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may 01 2008

This Weekend: Last-minute Kentucky Derby plans

The Derby is still do-able, if you're looking for a spontaneous weekend outing.

This Saturday more than 100,000 visitors are expected to attend the "running of the roses." It's the most exciting two minutes in sports. But you should plan to show up five hours ahead if you want see anything.

You see, seats in the stands are all booked up. But standing-room only tickets will be available at gate 10 of Churchill downs. It's best to arrive by 6a.m. if you want a chance to jockey for position, either along the inside track or by the winner's circle. Tickets are about $40 per person.

Starting at 1p.m., there will be a fabulous party along the waterfront, with lots of bands playing all types of music.

Hotels in Louisville are pretty much booked solid. But there is still affordable lodging across the Ohio River. Use Hotwire or Priceline and bid on two- and three-star properties for the best chance to save.

Can't make it? Visit one of the other 360-odd days of the year that Churchill Downs is open. It's a fun attraction…

I highly recommend you take one of the tours of the Churchill Downs facilities. You can see the jockeys' quarters, where jockeys weigh-in on Derby Day. Kids on the tour can step onto the giant metal scale and get weighed themselves.

Some tours also take you up to the rarefied viewing areas for the well-to-do. You get to peek at the rooms where high-rollers and celebrity billionaires hang out to watch the race. You'll see the padded leather armchairs where folks smoke cigars and sip mint juleps. Near Millionaire's Row dining room is a 30-foot long model of Churchill Downs with 4,000 handblown glass figurines.

Budget Travel tip: Arrive by 6 a.m. to see horses do their morning workouts around the track. Lucky children will have a chance to pat a thoroughbred.

If you love horses, you'll also want to head to the Kentucky Horse Park, about an hour-and-a-half drive west of Churchill Downs.

The park is a dream come true for horse lovers, with two equine museums and a twice-daily parade of about a dozen breeds. It's also a retirement home of sorts for famous racehorses, such as Cigar, who won nearly $10 million in the mid-1990s.

The gift shop has every possible model of toy horse in current production. I've never seen so many little girls squeal in delight as in this shop. The American Girl stores don't even compare.

MORE

See me talk about my recent four-day road trip through Kentucky on this CNN.com webcast.

Read about a four-day road trip through central Kentucky—through its bourbon distilleries, mammoth caves, and historical sites: A Trot in the Country.

Get Inspired with more from BudgetTravel.com


Note:This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.

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