Where to stay for the Kentucky Derby: the best hotels near Churchill Downs and where to stay in neighborhoods that are easy to get to and from the racetrack.

The Best Hotels Near Churchill Downs & Where to Stay for the Kentucky Derby in 2024 (a local’s guide)

Ahh, Derby Season, the most magical time of the year in Louisville! Flowers are blooming, giant horse statues spontaneously appear all over town, and the Kentucky Derby Festival is in full swing – all anticipating the day when celebrities and other fabulous visitors descend on Churchill Downs in a glittering, pastel-suited, giant-hat-wearing cloud of excitement and festivity.

We’ve got a detailed guide full of Kentucky Derby tips AND a guide to what to wear to the Kentucky Derby, and we wanted to round out our tips to help attendees looking for a good place to stay near Churchill Downs.

Here is the ultimate local’s guide to where to stay for the Kentucky Derby. We included the best hotels near Churchill Downs and where to stay in neighborhoods with easy access the racetrack!

Psst: Coming to Louisville for the Derby? These posts will help you plan your trip:

2025 Kentucky Derby Tickets & Parking Passes

Need to pick up a ticket for Derby, the Oaks, Thurby, or Dawn at the Downs, or a parking pass for Churchill Downs? Before you pay full price, we highly recommend looking on VividSeats and StubHub, where you can usually find reduced price tickets, single-day tickets, and even parking passes to help you save money (so you can spend more on betting and Mint Juleps, obviously)!

Oh, and make sure to check out our other local’s guides to the Kentucky Derby:

See also
The 19 Best Louisville Tours (by a local tour guide)
 
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Entrance to Churchill Downs with horse statue and flowers in Louisville Kentucky

How to Get to the Kentucky Derby 

Figuring out where to stay for the Kentucky Derby really comes down to how you’ll be getting to and from Churchill Downs. There are no hotel shuttles to Churchill Downs, so you’re on your own to figure out your transportation – along with about 150,000 other people. Yeah, it’s quite the logistical challenge.

Planning to drive? Be sure to budget a parking pass into your trip (and buy it early) – they are not cheap. But honestly, it’s better to avoid driving yourself. There are lots of other ways to get to and from the track – which also means you don’t have to worry about how many mint juleps you can safely enjoy!

  • Note that Churchill Downs has three entrance gates: the Paddock Gate, Clubhouse Gate and Infield Gate. (For Dawn at the Dawns, we recommend parking near the Paddock Gate.) So keep that in mind if you have Infield Tickets but get dropped off at the Clubhouse or Paddock Gates!

Whether you’ll be based in Louisville or coming in from out of town, there are a few ways to get to Churchill Downs:

