Photo: David Wood and kevinlarsonpresents.com
While the Kentucky Derby may be more than a thousand miles from Denver, you wouldn’t know it from the frenzy of events in the Mile High City every first Saturday in May. It’s a peculiar marriage: a city known for its outdoor adventures and craft beer culture embraces the pomp and circumstance of an event steeped in Southern tradition. But in the spirit of irony, Denverites don their most extravagant hats and sip mint juleps like seasoned equestrians. Here’s a roundup of the best Derby Day events in Denver, where the odds are good you’ll have a memorable time, whether you know a thing or two about horse racing or just want an excuse to wear a seersucker suit.
Denver Derby Party @ McGregor Square
If you fancy rubbing elbows with Denver’s elite while supporting a good cause, the Denver Derby Party at McGregor Square is your best bet. As the largest event of its kind outside Kentucky, it attracts a diverse crowd with one common goal: to have a fabulous time. Tickets start at $130, which buys you all-you-can-drink beverages and food from Milepost Zero. If you’re feeling particularly indulgent, spring for the $275 Jockey Club experience, complete with a red carpet entrance and upgraded food and drinks. Not bad for a day of drinking in the sun while supporting the Sean Ranch Lough Foundation.
Derby at the Station
Union Station, Denver’s historic transportation hub, transforms into a playground for horse racing enthusiasts during Derby Day. The Cooper Lounge hosts a pre-race brunch ($125 per ticket), while Terminal Bar Patio keeps the festivities going with drink specials and live music. It’s an experience that somehow combines the grandeur of Churchill Downs with the charm of a local watering hole.
Denver Derby Day @ The Ritz-Carlton Denver
Should the Ritz-Carlton’s grandiosity inspire you, join the well-heeled at Denver’s Kentucky Derby party, complete with Southern fare, mint juleps, and an opportunity to engage in runway antics. Just remember, VIP tables are as elusive as a sure bet.
Derby Patio Party @ Tom’s Starlight
Looking for elegance without the pretense? Tom’s Starlight offers a patio party that’s a respite from the ordinary. Enjoy sophisticated libations and victuals while lounging in a more Gatsby setting than Gauche.
RiNo for the Roses @ The Source
The Source brings Churchill Downs to RiNo, melding the Triple Crown’s spirit with Denver’s cutting-edge vibes. Expect a cornucopia of Kentucky-inspired bites, beverages, and entertainment courtesy of The Woods team. Elijah Craig Mint Juleps flow freely; the best-dressed attendees might just walk away with the ultimate grand prize. At $50 a pop, you’ll be privy to a Derby experience that merges Denver’s creative scene with the Kentucky Derby’s time-honored traditions.
Derby Day at The Brown Palace Hotel & Spa
The Brown Palace’s Ship Tavern and Churchill Bar offer a sanctuary for those seeking a mint julep and a touch of Derby panache. Toast to the most fabulous two minutes in sports and etch your memory in bourbon and glass. If a commemorative bourbon bottle doesn’t scream “Kentucky Derby,” we don’t know what does.
Kentucky Derby Party @ Avanti
For the unpretentious Derby enthusiast, Avanti’s got you covered. With Woodford Reserve Mint Juleps, DJ Styla, and a best-dressed competition, you’ll be knee-deep in fun without the fuss.
3200 Pecos St.
Kentucky Derby Party @ LeRoux
Doff your fedora at LeRoux’s Derby shindig, where Hotaling & Co. brings festivities. Bottomless mimosas and small bites accompany live music and costume contests that would make even the most stoic racehorse snort.
Kentucky Derby Day @ ViewHouse Ballpark
At ViewHouse Ballpark, embrace the absurdity of a crazy hat contest and savor mint juleps as the equine drama unfolds on colossal screens. But with Moses Jones performing live, who needs the actual race?
Derby Day at 54thirty Rooftop
Ascend to 54thirty, where lofty altitudes and Derby enthusiasm merge. With a complimentary Mint Julep and the opportunity to partake in sartorial contests, you’ll enjoy the race while floating above the city’s mundane affairs.
TheBigWonderful at Belleview Station: 9th Annual Derby Party
TheBigWonderful is where revelers indulge in a feast of local delights—live bluegrass, craft vendors, and food trucks—while the Kentucky Derby streams for those who still remember the day’s raison d’être.
Denver Mini Derby @ Auraria Campus
The Denver Mini Derby promises a carnival of mini horses, corgis, and open bars, orbiting around that distant spectacle known as the Kentucky Derby. It’s a whimsical alternative for those weary of tradition.