Things to Do

May the Fourth Be With Your Horth: Denver's Best Derby Day Events

The higher the hat, the closer to God.
The higher the hat, the closer to God. Danielle Lirette
The exploding popularity of the Kentucky Derby in the Mile High City is a bit baffling. Is it the hats? No; people in Colorado wear hats (albeit the kind usually found at a Rockies game). Is it the bourbon? Who cares about bourbon — we have our own craft spirits, and weed! Is it the chance to dress up? You can do that any day (honest). Nevertheless, Derby parties have become de rigueur in the last couple of years, with ever more bars and restaurants setting aside the day for racing and revelry. Here are ten places where you can get your julep on on Saturday, May 4:

click to enlarge Enjoy the ponies and patio at Avanti on race day. - DANIELLE LIRETTE
Enjoy the ponies and patio at Avanti on race day.
Danielle Lirette

Avanti Food & Beverage

3200 Pecos Street

Forget the Run for the Roses; get ready to race for a parking spot at Avanti Food & Beverage on Derby Day. That's because starting at noon, you can get mint juleps (made with rye or bourbon for $10, oak-aged for $12) in a keepsake copper julep cup. While the drink specials, free apps from all seven restaurants, professional photo booth and awards for the best-dressed attendees will go until 5 p.m., you only get a copper chalice (think of it as the Holy Grail for alcoholics) if you beat the crowd, since supplies are limited. There's no cover to this event, so get there and stake out your spot on the fantastic patio before the masses descend; details are up on Avanti's Facebook page.

click to enlarge The Big Wonderful is celebrating all weekend. - MEG RYAN
The Big Wonderful is celebrating all weekend.
Meg Ryan


4400 Fox Street

While general admission to this food truck rally/flea market mashup isn't specifically Derby-themed (for that you'll have to spring for beer festival tickets, which at $32 include a viewing party, shaded tent and access to unlimited brews), we're betting the overall vibe — standing around outside, eating, drinking and listening to bluegrass — is probably pretty close to what you'd experience at Churchill Downs. Burns Family Artisan Ales (which brews delicious, high-alcohol beers, so pace yourself!), Colorado Sake Co. and Spice Trade Brewing are just a few of the breweries showing up for the beer fest, and trucks serving arepas, ice cream, pizza, ambitious high-end global cuisine and more will be on hand for your noshing needs. Both the beer fest and market run from noon to 6 p.m.; advance tickets range from $5 to $32. Get them and, since the fest runs all weekend, find out what it's pulling out of its hat for Cinco de Mayo on TheBigWonderful website.

click to enlarge You don't have to be a blueblood to get into Blue Moon's party. - COURTESY BLUE MOON BREWERY
You don't have to be a blueblood to get into Blue Moon's party.
Courtesy Blue Moon Brewery

Blue Moon Brewery

3750 Chestnut Place

Proving that you don't have the spend the equivalent of a plane ticket to Louisville (Kentucky, not Colorado) to enjoy Derby Day in the Mile High City, Blue Moon RiNo isn't charging a cover to its Churchill-on-Chestnut event. Starting at 3 p.m., the brewery will have a pulled-pork sandwich bar along with the obligatory best-dressed contest, live music and the release of its bourbon-barrel aged mint julep beer (what this brew lacks in subtlety it makes up for in obviousness). If you want to guarantee yourself entry and swish past the unwashed masses waiting to get in, though, visit Eventbrite to stock up on food and drink packages for $30 (four beers and food) or $75 (four beers, food, beer-and-cookie pairing, swag and access to the VIP patio).

click to enlarge The Garden, Death & Co.'s patio bar, is open for business on May 4. - COURTESY DEATH & CO.
The Garden, Death & Co.'s patio bar, is open for business on May 4.
Courtesy Death & Co.

Death & Co./Ramble Hotel

1280 25th Street

What do the Derby and Death & Co. have in common? They're both hot, hip transplants. So don't fight it: Throw up your hands, give into celebrating someone else's cultural touchstones and give up on doing anything remotely Colorado today (that means you've got to put down your pot, people). The luxe cocktail bar and its surrounding hotel are celebrating their first birthdays with mint juleps, fried chicken, oysters and champagne on special starting at 2 p.m., along with live music on the patio and a raffle entry for the first hundred guests through the doors. Tickets aren't required; just show up in your Derby best.

click to enlarge Hats and horses at last year's Denver Mini Derby. - DANIELLE LIRETTE
Hats and horses at last year's Denver Mini Derby.
Danielle Lirette

Denver Mini Derby

8303 East 49th Place

You can put on your biggest hat, apply the most perfect winged eyeliner and put on the most delightful dress you own, and you still won't be as adorable as the contestants in the Denver Mini Derby. That's because this weekend, cuteness increases exponentially with the number of legs, and bipeds are at a distinct disadvantage — especially the fluffy Welsh corgis and miniature horses that will be racing for the land-speed record come 1 p.m. (not at the same time, obviously — that would just be ridiculous). In between trips to the open bar, there will be best-dressed contests, food for purchase from Rolling Smoke Bar-B-Que and Infinitus Pie, and charitable betting with proceeds going to Minds Matter Denver and Next Step Horse Rescue. Infield tickets start at $99; the VIP option includes barbecue and a private bar and will run you $179 on Eventbrite.
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Amy Antonation knows that street tacos are infinitely superior to tacos that come covered in squiggles of crema, and she will stab you with her knitting needles if you try to convince her otherwise.
Contact: Amy Antonation