  • Coming from out of town? Check out Rally, a bus rideshare specifically for the Kentucky Derby with 60 pick-up locations. You can bus in from Lexington or Bardstown – two of our favorite spots to base yourself for a Bourbon Trail itinerary during your trip – or even as far away as Indianapolis, Cincinnatti and Nashville. Your rideshare will drop you off and pick you up from Churchill Downs, no night at a hotel needed.
  • Getting to the Kentucky Derby By Bus: Your cheapest transit option is to take TARC to and from Churchill Downs: a one-way adult cash fare is only $1.75, and buses run all day. To get to Churchill Downs, you’ll want to hop on Routes 4, 6, or 29. To plot your route, use Google Maps and select “transit.” We’ve included bus stop notes below in our guide. If you’re willing to bus into Churchill Downs, we recommend staying in downtown on Whiskey Row or 4th street, Old Louisville, or the Highlands. We’ve included our recommendations for each neighborhood in detail below!
  • Getting to the Kentucky Derby By Taxi: use the Churchill Downs auto-court for drop-off, found in front of the Barbaro Statue by the Kentucky Derby Museum.
  • Getting to the Kentucky Derby By Ride-sharing Services: Use Thornberry Avenue to access the designated guest drop-off areas. Rides can wait for you in one of the 16 numbered spaces located within the Blue Lot. If you’re taking Uber or Lyft into Churchill Downs, we recommend staying in NuLu, Clifton, Germantown, or Butchertown. Each is within a few miles of to the downtown core, with plenty of cool places to eat and things to do within the neighborhood itself.
  • Getting to the Kentucky Derby By Car: If you plan on driving yourself to Churchill Downs, it is critical to know that all parking is sold in advance for both Kentucky Oaks and the Kentucky Derby. You’ll need to buy a parking pass – and they are NOT cheap. While limited parking is available on-site, there may be parking in the surrounding neighborhoods or via private lots. There are also all kinds of complicated road closures and such – maps, schedules, and more information are all available online. If you’re driving in, you have the luxury of staying anywhere you like, including the East End where hotels are typically much cheaper! That said, you’ll be driving everywhere. We only recommend staying in the East End if you aren’t planning on doing much else during your stay or don’t particularly care about staying in a cool neighborhood.
  • Getting to Churchill Downs by Scooter: Louisville has two electric scooter companies operating in town: Bird and Lime. You’ll only want to take a scooter for short distances that connect to Churchill Downs via surface streets, such as from Old Louisville, Shelby Park, Schnitzelburg or Downtown. Use Google Maps to plot your route – pick the Bike option. You’ll be going about 15 MPH and must stay on streets rather than sidewalks, so it’s very important that you wear a helmet (and please, do not drive a scooter if you’ve had too much to drink.)

For even more details, head over to our guide to getting to the Derby!

Louisville Kentucky Horse on the Track at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky

Hotels Near the Kentucky Derby

Churchill Downs is located in a small neighborhood called Wyandotte. It’s in Louisville’s south end, sandwiched between Shively (home of Stitzel-Weller, one of the bourbon distilleries in Louisville) and the airport, fairgrounds, and Kentucky Kingdom, which are all pretty much next to one another.

If you connect the dots, what that means is that there are lots of big, giant lots full of big, giant, loud equipment (roller coasters! distilleries! Airports! a giant race track!)… and not a lot of like, nice walkable areas full of hotels.

There’s not … much at all, actually.

In terms of things to do near Churchill Downs, there is Wagner’s Pharmacy, which is a cool old-timey diner that’s a fantastic place to get breakfast before or after Dawn at the Downs (you’ll definitely see some celebrities here on Derby Week!)

And … that’s about it! There are no hotels within the Wyandotte neighborhood, and not much to do, either.

There are, however, a few enterprising individuals renting out their homes. If you can snag one of these vacation rentals near Churchill Downs – and you’ll need to book VERY early to do so – you’ll be within walking distance (and stumbling home distance) of the track!

2025 Kentucky Derby Tickets & Parking Passes

Need to pick up a ticket for Derby, the Oaks, Thurby, or Dawn at the Downs, or a parking pass for Churchill Downs? Before you pay full price, we highly recommend looking on VividSeats and StubHub, where you can usually find reduced price tickets, single-day tickets, and even parking passes to help you save money (so you can spend more on betting and Mint Juleps, obviously)!

Oh, and make sure to check out our other local’s guides to the Kentucky Derby:

Best Vacation Rentals near Churchill Downs

Booking a vacation rental within the Wyandotte neighborhood will put you in walking distane of Churchill Downs, and is the closest you can get to the track. But book EARLY – and expect to pay a premium for the week of Derby.

  • This 2 Bedroom Bungalow is 650 feet from Churchill Downs, and adorably decorated with Louisville flair. Horse art! Furniture made from bourbon barrels! A bourbon barrel stave accent wall! It’s just the right size place to stay for Derby for a couple.
  • This charming home has 4 bedrooms (and, critically, 4 bathrooms) with space for 10, and is walking distance from Churchill Downs, making it the perfect place to split between a family or group of friends.
  • This bright, modern home has 3 bedrooms and sleeps up to 6, with two bathrooms to share. It’s about 1.6 miles from Churchill Downs, so close enough for a long walk – or a quick Lyft ride or scooter trip!

