By Melanie Falina

Just like when the Olympics roll around, one does not need to be an expert in swimming or gymnastics, figure skating or fencing, to lose oneself in the thrill of the event – and the same can be said for the Kentucky Derby. Held annually in Louisville, Kentucky on the first Saturday in May, the Kentucky Derby is a Grade I stakes horse race featuring stunning three-year-old Thoroughbreds, but this iconic affair is so much more than just a horse race. Big Southern Belle inspired hats for the ladies and seersucker blazers for the gentleman, all whist sipping flavorful Mint Juleps – the official drink of the Kentucky Derby for almost a decade. And even though Chicago is about 300 miles north of Lousiville, that’s no reason not to celebrate once Kentucky Derby day rolls around! If you’re ready to head off to the races check out some of these best bars and parties in Chicago to watch The Kentucky Derby…

Hats, Heels & Horses 
Hawthorne Race Course
3501 S. Laramie Ave.
Cicero, IL 60804
(708) 780-3700
www.hawthorneracecourse.com

Where better to enjoy a big horse race than at an actual race track? Taking place at the Chicago area’s oldest sporting venue, Hawthorne Race Course, is the “Hats, Heels & Horses” HBCU Derby Day Party Modeled after the “Run For The Roses” event at the Kentucky Derby, Hats, Heels, & Horses is happening on Saturday, May 5 from 4 to 10 P.M. Come down for not only the most exciting horse race there is, but also three solid hours of open bar, music by DJ Lil John, and of course Kentucky Derby fashion and cocktails. Sponsored by the Chicago Chapter of the Tennessee State University National Alumni Association (TSUNAA), Hats, Heels & Horses also offers Kentucky Derby revelers an opportunity to invest in the future by supporting the TSUNACC Scholarship Fund which helps out deserving, college-bound Chicago students. Click here for tickets. 

Gaslight Bar & Grille 
2450 N. Clark St.
Chicago, IL 60614
(773) 929-7759
www.gaslightbar.com

Right in the heart of Lincoln Park – Chicago’s party-central – there will be Kentucky Derby shenanigans in full swing at Gaslight Bar & Grille. From 4 to 7 P.M. on May 5, cheer on your horse of choice on Gaslight’s private patio Kentucky Derby Party with appetizers and featured Maker’s Mint Juleps & La Croix Tito’s cocktails. Visit the website or call to purchase tickets. The perfect place in the city to watch any sporting event, Gaslight Bar & Grille offers a full menu of creative culinary options – not just your basic “bar bites.” Come for the horses – stay for a delightful dinner.

Per.so.na. Chicago Ultra Lounge
408 S. Wells St.
Chicago, IL 60607
(312) 285-2271
www.personachi.com

Do you love swanky? Can you imagine no other way to view The Kentucky Derby? Then Per.so.na Chicago Ultra Louge is the place for you. From 1 to 8 P.M. on May 5, come enjoy The Kentucky Derby race and pre-race festivities in style and on large HDTVs. KNown as Chicago’s premier lounge, Per.so.na will offer complimentary Luella’s Southern Kitchen hors d’oeuvres as well as Mint Julep drink specials. DJ Vince Adams, DJ Mark Flava Fuller, and DJ Commando will be spinning the tunes, and be sure to compete in the “Ladies Best Hat” and “Men’s Best Bow Tie” contests.

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Kentucky Derby Crawfish Boil
Brownstone Tavern & Grill 
3937 N. Lincoln Ave.
Chicago, IL 60613
(773) 528-3700
www.brownstonetavern.com

Although it might be more fun celebrating the annual Kentucky Derby in the South, there’s no reason why we can’t pretend to be there right up here in Chicago. And the quintessential place to do that is at Lincoln Square’s Brownstone Tavern & Grill with their Kentucky Derby Crawfish Boil. From 11 A.M. to 6 P.M. come get your fill of all-you-can-eat crawfish, sides, and fixings cooked up with Southern-style love. Get your tickets early because they will sell out, and come enjoy the pretty ponies at one of the happiest establishes in the city.

Mint Juleps, BowTies & Big Hats- A Derby Day Party
The Renaissance Bronzville
4641 S. King Drive
Chicago, IL 60653
(773) 690-5416
www.renaissancebronzeville.com

Never for a moment believe that all the cool places to party are on the north side of Chicago – far from it actually South-siders have got it going on for Kentucky Derby too. At The Renaissance Bronzville, come on down for the “Mint Juleps, BowTies, & Big Hats – A Derby Day Party” for all your Kentucky Derby shenanigans. From 2 to 9 P.M. Mustafa Rocks and John Styles will be bringing on the music, and the race itself will be broadcast live on multiple screens and a 172-inch projection screen. There will be Derby drink specials and food, food, food – and the best part of all is admission is free with an RSVP – click here to do so now.

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