Over the school holidays, we were invited along to experience a ‘family fun day’ at the Royal Windsor Racecourse in exchange for sharing our experiences here on the blog. I’ve never been horse racing myself (the thought of a posh frock and heels is usually enough to put me off!), so I was a bit hesitant at first, but as I read more about the day and what was on offer I was intrigued to see how the kids would enjoy it.
Here’s what we got up to when I took my two children (soon to be seven and four) and my parents along on to the Family Fun Day at Windsor racecourse.
What is a family fun day at the racecourse?
In simple terms, the family fun day is a day of horse racing with extra activities laid on to keep children amused. Some of the usual rules about dress code are lifted a little and families and young children are encouraged to visit. The activities for children within the race ground are all included in your admission fee.
On the day we visited, three kids could go free with a paying adult (entry from £14) and once inside they could go on the bouncy castles, have their faces painted, do the treasure trail and look at the animals in the mini petting zoo. I liked the fact that it was all included so if they wanted another go on the bouncy castle they didn’t have to pester me for more small change. There was something quite relaxing about the fact that it was all included – I became more of a ‘yes’ kind of mum for the day so it didn’t matter if they wanted to do something more than once.
A family day out with a river trip too.
One of the things that makes Windsor racecourse unique is that you can arrive by boat from Windsor which I thought the kids would really enjoy doing. We picked up the boat down by Eton bridge and enjoyed a short ten minute trip down river spotting Brunel’s rail bridge along the way. The boat drops you off at the racecourse jetty and you walk up to the main entrance. On the return journey you get the added treat of watching Windsor castle appear which was exciting for the kids and a welcome photo opportunity for me.
How family friendly is Windsor racecourse?
I was impressed with the staff and the security at the racecourse – both my children were given wristbands which we wrote my phone number on in case of emergency. We chatted to a steward on the door of the Heidsieck enclosure and explained that we were newbies and he explained a bit about placing bets and also encouraged us to get as close to the finishing line as possible so the kids could feel the thunder of hooves as the horses sped past. This was a great tip and certainly added lots of excitement to the day.
I liked the large covered area in the centre of the grounds where you could sit and eat – the website said we could take a picnic but the tickets seem to contradict that so it was reassuring to see that you could bring a picnic whatever the weather. There was food on offer from the street food stalls but these were fairly expensive (a gourmet burger was around £9) and not ideal for the kids. I can never quite predict what they will eat and I didn’t want to splurge on a fancy burger for them to declare that they didn’t like it!
My feedback to the racecouse would be to make it a bit clearer about what you can wear on a family race day. I had been a bit confused about dress code – we had tickets for the Heidsieck enclosure which is in a prime location with a viewing area next to the winning post, but it mentioned to dress smartly and that sports shoes were not allowed. As a trainer and Doc Marten boot kind of girl, I was a little worried that I was expected to turn up in heels with two kids in tow, or that my kids wouldn’t be allowed in wearing trainers, but I needn’t have worried – dress rules are more relaxed on family days.
What is there to do on a family fun day at the races?
We arrived just after midday and took our time looking around and exploring and then got a drink so we could sit and read through the race day programme and pick our horses. There was an Easter-themed treasure hunt with letters hidden around the grounds which the kids loved finding. Following them as they raced around the grounds was was also a good way to get our bearings. The kids both got a small prize once they had completed the treasure hunt.
The races started at 2 pm and were every 30 minutes. In between the races you can see the horses in the parade ring before they race and in the winners’ enclosure after the race. It all felt very accessible and easy to mooch around and the afternoon soon sped by. By the time we had explored, eaten ice creams, looked at the horses parading around and had chosen a few to place some small bets on it was soon time to go home.
My top tip would be to do some of the kids activities as soon as you get there – my daughter wanted her face painted, and we left this too late – we were too far along the queue when the face painting finished, so I have promised we will do it first next time.
What did the kids make of it?
Both of my children had an absolute blast – they loved running around finding the treasure hunt clues and collecting their prize. They found the horse races exciting to watch too. My son is just learning to read and write at the moment, so he was able to look at the numbers and watch out for them on the screens and as they sped past. It was hilarious listening to him cheer the horses on shouting “COME ON TROTTER!!” at the top of his little voice from the grandstand.
The youngest says:
“I liked shouting for the horses and if I took my friend I would show him the bouncy castle. And I had one yo-yo!”
(The yo-yo was part of the prize for completing the treasure trail)
The eldest says:
“I liked watching the horses and choosing a horse and running around and finding the clues was fun too”
What did I think of it?
I was really pleased that everyone enjoyed it – the whole day came together really well. I’ll confess to feeling a bit of parental pressure when I am organising a family day out – in addition to figuring out logistics I’m always concerned that everyone has a ‘Good Time’ so it was great that we all had fun. We placed a few small bets (£2 and £5!) and we won one, and we lost a few. The racecourse was well laid out with plenty of opportunities to see the horses in the parade ring and the winners enclosure, as well as lots of easy vantage points to see the race itself in the Heidsieck enclosure.
I loved going on the boat from Windsor and it is definitely worth considering this for a special treat. If you’re visiting from Maidenhead then from a practical perspective it is probably simplest to drive from Maidenhead and park for free at the racecourse as opposed to driving all the way into Windsor, paying to park for the day and then walking down to the boat. If you’re on the Windsor side of town though, the boat might be a really viable option to get to the racecourse. On our return trip, we caught a boat which had a commentary about the local area which prompted me to check out the trips from Windsor for another potential school holiday day trip (Advantage Card holders get 10% off regular trips, but not the Racecourse trips.)
Since our visit, I’ve been mulling over the morals of gambling with my children, and I think it’s good for them to see that things can be enjoyed in moderation.
Horse racing is a big sport all around the world and with Windsor and Ascot on our doorstep it felt right to make them aware of the sport (and of winning and losing too!) The family fun day gave them the opportunity to learn a bit more and to get really close to the action in an environment that was relaxing for the parents too.
It’s worth noting that there are strict age restrictions about placing bets for under 18s and that the racecourse takes this seriously. When we were placing a bet the teller heard my son say the name of a horse and wouldn’t let us place the bet in case we were placing it on his behalf. Although it was surprising at the time, I respect that they adhere to the rules properly and we learned to chat things through with the kids and then place bets independently the next time.
What did my parents think?
I asked my folks what they thought of the day:
“It was great fun hearing the kids shout out their horse name and seeing them get really involved. It was easy to place a bet and great that we could place small bets of just a few pounds. There were lots of other things for children to join in with although we must remember to join the queue first next time! The boat trip was also fun. “
Find out more
The next family fun day at Windsor racecourse is on Monday 6 May and the best value prices are available when you book in advance. You can get entry for 2 adults and 3 children for £28 if you choose the grandstand and family enclosure, or if you want to get even closer to the action choose the Heidsieck enclosure which has a grandstand right opposite the finishing line which would cost £48 for a family of 2 adults and up to 3 children. The entry fee includes unlimited rides on the dodgems, the carousel, bouncy castles, bungee trampolines, a soft play experience, face painting, the list goes on!
As an added bonus, if you are a Royal Borough resident, you can get two for one with your Advantage Card on the general admission price. You need to book in advance, more information on the Advantage Card special offers page
About this post
I was given free admission in return for an honest review here on the blog.