Saturday, April 4, 2009
Louisville, Kentucky: Churchill Downs
It was a little surprising how much Kentucky has rallied around horse racing as an attraction and as an industry. The Mecca for that activity, in one sense, is Churchill Downs in Louisville. It's the site of the Kentucky Derby, which has turned into a long celebration in Kentucky.
You can visit the facility year-round, although it might be more fun for a tourist when the track is not running. They have tours of the facility, which includes a walk in the saddling area and up the tunnel to the track (but not to the track itself). The twin spires are still around, but they are slightly dwarfed these days by the stacks of suites built atop the clubhouse and grandstand.
The Kentucky Derby Museum is located here. There's a fine 360-degree film on the Derby, as well as exhibits on past winners and Derby hats. Kids of all ages can ride like jockeys on one exhibit; it will tire your legs out in no time. The people at Churchill Downs have done a fine job here, and it's definitely worth the stop.