More than 150,000 horse race fans pack the grandstands, clubhouse and infield of Churchill Downs on Derby Day, in Louisville, Kentucky. But after the first Saturday in May, visitors have even more opportunities to learn about race horses and horseracing.
Kentucky Derby Museum
Located at Gate 1 on Central Avenue, in the South End of Louisville near the main entrance to the racetrack, the Kentucky Derby Museum is filled with horse racing memorabilia. Visitors learn about the race track's development after it hosted the first Kentucky Derby in 1875.
More than 200,000 visitors see the museum every year, since it opened in 1985.
The Kentucky Derby Museum is open daily, except for Thanksgiving Day, Christmas, Oaks Day, Derby Day and the Breeder's Cup, when it's in Louisville.
Opening hours in summer (March 15 to November 30) are Monday to Saturday, 8 am to 5 pm EST and Sunday 11 am to 5 pm. Derby Museum winter hours, from December 1 to March 14, are 9 am to 5 pm Monday to Saturday and 11 am to 5 pm on Sunday.
On the Sunday after the Kentucky Derby, the museum's busiest day, the museum opens at 9 am.
Churchill Downs tours
Included in the adult Kentucky Derby Museum admission price is a guided walking tour of Churchill Downs.
Two other walking tours of Churchill Downs allow visitors to see areas that are closed to public access.
On the Barn and Backside Van Tour, guides bring up to 12 visitors on one hour tours of Churchill Downs stables and infield. If time permits, there are two spots for taking photos. Barn and Backside Tours are available between mid-March and the end of November, except Derby week.
Where to see horse training
There are more than 1,400 stalls behind the racetrack. The stables are nearly full during peak racing seasons. On training days, visitors could see a two-year-old in line to win an upcoming Derby, a nine-year-old horse, close to retirement or even the horse that wins the Derby.
World-class thoroughbreds can be worth millions of dollars. Visitors watch horses train, see them have baths and learn about racetrack life. If weather and time permit, the tour allows time for photos at the track. Visitors are not allowed to touch the horses.
In the backside, nearly 1,000 trainers, jockeys, exercise riders, grooms and stable hands keep thoroughbreds in peak condition during racing season. Some track workers sleep in a 266-bed dorm, beside 47 horse stables. A new chapel is available to the many workers who travel with their horses to racetracks around the states.
During the summer, Barn and Backside tour hours are Monday to Saturday, at 7 am, 8:30 am, 10 am, 11:30 am, 1 pm and 2:30 pm EST. Sunday tours are at 11:30 pm, 1 pm and 2:30 pm. There are no Barn and Backside tours during the winter.
Behind the Scenes walking tour
Guides bring up to 15 visitors on one-hour tours of Millionaire's Row, Jockey's Quarters, the press box and other areas of the clubhouse. These VIP areas of Churchill Downs are not open to the public and can only be seen on the museum tour.
During the Behind the Scenes Walking Tour, groups and visitors see videos, which convey the atmosphere of Derby Day in each location. Behind the Scenes tours are not available during Derby week and on racing days of Churchill Downs Spring and Fall Race Meets. (The racetrack is usually closed on Mondays and Tuesdays during the meets.)
Times for Behind the Scenes tours are 10 am, 12 noon and 2 pm EST, Monday to Saturday, and 12:30 pm and 2:30 pm on Sundays in summer. Winter tour hours are 10:00 am, 12:00 noon and 2:00 pm, Monday to Saturday and 12:30 pm and 2:30 pm on Sundays.
The Kentucky Derby Museum Gift Shop is open from 8 am to 5 pm, on Monday to Saturday, in summer, and 11 am to 5 pm on Sundays. Winter Gift Shop hours are 9 am to 5 pm, Monday to Saturday and 11 am to 5 pm on Sundays.