Iâ€™ve tried just about every method to get to and from the racetrack, from walking a mile in a dress from a friendâ€™s house off Fourth Street to catching a personal shuttle service with a questionably sober driver (not smart, I know, and itâ€™s not a mistake Iâ€™ll repeat again).
Last year, though, I thought I hit the jackpot of transit when I made a swift trip to Churchill Downs with the help of my dad, who agreed to drop me off at Gate 10 at 8:30 a.m. Heading to Derby early certainly helped in avoiding a long line of vehicles. Regardless, having a volunteer drive you to the track may be the cheapest and most effective method.
Still, Iâ€™m not quite convinced Iâ€™ve found the best mode of transportation. With Derby less than two weeks away, I decided to do some research to find the latest tips and tricks for beating the heavy crowd.
To my surprise, one option many people suggested was hopping on a bike and cycling to the track. It may be somewhat difficult depending on youâ€™re attire, but youâ€™ll have a quick cruise through traffic and get some exercise while youâ€™re at it. If youâ€™re afraid of leaving your bike unattended, thereâ€™s a valet bike service available from www.bicyclingforlouisville.org.
â€œThey have an awesome free valet bike service that theyâ€™re trying to get set up in a lot of places,â€ said Ashley Brightwell, a Louisville resident. â€œWe used them for Thunder and it was awesome knowing that someone was watching our bikes while we walked around.â€
Another possibility is, of course, parking your car at the racetrack or in front of a nearby yard â€“ though, that can cost you anywhere from $20 to $40, if not more. Plus, those spots are few and far between.
â€œI always park north of the track and walk from there,â€ said Danny Semones, a frequent Derby attendee. â€œAll kinds of friendly people selling beer and hot dogs on the way.â€
Some people go so far as to rent a school bus to carry a big group to Churchill Downs, though renting a vehicle is a little more costly than most types of transportation.
â€œI looked into a school bus but it was really expensive,â€ said Emily Cecil. â€œI am now looking into TARC or parking and tailgating in the (University of Louisville) lot off Third (Street), near the intersection of Eastern Parkway, and walking.â€
While tailgating before the big race is a great way to jump start the party, some people find it an excellent excuse to avoid the crowd leaving the track. After the Derby has concluded, the venue can become quite congested with fans heading toward the exit. Iâ€™d suggest, again, having someone pick you up, but tailgating post-Derby may be more your style.
â€œMy friends and I tailgate in the parking lot until the crowd has diminished,â€ said Whitney Murphy Yeager. â€œWe have someone meet us in the parking lot with more beverages and such, and then they drive us home.â€
Lastly, the shuttle service and TARC are great for traveling to the Derby, just be patient. Also, if youâ€™re heading to Oakâ€™s this year, itâ€™s worth looking into. Miller Lite has teamed up with TARC to offer Miller Lite Free Rides, a safe transportation alternative for those 21 and older.
The no-cost service will travel to many destinations, including bars, restaurants and local transit hubs from 6 p.m. to 1 a.m. on May 4. Route and schedule information is available by calling 1.800.FREE RIDES (1.800.373.3743).
Whichever method you prefer, itâ€™s most important to have your entrance and escape plan set before Derby. Thereâ€™s no wasting time on the first Saturday in May, so start planning for your arrival on everyoneâ€™s favorite day at the racetrack.
Contact writer Ashley Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org, 502.498.2051.
More Travel Tips
â€œPay your little brother to drive you and all your girlfriends! The guys always manage to find a way there eventually.â€
â€“ Julia Bright
â€œMake friends with someone who lives close by and park there.â€
â€“ Ryan Ford
â€œPark somewhere (free) then bike the rest of the way.â€
Â â€“ Jessica Cramer
â€“ Sam Ratterman
â€œI usually put my bike on the car, park at Shahâ€™s on Warnock and then ride the rest of the way. I lock my bike on the same telephone pole every year.â€
â€“ Jordan Andrew
â€œTake the bus. Bring your scooter.â€
â€“ Maura Enright
â€œThe past few years, we have hired a driver that takes us up to the Gate 17 entrance. If you get a small seater bus it is usually only $20 per person and that includes pick up and drop off. We all meet at one friendâ€™s house, leave cars there and go!â€
â€“ Member of Broadway Management Group