What to Bring to 2019 Kentucky Derby, What to Leave at Home

Events / Travel
Fans enjoys a day at the races at the 2015 Kentucky Derby. (Eclipse Sportswire)

If you scored tickets to this year’s Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve or Longines Kentucky Oaks, congratulations! You’re in for an incredible experience at Churchill Downs.

If you’re going to the event for the very first time, though, you may be puzzling over what to bring with you and what to leave behind. Fear not, we’re here to help!

Below is our checklist of what you’re definitely going to want, and what you should absolutely ditch at home. No matter what, though, check the Kentucky Derby’s official list of prohibited items before you leave for the track to make sure that you won’t have to throw anything out.

Here’s what you’re definitely going to want with you:

A poncho …

Seriously, I know it sounds insane, but rain can come out of nowhere in the Kentucky springtime, and being caught unprepared will put a total damper on your day. (Sorry, bad pun, I know.) Invest in a lightweight, inexpensive rain poncho before you go, and you won’t be sorry.

… but also sunscreen

Getting fried is no fun at all, so be sure to slip a travel-sized tube of sunscreen into your pocket or purse. It takes up almost no space, but it can be a total lifesaver.

Bring cash

All betting done at the track is a cash transaction (unless you have a TwinSpires online account – be sure to sign up for one ASAP, though, because it can take a few days to process!) and while there are ATMs scattered around the track, skip the lines by bringing cash into the facility. This is also a great way to ensure that you don’t go over your betting budget!


If you’re planning to have a mint julep or four on Derby day, staying hydrated is key. You’re allowed to bring in clear, sealed bottles of water, so pack some and skip the concession lines.

A charging bank for your phone

What’s worse than looking down at your phone and realizing that you’re on 2-percent battery and you still need to order a Lyft to get you home? Be sure to pack a charging bank to ensure that you have power when you most need it.

Foldable flats for the high-heel wearers

High heels are pretty and can be a great accessory for your Derby or Oaks look; but at the end of the day, those things can hurt. Plus, sliding a pair of foldable flats into your bag is a much better call than walking through the parking lot barefoot.

Bring a snack

While you should definitely sample the food at Churchill Downs on Derby and Oaks day, you also may want to have a little something for a snack without standing in line. You can bring food in clear 18”x18” plastic bags, so take advantage and pack accordingly.

Here’s what to leave at home:

Large cameras

If your camera has a detachable lens, leave it at home. Unless you’re credentialed media, you can’t bring in big cameras, so make sure you don’t bring it to Churchill Downs you’re going to have to go back to your car to store your gear.

Backpacks and large purses

Security at Churchill Downs is serious on big days, so backpacks and large purses (defined as any bag larger than 12” at any dimension) are verboten.


Sure, the Kentucky Derby and the Kentucky Oaks have a long history of cocktails, but don’t try to bring in your own hooch. If you want to drink, you’re going to need to buy your liquor on-site.


Remember my note about ponchos above? Well, don’t think you’re going to be able to solve your weather problems with an umbrella – they’re forbidden.


We know you love your dog, but the Kentucky Derby isn’t the place for her. Of course, service animals are welcome; but if you’re dog isn’t a professional, they need to stay at home.

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