A Night at the Races Can Be Fun for the Kids Too
It’s a carnival atmosphere at the Meadows’ night races.
photo by chris gooden
Taking the family to the racetrack is, admittedly, not typically an all-ages suggestion. At the Meadows Racetrack & Casino in Washington County, however, the periodic night races resemble a county fair more than the Kentucky Derby — and kids are more than welcome.
The vast majority of races at the Meadows are set at a traditional, mid-afternoon post time. On just a handful of evenings throughout the year, however, the races kick off at 5:30. That short list includes most Friday evenings during the summer, including this month on Aug. 24. (Two holiday night races are scheduled, one on Dec. 21 and a adult-focused New Year’s celebration on Dec. 31.)
“We race 190 days per year, so offering a fun, festival atmosphere on Friday nights … brings special energy to the property,” says Roxann Kinkade, director of public relations for the Meadows’ parent company, Pinnacle Entertainment.
That atmosphere has included offerings for kids: food, face painting, bounce houses. Unlike many casinos, where anyone under 21 is barred from the full property, at the Meadows, that restriction only applies to the casino floor. As long as kids are accompanied by an adult, the rest of the facility — including the racetrack and grandstand — is open to them. There’s also a bowling alley near the grandstand, if kids grow weary of waiting for the next race, and a food court with kid-friendly fare. (Specific activities for Aug. 24 were not set as of press time.)
“We hear repeatedly from our guests that enjoying a day or evening at the races has become a family tradition,” Kinkade says. “Many of our guests came here with their families as children and have returned with their [own] children and grandchildren.”
On a bright evening, the night races feel like a true event; while the average weekday afternoon at any track can seem a bit quiet, wandering through the apron (the area between the grandstand and the track) on a racing night is more carnival than casino.
Of course, the thrill of betting on the races (for the adults, anyway) doesn’t hurt. As an occasional and always uninformed gambler, I can personally attest that it’s easy to get caught up in the experience without going broke (or necessarily winning): Make small bets on horses for arbitrary reasons, put $2 on the trifecta just in case, and don’t get too invested in the result.
Oh, and perhaps most vitally: It’s free. Aside from whatever you drop on food or bets, attending races and their accompanying festivities is free (as is the parking).
The days following the August night races feature another special event at Meadows — one decidedly not for the whole family, but no less alluring. The annual Corks and Kegs Festival, set for Aug. 25 to 26, features tastings from local and regional breweries as well as national microbreweries, in addition to winemakers, moonshine and rum distilleries and more; admittance is free (you’ll pay by the sample). The late-summer festival takes place on and around the racetrack, where the drinks will be accompanied by 18 food trucks and live music (including ’70s hitmakers The Jaggerz, of “The Rapper” fame).