Horse Races

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Anybody taken kids to Golden Gate Fields?

June 2007

Thinking about taking my 4 year old son to Golden Gate Fields to watch some horse racing and I was wondering if anybody out there had any advice. I've never been there myself and only been to one horse race in my life, so I'm pretty clueless about the environment and whether it's suitable for kids. I was thinking about going on a Sat or Sun afternoon and thought it would be neat to watch the races, have a hot dog, and do something a bit different and I'd welcome any advice/recommendations. Thanks Mark

I have taken my daughter a few times, starting when she was about four. We loved standing near the paddock area between races, watching them get the horses ready for the next race, talking about the different horses' size, shape, color, tack, etc., and picking our favorites. The race is pretty fast and hard for the kids to follow, but it's over quickly, and then we'd see if our picks did well. We'd put $2 per race on our horse to place - sure, it doesn't pay much, but you have a lot higher chance of being a 'winner', which is fun. We had the most fun when we stayed down at ground level, where we could get to/from the paddock easily, watch the winner have his/her picture taken, all that. We stay for four or five races and then we're done. You can bring picnics in, I think, or get hotdogs and the like there.

Be advised - I have gotten some relatively harsh judgments from other parents about taking my daughter to the racetrack. Partly they have animal-rights objections (although I personally am a huge animal lover and a vegetarian I don't have a problem with horse racing or the way the horses are treated in racing, all things considered), and partly I think they have an impression of the track as seedy or something. Whatever. Just be advised you may get some of this, but it's not the only point of view out there. We've had fun. Paddock gal

Golden Gate Fields is *great* with/for kids -- there are many different areas to watch the races (up in the stands, down in the seats, right up next to the railings) and you can go right over to the ''winners circle'' to see the horses being prepped for the next race, check out the colorful jockies as they get ready, watch the live bugler in his red livery play the starting song, etc. It's fun to pick horses even if you don't bet (tho' we sometimes bet a dollar here and there just to make it more exciting). They have standard snacks & drinks, and while you're not supposed to bring food in, we usually sneak in a few sandwiches. It's also right next to the Albany Bulb, so you can hit the beach or go for a hike before or after. Sometimes they have special race days where they give away all kinds of stuff -- our son has quite the collection now (fleece blanket, thermos, and a Seabiscuit piggy bank). There aren't that many people there usually, so it's no problem for kids to ! be noisy, rambunctious, running around and wotnot.

The only sad part is -- you've missed the season! Last weekend they had Family Day on Saturday (jumpy huts, face painting, etc.), Sunday was the last day of the season and it was Dollar Day (dollar parking, dollar entry, dollar snacks, etc.) It's a pretty short season -- April 25 through June 10th this year.

DEFINITELY take the kids next year! GGF Enthusiast

I've taken my kids (ages 4 & 1) to golden gate fields a couple of times. It was pretty fun for the 4-year-old and I was surprised by the number of stroller age kids there were. A broad range of people seem to go - from hardcore gamblers who seem to be there A LOT to people on dates to regular families. They prance the horses around before each race so the kids like that. We didn't even bet most of the races, just watched. When we did bet, my daughter loved helping pick who would win. Ususally it was the jockey in the pink. The food is on par with an A's game, maybe a little worse. Overall it was a good experience. And I think sundays are dollar days so it's cheap. dd

Could be fun! If you are someone--like my lovely partner--who is immediately and viscerally repulsed at the presence of gambling, GGF may freak you out a bit. If, however, you like a little different slice of life than you've been encountering in Music Together class, give it a try.

A couple of things to note:
--Don't expect ladies in fancy hats, in fact don't expect any females or many men under the age of 50.
--Make sure to go on a live racing day. Stay outside in the stands; the hard core folks are mostly inside watching the monitors.
--A four your old may be more interested in the climibming of bleacher stairs than the races...not sure what you need to do to be able to visit the horses at rest.

For older kids, the track can be a part of a larger financial literacy education! My dad took me to the track once as a kid and would always place a dollar bet on the Kentucky Derby for me. He is one of the most fiscally conservative, realistic people I know and he passed that down to me along with an appreciation for the occasional dollar bet or lotto ticket.

All that said, I haven't taken my 6 and 3 year olds yet. I'll try to do it this season as I believe GGF's days may be limited.

I'm thinking you may get some hostile replies to this innocent query. Don't take it personally--some folks are *really* freaked out by any form of gambling. If any of you BPN-ers wan't a really wholesome and horsey day, try a rodeo! Yet another cultural world that can be experienced not far from Berkeley. Google PRCA, get out your cowboy hat and your I *heart* Bush shirt and head East for a very fun day for all ages (note--if you have animal welfare concerns about horseracing, you probabaly won't like the rodeo either).

Know when to hold 'em, Katie

It has become a family tradition of ours to go to Golden Gate Fields the day after Thanksgiving, my son has been going since he was 11 months old. It's a big day for families and there are always tons of kids running around. We've only been once or twice on a day that wasn't after Thanksgiving. There were barely any kids around, but nevertheless I think it would be fine to take your son. It's very interesting and exciting. We usually hang out outside, close to the track. Inside there is a different vibe, with serious betters who are standing around looking at the t.v. screens at whatever race is running at some other track.

It's also fun to go over to the area where they parade the horses before each race, and where the winners go to get photographed and the jockey gets weighed. If I bet I'll usually only do $2, but usually we'll just pick a horse and cheer him/her on. Pony lovin' family

I took my then 7 yr old girl and 4 yr old to GGF. We had a great time and would go back. Yes, there is the ''racing element'' but it's easy to avoid. Park up top (pay the extra couple of bucks to do it) easy in and out. Sit in the stands. Definitely go down and participate in the ''viewing'' of the horses and jockeys when they parade for inspection PRIOR to the races. You get to get up close. The kids --and I--had a great time. dana

Horse races for kids?!

March 2007

Looking for a horse race, or anything associated with horse racing, that is kid friendly (ages 8-12). barbara

It is so funny you asked about horse racing; on a total whim we just went last Saturday with our 9 and 7 year olds to Bay Meadows in San Mateo. Neither of us have an interest in horse racing, the kids had seen a tv ad, it looked like fun, and they had earned a reward, so off we went. We had a lovely time! Maybe we lucked out in the timing, I don't know. It was easy to get to, easy to park (and only $4). The club level tickets were $6 for each adult and kids are free. So here we have only spent $16 for a couple hours of entertainment. We sat in little club alcoves outside (altho you can sit inside if you want), in the shade, and plenty of room for kids to move around etc. You can go right down to the track level and get close to the jockeys. You can go to the paddock and get close to the horses that will be running in the next race. The races are short (2 minutes?) and you can't see a lot, but we had each kid pick a horse before each race, we identified the number and colors, and they had someone to cheer for. If you want to bet it is easy and you can do it by machine if you want to. Anyway they lasted about 5 races and then we left. It wasn't noisy or crowded and truthfully I found it quite peaceful! Like I said maybe we went on a slow day or something. But we had a nice time, and fun to do something different. anon