As part of a summer series, T+L is highlighting amazing lesser-known attractions found in the United States. Next up: a Kentucky museum devoted to "the most exciting two minutes in sports."
The Kentucky Derby Museum, located in the shadow of Churchill Downs’ iconic twin spires, has a somewhat misleading name. While the 31-year-old attraction definitely goes deep explaining and illustrating the history and pageantry of the most important horse race in the world, that's only a small part of what makes the museum a must-see.
For starters, there’s Winston, the unofficial visitor greeter. The 23-year-old brown gelding is the museum’s resident miniature horse, beloved for his downright adorable stature (he's 34 inches tall, so a good bit smaller than the thoroughbreds who run in the Derby) and winning personality.
Inside the museum, permanent exhibits explore the history, cultural impact, and inner workings of the Derby. There are exhibits on the over-the-top headwear favored by the wealthy women of millionaire’s row, the unexpected athleticism of the jockey, and the life of a thoroughbred, from breeding through birth and, eventually, on to the track.
But the Kentucky Derby Museum isn’t just for looking. Interactive exhibits allow visitors to experience the track just like the professionals do on the first Saturday in May. Fight to maintain the proper jockey’s stance on a plastic thoroughbred in a simulated race around Churchill Downs’ mile-long track, then step into the broadcast booth and attempt the unenviable task of calling a horse race. Then, if you’re feeling brave, listen to a recording of it. On your way out, stop by a mockup of the track’s famed winner’s circle and snap a selfie with a statue of the most recent Derby winner.
Related: Seven Secrets of Churchill Downs
The Kentucky Derby Museum is open Monday through Saturday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., from March 15 to November 30. From December 1 to March 14, it opens at 9 a.m. Monday through Saturday and the rest of the hours are the same. Tickets are $15 for adults, $14 for seniors, $7 for children and free for children under five.