Kentucky Derby

Riders Up! Where to Catch the Kentucky Derby in Chicago

Published on May 2, 2022

The horses will be coming around the stretch on May 7th, with the 148th running of the Kentucky Derby. Chicagoans who are unable to attend the “Run for the Roses” at Louisville’s Churchill Downs can still enjoy all the action at bars throughout the area. Because of demand, some places require reservations or the purchase of advance tickets, but they also come with food and drink specials and other perks.

For most, the roughly two minutes it takes to run the mile-and-a-quarter track is secondary to the pre-race festivities. Derby Day tradition dictates the serving of mint juleps (bourbon, mint and simple syrup served over ice) and that people get dressed in colorful outfits that reflect Southern gentility. This means bright seersucker suits for men and colorful dresses with matching hats for women. Some of the parties listed below will be even holding contests for the best dressed.

The perfect location for the perfect bet

If you’re looking to put some money on the Kentucky Derby, Hawthorne Race Course in Cicero and its affiliated off-track betting parlors are the places to be. All reservations come with a race program and entry into a drawing for a $1,000 Visa gift card. Some bars are already fully booked and others are close to selling out. Hawthorne’s website lists all the participating sports bars with their reservation prices and what they’re offering in food and beverage credits.

Green Curtain Events has partnered with White Claw to throw parties at nine bars on the Gold Coast, North Side and West Loop. At each location, a $10 general admission ticket gets each patron entry to the venue, a can of White Claw and chances to win prizes. Groups can purchase table packages, with prices and capacity based on the location. Check Derby Parties Chicago for full information.

The Hampton Social’s five Chicago-area locations will be throwing their “Run for the Rosés.” They’ve got $10 rosé mint juleps, live music, and prizes for Best Dressed and Best Hat. Reservations for tables are free, but they are selling group VIP packages to their Rosé All Day Lounge, which adds welcoming rosé mint juleps, sharable bites, and several bottles of sparkling rosé.

North Siders looking for someplace that doesn’t require a reservation may consider Lakeview’s Kirkwood. They’ll have $8 Old Forester mint juleps and buckets of Bud Light or Miller Lite for $25.

Old fashioned gentlemen

The Frontier’s annual watch party features $10 Maker’s Mark and Woodford Reserve mint juleps, Old Fashioneds and Whiskey Sours as well as an $18 fried chicken plate complete with cole slaw and mac & cheese. Reservations at the Noble Square hotspot are only needed for groups of six or more, and it requires a $50 deposit that will go toward the bill.

In Hyde Park, We Love Soul, a community of soul music lovers, is throwing their party at The Promontory, with four DJs on-hand. Early Bird tickets start at $10 and go up to $20 on the day of the race. They’re also selling tables ($100) for parties of 4-6 and a couch section ($150) for parties of 6-8. Both require a minimum purchase of one bottle.

A more refined dress party

The party at the Godfrey Hotel’s I|O Rooftop Lounge will run from noon until 8:00 p.m. They’ll be holding Bourbon 101 classes and will also have a special themed menu, photo booth and a live mint wall. Dressing up isn’t just encouraged, it’s required.  There will be prizes for Best Dressed, Best Hat and Best Couple. Tickets start at $55 for general admission and go as high as $2,420 for a premium large booth in the O Lounge, which comes with a $1,500 credit in bottle service.

The Saddle Room in Hoffman Estates has two packages available. The Long Shot ($30 per person) guarantees a seat and comes with a commemorative glass, race program and sandwich. The Favorite ($58) substitutes the sandwich with a full three-course meal.

Finally, if you’re thinking about avoiding the crowds and simply inviting some friends over for the day, the Derby’s website has all the info you need to throw a perfect Kentucky Derby Day party. You’ll find everything from cocktail and food recipes, swag to order, or DIY Derby décor projects.  Just make sure that everybody is in front of the TV by 5:57 Central, when the big race of the day is scheduled to start.

And, don’t forget to place your bets!

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