Host a Winning Kentucky Derby Party

kentucky derby day party kentucky benedictine dip, betting ribbons, hats on vintage stands, horseshoe “wreath”, flowers in vintage trophy “vases”
Host a Winning Kentucky Derby PartyBRIAN WOODCOCK

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Churchill Downs announced today plans to celebrate the first Saturday in May, the traditional date of the annual Kentucky Derby, by hosting a day-long at-home Kentucky Derby party to raise $2 million for COVID-19 emergency relief efforts. Though the 146th Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve was postponed until Sept. 5 this year due to public health concerns related to the spread of COVID-19, Churchill Downs invites fans to honor the annual tradition while staying “Healthy at Home.”

May 2024 brings the 150th anniversary of the Run for the Roses. That's right, almost every year since 1946, the first Saturday of May has been dedicated to the beloved horse racing tradition known as The Kentucky Derby. The 2024 race, and all the festivities that come alongside it, will be held on May 4 at the historic Churchill Downs racetrack in Louisville, Kentucky. If you can’t make the trip or missed out on tickets, no problem at all! Invite over your friends and family and host a Kentucky Derby viewing party at home.

From traditional chocolate-walnut thumbprint cookies and bourbon cocktails to cute craft and decorating ideas (did someone say vintage trophies?), we’ve rounded up below our favorite Kentucky Derby party ideas to celebrate one of the most exciting days in horse racing—no matter where you’re watching. If you want to create a bigger spread, here are even more recipes for Kentucky Derby party food for a classic experience (Mint Juleps! Pimiento Cheese Deviled Eggs!). And, of course, it’s not a Kentucky Derby party without a signature headpiece to top off your outfit. Whether you’re looking for a whimsical fascinator or a traditional wide-brim hat, we have you covered with our editors' picks for best Kentucky Derby hats.

If you’re used to participating in a little traditional gambling fun, we’ve even included a friendly wager game below, or you can visit to place virtual bets on the horses you think will run away with this year’s top prize.

For additional how-to-watch info, head to the Kentucky Derby website.

Alright, y'all, we’re off to the races!

Make a Horseshoe “Wreath”

Give your front door or buffet area an on-point decoration with a horseshoe-shaped wreath. To make: Wrap a foam horseshoe-shaped wreath form in green ribbon. Cut bundles of greenery from a green foliage garland using wire cutters. Using an awl, poke holes through the green ribbon into the foam and insert greenery. No wreath form? Simply cut a horseshoe shape out of a piece of cardboard and cover with greenery from your yard, using hot-glue.


kentucky derby day party horseshoe wreath
Brian Woodcock

Fill a Trophy with Fresh-Picked Flowers

Add champion charm to the buffet with an arrangement of tulips, ranunculus, daisies, and goldenrods (or any mix of freshly snipped blooms from your yard!) in vintage trophy “vases.”

kentucky derby party floral arrangements in vintage trophies
Brian Woodcock

Whip Up Bourbon Cocktails

Dust off the punch bowl and stir up a crowd-pleasing Derby cocktail of bourbon, club soda, orange curaçao, sweet vermouth, lime juice, and orange bitters.

Get the recipe for Bourbon Derby Punch.

RELATED: Prefer to serve a classic Mint Julep? Here's how to make a Mint Julep for the Kentucky Derby (Or Any Time).

bourbon punch in glass punch bowl
Brian Woodcock

Dress Up Your Drinks

Give your cocktail glasses a dapper embellishment with paper bow-ties. To make: Trace a bow-tie pattern on craft paper, cut out, and assemble. Cut a strip from a color-coordinated paper and wrap around the drink glass; tape in place. Tape the bow to the wrapped strip, and let the “tie one on” jokes commence.


kentucky derby party cocktail decorated with white and yellow striped paper bow tie
Brian Woodcock

Serve a Classic Benedictine Spread

Invented by Louisville caterer and tea room owner Jennie Carter Benedict, this cream cheese-cucumber dip is a century-old Kentucky classic.

Get the recipe for Kentucky Benedictine Dip.

RELATED: 26 Food and Drink Recipes for a Classic Kentucky Derby Experience

platter with veggies and dip
Brian Woodcock

Bake Up Derby-Inspired Thumbprint Cookies

Featuring bourbon, homemade caramel, melted chocolate, and toasted walnuts, these butter cookies take inspiration from the famed Kentucky Derby pie.

Get the recipe for Derby-Inspired Thumbprint Cookies.

caramel chocolate walnut thumbprint cookie

Place Your Bets

Each year, 20 horses enter the big race. For easy betting, give each guest four of their own color of washi tape–covered clothespins. Let them pick favorites by clipping the pins to the tails of paper prize ribbons. Set a per-bet amount (say, $2), and place cash in a trophy then distribute winnings accordingly. If you prefer to forego cash bets, the outcome of the races might determine who does funny challenges or even household chores, such as unloading the dishwasher or folding socks!


kentucky derby day party betting ribbons
Brian Woodcock

Set Up a Photo Booth

Smile and say “Eddie Arcaro” (one of the winningest jockeys) with a turf-backed photo booth stocked with props like paper prize ribbons, trophies, riding crops, and hats.

kentucky derby day party photo booth props
Brian Woodcock

Wear a Festive Topper

Race spectators have sported fancy headwear since the Kentucky Derby started back in 1875. And, at Churchhill Downs, the more ornate the better. Continue the tradition at your own party with a statement headpiece, whether a traditional wide-brim hat or a more elegant fascinator. Here are some of our favorites.

<p><a href="" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Shop Now;elm:context_link;itc:0;sec:content-canvas" class="link ">Shop Now</a></p><p>Wear a Festive Topper</p><p></p><p>$18.99</p>

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Wear a Festive Topper


Send Home a Souvenir Glass

In 1938, the Kentucky Derby had decorative water glasses made for the Churchill Downs dining hall, but the track’s management noticed that people were pocketing them as souvenirs. In 1939, they started producing patterned drinking glasses for profit and have continued since. While this year’s 150th-Derby souvenir mint julep glass will set you back $15, a circa-1939 sipper can now fetch as much as $5,000 at auction.

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illustration of kentucky derby themed drinking glasses
Melinda Josie

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