Dawn at the Downs


Dawn at the Downs is an exciting way to get ready for the Kentucky Derby with your family by visiting Churchill Downs in the mornings leading up to Derby Day.


Dawn at the Downs

There are free and paid options. You can purchase a ticket for the buffet and parking or enter for free at a gate and watch.

Dawn at the Downs offers free admission during the days leading up to the Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby. This event has been a tradition for many Louisville families. This year marks the 150th running of these races. 

You can watch horses work out on the track at Churchill Downs for FREE.

Dates: April 25 – May 1, 7 am to 10 am.

Oaks and Derby Horses only from 7:30 am to 7:45 am.

Dawn at the Downs Parking:

  • Onsite Parking is available for free on a first-come, first-served basis.
  • Onsite parking lots will open at 6:00 am.
  • Paddock Gates will open at 7:00 am. 
  • Each vehicle will receive a placard to put on its dashboard identifying the vehicle as a Dawn at the Downs guest.
  • Each vehicle must leave Churchill Downs by 10:30 am that day. 

Important and different from the past: No outside food and beverage are allowed. Churchill Downs’ Paddock Grill will be open each morning with breakfast food and beverage options.

Which horses are which? Look for the yellow saddle towels for Derby horses and pink saddle towels for Oaks contenders

On Sunday, April 28 & Monday, April 29, you can enjoy a special Dawn at the Downs if you want to splurge. They serve a premium breakfast in Millionaires Row or the Stakes Room for Dawn at the Downs. This is a ticketed event. Tickets start at $49 and can be purchased online in advance.

Click here for more Derby related posts!


What else do you need to know about Dawn at the Downs?

  • Be there by 7:30 am, that’s about when the Derby horses will go out.
  • Most people stay until around 9 am
  • Concession stands will be open
  • Attire is not enforced for this aspect of Dawn at the Downs. Dress for the weather!
  • You must vacate when Dawn at the Downs is over, approximately 10:30 am.


Looking for more spring fun? Click here!

It's fun to share: