Neighboring county benefits from Kentucky Derby

Oldham County offers the BEST Derby horse tours near Louisville and Lexington!

Neighboring county benefits from Kentucky Derby

Kim Hydes, Executive Director of Oldham County KY Tourism & Conventions, was recently interviewed by Louisville Business First magazine. Although the Kentucky Derby puts the spotlight on Louisville every year, the state’s horse racing heritage is spread across Oldham County. There are so many ways the Derby can be enjoyed in Oldham – VIP events, unique attractions, fabulous B&B accommodations, horse farm tours and the little-known history visitors can discover while exploring Oldham County. Everywhere you look you’ll find an authentic Oldham County, Kentucky experience!

By Eleanor Tolbert, Reporter
Louisville Business First

The Kentucky Derby season brings about $400 million in economic impact to the region each year. While Louisville and Jefferson County see much of that impact, the surrounding counties get a spike in tourism activity as well.

Kim Hydes, executive director of Oldham County KY Tourism & Conventions, said Derby travelers seem to stay in Oldham County because they’re looking for a more authentic Kentucky experience.

The county has about 350 hotel rooms. Hydes said rooms usually book up, although the interest can vary from year to year. The Airbnb and bed and breakfast experiences, however, will almost certainly be sold out, she said.

Kim Buckler HydesKim Hydes, executive director of Oldham County KY Tourism & Conventions


“The thing about our bed and breakfasts and some of our short-term rentals is they’re all on horse farms,” Hydes said. “They sell out pretty quickly, and they create whole Derby experiences there.”

Oldham County is the farm tour capital of Kentucky. Hydes said the county started offering exclusive VIP experiences on its horse farms about three years ago, which include bourbon tastings and more.

One of those experiences includes Hermitage Farms, but she said there’s a variety of farms that cater to tourists.

Sanctuary Farm at Chestnut Hall is popular around Derby, Hyde said. It’s home to 10 retired thoroughbreds. Tourists can tour the 25-acre farm to learn more about the racing industry.

Having an influx of visitors benefits the local businesses as well. Hydes said guests may visit the shops in historic downtown La Grange or spend some time at the local breweries and wineries.

“It’s really good for them because people can come and spend a couple of hours in between Derby festivities,” Hydes said. “They can go shop and dine on Main Street or go to Westport. We’ll do our own private tours that take them to our shops and boutiques and galleries.”

The Oldham County Tourism & Conventions office will help visitors set up itineraries. Tour groups can learn more about scheduling those by visiting the office’s website.

For Shelby County, the Kentucky Derby is the start of its busiest season. Mason Warren, marketing and communications coordinator of ShelbyKY Tourism, said the county begins to see an uptick in tourism traffic around May, and it continues throughout the summer and fall.

Janette Marson, president and CEO of ShelbyKY Tourism.


Janette Marson, president and CEO of ShelbyKY Tourism, said the county has about 400 rooms in hotels, Airbnbs and other short-term rentals. Many accommodations will be booked on the first Saturday in May, which Marson said that tends to be people wanting to get away from Louisville proper.

“We’re so close to Louisville and we definitely get a lot of spillover from the Derby guests that are coming into town,” Marson said. “We get it from all angles — both the lodging and the shopping as well.”

 The current revitalization efforts in downtown Shelbyville are a reflection of the growth spurt happening in Shelby County.

Some of the local shops partake in the Derby excitement. Marson said one shop called the Polka Dotted Pineapple makes Derby hats, and business accelerates during this time of year.

Marson said Kentucky Derby travelers checking out the Kentucky Bourbon Trail(r) are likely to make a few stops in Shelby County. Bulleit Distillery and Jeptha Creed Distillery are located right outside of Shelbyville.

ShelbyKY Tourism offers group tours for visitors, using a trolley to shuttle people around town. Marson said groups can call the tourism office to book a tour at 502-633-6388 or visit its website.


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