Churchill Downs

700 Central Ave.
Louisville KY 40208
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Churchill Downs is a thoroughbred racetrack located in south Louisville, Kentucky. It is best known for hosting the Kentucky Derby, the first jewel in the triple crown of horse racing held annually on the first Saturday in May. The race officially kicks off the spring meet for the Downs, one of two scheduled racing venues hosted every year during the spring and fall. 

Parking and public transportation at Churchill Downs
Free parking for Churchill Downs patrons is available at the Longfield Parking Lot on Longfield Avenue. For major events, on-site parking at the racetrack is reserved and sold in advance, and large parking facilities like those at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium may be available for fees ranging from $8 to $25. Bus routes have access to Churchill Downs through a new bus depot in front of Gate One. For more information, contact River City Transit Authority at: 502-585-1234. There is also a taxi depot at 4 Street and Central Avenue, five minutes walking distance from Gate One.

Best and worst times to go to Churchill Downs
Major events at the racetrack, and certainly the Kentucky Derby, draw large crowds and are more expensive excursions for visitors. Free parking is typically unavailable, and enhanced security at the gates can cause additional delays. The track is also more congested during the first and last day or two of a scheduled meet. For the most enjoyable visit, plan on arriving early to beat the rush. The race schedule for a particular day will either be posted on Churchill Down's website, or you can call: 502-636-4400.

Admission to Churchill Downs
General admission to Churchill Downs for most of the year is nominal at about $3 for adults ($1 for seniors) and free for children 12 and under. During large events like the Kentucky Derby, special higher rates are in effect that can range from $35 to $60 or more. Purchasing a packaged deal that includes admission over multiple days, or booking in advance, may save $5 on the going rate.

Must see/do at Churchill Downs
While visiting the racetrack, take plenty of photos of the twin spires, trademark architectural features whose distinctive, stately silhouettes identify the racetrack instantly. To learn more about the sport of horse racing in Kentucky, you can also visit the Kentucky Derby Museum located on the grounds. Admission is between $6 and $14, while children under 5 are welcomed free of charge.

Other places to visit near Churchill Downs
When visiting Churchill Downs, three other popular attractions are within four miles of the track. They include the Louisville Slugger Museum, the historic Cave Hill Cemetery and the Louisville Zoo.

Insider tip for visitors to Churchill Downs
For security reasons, there are restrictions on what visitors can carry onto the grounds at Churchill Downs during the Kentucky Derby and other major events. Make sure to leave the following banned items at home or in your hotel room: alcoholic beverages, umbrellas, cameras with detachable lenses, thermoses, backpacks, laser pointers, camcorders and computers.

Author's bio: Sara Elliott has been a Louisville resident for over 20 years. She's is a contributor to a number of prominent lifestyle websites and publishes a popular gardening blog.