Can’t Miss Derby Festivities

Derby season is one of our favorite times of the year here in Kentucky. Did you know that Louisville, Kentucky, celebrates a whole month of festivities leading up to the big race? With Derby just around the corner, Louisville is gearing up for a season of celebration. Whether you’re headed into town for the 10th annual Fillies and Stallions Derby Party or looking for fun activities to kick off the Derby season, we’ve rounded up some local favorites that you can’t miss! 

Thunder Over Louisville 

One of the largest annual fireworks shows in North America, Louisville locals consider Thunder Over Louisville the unofficial kick-off of Derby season. With an average attendance of half a million people, Thunder Over Louisville is a can’t miss experience that will leave you excited for Derby day. Thunder Over Louisville has a unique theme and soundtrack each year, so you’re sure to have a memorable experience no matter how many times you join the celebration.

Taste of Derby Festival

The Taste of Derby Festival is the ultimate chance to experience the best of Louisville’s renowned culinary scene. Sample signature dishes from over 50 of Louisville’s finest restaurants, including our world-class bourbon distilleries. The Taste of Derby Festival also gives you the perfect opportunity to show off your favorite Derby style.


The Kentucky Derby Fest-a-Ville is a local favorite, with week-long activities for the entire family to enjoy. From the Waterfront Jam Concert Series to the Chow Wagon and Great Balloon Glow, the Fest-a-Ville is a destination for food and entertainment throughout the Derby season. Located right on the Waterfront, the Fest-a-Ville offers beautiful views of the Ohio River and is close to some of our favorite downtown amenities.

Great Balloon Glow

For a truly unforgettable Derby experience, the Great Balloon Glow will not disappoint. One of the most unique events each Derby season, the Balloon Glow offers a chance to see hot air balloons up close before they head off for the big race. Enjoy an evening walk around Waterfront Park and talk to the pilots as they show off the balloons they will be racing the following morning at the Great Balloon Race.

Pegasus Parade

Considered locally as the kick-off to Derby week, the Pegasus Parade is a homage to what makes the city of Louisville unique. Traveling throughout various neighborhoods in Louisville, the parade features colorful floats, marching bands, and a true Kentucky staple—horses. With bleacher seating along the parade route, you can enjoy a day filled with Kentucky spirit.

Great Steamboat Race

A favorite Louisville tradition, the Great Steamboat Race has been a staple of the Kentucky Derby Festival since 1963. Watch as the beloved Belle of Louisville races against famous steamboats from surrounding cities on the Ohio River. With multiple ways to enjoy the Great Steamboat Race, including a stroll on the Big Four Bridge or a view from the Waterfront Fest-a-Ville, this is one activity that you can easily fit into your busy Derby schedule.

Fillies and Stallions Derby Eve Party

Don’t forget to round out the week with an exclusive Derby eve party! The 10th annual Fillies and Stallions Derby Party is one of the most exclusive Derby events of the season, featuring a 60ft red carpet swarming with paparazzi and, as always, some exciting surprises in store. Though this is a private, invite-only event, fill out our contact form for the possibility to score a spot on the guestlist for this exclusive, one-of-a-kind event.

For a complete list of Derby events this year, check out the Kentucky Derby Festival website for more information.