if you forget these you are going to be hating life.

  • Similarly, do not forget sunscreen unless you want to roast.

  • You can enjoy a mint julep for as low as $11, you should have no problem spotting a vendor. They are a terrible drink, but traditions are traditions and you should have at least one if you go to the Kentucky Derby.  

Kentucky Derby Infield

  • Don’t expect to really get to see any of the horse races, unless you are watching on the Jumbotron.  Sorry this may disappoint some of you, but the odds of you watching the horses in person from the infield are really low unless you are freakishly tall.  You are going to the Kentucky Derby infield for the party and atmosphere, not to watch the horses.  Luckily Panasonic just put in a giant screen right in the infield (pictured above), so you should have no problem seeing that.

  • Exiting the Kentucky Derby is god awful, so just be prepared for it.  Going in there is traffic, but people come in at various times throughout the day.  Everyone leaves at the same time, so just be prepared to wait your turn at 80,000 people exit through the tunnel. I even recommend just hanging out in your spot for awhile while everyone leaves.

Final Words

Everyone should experience the Kentucky Derby infield once.  There’s a reason it’s called the most festive 26 acres in sports.  Sure, it is a little fratty at times, but it’s a once in a lifetime experience that can be had fairly inexpensively.  Go, watch the mud wrestling, have a few drinks, and next year you can try to get an actual seat and party with the fancy people.

Other Popular Kentucky Derby Articles

blog comments powered by Disqus

Related Articles