Note about Vacation Rentals: Personally, we recommend booking vacation rentals directly through VRBO because it has fewer fees and more flexible cancellation policies than Airbnb, and we’re not fans of Airbnb’s unethical track record and lax security. Also, I was once kicked out of an Airbnb in Louisville because the landlord rented it to a permanent tenant – in the middle of my stay. Yikes! VRBO’s tend to be professionally managed, so you’re less likely to experience issues during your stay.

See also
Getting to the Kentucky Derby, a Transit Guide for Churchill Downs (by a local)

Best Hotels Near Churchill Downs

While there are no hotels in the same neighborhood as Churchill Downs, there are a few hotels close by, near the airport and fairgrounds. Many of them are also within walking distance, though this area is mostly large highways and busy streets without sidewalks – so walk at your own risk.

Now, when you’re booking these hotels, you’re going for proximity. There is not much to do nearby, it’s not walkable, and you’ll enjoy the lovely background noise of planes flying overhead all day and all night long (ahem: we are the national headquarters of both UPS and Fed-Ex, so there are … a LOT of planes. Especially overnight.)

And, frankly, the hotels … aren’t that nice. I mean, they’re fine. But you’re going for proximity, not quality, here.

So, here are our top 3 picks for hotels near Churchill Downs:

  • Homewood Suites by Hilton: The Louisville Airport location of the Homewood Suites was built in 2022, making it one of the newest and nicest hotels near Churchill Downs. You’ll be a 4 minute drive from the Airport and a 17 minute walk to Churchill Downs, so you won’t need a car. There’s an outdoor pool and a breakfast buffet (though it isn’t free), and pets are welcome, too (need a good pet daycare during your trip? We love Bark Louisville!)
  • Staybridge Suites by IHG: The Expo Center location of the Staybridge Suites is a 25-minute walk from Churchill Downs. There’s a free included breakfast buffet, but you’ll also have a full kitchen in your room with a fridge, microwave, and stovetop – making this a great spot to cook your own meals and save some cash during your trip. Pets are welcome.
  • Tru by Hilton: This hotel is extremely close to the Expo Center and Kentucky Kingdom, though a little further from Churchill Downs – about a 5 minute drive. There is a 24/7 free airport shuttle and a free breakfast, which will both save you save some money. Pets are welcome.

Browse the map below to see what’s currently available for the week of Derby close to Churchill Downs (and book ASAP!):

Mint Julep at Churchill Downs in Louisville Kentucky

Where to Stay for the Kentucky Derby: Other Neighborhoods

If you don’t mind being a little further away from Churchill Downs – which, frankly, we recommend – you have a lot more options of where to stay for the Kentucky Derby.

Driving and parking at the Derby is expensive, and Ubers and Lyfts will be in high demand. So your best bet is to book a spot that’s on a TARC route, Louisville’s bus line. For just $1.75 one way, you can take bus 4, 6, or 29 to Churchill Downs and back again!

  • Route #4 covers parts of downtown, the University of Louisville, Old Louisville, and neighborhoods near Iroquois Park.
  • Route #6 provides service in downtown, Iroquois Park neighborhoods and the area near Auburndale.
  • Route #29 connects Shively, U of L/Old Louisville, the Highlands and St. Matthews.

After the races, due to detours, buses pick up passengers at different stops than where they were dropped off. So … definitely bookmark this page with route details now, while you’re still sober.

The best neighborhoods along the TARC routes serving Churchill Downs to stay in are downtown, Old Louisville, and the Highlands. Each of those 3 options is beautiful, historic, and walkable! Below, we’ll break down our recommendations for places to stay in each neighborhood.

See also
Louisville Weekend Trip: The Perfect 3-Day Itinerary

Where to Stay: Downtown Louisville

Downtown Louisville is filled with historic brick facades, towering skyscrapers and high-rises (don’t worry, there aren’t THAT many), hotels, theatres, and museums. Bordering the waterfront and the Ohio River, you’re never very far from a view of the water – just head up to the nearest rooftop bar!

