The just-completed Kentucky Derby is the one time every year that people who aren’t even into horse racing stop and pay attention.
I had a chance to visit Churchill Downs and the Derby Museum last month, and it was cool to learn about the history of the event and the sport of horse racing in general.
I remember when I was a teen and had a Sports Illustrated subscription, I would always get mad whenever they would put a Derby-winning horse on the cover. “Horse racing isn’t a real sport!,” I’d exclaim.
The Derby Museum taught me otherwise, with detailed displays showing how much work and effort goes in to bringing a horse to the championship race. For the basic admission fee of $14, you can wander through the museum, then head out to the Churchill Downs grounds to see the race track and stands.
Churchill Downs is often considered the top tourist spot in Kentucky. What’s the most interesting attraction in your state? Find out on this list of 50 attractions in 50 states.
What You’ll See at Churchill Downs
Wannabe jockeys can hop on a horse and compete in virtual Derby races.
I love jockey fashion. Look at these amazing shirts!
You can even try on some of the outfits and pretend to be a jockey yourself. I made the bold fashion decision to mix brown with pink. Probably not such a great choice. But no regrets!
A small portion of the museum is devoted to the International Horseshoeing Hall of Fame. Talk about a niche sport! That reminds me, it’s been a while since I’ve thrown horseshoes around. I should make that happen soon.
After the museum, it’s on to the outside portion of the tour, in which a guide explains the history of the venue and its races while standing in front of a long wall displaying the names of every Derby winner in history.
I had to take the time to find the most famous horse on the list.
In the summer months, you can sit in the stands and watch (and bet on!) live horse races, as Diana from D Travels Round did during her visit. The races hadn’t started yet when I visited, so I settled for checking out the empty grandstand and seeing the track where the famous race takes place.
The track is a great place to take some selfies and soak in the 140-year history of the Kentucky Derby, which began in 1875.
After our track visit, the guide offered the opportunity to head over to the horse barn and see a couple of horses up close. I’m not sure if this is always part of the tour – I got the impression that this was a bonus for our group.
While heading to the barn, we encountered the Kentucky Derby Walk of Champions, a small cemetery of sorts featuring the remains of a few celebrated horses. This small patch of land serves as the final resting place for a handful of Derby-winning animals.
Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby Museum are both interesting places to visit, even if you’re not at all into horse racing, which is about the highest compliment I can offer an attraction.
Would you visit Churchill Downs?