Ultimate Kentucky Derby Party Ideas for a Fabulous Race Day Event

How are you celebrating Derby Day? We have all the Kentucky Derby party ideas to make your celebration a winner.

The first Saturday in May is the Kentucky Derby. If you aren't among the thousands that flock to Louisville, you can still be a part of the fun. Sure, you can watch it on TV, but you can also host a celebration with our Kentucky Derby party ideas! 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 attendees enjoy at 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 on table
Greg Scheidemann

Kentucky Derby Party Ideas for Decor

The first Kentucky Derby party idea to kick off your planning is creating classic Southern-inspired decor. Vintage silver serving pieces and a big bouquet of pink roses bring elegance and charm to your celebration.

Kentucky Derby Day food can add to the decorations! A horseshoe-shaped cookie cutter transforms our classic gingerbread cookies into race-day-ready treats, and bright candies and frosted cupcakes pull in the color scheme. All you have to do is add a few flowers, and your Kentucky Derby decorating is done!

Lemon Verbena Ice Cream Pie
Dana Gallagher

Kentucky Derby Party Ideas for Food

Did you know the Kentucky Derby is known as the "Run for the Roses?" It's a reference to the roses draped over the winning horse. 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 inspired, try making rose petals from fruit leather and using them to top cupcakes or make our traditional Kentucky Derby Brownie Walnut Pie. The only race your party guests will engage in will be the race for the last bite!

assorted appetizer board with cookie
Brie Passano

Kentucky Derby Party Ideas for Appetizers

Instead of making several main dishes for your party, an easy and fun Kentucky Derby party idea is to assemble a DIY charcuterie board. Choose a few 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. For example, try 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 made from collard greens and Havarti—a fantastic combo of a Southern favorite and creamy cheese!

garden tea punch
Blaine Moats

Kentucky Derby Party Ideas for Drinks

This Garden Tea Punch is a delightfully fizzy, non-boozy pitcher drink. A strongly brewed tea goes next level with orange juice, lemon juice, and fresh mint. Each glass is a delicious complement to the rest of your Kentucky Derby party food.

kentucky derby party mint julep drink
Greg Scheidemann

Kentucky Derby Mint Juleps

It just isn't the Kentucky Derby without mint juleps, so get your muddler ready for this bourbon-based cocktail! Make your mint juleps with an authentic Kentucky bourbon if you want to go all out. Be sure to offer drink options for your family and friends who aren't whiskey drinkers.

woman wearing white dress and derby hat
Courtesy of Atlantic-Pacific

Kentucky Derby Party Attire

Don't leave your guests wondering what to wear regarding Kentucky Derby party attire. Instead, turn to the event for inspiration. Wearing a hat to the Kentucky Derby is believed to be good luck. So, bring some good vibes to your favorite thoroughbred with a big brim. In addition to iconic hats, Women at the Derby often wear easy, breezy sundresses, while men keep it classy—and springy—in 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!

men playing horseshoes on grassy hill
Adam Albright

Kentucky Derby Party Games

At its core, the Kentucky Derby is a horse race. So what better way to get in the spirit than with a game of horseshoes? Invite the crowd outside to play a round or two. If you put the stakes out before party time, 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.

red roses in trophy for derby party
Michael Partenio

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 chose the winning horse.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles