Visiting Tampa Bay Downs: A Complete Guide to Race Day

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Planning to visit Tampa Bay Downs and unsure where to start?

Tampa Bay Downs offers a thrilling horse racing experience, but there is much to consider before visiting.

We've got you covered with essential information that will enhance your visit.

  • What to expect on race day
  • How to make the most of post-time events
  • Essential tips for planning your visit

Our first visit to Tampa Bay Downs got off to a rough start. Parking was challenging – we should have arrived earlier in the day!

We planned our most recent trip to Florida on a weekend that let us catch some baseball in Lakeland and hit the Derby in Tampa. We had a great time, and the drive between the places was very reasonable!

I found the website needing more information, so I want to help you fill in the blanks. Saddle up for an action-packed day at this family-friendly track!

Horses 5 and 6 being escorted along the front of the stands before they start the race at Tampa Bay Downs.

A Day at Tampa Bay Downs

If you're a horse racing enthusiast or just looking for a unique experience, a day spent at Tampa Bay Downs racetrack is well spent. 

Tampa Bay Downs is a premier multi-entertainment destination for thoroughbred racing in Florida; the racetrack is steeped in a rich history and offers an electric atmosphere that you can't help but get swept up in.

The track is approaching 100 years of age!

Seating might be an important factor for you, and Tampa Bay Downs has you covered with various seating options.

Whether you prefer to be in the thick of the action in the Grandstand or want a more exclusive experience in a box seat, the choice is yours. 

Or you could be like me and prefer not to have an actual seat but soak in the atmosphere from the trackside!

There are some benches in the trackside area, and you are likely able to grab a seat between races when others head to the betting windows, which are nearby on the first floor of the Grandstand.

Visiting Tampa Bay Downs wouldn't be complete without observing the Paddock.

All options provide excellent views of the track and the finish line. We especially loved how close we could get to the winning horses!

There are a wide array of food options available at the track. Whether you're in the mood for a hot dog, a gourmet dinner, or anything in between, the racetrack offers a variety of food and drink options to meet your needs.

Grandstand food provides casual fare, while table service concessions offer an elevated dining experience.

​The food lines were long during our visit, so be prepared to wait!

What to Wear

As you plan your day at Tampa Bay Downs, the dress code mirrors the relaxed and family-friendly atmosphere, allowing for a diverse range of comfortable clothing.

You will see a wide range of outfits – from suits and dresses to the comfort of shorts and tank tops; the spectrum includes everything from baseball caps and visors to the flair of fedoras and vibrant Derby hats.

My sister and I all dressed up when we attended the Kentucky Derby a few years ago. I have a magenta dress with white polka dots and a chucky double layer beaded necklace. I also have a white hat with a pink ribbon and white sunglasses on. My sister has a black dress with pink belt. She has black sunglasses and a white and black patterned hat with a pink ribbon and pink flowers.

Florida style tends to be more laid-back ambiance compared to other racetracks,

While there's no need for formal attire, adding a touch of sophistication contributes to the festive atmosphere of the races.

Opt for comfortable footwear, whether stylish sneakers, flats, or loafers, as you may be walking and standing throughout the day.

Keep the local weather in mind, selecting lightweight, breathable fabrics for warmer days and adding layers or a stylish jacket for cooler temperatures. Bring a light rain jacket or poncho to prepare for unexpected showers. 

Accessories like hats and sunglasses complement your outfit and provide practical sun protection. 

What to Expect for the Post-Time Events

When visiting Tampa Bay Downs, one of the thrilling aspects that adds to the overall allure of the experience is the schedule of post-time events. 

Experience the captivating prelude to each race at Tampa Bay Downs as the horses, accompanied by their grooms, embark on a ceremonial walk from the barn area on the backside of the racetrack.

Be sure to see the graceful procession passing by the Clubhouse and Grandstand. The journey leads to the Saddling Paddock, where their trainers identify and saddle each horse in the Saddling Stalls.

