When you think about the Kentucky Derby, what pops into your head? Ladies clad in wide-brimmed hats and preppy dresses, and men donning pinstripe suits and the craziest bowties they can get their hands on. This is how the Kentucky Derby is – if you can afford the cost of sitting in the grand stand sections (and manage to find tickets!). From what I have heard through the grapevine, however, the reality is not necessarily all roses if you are not one of the lucky grandstand guests.
Enter the Keeneland Derby! Held every weekend throughout the months of April and October, this event is hosted at the Keeneland Racetracks in Lexington, KY. The best part is tickets are $5/person for admission, including the grandstands. Our close friends have recently moved to Cincinnati, and we have been eager for an excuse to come visit. So when they suggested we all head down for the weekend to check out the Derby, we jumped at the opportunity!
When we arrived in Cincinnati on Friday night, we all met up for dinner at a hip downtown restaurant called Metropole. From the delectable burnt carrot salad to the beautifully grilled New York strip steak (with smoked grapes, what?!), the food did not disappoint!
I’m a real sucker for a good steak tartare, so naturally this was the first thing I picked off the menu. I am also a lover of all things egg, and delighted in being able to mix in this raw yolk at the table! Delish!
The most entertaining part of dinner by far were the special guests situated throughout the dining room. Giant yellow penguins. Yes, you read that correctly:
I was not entirely clear on their purpose, but I believe they are some type of art statement piece. Throughout the night they gradually add more penguins to the dining room at the various tables. We got ours about halfway through the meal:
It’s kind of a cute reminder that at its best, an evening out to dinner is meant to be a casual, intimate occasion shared among good friends, not always a stuffy white-linen-tablecloth affair. 🙂
After dinner, we called it an early night since we had to be up and ready by 9:30 am for the one and a half hour bus ride down to Lexington! Our Cincinnati friends rented a passenger van for us for the day:
So. Much. Fun. We got all dressed up in our preppy Derby outfits…
…and we were off to the races! Our gracious hostess and host provided us with some crazy good food and cocktails for our journey (can you say peach iced tea cocktails? Because I can.), complete with the most perfect Derby cocktailing accessory ever: plastic boot glasses!
We finally made it down to Lexington and into the long line of traffic headed towards Keeneland. And I mean long:
This was my first trip to Kentucky, and I left thinking “I could live here.” It is a thousand times more gorgeous and green than a photo could possibly capture. And if I’m being perfectly honest, the idea of having just acres and acres of land with room for a barn, gardens, a chicken coup, and a great big farmhouse to renovate… oh boy! 🙂
We spent a couple of hours tailgating and eating some lunch before making our way over to the racetrack. The weather could not have been more gorgeous: it was an incredible 80+ degree break from the terribly cold and windy weather we have been having up here in Michigan!
The Keeneland Derby is everything you would want a derby to be. I have not yet had the fortune of experiencing the Kentucky Derby yet, but from what I have heard, it is crowded and can be quite messy if you have general admission tickets for only the infield.
But Keeneland’s Derby is held more often, and therefore typically draws a much smaller crowd than the once-a-year Kentucky Derby. And while the cell phone reception was as terrible as you could expect at any large event, the day was an amazing time spent with close friends (and betting on some darn fast horses!).
I would highly recommend this event to someone who is looking for the ideal “Derby” experience! Now it’s your turn: comment below and tell me about your experiences at the Derby, or what your favorite Derby-esque outfit is!
(P.S. Indoor bathrooms, ladies! Need I say more?)