Churchill Downs Behind the Scenes Tours

Derby Day comes just ones a year, but a variety of tours take travelers behind the scenes of Louisville, Kentucky’s legendary horse-racing venue.

Visitors at one of the Churchill Downs Behind the Scenes Tours in Louisville, Kentucky (photo courtesy of Kentucky Derby Museum)

As May arrives each year, excitement stirs among horse-racing fans for the annual running of the Kentucky Derby, but you can visit the race’s iconic home of Churchill Downs in Louisville throughout the year. The on-site Kentucky Derby Museum runs a variety of tours inside the legendary venue, providing tour takers behind-the-scenes access to parts of the property they couldn’t normally see.

The popular Barn and Backside Tour explores the expanse of 47 barns that hold up to 1,400 horses, some of which can be spotted going to and from the track, getting baths or relaxing in their stalls. Should you take the early-morning version of this tour, you may have a chance to spot horses training on the famous racetrack. For a more extended watch, sign up for the Thoroughbred Workout Tour, where guides focus on the intricacies of training a racehorse.

The Superstars and Spires tour provides special access to Millionaire’s Row, private dining rooms and balconies where notable figures watch the Derby. During the Bourbon and Bridles Experience, enjoy a bourbon tasting and learn how to make a mint julep with the racetrack as your backdrop. To see the horses in their element, travel off-site for the Hermitage Farm and Museum Tour. For about two weeks before the Kentucky Derby each year, special Derby Season tour offerings are available. 

Allow time to visit the museum exhibits where you’ll enjoy mock betting, see galleries about Derby traditions and watch footage of past races. A 20-minute film includes everything from a foal taking his first steps to breathtaking footage of horses racing right at you. 704 Central Ave., Louisville, Kentucky 40208, 502/637-1111,