For an up-close view, venture to the Walking Ring, where you witness the connection between jockeys and their horse.

The walking ring at the Tampa Bay Downs. Horses are in the background in line for the parade of horses.

The walking ring is a great location to view the horses before heading to the betting window and is a place to get an occasional hot tip about a horse.

The ambiance of a race is set with the traditional sounds of a bugle playing the iconic “Call to the Post” as the horses gracefully file onto the track in the Post Parade.

Take advantage of this time to assess the form and energy of each competitor before making your predictions. Once you've had the chance to observe the equine athletes, make your way to the betting windows to place your bets.

Remember, all wagers must be secured before the race begins, ensuring you're part of the thrilling excitement from the very start.

Don't miss a beat—immerse yourself in the anticipation and strategy that precedes each race at Tampa Bay Downs!

As the horses take their positions at the starting gates and the crowd hushes in anticipation, an unmistakable surge of excitement sweeps over the grandstands.

A brown horse with white down his face and a white lower hind leg. The horse has a green bib under the jockey. The jockey had a purple and white diamond pattern jersey top and white pants and green helmet. The horse handler and owner are posed with the horse. The track scoreboard is in the background.

Live Horse Racing

At Tampa Bay Downs, the thrill of live thoroughbred racing unfolds in a captivating spectacle, offering diverse events that keep spectators on the edge of their seats.

The track hosts a variety of races, including different distances, from sprints to longer-distance contests, which cater to other preferences and showcase the versatility of both horses and jockeys.

The number of horses in a race typically varies, with fields ranging from a handful to a dozen or more contenders.

This diversity adds an element of unpredictability and excitement as the jockeys navigate their horses through the pack, vying for that coveted position at the finish line.

Tampa Bay Downs embraces different skill levels, both seasoned veterans and emerging talents, making each race a dynamic showcase of skill and competitiveness. 

Races take place every 20-25 minutes, giving you enough time to pick up your winning bet and make your subsequent bets. Expect about 8-10 races during a single-day visit to the track.

Group of jockeys riding horses along a dirt race track near a treeline during the day.

Dining Experiences

Visiting Tampa Bay Downs isn't complete without indulging in the dining options available during post-time events.

From elegant dining table service restaurants like the Skye Terrace Dining Room on the third floor of the clubhouse to casual concessions providing snacks and drinks, every race day is also an opportunity to treat even the most discriminating palates.

People congregated about a room with tables and tvs that show horse racing information.

Table Service Dining

The Terrace is higher class than most of the areas at the track – they have a dress code. Men need to wear a collared shirt, and ladies, no shorts or skorts are allowed in this dining area.

The Skye Terrace has an all-day seating charge and includes using the amenities in the Skye Terrace.

The Silks Bar & Grill serves breakfast until noon, reasonably priced dining, and has a happy hour! 

Step into the Sports Gallery for the ultimate experience in live and simulcast race viewing, all within the cool comfort of air conditioning.

Benefit from the convenience of dedicated tellers in a room full of monitors. Opt for a private booth with TV and indulge in a diverse menu for a truly customized racing experience.

Salted and unsalted Soft Pretzels displayed at a concession booth.

Concessions

When it comes to satisfying your cravings trackside, Tampa Bay Downs doesn't disappoint with its concession stand options. 

From the enticing aroma of freshly popped popcorn wafting through the air to the sizzle of hot dogs on the grill and the array of classic trackside treats awaiting eager racegoers.

From the timeless appeal of nachos loaded with cheese to the simplicity of a perfectly salted pretzel, the concession stands offer a medley of options. 

Thirsty? Quench it with various beverages, from ice-cold sodas to refreshing lemonades. Want a beer or some other type of drink? They are available in both the grandstand and clubhouse areas at the track. 

Head to the Legends Bar, on the second level of the Grandstand, for a glimpse of the legendary horse Seabiscut's history. After touring the exhibit, grab a bite to eat and a frosty drink!

