Kentucky Derby Party Ideas

How are you celebrating Derby Day? With a Kentucky Derby party! We have the Kentucky Derby party ideas to make your party a winner. Themed drinks, snacks, decorations, and attire are the keys to party success.

brown horse standing in pasture

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 your guests to that same blend to your home for a rosy Kentucky Derby party.

Get more fun Kentucky Derby party ideas. 

Mint Julep

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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 Early Times. Early Times is the brand of Kentucky whiskey that is poured up at the Kentucky Derby. Be sure to offer drink options for your family and friends who aren't whiskey drinkers.

Check out our favorite mint julep recipes.

Rose, Strawberry, and Mango Pavlova

Strawberry, Mango & Rose Pavlova

The Kentucky Derby is known as the "Run for the Roses," a reference to the roses the winning horse is draped with. Luckily, rose petals are edible, and can be a part of the Kentucky Derby party food. This pavlova includes rose water and rose petals. The only race your party guests will engage in will be the race for the last bite.

Get the recipe!

Hush Puppies

Hush Puppies

Hush puppies are a Southern favorite. Each one is a bite of deep-fried deliciousness. These poppable bites are ready in less than 30 minutes, so you won't be stuck in the kitchen when your guests arrive. This recipe is enough to serve a crowd.

Get the recipe!

Garden Tea Punch

Garden Tea Punch

This party punch is a great non-boozy beverage for your guests. This pitcher drink is delightfully fizzy thanks to club soda. A strong 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.

Make the punch.

Hot Greens Dip

Hot Collard Dip

Collard greens and Havarti...an amazing combo of Southern-style cuisine and creamy cheese! This hot dip is a couple notches above a basic spinach artichoke dip, giving that derby flair to your Kentucky Derby party food. Flatbreads and tortillas are great for dipping.

Get the recipe!

Chocolate Walnut Pie

Brownie Walnut Pie,

A traditional Kentucky Derby Chocolate Walnut Pie is a basic chocolate walnut pie, with a couple of tablespoons of bourbon. Our twist on that classic is ooey, gooey, and decadent. We're making a brownie-walnut pie for this year's Kentucky Derby party. If you just need that bourbon burn, serve each slice with an accompanying shooter.

Get the recipe.

Rose Cupcakes

cupcakes

Another way to bring the rose theme to your Kentucky Derby party food is by placing roses on top of cupcakes. Fruit leather is the way to make rose petals that will last on top of your (or your guests') favorite cupcake flavor.

Get the rose petal details.

Decorating with Roses

Julep Cup Rose Bouquet

Decorating with roses is an easy way to make sure your Kentucky Derby party theme is seen throughout. We put blooms into julep cups for even more derby party flair. An arrangement of these cups makes for a gorgeous centerpiece, but a cup here or there is a nice touch of derby decor for your mantel or side tables.

Colorful Derby Table Cloth

decorative party tablecloth

Kentucky Derby jockeys wear silk jerseys that are bold, patterned, and colorful. While we advise staying away from a silk tablecloth (that's a stain waiting to happen), try adding color and pattern to a plain linen cloth. Fabric paint in an eye-catching color is the key to a tablecloth worthy of an all-out Kentucky Derby party.

Trophy Decor

trophy decor with ranunculus on table

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 whomever predicted the winning horse.

Kentucky Derby Hats

Summer Hat, DIY hat, string, tassel hat

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 Kentucky Derby hats is a fun way to get crafty and creative at your party. Once all the hats are done, vote and declare a winner to turn the project into a game. Make sure you have the necessary supplies on hand, such as fun pom-poms, brightly colored string, and a hot-glue gun. Big hats are the perfect way to top off popular derby party attire like sundresses and linen suits.

DIY personalized hats.

Derby Party Attire

fashion
Image Credit: Atlantic-Pacific

Don't leave your guests wondering when it comes to Kentucky Derby party attire. Turn to the event for inspiration. 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.

Party Pennants

Make pennants honoring your favorite horse/jockey duo. Use their jersey colors and initials. Invite your guests to do the same for their faves—all you need is colored felt and a hot-glue gun.

Get the DIY initials pennant instructions.

Horseshoes

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.

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