Break out your sun hats, your seersucker suits and your most elegant Southern drawl to welcome the most anticipated horse race (and probably the only one) you’ll watch all year. The Kentucky Derby is spectacular both for the excellent horses it exhibits, but also the tradition and cheerful debauchery it encourages. However, you don’t want to watch this event just anywhere. Make the most of your fancy dress by spending Derby Day at one of these hot spots in Austin.
Derby in the City at Austin American Statesman
For the third year in a row, the local newspaper is hosting the biggest derby event in the city. The Derby in the City festival is held from 1:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. on May 6, and pairs the races with live music and mint juleps. General admission tickets are $31.50 and VIP tickets are $100, which includes food, massages and more.
Bistro, Restaurant, American, $$$
Every year, the Derby Party at Irene’s comes loaded with mint juleps, jugs of Derby Punch, country ham biscuits, hot browns and pie. Not like this is much different from the all-American fare they serve all year round, but something about sitting on that wraparound outdoor porch is just so perfect when it’s derby season. Just one warning: their drinks are infamously strong, so watch yourself.
Haymaker is the sports bar on the east side of town. While there is always something going on, the Manor Road bar really gets into the Kentucky Derby spirit and hosts contests and activities to keep the kids occupied while the adults enjoy mint julep specials. If you arrive early enough you may even be able to take home a souvenir glass.
Kitty Cohen’s is a perfect spot for a girls’ night out, with flamingo-adorned bathroom walls, a glittery bar and a pool to dip your feet into on the patio out back. This 70s-themed feminist bar offers sweet and sexy libations that are the perfect complement to a warm day, including a $45 punch bowl to share with friends – or not.
Josephine House in Austin’s historic Clarksville neighborhood is the sister restaurant to the fine dining spot Jeffery’s. Josephine House has breakfast, lunch, brunch, dinner and happy hour menus, as well as a ‘steak frites’ night on Mondays. Josephine House offers a blend of French and American cuisine, as well as charcuterie and cheese plates during lunch and dinner. They also bake their pastries and breads in-house. Josephine House is another expensive Austin spot, but its happy hours and gorgeous atmosphere make it worth visiting.
The Four Seasons is located on the edge of downtown Austin and Lady Bird Lake. This hotel promises the relaxed natural setting of Central Texas paired with an upscale lifestyle. Families can take in the view of the hotel grounds while roasting complimentary s’mores around a chiminea. Couples are urged to relax in one of the hammocks made for two on the hotel’s lush lawn. Enjoy an evening of fine dining at the Four Seasons on-site restaurant, TRIO. Patrons can dine with a view of Lady Bird Lake on the terrace or in the dining room. The Lobby Lounge offers artisan cocktails, afternoon tea and light plates.
Drink.Well. is a neighborhood bar offering 75 types of whiskey, as well as unique cocktails, beers and a small menu with noteworthy bar bites including crispy ancho chickpeas and housemade Twinkies. They change up their menu seasonally but always offer a range of drinks to appease every liquor preference. In a city as hot and humid as Austin, it’s often necessary to quench your thirst. Why not do so with a craft cocktail from the North Loop–favorite? Or, sample its spicy kimchi Reuben with melted Swiss cheese, an electrifying Russian dressing and corned beef cooked to perfection; just make sure to follow it with a Lazy Dog (complete with bourbon, ginger syrup, fresh lemon juice and hopped grapefruit bitters) if you’re feeling the need to indulge.