After living in Kentucky for two years, Jon and I became big fans of horse racing. It isn’t a sport I had ever been interested in before but, along with UK basketball, that state lives and breathes it. We’ve been to Keeneland and Churchill Downs, Turfway, Oaklawn, and now Tampa Bay Downs! It was a great little day trip from Orlando. Here are some tips and photos so you know what to expect.
When you get there, you’ll want to pick up a program for $2 so you can see what horses are in each race, learn their stats and decide your betting strategy. You totally don’t have to bet, you can just go to watch the horses (and the people… it’s an excellent place for that too), but once you feel comfortable with how to pick a few horses and put some money down it’s even more fun. You have someone to cheer for!
I recommend watching at least one race from the rail. The post time at Tampa Bay Downs is more of a polite suggestion, but people start heading to the rail a few minutes before the Call to Post. The view is awesome from the rail and you feel even more like you’re in the action.
While you’re waiting for a race, go and check out the paddock area to see the horses close up. Strategies abound for choosing horses and it’s fun to see what they look like before they race. I like the gray horses, my father-in-law often picks horses that have recently… lightened their load, and I’ve heard other people talking about choosing the horses that look the most calm because they’re more confident.
Graham LOVED watching the horses once he figured out what they were doing on the track.
The grandstands are basic, but well kept. They’re also open-air, so you don’t feel too far from the action and you can still enjoy the nice breezes from the shade.
If you’re planning on taking the kids, I’d recommend making sure you have sunscreen and some snacks. The food offerings are decent, but there is plenty of food off-site since it’s very close to several chain restaurants just up the road. Grab lunch before you go to the race and you’ll be set for the day.
Recommended age: 1 and up
Cost: Fairly reasonable for a day trip – $2 per adult admission, $2 program, gas, food, and betting money
To see more tips on great things to do around town, check out my list of 100+ Adventures in Central Florida!