“And they’re off,” my husband responded when I mentioned spending Sunday at Arlington Park.
He recounted fond memories of past trifectas won and almost won, but after a recent weekend at Arlington, he has a whole new set of family memories.
The Gentile Park
The grounds are an expanse of fabulous manicured lawn, landscape and pristine white buildings. An owner of four race horses stabled at Arlington, Mike Milkes says, “this stands testimony to the meticulous care and pride that owner Richard L. Duchossois demands at the park.” The clientele was also considerate—most dressed more like Ravinia than Six Flags—which Milkes suggests also starts with the owners and staff, all of whom are dressed in suits.
With so much information on the website, it can be difficult for a first timer to navigate, but there are discounts and promotions offered only to online buyers, so give it a try. The Will Call and Cash Only lines were by far the shortest, so if you don’t order in advance, bring cash. Take a look at the layout of the enormous park to plan your day, and don’t miss a chance to stop at the paddocks!
What A Deal!
With free parking, kids under 17 free with an adult, and general admission $6-$10, lawn seats offer the biggest bargain. Bring your own picnic basket and blanket but check out the park’s carry-in policy. My husband had to sprint back to the car with a ball my kids had hoped to toss on the lawn.
Depending on the weather, next time we may spend a bit more to reserve a table under the canopy or a picnic table with an umbrella. With either you are still welcome to bring one 50-quart cooler per adult, but we found the food court catered by Levy Restaurants offered a lot of variety at a good price and a ballpark style vendor supplied my son with a hot dog lunch for $3.50.
Box It Up
Jennifer Pettersen of Glenview’s family reserves a box for only $12 per person, plus admission. “With comfortable seating, a TV and even connection for my son’s iPad, it’s home away from home” she says.
Family Day Sundays
Sundays through September 4 are Family Days, each with crafts and activities provided by the likes of Legoland or the Chicago Fire. We were treated to a free story time stage, sponsored by the Field Museum, at which I found local story teller Nili Yelin weaving her tales. A favorite for little ones is the free petting zoo and pony rides. I was concerned about the line, but the 90-second ride kept everybody smiling and moving.
From the boxes to the lawn, there’s a moment when everyone’s eyes at last focus in one direction as the horses round the track. My children pressed against the rails, cheering for Daddy’s horse and we all listened for that final call … “and it’s Military Legend allllll the wayyyyy.”