Would You Spend $2,000 to Attend the Kentucky Derby? You Don’t Really Have a Choice

By Tommy Burson,

Tickets? $75

Fancy fascinator (that’s a hat for non-horse racing folks)? $500

10 Mint Juleps? $111

Lodging at a one-star hotel off the highway? $799

And a stay at said hotel is actually cheap compared to what’s being offered in Louisville for the 143rd rendition of the Kentucky Derby on May 6th.

With just a few weeks until the horses take their mark and revelers drink their Mark for the “fastest two minutes in sports,” the annual last-minute panic to secure any type of lodging is forcing guests to pony up for the race by more than 758%, with an average rate costing more than $1,200 for the night of the mane event.

Just look at these average nightly rates:

Weekend Before Derby Weekend Weekend After
April 28: $169 May 5: $900 May 12: $166
April 29: $173 May 6: $1,227 May 13: $159
Search period from November 1, 2016 to April 18, 2017

To put these numbers in perspective, hotel prices are three-times higher than what they cost in Houston for the Super Bowl, and they’re roughly 10-times the price for a typical hotel in Louisville in the month of May. Even compared to last year, affordable hotels are being put out to pasture. In 2016, a night for the day of the race cost literally half the price, averaging $588/night.

Needless to say, those critics complaining that the Derby has morphed into an event for the ritzy, pay-$2,000-for-a-mint-julep crowd (because this, too, exists) are almost certainly correct.

How much should attendees expect to spend?

Truthfully, it depends on the person. Just know that a weekend at Churchill Downs can easily run $2,000 in hotels, $75 in tickets, $80 in Mint Juleps to ease the pain of the hotel prices, and however much money you spent on a costume, be it $20 at the thrift shop or up to $2,000 (the going rate for some of the hats). We’re nearing $2,500 for two days, not including travel costs.

That said, there are still some affordable options available. It’s called: Returning the weekend after the races and running a lap around the track on a Hobby Horse. At least you can find a nice hotel for under $100 a night.

Featured Image courtesy of Flickr / PandamicPhoto.com