Kentucky Derby

Kentucky Derby 7-Day RV Rally

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It’s the most exciting two minutes in sports!  Since 1875, the city of Louisville, Kentucky, has celebrated the first Saturday in May with the ‘Run for the Roses’ – the Kentucky Derby!  And it’s not just a two-minute race – this charming city offers an entire plethora of activities during Derby week, all building up to that moment the announcer roars, ‘And they’re off!’

The Kentucky Derby has a rich and fascinating history.  In 1872, Meriwether Lewis Clark, Jr. (the grandson of William Clark of the Lewis and Clark Expedition) returned to Kentucky from England and France where he had experienced some famous horse races.  His dream of creating a similar event in Louisville became a reality three years later when, in front of an estimated crowd of 10,000 people, a field of 15 three-year-old horses contested the first Kentucky Derby.

Clark sought to transform American racetracks from places associated with immorality and vice to venues that might attract a wealthier, nobler clientele. With the help of his wife, he went on a campaign throughout Louisville to convince his target audience that the new race track was, in fact, a place for the upper-class.

Kentucky DerbyLouisville high society women began planning their Derby wardrobes, coordinating their dresses, hats, parasols and shoes.  The race became THE event to attend and dress for. Over the years, it has attracted festively dressed celebrities, politicians – even the Queen of England.  Much of the attention paid to the Derby today focuses on the fashions and not the race itself!

You too can be part of both the excitement and traditions of the Kentucky Derby by participating in Fantasy RV Tours’ Kentucky Derby RV Rally.  Our rally takes place at the Kentucky Expo Center, conveniently located in the city of Louisville, with public shuttle transportation to Churchill Downs on race days.  The Rally begins with an orientation and a get-acquainted party, then we depart for dinner, cruising the Ohio River aboard the Belle of Louisville, a steamboat built in 1914 and a piece of living American history.

Kentucky DerbyThe next morning, we head for the ‘Horse Capital of the World’ – Lexington.  Our first stop is at the Thoroughbred Center, nestled among lavish horse farms with lush green Kentucky bluegrass paddocks.  We enjoy a ‘behind the scenes’ look at the daily care and training of thoroughbred horses, the morning workouts, the training, the barns and care that all go into raising these beautiful animals.
After a typical Lexington southern-style luncheon, we visit the Kentucky Horse Park, the world’s only park completely dedicated to man’s relationship with horses.  Here, we visit the International Museum of the Horse, take a horse-drawn carriage ride through the park’s beautiful grounds and explore the American Saddlebred Museum, featuring Kentucky’s oldest native breed of horse.  We are entertained by the Horse Park’s famous Parade of Breeds and watch ‘Thou Shalt Fly Without Wings,’ a movie celebrating life here.

All this is followed up with another southern-style dinner, complete with Derby favorite delicacies, live entertainment and a tour of the picturesque Lexington area.

Day 3 dawns, and it’s a special day for us.  We begin with breakfast on Millionaire’s Row at Churchill Downs, where we celebrate ‘Dawn at the Downs,’ watching racehorses at their early morning workouts.  If we’re lucky, we’ll see some of the Derby contenders exercising – our first chance to perhaps pick a winner!  We leave Churchill Downs for a city tour of Louisville, including the fascinating Historical District, the largest preservation district in the United States to feature almost entirely Victorian architecture.  The homes and buildings in this neighborhood are almost all made of brick, and the district contains the highest number of residences with stained-glass windows in the country.

Every day is Derby Day at the Kentucky Derby Museum, featuring three floors of interactive displays commemorating some of the best Derby races in history.  Here, we’ll view a gigantic Theater in the Round presentation, moving on to the Derby Dinner Playhouse for a delightful meal with lights, camera, action – a professionally produced live Broadway show.

Kentucky DerbyThere’s so much more to Louisville than just the Run for the Roses, and our next morning is spent touring the famous Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory – yes, it’s where those bats are actually made!  We take a guided tour through the factory that has operated since 1884.  And we also celebrate the extraordinary role Louisville Slugger baseball bats have played in the sport’s past at the museum’s galleries of remarkable baseball memorabilia.  Whether you’re a baseball fan or not, this is an extraordinary tour!  Later, we take in the Kentucky Derby Festival. Not satisfied with just the famous two-minute race, Louisville locals have put together a month-long party.  Your Pegasus pin admits you to many of the events, culinary feasts and activities.  For those who choose, there’s time for an optional visit to celebrate the legacy of Muhammad Ali at the Muhammad Ali Center, a museum devoted to the man and his principals.

Kentucky DerbyThe day is not done yet – our next stop is the Buffalo Trace Distillery, located just outside of Louisville, which has been making bourbon whiskey for more than 200 years.  We walk between bourbon barrels, smelling the distinct aroma of bourbon sleeping inside the aging warehouses.  We watch it being bottled, sealed, labeled and packaged, all by hand.  And we might even have a taste or two – after all, we’re in Kentucky!

Fantasy gives us an open day on Friday.  We can further explore Louisville, participate in more Derby Festival activities in town or, if we just can’t get enough horse racing, head to Churchill Downs for the Kentucky Oaks.  It’s easy to get there – just hop on one of the shuttles running every few minutes from our camping area.  And once there, it’s a full day of racing but definitely less crowded than Derby Day itself.  The infamous Oaks race is restricted to fillies only.

Saturday dawns – and it’s off to the races!  We take the short shuttle bus ride to Churchill Downs and thrill to a full day of racing before the actual Kentucky Derby begins.  We have great views of the track from our third-level box seating (also under cover) as we cheer on our favorite horses and riders.  It’s the Kentucky Derby – and people watching is nearly as much fun as watching the races.  Women arrive in their finest dresses and fanciest hats, southern gentlemen escorting them through the historic buildings of Churchill Downs.  Join in the singing of ‘My Old Kentucky Home’ with 165,000 fellow race fans, taste a mint julep, view the chaos in the infield and place a bet on your favorite horse. It’s all part of the fun and exciting Derby atmosphere!

After a Goodbye continental breakfast the following morning, it’s time to head for home or on to further adventures.

Learn more about the Kentucky Derby RV Rally: