The Kentucky Derby lasts only a couple of minutes, but there's sure a whole lot of fanfare leading up to the big race. After all, when else can we wear extravagant wide-brimmed hats while sipping bourbon cocktails out of silver cups? (Well, OK, this is Austin. Wear what you want.)
If you aren't hosting a Derby Day party of your own this weekend, let someone else take care of the festivities this year. Plenty of local bars and restaurants are throwing parties celebrating and showing the big race on May 4. Here's where to go.
The Victory Cup Derby Day Polo Match. There isn't a Derby Day party in Austin quite like this one. Dust off your lucky hats, pastel dresses and seersuckers suits and head to the Victory Cheval Polo Club in Manor for an afternoon that includes live polo matches, a broadcast of the Kentucky Derby — and even a dozen hot air balloons with tethered rides. The derby plays on a jumbotron screen on the polo field. Tickets range from $20-$220.
Austin Derby Social at Launderette. This East Austin restaurant already looks primed for a Derby Day celebration, doesn't it? Garden & Gun is teaming up with Maker's Mark to throw the party with all the usual activities — mint juleps, Southern fare, live music, a best hat contest and prizes for whoever picks the winning horse. Tickets are $125.
The Annual Party for the Ponies at the Four Seasons Austin. You can always count on the downtown hotel to throw one of the best Derby Day parties in town. From 2 to 6 p.m., there will be a Maker's Mark mint julep bar, a Kentucky-inspired menu, best seersucker suit and best hat competitions, a Hatbox pop-up shop in case you don't have the right fashionable headwear, and more. This year, you can watch the race on the new Live Oak deck. Entry to the party is $25 and includes a free mint julep.
Down & Dirty Derby Party at Nickel City. Start your afternoon with a screening of the Kentucky Derby at one of Austin's best neighborhood bars, which promises that every seat will feel like a front-row seat to the action. End your evening with live music performances by Rosie and the Ramblers, Robynn Shayne and Whiskey Shivers. Throughout, of course, there will be Maker's Mark whiskey cocktails.
May the Horse Be With You at Star Bar. In a galaxy not so far away, two celebrations — Derby Day and Star Wars Day — have fallen on the same day, so what's Star Bar to do but combine them? The West Sixth Street bar hosts an all-day party with Lightsaber cocktails and mint juleps. Plus, guess the winning horse and get a prize.
Derby Day Party at Fairmont Austin. Put on your finest Southern-style garb and make your way downtown for this Derby shindig kicking off at 2 p.m. At the hotel's Fulton bar, the party will have Elijah Craig cocktails specials — including, of course, the requisite mint julep — live music and prizes for the best dressed. All TVs at the bar will be tuned to the race.
Juleps & Jockeys at Gibson Street Bar. The South Austin bar that likes to go all-out celebrating holidays isn't missing out on the Kentucky Derby. Come at noon to the Gibson Street Bar donning your most extravagant hat so you can down what the hangout promises are some of the best mint juleps in town.
Kentucky Derby Party at Haymaker. If you don't have a fancy hat to wear to any of these parties, that's no problem at the Manor Road bar. Haymaker will have a hat-making station from 2 to 4 p.m. on May 4, followed by a best hat contest. There will also be competitions for the best dressed male, best dressed female and best dressed couple. Maker's Mark juleps are on special.
RELATED: How to make a proper mint julep for your Derby Day festivities
Derby Day at the Bourbon Bar at Cannon + Belle. Not jiving with juleps? No problem. Have another bourbon cocktail instead at this whiskey-only bar within the Hilton Austin. For Derby Day, the Bourbon Bar will have drink and small-plate specials starting at 4 p.m.; TV coverage of the race begins at 5 p.m. Mint juleps are on offer, as well as other classic cocktails and a bourbon flight featuring Woodford Reserve, Angels Envy, EH Taylor and Maker's 46.
Kentucky Derby Watch Party at Fareground. There's no chance of missing the race at Austin's first and only food hall, which plans to screen it on all indoor TVs. But you might miss the mint julep: Fareground's drink special that day is the French 75, proceeds of which will benefit the nonprofit Horselink. The 3 to 8 p.m. event also has raffle prizes, a bluegrass band and outdoor games.