You don't have to be a gambler to enjoy a day at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia! The winter/spring horse race season starts the day after Christmas and ends usually early April.
Santa Anita is a beautiful 320 acre park with a large grandstand that holds 26,000 people and a nice infield with plenty of open space. I picked the horses for fun when I was a kid and loved it on the rare occasion when my father and I made a day of it at the race track.
The park is open Thursdays through Mondays, with 10 races on weekends/holidays and 8 races on most weekdays. Gates open at 10:30 a.m. and first race is normally at 1 p.m.
You don't have to put a lot of money down on a race to enjoy the excitement! Heck, pluck down $2 and bet on a longshot and you'll be glued to the race. It's really a lot of fun.
Admission is only $5 for adults and FREE for those under 17 accompanied by an adult. Parking is $4 ($10 valet). For kids there is a playground with slides, a jungle gym and swings. There is a picnic facility for special events Better yet, there are Family Fun Days from noon to 4 p.m. each Sunday in March through season's end in April. Family Fun Days feature carnival games, giant inflatable slide and bounce house, face painting and pony rides.
If you're looking to take it up a notch, check out the fine dining at The Turf Club (dress code enforced...no jeans, sneakers and t-shirts here), Front Runner and Club House Terrace restaurants.
So I convinced the kids that that to drive with me to Santa Anita on Super Bowl Sunday 2013 with the goal of getting home in time for the Super Bowl. We left our house in the Conejo Valley around 9:40 a.m. and arrived about 20 minutes before the first race at 11 a.m., about 3 hours earlier than normal I guess because of the Super Bowl.
We parked in the northern lot that takes you directly to the infield area. Follow the green line in the parking lot to find it. The parking area is huge. I prefer the infield because it is outside and you don't have to endure as much of massive plumes of cigarette smoke you have to endure in the grandstand area. That said, the food choices in the infield were limited to hot dogs and junk food, so if you don't bring your own lunch, you'll have to go under the tunnel into the grandstand area.
Speaking of the tunnels, they're cool. There's a tunnel to get from the parking lot to the infield and another one that gets you to the grandstand and paddock area. The tunnels are extremely good for echo sounds with the kids.
There's a humongous screen in the infield where you can view the horses and the race. We sat on the benches in front of the screen so we could stand up during the race and watch the horses down the stretch. I let the kids pick one horse each race. Having a little skin ($2) in the game makes it a lot more fun. Although the kids' choices were a little off the mark, I managed to win a couple exactas that brought me close to break even for the day.
We took a quick walk to the paddock area, where you can see the trainers prepping the horses before the race and walk into the track. We also met the trumpeter before the race. Such a nice guy who enjoyed interacting with the kids.
The park itself is just stunning. So huge and beautiful. Although the park was at very low capacity the day we went, but we still encountered some characters who were cursing and moaning about their lousy picks...so do be prepared for that.
The only drawback to the infield area is that it is mostly unshaded, so wear sunscreen and consider bringing an umbrella if you don't want too much sun. Or of course you can go to the grandstand. The playground area in the infield is pretty well maintained and comparable to what you'd find in most parks.
So we left after the 7th race around 2:15 p.m. and made it back home with 15 minutes to spare before the Super Bowl at 3:30 p.m. What a great day!