The Saratoga Race Course is one of the world’s finest sports venues, and it is a fantastic day out for families as well right here in our very own city. There are many different ways to do the track as a family, and I’ve got the definitive Saratoga Guide for taking the family to a day at the races!
The track is open every day except for Tuesdays and there are a few different ways to “do” the track. Admission to Saratoga Race Course is free for children under 12 when accompanied by an adult any day of the meet throughout the season. You can sit in the clubhouse or sit in the backyard and both are great for kids. At the clubhouse you can reserve a table and have lunch, which is how we usually do the track. Either on The Porch (ground level in the clubhouse with a great view of the track) or up in Turf Terrace (also with a fabulous view), it’s out of the sun with a nice breeze coming through and you can have a yummy lunch and a comfortable spot to sit for the entire day. We usually pop in and out, checking out the horses getting ready in the paddock, the playgrounds and watching some races from the rail. There is a dress code for dining in the clubhouse, ranging from the more casual Porch to the more dressed up Turf Terrace. You can find more about how to reserve a table in the clubhouse and what to wear here.
Breakfast at the track is always a hit with the kids. You can get in there nice and early (gates open at 6:45am) before it gets too hot and crowded and have a sneak peek while the horses warm up for the races. Every racing day from 7 to 9:30am a buffet breakfast is served on The Porch of the Clubhouse while the thoroughbreds get ready. You don’t have to dine at the track to enjoy “breakfast at the track” though, you can bring your own or eat beforehand too. Mary Ryan, a lifelong horsewoman, provides expert commentary for the workouts. Entrance is free for Breakfast at the track, and the buffet is $17.00 per person, $9.00 for children ages 3-12 years, plus tax & gratuity. Make sure to take advantage of the free walking tour of the stable area while you’re there for breakfast (weather permitting). The first tram that takes you to the stable area leaves the main Clubhouse entrance at 7:30am with additional trams leaving approximately every 15 minutes. The last tour departs at around 9am. (The Tour is available every race day except Travers Day, Saturday, August 24, 2013, and Labor Day, Monday, Sept. 2, 2013.) Get on the trams the earlier the better since trams are often full to capacity way before departure time, there are no reservations for the trams, and it is first come first served. The tram tour is roughly 45 minutes long, so take a bathroom break beforehand if you have little ones!
In the backyard you can bring folding lawn chairs and a picnic blanket and stake out a spot (picnic tables are first come first served). You can bring coolers with food and drinks (glass bottles and containers not permitted) and there are tons of great food vendors there as well. Make sure to check out “Taste New York” held each Sunday of the racing season at the track from 10:30am to 5pm. Located inside the entrance to the Reserved Seats Box Office near the Carousel, the market will feature 13 vendors and artisans. And vendors won’t just be from the Capital Region, vendors from the Hudson Valley, Mohawk Valley and Western New York will all be featured.
You can also grab a burger and fries at Shake Shack, get your Hattie’s fix and have some Grasso’s Italian Ice, there are a TON of great vendors to try out that are there every day.
Family Fridays at the Saratoga Race Course are a great way to bring the kids to a day at the races. The weekly family festivals will be held each Friday of the meet inside the entrance to the Reserved Seats Office near the Carousel, from noon to 4pm, beginning on Opening Day, Friday, July 19.
Family Fridays feature the Coca-Cola Best Bet offer, which includes adult grandstand admission, a Post Parade program, a hot dog and Coca-Cola, all for $5 with a voucher found on Coca-Cola displays at participating retailers. The voucher can be redeemed at the Reserved Seats Office on Union Avenue on any Friday during the season.
Each day-long event will include face painting, arts and crafts from Tiny Tots Tea Room and bounce inflatables. Additional activities will supplement these weekly staples, as outlined in the following lineup for Family Fridays (subject to change):
Friday, July 26: The Children’s Museum of Science and Technology (CMOST) will present its educational and explorative Leaping Lizards and Rocking Reptiles exhibit. Kids will have a chance to meet the cold-blooded creatures, while learning about their behaviors, habitats and lifestyles.
Friday, August 2: This week’s event will feature a Victorian twist in celebration of the 150th anniversary season at Saratoga. Kids will be invited to take photos with characters in traditional Victorian costumes and explore Victorian-era relics from the Scotia-Glenville Children’s Museum. Special Victorian-themed arts and crafts and other activities will be available.
Friday, August 9: Kids will experience the thrill of piloting a helicopter during a ride in a flight simulator from Independent Helicopters.
Friday, August 16: Kids and families will enjoy the Mad Science interactive exhibit with putty, slime, dry ice, and other hands-on activities.
Friday, August 24: Families will have another chance to enjoy the Leaping Lizards and Rocking Reptiles exhibit from CMOST.
Friday, August 31: As the anniversary season approaches its conclusion, Saratoga Race Course will take a look to the future with a hands-on robotics demonstration from students at Shenendehowa High School.
Stay tuned to Mamatoga for more from Summer with Mamatoga, I’ve got all the info you need on a great summer with the family in the Saratoga area, and don’t forget to pick up your copy of the Summer Issue of Mamatoga Magazine! xoxo