The best Kentucky Derby parties in New York City

Hit up a bourbon festival, learn how to square dance, pose with a real horse and more of the wildest parties to celebrate the 144th Kentucky Derby.
The Brooklyn Derby started in 2003 and has grown into the most enthusiastic party in town.

The Brooklyn Derby started in 2003 and has grown into the most enthusiastic party in town.

Steve McFarland

The 144th Kentucky Derby falls on the same day as Cinco de Mayo, making for an interesting mix of parties to celebrate the “most exciting two minutes in sports.” We rounded up some of the best parties leading up to the main event at 6:46 p.m.

 
 

Brooklyn Derby is jam packed with excitement including two sets from @dandywellington. Our feet are itching to dance and we hope yours are too. 📷 @presta #brooklynderby2018

 

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For true race enthusiasts

What started in 2003 with three roommates having a good time in their apartment has grown into a 500-guest affair. This year’s Brooklyn Derby is going down at Greenwood Park (555 Seventh Ave., South Slope), where they’re turning the beer garden into a bourbon garden with yard games like bocce, a hat-making station and more. Get in on the all-inclusive party ($95) from 4-8 p.m. including an open bar, Southern snacks and live bluegrass and big band music. 555 Seventh Ave., South Slope, brooklynderby.com

 

Dance with the fancy lads

Before the ponies Run for the Roses, you’ll be well served at the 121st Annual Derby Day Bash at Pete’s Candy Store. The Greenpoint bar and performance space has “festivities are as bountiful as a true gentleman’s manners,” including The Millinery Parade (juried handmade hat competition), tacos by Nik Westman for all your Cinco de Mayo-fueled needs, plus live music and dancing. Fun starts at 3 p.m. but only for those dressed to impress. 709 Lorimer St., Brooklyn

Hit up a Midtown garden party

Another sure sign of spring: Rockefeller Center’s ice rink transforming into the Summer Garden & Bar, which will host the largest outdoor Kentucky Derby party in Manhattan. Watch all the action on TVs mounted outdoors while snacking on Southern-style snacks (shrimp & grits!) and desserts (bourbon truffles!) and the race’s official bourbon Woodford Reserve shaking up Mint Juleps, Kentucky Mules and more. Your first drink is included in your ticket price, as is a commemorative glass. There will be live music and outfit contests with prizes. $49, 4:30-7:30 p.m., 20 W. 50th St.

The most fashionable hats

If you don’t have a derby-worthy hat, shop for a hat by Lynn Paik Millinery at JIMMY at The James’ Kentucky Derby viewing party. Come early for the pre-race hat fashion show and shop the looks ($85-$325), then enjoy derby-themed cocktails ($19), Veuve Clicquot Champagne and Southern-inspired bites. No cover, 15 Thompson St.

Win something for yourself

Blue Smoke Flatiron is once again sweetening the derby deal by raffling off a bottle of 20-year-old Pappy Van Winkle at its third annual Kentucky Derby Party. Get your entries by buying one of the restaurant’s three varieties of mint julep or buy tickets — it all goes to support Operation BBQ Relief. From 3-7 p.m., enjoy a live bluegrass band while complimentary buckets of fried chicken make their way around, plus their take on the famously secret Derby Pie. 116 E. 27th St.

Pose with a real horse

Wear your derby-inspired duds to the Lower East Side bar named for two racehorses, Saxon + Parole, where a real pony with a wreath of roses will stop by for photo ops. Spend a day listening to live bluegrass tunes while sipping unlimited mint juleps, rosé and beer, accompanied by a spread of seafood, fried chicken and roast hog from 3-7 p.m. $135 in advance, $150 door, 316 Bowery

Hit up a bourbon festival

Hone your palate for the right base to your mint julep at the first-ever Bourbon Festival At Belmont. Taste your way through 25 bourbons, plus craft beers aged in bourbon barrels at Belmont Park Racetrack from 3-7 p.m. Watch horse racing from the grandstand all day (with betting, if you like) before the derby. Dress your fanciest for the full effect. $95, 2150 Hempstead Turnpike, Elmont, New York, bourbonatbelmont.com

Party all day Southern style

Find some down home fun at The Bell House. Doors open at 1 p.m. for lawn games, square dancing, “tailgating” with food by Fletcher’s barbecue, prize drawings (no running required), pie eating contest, a human horse race (so maybe wear sneakers after all), music by Dave Harvey & The Remedies and lots of mint juleps. First 150 racing fans get a free commemorative glass. Tickets are $12 in advance, $16 at the door. 149 7th St., Brooklyn

 

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A Mexitucky fiesta

Cinco de Derby is the theme at Threes Brewing in Brooklyn, where you’ll find a no-cover all-day party melding the two holidays. Roll up to their spectacular backyard where The Meat Hook will be turning out tacos and cemitas to pair with Mexitucky mash-up cocktails like Mezcal Mint Juleps and Mint Margaritas, eclectic Latin vinyl beats from indie record label Names You Can Trust starting at 2 p.m., and  live broadcast of the most exciting two minutes in sports. Noon-8 p.m., 333 Douglass St., Gowanus

Spice up Race Day

Williamsburg hot sauce emporium Heatonist will host its third annual Bronx Hot Sauce Kentucky Derby Party from 3-7 p.m. in its lush back garden. There’ll be a whole roasted pig barbecue, spicy cocktails, beers and three new community garden-grown hot sauces by Small Axe Peppers to try. 121 Wythe Ave., Brooklyn

 
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