Can the horse racing be a day out for all the family? It’s been a few years since we went to the races, before children in-fact (or ‘BC’ as we refer to it)! Our recollections of racing therefore revolved around a few drinks with friends and betting so not the first thoughts of a family day out. However, a few Saturday afternoons ago we were watching television and the horse races came on and our oldest was quite fascinated by the whole thing and we thought that this might make for a different day out and means of entertainment over the long summer holidays.
‘Under 18’s enter for free’ is not something you hear very often at a sporting event but as we found out that as part of Great British Racing’s under 18s Race Free initiative, they are admitted free of charge to almost every race day at almost every racecourse! In addition to this, there are a series of special family fun days across the Country with additional activities put on for families and young people. One such event was taking place at our nearby race course in Leicester so we decided to give it a try.
Entry Price and Food
The entry cost for adults was £17 on the gate or £15 in advanced which I think is good value for money for a sporting event particularly as most places start to charge entry for children beyond toddler age. We were further impressed that the course permitted race goers to bring picnics with them with some picnic tables available so if you wanted to save a bit more money having the option of brining in your own food is welcome.
If you were disorganised like us and did not bring a picnic, there were plenty of refreshments available from ‘upmarket’ Burger vans also selling fashionable ‘dirty fries’ to pre-bookable sit-down dinners meaning that there was something for all tastes.
Our two, not being the most adventurous with food, were more than happy with extra-large hot sausage rolls which at £2 each left plenty of change for doughnuts! Facilities wise there were plenty of toilets with additional porta loos situated near to the children’s activities so that you did not need to run far for the inevitable last minute toilet dash always required with children in tow.
We were also really impressed that drinking water was available free of charge at various fountains, which is a nice touch, so you could fill the children’s bottles. Although thankfully our nappy changing days are now over, we did note that baby changing facilities were available, located in disabled toilets.
The additional activities laid on for the Family Funday were laid out at one end of the course and ranged from face painting, a climbing wall, inflatables of varying size and Crazy Golf. There was no additional charge for these so our children were delighted to be able to go down the Giraffe slide as many times as they wanted. We were also relieved to see 4 face painters available so the que for this was never long unlike other events we have been to.
They definitely had painting of Unicorns down to a fine art! Although this area was busy, it was well staffed and queues were minimal with only one instance where we had to wait 10 minutes for a turn on the ‘Bungee Run’, but as there was no cost it was an inconvenience that we didn’t mind! We also noticed that there is also a static playground with slides etc available all year round.
Now onto the racing itself, I don’t know if it is like this at other racecourses but I was particularly impressed by the open access of the course for all race goers. In particular, my kids really enjoyed being able to view the horses in the parade ring. It was exciting for them to be that close to the horses and help them to pick which one they were going to cheer for in the race! A good view of the races could be found easily and there was also a big screen so you could keep up with the action.
Although there seemed to be a lot of people there, you never felt crowded which is important when walking around with small children. We also noticed a number of families with prams and pushchairs who could move easily around.
One thing we did find difficult was to keep moving to the family fun area from whilst being able to keep up with the racing as it was away from the viewing area and grandstand. We also felt that perhaps more link could be made between the activities and the actual event as at times it felt as though you could be at any summer fun day but appreciate that this can be tricky other than having horse themed inflatables.
In summary, we thought that it was a great way to spend a slightly grey Summer’s day and good value for money. Our top tip however would be to bring a picnic with you and chairs as seating was at a premium – we were particularly impressed with the family who obviously had experience of such events and had erected a gazebo and wind shield around their deckchairs and will be replicating this on our next visit!
To find out more about ‘Under 18’s Race Free’ and to find a family raceday near you go to www.under18’sracefree.com