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.
Cinco de Derby, noon to 5 p.m.
3258 Larimer Street
Julep is the newest joint in town trying to ensure that the South's food rises again, and it's perhaps the most successful at creating a Southern-Gothic-meets-modern-cocktail-bar vibe. The kitchen turns out tasty and interesting food (like the unlikely brisket yakimein), and the dining room's floral wallpaper is a beautifully modern take on your grandma's cabbage-rose-print sofa. So our guess is that Julep's Cinco de Mayo and Derby mashup party will be equally fun. For $55, you'll get three cocktails, whole roast pig with sides, and appetizers inspired by the epic septennial convergence of the two events on the same day (or at least so it seems). Find details and ticket at the restaurant's Facebook page.
The Ginn Mill
Derby Day, noon to 6 p.m.
2041 Larimer Street
The Ginn Mill has never been a place for pretense, and it makes no bones about what it is: This perennial bar-crawl stop and club is where you go to get drunk as a skunk for not too much money and go home with someone you'll regret almost instantly (especially if the two of you can't agree on a brunch destination the morning after). But on Derby Day, the bar is offering a deal so mind-bogglingly cheap it made our jaws drop, and there's no doubt it will turn the wood-paneled bar into an incubator of bad judgment. Behold: $20 for all you can drink. The party's classed up a bit — just a bit — with yard games and a photographer, but you know that's not why you'll go. Our advice? Get that picture taken before you puke on your pastel suit, bro. Find out more on Facebook.
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Blackbird Public House
Kentucky de Mayo: The Quest for the Golden Sombrero, noon to 8 p.m.
305 South Downing Street
Perhaps the least dignified — but the most fun — way to celebrate the day is by loading up on bourbon and racing a stick horse around a parking lot. And that's exactly what you can do at Blackbird's shindig. Register yourself and three friends at kentuckydemayodenver.com for $120 (which includes drinks, food, raffle tickets and stick horses), or just show up to cheer on the competitors (which won't cost you a thing). It's off to the races!
Curio at Denver Central Market
DaniDerby Day, 1:30 to 5:30 p.m.
2669 Larimer Street
Half the fun of the Denver Central Market is watching people from all walks of life stream through the doors, so spending your Derby Day there promises to be even more entertaining. Curio wants to make your time at the the Market memorable, and is throwing an outdoor party that includes private bars, lawn games and live music. Find out more at the event's Facebook page, but if you want to purchase a ticket, $40, go directly to nightout.com (Facebook links to last year's event). Don't have your outfit picked out yet? No worries: Milliner Goorin Bros. will be at the party, along with a Derby suit and accessories pop-up shop, so there's no excuse for not being the best-dressed.
Derby de Mayo, 2 to 11 p.m.
7415 Grandview Street, Arvada
Just because you can get twice as drunk this Derby Day/Cinco de Mayo doesn't mean you should. But don't tell that to the folks at this Arvada joint, who will be creating fusion food and drinks to celebrate the day. Tequila juleps and bourbon margaritas are on the agenda, as well as the improbable Hot Brown pizza. If you're not familiar with the iconic Louisville, Kentucky, sandwich called the Hot Brown, think turkey breast on thick slices of bread topped with tomatoes, mornay sauce, pecorino cheese and bacon, but the Bluegrass is ditching the bread in favor of a pizza crust. We're taking wagers on whether the creation will be a delicious fusion, a hot mess, or both. Details are up on Facebook.