Where to Watch the Kentucky Derby in NYC

Although it lasts but a fleeting two minutes, the Kentucky Derby is no casual trot around the track. Each year on the first Saturday in May, 170,000 lucky folks flock to Churchill Downs in Louisville to see and be seen, sip mint juleps, wear extravagant hats, gamble, and watch 20 horses race for the roses. And here in New York, we flock to bars to do more or less the same thing.

We may not have a Paddock Plaza full of thoroughbreds, but we’ve got plenty of restaurants, bars, rooftops, and festivals where we can admire them from afar. Grab your hautest hat and sleekest seersucker suit and head to one of these dapper Derby soirées.

saxon + parole derby day
Courtesy of Saxon + Parole

Saxon + Parole


Saddle up for four hours of unlimited indulgence. For $150, Saxon + Parole is stirring up bottomless mint juleps (classic, modernized and frozen), beer and champagne, and all you can eat BBQ beef ribs, fried chicken, and sides by Chef Nicole Gajadhar. Expect a brass band, a hat contest (with prizes!) and a special guest. (It’s a horse.) Purchase tickets in advance, or shell out $50 more at the door.

Harlem Derby


This week-long festival honors the many African-American jockeys who’ve competed in the Kentucky Derby -- including its very first winner. Multiple celebratory events are scheduled all week long, culminating with the 7th Annual Run for the Roses Gala & Watch Party at Red Rooster Harlem. Attendees will sample varied mint julep recipes, have a chance to win best dressed, and dance to live music. Tickets run from $40 to $75.

the ribbon
Courtesy of The Ribbon

The Ribbon

Midtown West

Starting at 11am
There might not typically be much incentive to visit Times Square on a weekend, but a killer Derby party will do the trick. The folks at The Ribbon will be casually celebrating all day, starting when they open for brunch at 11am. Expect a DJ and four specialty cocktails: the Woodford Reserve Mint Julep, Keeneland Breeze, Derby Day Bloody Mary, and a Watermelon Martini. If your horse wins, buy a round for the Naked Cowboy on the corner outside.

Ascent Lounge
Ascent Lounge

Ascent Lounge

Midtown West

Don’t have a BBH (big, beautiful hat) to wear to your Derby festivities? Dang, if only there was a party you could attend inside a shopping mall... wait, there is! Ascent Lounge, located on the 4th floor of The Shops at Columbus Circle and overlooking Central Park, is hosting a swanky “Dashing Derby” celebration. A $125 ticket will get you premium open bar access, Derby-themed bites, and, of course, a live stream of the race. There will also be a fashion contest, live entertainment, and a betting post with proceeds benefiting the Children’s Specialized Hospital in New Jersey. Hoorah for tax-deductible gambling!

Brooklyn Derby
Brooklyn Derby | Steve McFarland/workshopnyc/Flickr

Brooklyn Derby at Greenwood Park

555 7th Avenue, Brooklyn

Now in its 16th year, this Derby bash has expanded from an intimate affair to an all out rager.
Expect a four-hour open bar, DIY hat station, and live music.” Both you and your Instagram feed are guaranteed to nab a few likes. Tickets start at $85 and should be purchased in advance. Don’t hold your horses.

phd rooftop lounge
Courtesy of PHD Rooftop Lounge

PHD Rooftop Bar & Lounge at the Dream Downtown


Lest we forget that the Kentucky Derby and Cinco de Mayo fall on the same weekend, PHD’s 9th Annual Cinco de Derby fiesta kills two party birds with one stone. Tickets (available only through pre-sale) start at $65 and include a one-hour open bar from 2-3pm, a DJ, dancers, stilt walkers and aerialists (!!!) and festive gear to take home. The ticket website is strangely just a collection of photos of hot people who will assumedly be in attendance, so this might be a good place to bet on horses AND snag a date.

the wilson
The Wilson | Tom Schaefer

The Wilson


Nothing says springtime in New York like al fresco partying, and the heated, enclosed outdoor patio at The Wilson is one to beat this Saturday. The race will play on a big screen projector outside and on 80” HD TVs throughout the venue. Take full advantage of the open bar, play lawn games, and groove to a DJ while you wait for the race Get your tickets for $60/person.

the empire hotel rooftop
The Empire Hotel

The Empire Rooftop

Upper West Side

If you want an upscale Race Day experience (sans the sloppiness that tends to follow open bars), head to the top of the Empire Hotel for its and soak up the panoramic views of Lincoln Center and beyond. A live Dixieland band will perform from 4-7pm and prizes will be awarded for the best dressed couple, best hat, and best fascinator. Tickets are $50 and include one mint julep in a takeaway copper mug and passed hors’d’ourves.

the roof
Courtesy of The Roof

The Roof

Midtown West

Starting at 4pm
The nauticalish lounge at the top of the Viceroy Central Park has the perfect level of yacht-swank to accommodate your big-ass hat. Southern jazz tunes will ring out all afternoon while guests will sample a series of down-home snacks like fried chicken and biscuit sliders, country ham deviled eggs, and fried pickles. Mint juleps start at $16. Bust out that seersucker -- the best dressed Derby-goer will win a venue gift card. Reservations recommended.

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Jenny Hart is a Brooklyn-based writer, cat mom, and karaoke enthusiast. Follow her on Instagram at @jennyjhart