Museum Row and its neighbor, Whiskey Row, are the beating heart of downtown. Each area is gorgeous and historically restored, with beautiful old brick facades housing bourbon distilleries, museums, speakeasies, bars, and restaurants.

As for transit, you definitely don’t need a car downtown. There are wide, flat sidewalks to walk, bike-share stations all over with bikes to rent, and electric scooters you can rent by the minute.

  • Getting to Churchill Downs: Downtown is about 4 miles away from Churchill Downs and you won’t need to get on a highway to get there. You can get to Churchill Downs from Downtown via the #4 TARC bus, rideshare, or electric scooter.

If you plan to take TARC to Churchill Downs, you can stay in any hotel along Museum Row, Whiskey Row, or 4th street, which includes the historic Seelbach Hotel and the historic Brown Hotel, home of the Hot Brown. (They’re both super haunted, too.)

Our favorite hotels in downtown Louisville are the cool, themed boutique hotels lining Museum Row and Whiskey Row. They’re stunning, home to excellent bars and restaurants, and in the best location in Louisville for sightseeing. Here’s where we recommend:

  • The Grady Hotel: this boutique hotel is right on Museum Row in the heart of downtown – and y’all, it’s gorgeous! The historic building dates back to 1883 and was once a medicinal bourbon apothecary – but today, it’s a stunning hotel that stays true to its historic past.  The lounge is themed like the bourbon bar/library you’ve always wanted in your own personal mansion, the rooms are incredibly modern and chic, and if you like, your windows can look out on the historic facades of Museum Row or the beautiful Ohio River. Breakfast is included, and you can grab (bourbon) cocktails and bites at the on-site restaurant which is named for a company which made Derby hats during the roaring twenties in the very same building.  Plus, the hotel is dog friendly (for an additional fee), so you can bring along your pet (and take the world’s cutest photos of them in a little Marker’s Mark bourbon barrel bed!!!)
  • 21C Museum Hotel: This incredibly unique boutique hotel is both a hotel and a contemporary art museum, located right on Museum Row. Pop down and see the art or catch a live performance in the museum, or just admire the modern art in your room – each room is different! 21C is also home to one of the best restaurants in LouisvilleProof on Main. Oh, and .. er, try to make a visit the men’s bathroom on the main floor. Just trust us. Fun fact: there are 21C locations in other cities, but Louisville’s is the original location!
  • Hotel Distil: This gorgeous Marriott Autograph collection hotel on Whiskey Row (next to Old Forester Distillery) kinda feels like you’re sleeping in a high-end bourbon distillery. The front of the hotel expertly blends the historic brick facade of the old barrel warehouse that once occupied this building with ultra-modern glass. The open-air terrace is criss crossed with black metal beams and Edison lights. Each detail has been hand-picked for premium bourbon luxuriousness. As you gaze out your window on the rooftops of downtown or the deep waters of the Ohio River, you’ll feel like every day here is a celebration of the repeal of Prohibition.

There are quite a few hotels in this area ranging from budget-friendly to luxe, so browse around. You’ll just want to make sure you’re within walking distance of Main Street or 4th street so you can hop on the TARC to Churchill Downs! (And like, do all the other stuff in that area – it’s SUCH a fun place to stay.)

  • Travel Tip: This area is also home to an awesome evening ghost & cocktail tour! The Phantoms of the Prohibition Tour explores the hidden stories of Louisville’s haunted past. As you eat and drink your way down Whiskey Row, you’ll meet the resident ghosts of Louisville’s historic downtown, trace the footsteps of bourbon magnates and mobsters, discover hidden speakeasies in the belly of Whiskey Row, and learn the shocking truth about Prohibition. Use the code LGL10 for 10% off your booking!
See also
The 63 Best Things to Do in Louisville, Kentucky

Local Travel Tip: The best way to taste the best food in Louisville is on a food and history walking tour with Louisville Food Tours! Explore the story of Louisville and Kentucky while tasting culinary classics like bourbon balls, biscuits, fried chicken, and - of course - bourbon! You can book a tour with Louisville Food Tours and use the code LGL10 for 10% off your booking..

