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It had been a while since I had visited the Kentucky Derby Museum, so I ventured over that way yesterday afternoon. After checking in and paying for your admission at the front counter, the museum customer service representative informs you that a historic walking tour starts on the half hour every hour, and that The Greatest Race, the 360-degree high-definition film, was getting ready to begin. I started my visit with the circular film about the Derby, thoroughbred racing, the Derby festival, and the history of the Downs and the races. After the film finished, I heard the announcement over the loud speaker that the tour was getting ready to start near the front entrance.

What a treat this walking tour was. Our guide was an energetic bundle of informational joy about the track, the history of Derby, and racing at Churchill Downs in general. She led us on a short walk from the back entrance of the Derby Museum, through the pavilion and paddock area just inside the gates of Churchill Downs. She was full of all kinds of tidbits of information that were enjoyable to hear, as many of them I was not aware of. We walked past the Jockey Club suites, the paddock where the horses trot through on race days and are saddled, and we walked down to the track and stood near the gates of the historic dirt track. We learned that the track is a definitive blend of sand, clay, and dirt and it has been fine tuned to an exact science. There are other tours available for an extra charge, including an inside the tracks tour and a barn and backside van tour; for more information on these, click here.

On the day I visited, I did have my 2 ½ year old with me. He was in his stroller, and the museum is stroller-friendly as well as handicapped accessible. We were there to check out the Horse Play exhibit, which is on display from now until December 31. It was a fun and engaging area on the second floor of the museum, showcasing numerous horse-themed, racing, and Derby games through the ages. There are some interactive areas here that even my child under 3 could explore, touch, and have fun with – without the added negative of getting himself in trouble. Many of the artifacts displayed in the exhibit are bobbleheads, wooden horses, and racing games. The museum has also purchased a circa-1970s Kentucky Derby themed carousel ride, which is coin-operated and is set to become a permanent part of the museum.

If you’re looking for a way to step foot first and be immersed into the Derby and all the “greatest 2 minutes in sports is,” visit the Kentucky Derby Museum. Take a few hours and see the exhibits, take a stroll through the garden outdoors and visit Mine That Bird who is being stabled here, and grab a local bite to eat at Derby Café.

The Kentucky Derby Museum is located at 704 Central Avenue adjacent to the historic Churchill Downs. Their hours are Monday-Saturday 8am-5pm and Sunday 11am-5pm. Admission runs from $14 for adults to $6 for children with varying discounts for senior citizens and students; those under the age of 5 are admitted free. See here for a list of other fantastic museums and historic homes around the city.

Photos by Erin Nevitt

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About Erin Nevitt

Longtime Louisvillian, I am a children's librarian at heart and have a passion for children's lit. I am most recently a stay-at-home mom who is always on the move, searching for family fun in Louisville. If it's free, it's preferable!

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