What you can and can’t bring into Derby and Oaks

A few years back, a stumbling, drunk stranger asked me if I had any pizza in a bag, as we walked across the highway bridge heading toward the Derby. I laughed, and then asked her why someone would carry around pizza in a bag. Five minutes later, she tapped me on the shoulder and pointed at a guy with two pieces of pizza in a clear bag that was attached to a strap and hanging on his shoulder.

“I told you,” she said.

Fair enough.

Semi-long story short: She knew the rule for bringing food into the Derby. Although it was a weird question to ask someone out of the blue, if you want to bring in pizza, it has to be in a transparent bag.

Technically, all food must be in a clear bag.

Here are a few ways to bring in permitted items — chairs, water, etc. — to make yourself more comfortable and save money. And there are plenty of items you might be surprised you can’t bring in — including coolers, cans, backpacks, selfie sticks and fireworks. Below is the entire list for Oaks and the Derby, according to Churchill Downs.

Permitted Items on Kentucky Derby and Oaks Days:

  • Food items in clear plastic bags (maximum size 18” X 18” – no trash bags)*
  • “Box” lunches in clear plastic bags or containers (maximum size 18″ X 18″ – no trash bags)
  • Water and soft drinks – plastic bottles only (sealed, clear and unopened)
  • Purses, but none larger than 12” in any dimension (subject to search)
  • Baby/diaper bags – only if accompanied by a child (subject to search)
  • Small cameras – none equipped with detachable lenses or lenses of 6” or more **
  • Binoculars
  • Sunscreen (non-glass containers only)
  • Small personal music systems, radios and televisions** (No boom boxes)
  • Cellular phones, smartphones and tablets**
  • Seat cushions smaller than 15″X15″ that do not contain metal arms and/or backs, zippers, pockets or flaps
  • Strollers (ONLY if carrying a child)
  • Chairs (Infield Gate ONLY)
  • Blankets & tarpaulins (Infield and Paddock Gates ONLY)

* Limit of two bags per person
** Patrons could be required to turn on electronic items

Banned Items on Kentucky Derby and Oaks Days:

  • Coolers (Styrofoam coolers, ice available at infield purchase points)
  • Cans (any size or type), glass bottles or containers
  • Pop-Up or Patron Tents – no poles or stakes of any kind
  • Laptop Computers and Camcorders
  • Cameras with detachable lenses, or equipped with a lens that is 6” or larger
  • Tripods
  • Selfie Sticks
  • Purses larger than 12″ in any dimension
  • Grills
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Illegal Substances
  • Thermoses
  • Backpacks
  • Luggage (includes briefcases)
  • Duffel bags
  • Wagons
  • Umbrellas (Umbrellas are not allowed during Derby Week: Opening Night — Derby Day)
  • Balloons
  • Weapons (including knives)
  • Fireworks, noisemakers, air horns, laser lights/pointers, mace or pepper sprays
  • Drones and remote controlled aircraft
  • Personal transportation devices (e.g. Hoverboards)
  • Animals (with the exception of service animals for guests with disabilities)
  • Any items deemed dangerous and/or inappropriate