Coloradans have officially taken to the Kentucky Derby like a fish to water; events are rapidly selling out all over town. And while we're still not sure why people are so excited to don sundresses, giant hats and seersucker suits in order to go drinking (normally we can't even give up our fleeces and cargo shorts for weddings and funerals), we can't be too mad at anything that involves good food and drink. Here are our picks for ten of the best Derby celebrations around the Front Range. And this year, Derby Day festivities come with 40 percent more Cinco de Mayo than ever before; four of the ten parties are mashup Cinco/Derby fiestas.
Derby Party and Brunch Debut, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
1380 Horizon Avenue, Lafayette
Stem Ciders' new production facility and restaurant in Lafayette is combining two major predictors of day drinking this Saturday: brunch and the Kentucky Derby. You know you're going to start imbibing early — especially since the bar will be serving cider juleps, a lighter version of the traditional drink. Refreshingly, no advance tickets are required for the big day; just show up to the bright-white dining room in your Derby best, as the aptly named Whoa Pony photo booth will be on hand to immortalize your look. The day's schedule is posted on Acreage's Facebook page.
Low Country Kitchen
Derby on the Rooftop, 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.
1575 Boulder Street
This joint knows why those of us west of the Mississippi really celebrate the Kentucky Derby: It's all about the booze. And so LOW is giving the people what they want — $6 mint juleps and happy-hour pricing all day, starting at 10:30 a.m. Nosh on deviled eggs, pimento cheese and chicken biscuits while you get to work on the serious job that is filling your belly with bourbon. Find details and the happy-hour menu on the restaurant's website.
Cinco de Mayo Street Party, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
640 Main Street, Louisville
Why, you ask, would we include a Cinco de Mayo party at a Mexican restaurant on our list of Derby Day events? It's not even a combo party representing both our Southern and south-of-the-border neighbors. What gives? Well, friends, we're currently living in Bizarro World, where The Simpsons correctly prognosticates the presidency and America's Dad is going to jail, so this list's cohesiveness (of lack thereof) is small potatoes in comparison. But there's a horse-race theme in there somewhere; this shindig kicks off with a Donkey Derby parade down Main Street, followed by a chance to meet the burros. In the spirit of inclusiveness, we say celebrate the Run for the Roses with any four-legged equine. Find out more at Verde's Facebook page.
Brown Palace Hotel
Derby Day, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
321 17th Street
If there was ever a civilized way to get sloshed and watch horses get whipped for two minutes straight, it would be in the lobby of the elegant, 126-year-old Brown Palace Hotel. If you're able to get a reservation at Ellyngton's Derby Day brunch, you can enjoy a bottle of Dom Perignon for the thoroughly reasonable price of $315 before enjoying cocktails and a viewing party in the lobby; otherwise, just put on your floppiest hat and show up for juleps and live bluegrass music before the big race. Get info on the full day's schedule on the Brown's website.
Fyn River Farms
Derby Fest and Farm Dinner, 11 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.
4116 East Highway 402, Loveland
It's a bit of a trek to Fyn River Farms in Loveland (though your race up I-25 won't be nearly as dramatic as the one scheduled for the afternoon), but it's worth it to take in the 2,400-square-foot aquaponics operation alongside the ponies and big hats. The innovative agricultural effort (which currently crams ten acres' worth of basil plants into one building as part of its space-saving design) will host an all-day celebration, including a full bar, hat contest, silent auction and a five-course meal using ingredients grown at the farm. Complete details are on the event Facebook page, while tickets, $125, can be purchased at Eventbrite. Proceeds will benefit the Great Escape Mustang Sanctuary and Training Center, an organization working to help manage herds of wild horses in northwestern Colorado.