Although I won’t physically be able to attend the Kentucky Derby in Louisville this May, I will still be at Churchill Downs in spirit. And you can too, because I’ve created a complete, fool-proof plan for throwing the best Kentucky Derby party ever! From choosing the perfect DIY decorations to creating a delicious Kentucky-themed tasting menu, this how-to party list covers absolutely everything to make your Kentucky Derby party charming, classy, and all things Kentucky.
I’ve searched far and wide for everything that embodies the Derby, from the roses and juleps to traditional Kentucky recipes to the fantastically imaginative hats (oh yes, hats are key!). I’ve even included a few outdoor activities for kids to keep any little ones entertained. So sit back, sip some bourbon, and relax as you plan your perfect Kentucky Derby-themed party.
If you have any ideas for throwing a Derby-themed party or would just like to share how you celebrate this yearly American tradition, please leave a comment below. And keep reading for how you can throw the best Kentucky Derby party ever!
When it comes to choosing Derby-themed decorations, the most obvious choice is to go for something horse-related, but if you want to add a touch of class to your DIY party decor, try going for something slightly less expected. The Kentucky Derby is often referred to as ‘The Run for the Roses’ since each winner is awarded a blanket of red roses (554, to be exact), so adding some beautiful rose decorations to your party is essential. You can create some beautiful rose centerpieces like this easy DIY craft, or add some budget-friendly duct tape roses all over your party venue to really make a statement. As mint juleps are traditionally served at the Derby, using julep cups as decorations is a fantastic table setting idea. You can even complete your table with some bright silk napkins to emulate the colorful jockey uniforms on display.
Traditional Southern flavors obviously are a huge influence on Derby food, so I’ve included a short list of recipes inspired by the Kentucky Derby. I made sure to include both savory and sweet, so that your whole menu is covered, from main dishes to delectable desserts. If you’re hankering for more yummy Southern recipes, be sure to check out favesoutherrecipes.com. They literally cover every Southern dish you could ever want.
- Kentucky Hot Brown Sandwiches – This is literally the food of the gods and if you’ve never had this, you have been sorely missing out. One of my favorite foods ever!
- Grilled Bourbon Steak
- Honey Bourbon Oven-Fried Chicken
- Mint Julep Brownies
- Kentucky Holiday Bourbon Balls – Are you sensing a bourbon-themed trend?
- Gooey Kentucky Derby Pie – A Kentucky Derby tradition!
- Kentucky Derby Bars
Just like roses and horses, it ain’t the Derby if mint juleps aren’t served! I’ve included a couple of different julep recipes that your guests will love, as well as a sweet tea recipe for any non-drinkers. If you’re new to mixing cocktails, then check out our amazing guide to how to become awesome at making mixed drinks.
- Derby Day Mint Julep – A Kentucky Derby must!
- Cherry-Mint Juleps
- Sweet Tea Mint Julep
- Traditional Southern Sweet Tea
Hats. Maybe the most famous part of the Kentucky Derby besides the actual race. The more outrageous the hat, the more awesome the hat is. Don’t be afraid to go all out with decorating your hat, from feathers to sequins to bows and ribbons. The more extreme, the merrier! I’ve included a basic sunhat pattern here, as well as another adorable hat idea here, if you’re starting from scratch. This way, you can personalize your hat however you like.
Again, I cannot emphasize the importance of crazy hats and the Kentucky Derby, so why not make your top party activity a hats-off hat decorating contest? Your guests can bring their own hats while you set up a hat decorating station with all the fixins’. Then, simply have your guests vote for their favorite. And while gambling on race winners is always a popular choice, younger attendees can enjoy some more traditional outdoor activities, like this adorable DIY horseshoe game or this vintage-inspired idea for homemade hobby horses that guests of all ages will love reminiscing about. After you’ve finished choosing your games, your Kentucky Derby party list is complete. Enjoy!
What are your plans for Derby Day? Let us know below in the comments!