Where to Stay: The Highlands

The Highlands is made up of a 11 smaller micro-neighborhoods, all under the Highlands umbrella, and is one of Louisville’s most historic and most walkable areas. Its lush, tree-covered streets are lined with beautiful historic homes, including many gorgeous Victorians, especially in the Original Highlands and Cherokee Triangle micro-neighborhoods.

Y’all, it’s just freakin’ gorgeous here. Although I may be slightly biased – this is where we live!

The Highlands is home to many of Louisville’s best restaurants, bars and breweries all lining the Bardstown Road corridor, as well as historic Cave Hill Cemetery and stunning Cherokee Park. The area is walkable and serviced along Bardstown Road by TARC route #29 which will take you to Churchill Downs, making it a great area to stay in for the Kentucky Derby.

If you can, try to stay further north so that you’re closer to NuLu, Louisville’s trendiest neighhborhood and home of some of its best nightlife.

  • Getting to Churchill Downs: Most of The Highlands is about 5 miles away from Churchill Downs. You can get to Churchill Downs from Downtown via the #29 TARC bus or rideshare.
Your best bet for the Highlands is to stay in a vacation rental! There aren’t many big hotels here, but there are some incredibly cute, centrally located apartments and lofts.
  • This stylish Highlands Home is the perfect “walk to all” location. Its bright and artsy, with four bedrooms, a modern kitchen, and a beautiful outdoor deck area. The location truly is perfect too- by the intersection of Bardstown and Eastern Parkway, you’ll truly be able to walk to the best of the Highlands, including Cherokee Park.
  • Located in the Baxter Avenue section of the Original Highlands, this Southern, Chic Home off Barrett Avenue is a stone’s throw away from both the historic Cherokee Triangle and NuLu. This home is spacious and hip, with a fantastic bathroom (and a luxurious soaking tub and marble shower!) and a secluded outdoor patio with a huge hot tub!
  • This Six Bedroom House is perfect for groups as it has 6(!!) bedrooms and is nestled in the Cherokee Triangle area near some of the best Highlands nightlife. Not only that, it has a poker room if that’s your thing and fire pit. You’ll be able to eat, and drink, and walk to all kinds of things from this location!

Travel Tip: While you’re staying in the Highlands, be sure to take the Historic Highlands Tastes & Tales Tour with Louisville Food Tours. You’ll wind through the Original Highlands learning about the history of Louisville, and stop to taste bourbon and enjoy Louisville specialties like bourbon balls and a dish inspired by the Hot Brown. Use the code LGL10 for 10% off your booking!

Head to our neighborhood guide for more suggestions on things to do in the Highlands.

See also
The Highlands Neighborhood Guide: Where to Eat, Drink, Play and Stay

Where to Stay: Old Louisville

Old Louisville is home to the largest collection of historical Victorian homes in the world, made up of 48 blocks of gorgeous, mansion-esque, Victorian homes and tree-covered streets. The ornate Victorian mansions, flickering gas lamps, and fountains of Belgravia Court and St. James are picture-perfect. Simply put, Old Louisville is one of the most absolutely beautiful neighborhoods in Louisville. (Personally, I rank it at the very top!)

Walking paths wind through the historic homes, and at the center of the neighborhood is the small but charming Central Park. Take a historic walking tour to learn more more about this stunning area during your stay, or a ghost tour to meet some of its … er, former residents.

You’ll also be less than a mile away from the racetrack, making Old Louisville a fantastic option for where to stay near Churchill Downs – it’s the next closest neighborhood! That said, don’t expect to find big hotels here: this area is residential, so you’ll be staying in a historic Victorian home rental.

