Belmont Park is one of the New York City area’s very best places to spend a sunny afternoon. Whether you go with friends, family or on a solo mission, there’s something for everyone in a setting that makes you forget that you’re mere miles away from one of the world’s busiest cities.
If you’re planning to head out there for the 2013 fall meet or just want to spend some time outdoors for a fun (and possibly profitable!) afternoon, I have your guide on how to enjoy an exciting day at Belmont Park.
First off: how do you get there? If you live or are staying in Manhattan, there’s actually a train that runs from Penn Station to the racetrack on the Long Island Railroad. It’s called the Belmont Special, and it’s amazing. I take it pretty much every time I go to the track, and it’s incredibly easy, fast, and cheap. For $14, you get a round trip ticket as well as a discount on the already low price of admission to the track. For more information and the schedule, please click here. If you’re not in Manhattan or planning on getting to the track another way, no problem! Here’s a link for driving directions as well as all sorts of public transportation options for making it to Belmont.
Once you’re at the track, you’re ready to enjoy a day at the races. The Elmont, NY oval’s nickname is “Beautiful Belmont,” and that’s not just hyperbole. The track really is breathtakingly beautiful, and there are a ton of places to watch the races, to enjoy some beautiful weather and to just relax and hang out with friends or family.
A great option is the relaxing backyard area, where there are picnic tables galore as well as food options, bars, bands, betting windows and even a duck pond.
Seating is first come, first served, and people can bring their own food and drinks to cut down on costs on most days. Belmont Stakes Day has certain security restrictions in place, though, so be sure to check the website to make sure that you know the rules before starting out to the track.
Another great place to spend some time at Belmont is right next the paddock, which is the area where the horses are saddled prior to their races. It’s a pretty spot with shade trees, and you can see the beautiful statue of Secretariat as well as check out the equine and human athletes as they get ready to hit the track.
Of course, the main action takes place on the track itself, so it’s important to score a great place to see the races up close and personally. Fortunately, there’s no additional charge to get right next to the rail: you just have to be quick to make sure that you score a good spot as the horses head to the starting gate. With Grandstand admission (the most affordable option) you can still stand right next to the finish line – and as a bonus, you’re right next to the winner’s circle where the victorious horses and their connections pose for photographs right after each race.
You really can’t get much closer that that: it’s where I took this picture on Monday afternoon. Not bad for $3, right? (Well, $10 on Belmont Stakes Day, but still: not too shabby either way!)
If you want to go a little higher-end, Belmont has seating in the Grandstand and Clubhouse that you can reserve. This includes everything from stadium-style seats to box seats to dining options. I recommend that you check out their website here and then make reservations as quickly as possible, since Belmont Day is the biggest event of the year at the track.
Unfortunately, I don’t have a ton of photos of the inside of the facility, so here’s a picture I snapped on my cell phone of “Luck” actors John Ortiz and Gary Stevens (who just won the 2013 Preakness aboard Oxbow, by the way) last year at the Belmont Stakes inside the Garden Terrace dining room overlooking the track. Another reason to love the races: you never know who you’ll run into since tons of celebrities, actors, athletes, musicians and social mover and shakers are drawn to the races in New York. Over the last few years at the Belmont Stakes I’ve seen Sarah Jessica Parker, Diane Lane, Bobby Flay, Marylou Whitney, the entire cast of The Sopranos, Bill Clinton, Sarah Palin and Steven Spielberg there. Pretty cool, right?
For an overview of the entire racetrack, NYRA has a great graphic (which I just plundered from their website – sorry, NYRA!) that shows all of the various areas at Belmont.
Image via NYRA.com
I hope you have the opportunity to visit Belmont this year. It really is a special place, steeped in history, surrounded by natural beauty and easy to visit from anywhere near New York City. There are so many wonderful things to see there, from the horses, jockeys and trainers to the art throughout the facility, the landscaping and the racing culture that comes alive each and every day. When I think of Belmont, I inevitably think of this painting I discovered there last year which sums up the beauty, mystique and history that together make up the atmosphere of Belmont Park.
Please let me know if you have any questions in the comments, and I hope to see you soon at Beautiful Belmont!