If you are looking for something a little bit different to do with the kids, you need look no further than having a family day at the races at any one of a host of British racecourses. It is a day out that combines sporting action with animals, fresh air and entertainment.
From bookies to punters and riders to trainers, all eyes at present in the racing world are focusing on the imminent Cheltenham Festival. This is four days of outstanding jump racing that take place at the picturesque Cotswolds track between March 10-13. There will be huge crowds for the ‘greatest show on turf’, but this is probably more suitable for the real racing aficionado than for a family day out. However, there are masses of alternative venues.
If you have never considered taking the kids to the races, then you really should give it a whirl. There are 58 racecourses covering the length and breadth of Britain. These range from impressive top-notch tracks like York, Sandown, Ascot, or Chester to charming country tracks like Cartmel in the Lake District, Fakenham in Norfolk, Fontwell in Sussex, or Exeter in Devon.
These days, British racecourses are really geared up to welcome families and children of all ages. Unlike virtually all other major sports, children up to the age of 16 (18 at some tracks) go free, so only the adults have to pay to enter the track. Parking is usually free as well. If you are on a budget, you can buy a ticket to the ‘Course’ enclosure. This is usually in the middle of the track and has just limited facilities but normally good viewing for the races themselves. At many tracks you pay by the car, so at as little as £10 for a family it’s terrific value.
On regular race days the main course enclosures cost more often than not between £12- £20 per adult, but are worth it. Here you get to see the horses preparing for the races at the saddling boxes, then view them as they walk around the Parade Ring before going out onto the track for the race. You will see the jockeys in their multi-coloured racing silks as they get on the horses. For young children, it can be very exciting to be around so many beautiful animals. When combined with the ever-present ice cream vans, hot dog and burger bars, fish & chips and chocolate stalls, the races are arguably viewed as something of a kiddies’ paradise. There are, of course, racecourse restaurants as well as a choice of bars for adults at nearly every track.
Most tracks also have a children’s playground if the little ones need to burn off a little excess energy, while some even have race day crèches where you can leave the ‘little darlings’ in the care of qualified staff for an hour or two and enjoy the sporting action undisturbed – at least for a while.
At many tracks, in the summer, there are music concerts often featuring famous performers, which can also make a great day of it for both adults and kids.
So, if you want a day out with a difference, check out your nearest racecourse and start planning for a day at the races.
Author: Adam Davies