$1,000 cocktails, $26,000 hotel suites: Here's how the super rich experience the Kentucky Derby

LOUISVILLE, KY - MAY 07: Guests engage with a Kentucky Derby horse at 142nd Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on May 7, 2016 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
Michael Hickey | Getty Images Entertainment | Getty Images

The Kentucky Derby, with its grand history and tradition, is a bucket-list sporting event. It's also, for lots of fans, an opportunity to go all out.

While it's possible to experience the "most exciting two minutes in sports" on a budget, you can also drop thousands of dollars in a single weekend — and many people do.

Here's how the top 1% experience the Derby.

The attire

The spending begins well before race weekend.

"People that are really going, they've spent thousands of dollars on their outfit," says milliner Lisa Shaub, who's been making Derby-specific hats for decades. The elaborate headpieces alone can cost up to $1,000.

One of the most complex hats Shaub has made for the Derby was for comedian Tracy Morgan's wife, Megan Morgan, pictured below.

Travel and lodging

The super rich likely won't be flying commercial to Louisville. Instead, they'll utilize private companies like Sentient Jet, which can provide shuttle service to and from the Derby.

As for lodging, the most luxurious options are going to be at 21c Museum Hotel, which offers 91 guestrooms, or The Brown Hotel, which offers 294, pictured here:

The minimum you'll pay at the Brown Hotel is $5,400 for the three-night package offered by the hotel over Derby weekend.

The hotel also offers six high-end suites that range from $17,000 to $22,000 for three nights. The most expensive room is the Muhammad Ali Suite, which costs $26,000 for the the three-night package.

"It sells out every year," says Brad Walker, who's managed the hotel for the past 16 years. "It's usually sold to one person who has it three or four years in a row. They have first rights to the next year. ... In recent years, it's been with a top Silicon Valley internet gentleman. Prior to that, it was a bestselling New York Times romance novelist that had it for several years."

The pre-parties

The night before the races, celebs and and VIP guests will head to one of the weekend's star-studded pre-parties: There's Unbridled Eve, the annual black-tie optional Derby Gala and the Barnstable Brown Kentucky Derby Eve Gala.

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady stopped by the Barnstable Brown Gala in 2014.

Tom Brady attends the 2014 Barnstable Brown Kentucky Derby Eve Gala
Stephen J. Cohen | WireImage | Getty Images

The food and drinks

The morning of the races, celebrity chef Bobby Flay hosts an exclusive Derby Day Breakfast at 21c Museum Hotel.

Chef Bobby Flay preparing his Derby Day Breakfast
Source: Sentient Jet

Flay, a horse-racing aficionado, will whip up Kentucky-inspired fare like sweet potato chicken hash with poached eggs and apricot glazed bacon.

Source: Sentient Jet

There will be plenty of his signature blood-orange mimosas.

Source: Sentient Jet

The traditional drink of the Derby, though, is the mint julep. Kentucky bourbon distillery Woodford Reserve is offering a limited number of $1,000 and $2,500 mint juleps for those who are looking to splurge.

The drink itself is simple, containing just four ingredients. But the drink is served in handcrafted silver- and gold-plated cups, and it comes in a wooden box lined with the same silk used to make the jerseys worn by the jockeys.

The 2019 Woodford Reserve $1,000 and $2,500 mint julep cups
Woodford Reserve


The most expensive way to watch the Kentucky Derby is from inside the Mansion, which is on the fourth floor of the clubhouse and overlooks the finish line.

You need more than a lot of cash to get into the Mansion: You have to be invited to purchase a ticket. There are also different ticket packages, which range in cost from $7,500 to $14,000 per person.

Every Mansion ticket holder is assigned a "concierge" who escorts them to the luxury space through a private elevator. Other perks include catering by celebrity chefs and access to a private wine cellar.

Here's the dining room part of the Mansion:

Lexington Herald-Leader | Tribune News Service | Getty Images

Hats serve as decoration:

Lexington Herald-Leader | Tribune News Service | Getty Images

If you're invited to spectate from the Mansion, be prepared to cover Derby costs for at least the next few years: Many Mansion ticket holders have to sign a contract locking them into a three-year Derby weekend commitment.

Don't miss: Here's what you get if you buy a $1,000 mint julep at the Kentucky Derby

Like this story? Subscribe to CNBC Make It on YouTube!

How to shop for a Kentucky Derby hat like the super rich