Going Off to the Races at Arlington Park

arlingtonMany people  – even some residents – may not realize that Chicago has its very own race track, and one that is quite easy to get to even without a car. The Arlington Park Racetrack offers live racing from April 29th to September 26, as well as live telecasts of nationwide races, like the Kentucky Derby.

How to get there

If you’re traveling without a car, you can take the  Union Pacific/Northwest Metra Rail from downtown Chicago to Arlington. The ride takes about 50 minutes and costs $4.50 each way. The Metra stop is on the north side of the racetrack parking lot.


It pays to buy your tickets in advance. General admission is usually $8-$10, but you’ll save $2 per person if you buy your tickets online in advance.  Kids 17 and under are free and on Thursdays, seniors receive a discounted admission.

What to see and do

Even is you aren’t a big gambler, the racetrack is a fun place to visit. Baggo tournaments and musical concerts are common distractions, as are special games and events for kids. In between each race, guests can also watch the horses make their way around the paddock area, seeing the equine athletes up close. Of course, gambling is the biggest draw, but since the minimum bet is $2, you can spend an afternoon of excitement at the track on a small budget.

Dining and drinking

The track offers many options for dining and drinking – you’ll need a celebratory drink if you win, and may want to drown your sorrows in beer if you lose big! Drinks cost $5-8 and include beer, wine, cocktails and specialty drinks like Mint Juleps. Dining options include outdoor cafes, the (dress code enforced and reservations required) Million room, food court options, and the Paddock Pub.

You can also bring in some of your own food and drink – however, you are limited to “small coolers containing unopened plastic bottled non-alcoholic beverages and individually wrapped food items”, which cannot be commercially produced, according to the website. These coolers are only permitted in the picnic area to the east of the building or on the apron level outside the building.

However, the guards aren’t super strict about enforcing this, and many bags aren’t checked upon arrival. This means you could potentially bring in a 2-liter of pre-mixed drinks, or add a few bags of chips to your cooler and probably get away with it. Not that we’d recommend you break the rules, though.

Photo by Smart Destinations