The first Saturday in May is the Kentucky Derby. If you aren't one of the thousands that flock to Louisville, you can still be a part of the fun. Sure, you can put on the television, but you can also put on a Kentucky Derby party! The Kentucky Derby Festival lasts for two weeks, and each day at the derby is filled with fashion, food, and a unique combination of high-class traditions and down-home comforts. Treat yourself—and your Derby Day party guests—to the same food, drinks, and festivities that surround the big race in Kentucky. Mix up a refreshing mint julep and use our best party-planning tips to throw the ultimate Derby Day celebration.
Kentucky Derby Party Decor Ideas
The first step to any Kentucky Derby party is classic Southern-inspired decor. Vintage silver serving ware and a big bouquet of pink roses bring elegance and charm to your Derby celebration. You can also turn your Kentucky Derby food into party decor! Cute cookie cutters transform our classic gingerbread cookies into race-ready treats, and bright candies and frosted cupcakes tie the color scheme together. All you have to do is add a few flowers and your Kentucky Derby party decor is done!
Related: Make a Flower Arrangement Like a Pro
Kentucky Derby Food Ideas
Did you know the Kentucky Derby is known as the "Run for the Roses?" It’s a reference to the roses the winning horse is draped with. Luckily, rose petals are edible, and can be a part of your Kentucky Derby dessert spread! Make a Strawberry, Mango, and Rose Pavlova, or try your hand at our insanely delicious Lemon Verbena Ice Cream Pie and decorate it with fresh rose petals. If you’re feeling really inspired, try making rose petals from fruit leather and using them to top cupcakes or make our traditional Kentucky Derby Chocolate Walnut Pie. The only race your party guests will engage in will be the race for the last bite!
Get the Recipe: Lemon Verbena Ice Cream Pie
Kentucky Derby Appetizer Ideas
Instead of making several individual recipes for your party, put together an easy DIY charcuterie board that showcases one or two dishes. Choose a few main appetizers to prepare before the party, and fill in the rest of the spread with easy store-bought snack foods like nuts, vegetables, and cold dips. We made a Hot Brown Stromboli (made famous by The Brown Hotel in Louisville—a Derby Day classic!) and a Derby Skillet Cookie, then supplemented with crackers, nuts, and sliced veggies. Other Derby Day-approved appetizer ideas include Hush Puppies and our Hot Greens Dip that's made from collard greens and Havarti—an amazing combo of Southern-style cuisine and creamy cheese!
Get the Recipe: Hot Brown Stromboli
Kentucky Derby Drink Ideas
This party punch is a great non-boozy beverage for your guests. This pitcher drink is delightfully fizzy thanks to club soda. A strongly brewed tea is amped up with orange juice, lemon juice, and fresh mint. Each glass is a delicious complement to the rest of your Kentucky Derby party food.
Get the Recipe: Garden Tea Punch
Kentucky Derby Mint Juleps
It just isn't the Kentucky Derby without mint juleps, so get your muddler ready for this bourbon-based cocktail! If you really want to go all out, make your mint juleps with an authentic Kentucky bourbon. We headed to Kentucky's Bourbon Trail to learn how to make a mint julep, straight from the experts themselves. Be sure to offer drink options for your family and friends who aren't whiskey drinkers.
Get the Recipe: Classic Mint Julep
Derby Party Attire
Don't leave your guests wondering when it comes to Kentucky Derby party attire. Turn to the event for inspiration. Wearing a hat to the Kentucky Derby is believed to be good luck. So, bring some luck to your favorite racer with big brim and some DIY. Making your own DIY Kentucky Derby hat is a fun way to get crafty and creative for your party. You could even turn it into a party activity! In addition to iconic hats, ladies are out and about in easy, breezy sundresses. The gentlemen keep it classy—and springy—with linen suits paired with patterned bowties.
Kentucky Derby Party Favor
Make your own DIY felt pennant party favors to honor your favorite horse and jockey duo. Use their jersey colors and initials, or get creative and design a pennant with a horse or spring flowers on the front. Invite guests to do the same for their faves—all you need is colored felt and a hot-glue gun!
Kentucky Derby Party Games
At its core, the Kentucky Derby is a horse race. So what better way to pay homage than with a game of horseshoes? Get the crowd outside to play a round or two. If you put the stakes out before party time, be sure to mark their locations to prevent stubbed toes or sprained ankles. Traditionally, the stakes are placed about 40 feet away from each other, but if that distance doesn't work with your landscaping, feel free to bend that rule.
Related: Try Making a DIY Ring Toss Game
Kentucky Derby Party Game Prizes
It's not a race without a winner, so it makes sense for your Kentucky Derby party decorations to include trophies. A trophy cup filled with roses is a gorgeous decor option that sticks to the Kentucky Derby party theme. Or, if you find a great deal on multiple trophies, give them as awards (or party favors) for your guests as the party winds down. Trophies can be awarded for best Kentucky Derby party attire, best Kentucky Derby hat, and to whoever predicted the winning horse.