8 Best Tips for a First Time Visit to Saratoga Race Course

~Know Before you Go to Saratoga~


Visiting the Saratoga Race Course for the first time? Plan your day at the races with these 8 tips from the Saratoga Arms! owners and staff!

1. Know Your History of the Saratoga Race Course

The Saratoga Race Course is the first modern sports facility built in the United States and continues to be the oldest extant example in the country. The new race course opened on August 2, 1864 for a five-day summer meet. Today, the meet is seven weeks long and runs every Wednesday through Sunday until September 5th. The New York Racing Association (NYRA) has an interesting History page on their website.

2. Buy the Ticket, Take the Ride

Tickets for the Saratoga Race Track reserved seats are available for the Clubhouse, Grandstand, The Stretch, Fourstardave Sports Bar, Miller Lite Picnic Paddock and The Rail at the 1863 Club. You can also purchase tickets the day-of if you are not interested in purchasing in advance.  For a lighthearted, but informative, video, please visit the Smith Sisters from the Saratoga Arms Hotel as they showcase the seating option throughout the Saratoga Race Course.

Grandstand: $7
Clubhouse: $10
Travers Day (8/28) Grandstand: $15 Clubhouse: $25

Tickets to the Saratoga race track can be purchased online in advance or upon arrival at the gate. *Saratoga Arms TipMake a booking a Saratoga Arms to have an opportunity to reserve a spot at the Saratoga Arms Turf Terrace table.  Seats are limited and go fast.  

3. Dressed to Impress

The one good thing about attending the races is you can never be overdressed! Attendees with grandstand tickets can dress casually, but check out this comprehensive guide from Saratoga.com for what is appropriate attire for every seating area . If you don’t already own a fabulous hat there are shops at the track to purchase one to commemorate your special day at the races.


4. Make a Run for It

If you want to dress casually then plan a day in the picnic area.  If you want a table then you need to plan to run for it – literally. Running for picnic tables is a tried and true tradition for track attendees. As gates open at 7 a.m. people who have been lined up for some time run to claim their spot. Once a spot is claimed with table cloths, coolers or other markers, the spot is yours for the day.  A nice gentleman’s (or gentlelady’s) agreement everyone needs to leave the grounds and return once the gates officially re-open at 11 a.m.


5. Find the Perfect Spot

There is ample paid parking around the Saratoga Race Course, and is usually first come, first served. Private residences near the track also offer parking which can sometimes provide closer spots, but these are also paid so plan accordingly and bring cash.  *Saratoga Arms TipOur favorite resident parking areas are on Nelson Avenue between Lincoln Avenue and Wright Street.  These areas are closely situated to the clubhouse entrance on Wright Street.


6. You Can Bet on It

Once you arrive it is time to test your luck and place your bet! Purchase a program at stands throughout Saratoga Race Course to review the day’s card.  Detailed instructions are inside to help you choose the winning horse. For new horseracing fans, it may be the name of the horse, the color of the jockey silks or a favorite number.  The main things for determining your Saratoga racing picks are: 1-choose your horse, 2-determine the dollar amount you want to bet, and 3-the type of bet to place. For a quick reference on how to bet, below are the different types of bet from the NYRA Bets website:

Win – Your horse must finish first.
Place – Your horse must finish first or second.
Show – Your horse must finish first, second, or third.
Across the Board – Separate win, place, and show wagers of equal amounts on the same horse.
Exacta (box) – Pick the first two horses in the correct order. Box it and the horses you select can finish in any order.
Trifecta (box) – Pick the first three horses in the correct order. Box it and the horses you select can finish in any order.
Superfecta (box) – Pick the first four horses in the correct order. Box it and the horses you select can finish in any order.

After the race is “official” you can cash in your betting slip if you won – congratulations! 

Saratoga Springs Race Course

7. The Most Important Meal of the Day

Breakfast at the Saratoga racecourse is held Wednesday-Sunday from 7 to 9:30 a.m. and is available on a first come, first served basis (there is no breakfast on Runhappy Travers Day, Saturday, August 28). The breakfast buffet is $20 for adults and $12 for children under 12 with no additional entrance fee to enter. Guests of the breakfast will be required to leave and re-enter once the public is admitted for the races. If you have time, there is a the free tram tour of the historic stables starting at 7:30 a.m. and leave every 15 minutes, with the last tour leaving at 9 a.m. *Saratoga Arms TipIf a full breakfast is not in the cards, you can grab coffee and a bagel at one of our favorite morning spots, Uncommon Grounds and then head over to the track.  Sit in one of the fancy boxes and watch the horses workout.


8. Health, History, and Horses

Learn about the history and architecture of the Saratoga Race Course during one of their walking tours. Tours are scheduled at 9:30 a.m., 10:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m, 1:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. each racing day and costs $3 per person or $10 for a family. We recommend contacting the Guest Services Department at 518-584-6200 x 4433 for additional information.

Find out even more about Saratoga racing at the “Saratoga Walk of Fame” which recognizes prominent thoroughbred industry owners, trainers and jockeys and is located centrally near the main gate. 


It is always an exciting day at the Saratoga Race Course, so once your day is complete you can make your way back downtown to enjoy a lovely evening out and then unwind at Saratoga Arms. We look forward to seeing you during racing season!


*Please note that according to the NYRA website, “based on current CDC guidelines, fans who are not yet fully vaccinated against COVID-19 must continue to wear a face covering over their nose and mouth at all times while visiting Saratoga Race Course except when actively eating or drinking at their ticketed seats.”