While the neighborhood is primarily residential, there are a few gems to walk to, like Buck’s Restaurant, Old Louisville Brewery, and Mag Bar. It’s also close to downtown.

  • Getting to Churchill Downs: Old Louisville is about 2.5 miles away from Churchill Downs and you won’t need to get on a highway to get there. You can get to Churchill Downs from Old Louisville via the #4 or #29 TARC bus, rideshare, or electric scooter.
There’s a mix of vacation rentals and cozy bed and breakfasts tucked into Old Louisville! We’ve got a recommendation for each.
  • If you can snag it, our favorite Louisville vacation rental is right on beautiful little Central Park! The location is perfect: it’s across the street from the park, on a gorgeous tree-lined street. The view of the park out the bedroom window is wonderful to wake up to each day! You’ll have a full kitchen and a private balcony, plus a luxurious updated bathroom. The apartment is the perfect balance of historic and modern, and we’ve stayed here several times!
  • The Inn at St. James Court is a charming b&b located on the famous fountain court in Louisville, St. James Court. It’s our favorite area to go for a walk and the most iconic part of the neighborhood! The bed and & breakfast is very much old-world charm, from the ornate Victorian home it’s located within to the grandeur of the lounge and each comfortably-furnished room.
See also
Old Louisville Neighborhood Guide: Where to Eat, Drink, Play and Stay

Tulip beer glass with beer in front of Schnitzelburg mural at Monnik Beer Company Louisville KY
Tulip beer glass with beer in front of Schnitzelburg mural at Monnik Beer Company, one of the best breweries in Louisville.

Where to Stay: Shelby Park or Schnitzelburg

Shelby Park and Schnitzelburg – a sub-section of Germantown – are both small neighborhoods sandwiched between The Highlands and Old Louisville. We recommend staying in either of these areas because of their proximity to Churchill Downs.

They’re each home to some cool breweries (like Monnik, pictured above) delicious restaurants, and Logan Street Market, and they’re walking distance to bordering neighborhoods with even more cool things to do, like Paristown and the Original Highlands.

  • Getting to Churchill Downs: The #29 TARC bus servicing the Highlands runs right past Schnitzelburg on Eastern Parkway, and Shelby Park is a quick rideshare or scooter ride away.

You won’t find any hotels in this residential area, but there are some cool vacation rentals:

  • This bright, beautiful home sleeps 10 and is both shockingly budget-friendly and impeccably styled. Note that two of the beds are twins in a shared room (great for traveling families, but y’all know they don’t let kids into Churchill Downs, right?) It’s located on the border of Schnitzelburg within close walking distance to Eastern Parkway, where you can pick up the #29 bus to Churchill Downs.
  • This spacious, charming home in Schnitzelburg has 6 bedrooms and 5 bathrooms, making it the perfect place for a group of up to 12 to share! It’s full of historic charm (those ARCHES!) and in a nice, quiet neighborhood 2.5 miles to Churchill Downs.
  • This 3br house in Schnitzelburg has fantastic outdoor space – the perfect place to pregame with your group of up to 8 or wind down after Derby Day in the cool evening air (or warm evening air – May can go either way, honestly).
See also
Germantown Neighborhood Guide: Where to Eat, Drink, Play & Stay

Horse Statue at Churchill Downs in Louisville Kentucky

Map of Hotels near Churchill Downs

Browse the map below to see what’s currently available for the week of Derby close to Churchill Downs (and book ASAP!).

Need more options? For a guide to all best neighborhoods to stay in Louisville (and why you should stay there) head over to our complete guide to Where to Stay in Louisville.

See also
Kentucky Derby Tips: The Ultimate First-Timer’s Derby Guide (by a local)

Did you figure out where to stay for the Kentucky Derby? Which neighborhood did you land on? Drop us a comment below!

Psst: Coming to Louisville for the Derby? These other posts will help you plan your trip:

Need some more suggestions for your trip? Take a look at these other posts:


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