Horse racing is called the “Sport of Kings," a throwback to the days when the cultural elite would amuse itself by watching horses race each other atop local monarchs. Though the rules of the sport have changed slightly, the palpable excitement remains, and today's Groupon will let you palpate it all day: for $40, you get two Jockey Club admissions, each including a buffet dinner, a $2 bet, and more at Colonial Downs (an $81 value) in New Kent. This deal is valid any race day from June 8 to July 31, except June 18, July 2–3, and July 16. Check the schedule for more details.
Colonial Downs is renowned among racing fans for hosting the Virginia Derby, but it also hosts smaller-scale stampedes for victory throughout the year. The climate-controlled 500-seat dining room in the Jockey Club allows visitors to watch the races through panes of plexiglass, which prevent inspired diners from diving onto the track to begin a new life as a horse. Before settling in for the main event, mane admirers get a backstage look at the paddocks to scope the stallions, talk with the trainers, and jest with the jockeys. Once in the buffet area, you and your fellow galloper-gawker can place win, lose, or show bets, pick up complimentary race programs, and focus in on the action through the glass or on one of the many televisions scattered around the room while noshing on items such as green salad and roasted chicken.
Newcomers may want to head first to the Trackside Fan Education Center for help interpreting the tip sheets or determining which horse is best at Scrabble. Between races, curious parties can learn more by hopping on a narrated tram ride around the track. The Jockey Club’s dress code requires proper attire, so avoid wearing tank tops, togas, torn clothing, flip-flops, galactic battlewear, or other forms of abbreviated dress. No smoking or pets are allowed in the area, though exceptions will be made for service animals.
Colonial Downs Racetrack
Home of the Virginia Derby each summer, Colonial Downs Racetrack upholds the age old Southern tradition of horse racing with a pair of impressive tracks. At 180 feet wide, the Secretariat Turf Course plays host to the derby as well as other summer thoroughbred races. Measuring at 1.25 miles, the outside dirt track is the second largest in the country—dwarfed only by Belmont Park— and plays host the pacers and trotters in the fall harness races. As Virginia's only site for pari-mutuel betting, Colonial Downs attracts droves of racing fans and wandering derby hats throughout the season. Once inside the gates, visitors can enjoy the sights and sounds from the outdoor grandstand or relax in one of Colonial Downs' club and suite seating options, most of which offer dining and betting services, TVs linked to off-track races, and unobstructed birds-eye views of either track outside.