Whether you'd like the feel of a fine dining experience while catching the racing action or prefer the casual atmosphere of eating grandstand food, Tampa Bay Downs caters to everyone's tastes; each of the dining venues promises a fantastic view of the live horse races, making your dining experience as exciting as the races themselves.

So, sit back and savor the taste of Tampa while enjoying the exhilarating horse racing action that Tampa Bay Downs offers.

Jockeys on the horses as they head out of the racing shoot at the Tampa Bay Downs during the day.

Betting 

At Tampa Bay Downs, the excitement of horse racing extends to the heart-pounding world of betting, adding an interactive and engaging dimension to the spectator experience. Here's a glimpse into the betting scene at the track:

Wagering Variety: Tampa Bay Downs offers diverse betting options to suit all preferences and comfort levels.

Whether you're a seasoned handicapper or a novice, you can choose from straightforward win, place, and show bets or delve into more complex exotic wagers like exactas, trifectas, and superfectas.

I keep it simple and use gut instinct and the color of the horse to make my bets. I typically pick the win, place, or show option when placing my bet.

Wagering Windows: Strategically located wagering windows and self-service terminals make it convenient for racegoers to place their bets.

Friendly and knowledgeable staff are on hand to assist with any questions or guidance, ensuring a seamless betting experience for both newcomers and seasoned bettors. 

They keep the line moving, so have your bet ready before you reach the window. If you need tips about placing a bet, consider checking out the program book available at the track or research horse betting beforehand.

Visiting Tampa Bay Downs wouldn't be complete without placing a friendly wager!  The photo shows people lined up to place a bet at the ticket window.

Handicapping Assistance: For those looking to enhance their handicapping skills, Tampa Bay Downs provides resources such as program guides, past performance information, and expert tips.

Whether you rely on your intuition or prefer a more analytical approach, the track equips you with the tools to make informed betting decisions.

Interactive Atmosphere: The atmosphere at the betting windows is lively and interactive, creating a sense of camaraderie among fellow bettors.

As horses thunder down the stretch, the cheers and groans add excitement, turning each bet into a shared experience.

Jockeys riding their horse on a dirt race track during the day.

Tampa Bay Downs: More than just Horse Racing

Beyond the thundering hooves and exhilarating races, Tampa Bay Downs offers a spectrum of activities extending far beyond the horse world. 

Tampa Bay Downs: The Silks Poker Room

While at the track, you are welcome to discover the gaming opulence in The Silks Poker Room. Located on the Grandstand's third floor, it boasts 30 poker tables amidst the excitement of the racetrack. 

The room is fully air-conditioned and offers high-stakes action poker, no-limit games, and daily tournaments. Pamper yourself with table-side service and in-house massages. 

With daily promotions and a view of the racetrack finish line from almost every table, The Silks Poker Room combines luxury, entertainment, and the thrill of the game. 

person holding playing cards beside poker chips

Tampa Bay Downs: The Downs Golf Practice Facility

Experience golf excellence at The Downs Golf Practice Facility, which features 40+ hitting locations, two chipping greens, and a full-size putting green.

There is also a fully stocked Pro Shop that offers top-notch gear, stylish apparel, and accessories. 

Elevate your game with PGA Instructors, personalized Club Fitting, and a Club Repair Center for all your maintenance needs.

The facility is also your go-to destination for refining skills, getting expert guidance, and enjoying a seamless golfing experience. Swing by for a round of improvement! 

Person wearing purple and white shoes and white pants getting ready to putt a white golf ball.

Nearby Accommodations and Parking

If you're traveling from out of town, consider staying in the surrounding area of Florida's West Coast. Numerous accommodation options around Tampa Bay Downs range from budget-conscious to luxury for your convenience. 

Use the map below to find hotel options near the Tampa Bay Downs:

Regarding parking, Tampa Bay Downs has ample facilities to accommodate visitors. Be sure to arrive early to secure a good spot on live race days.

FAQ's: Visiting Tampa Bay Downs

Where is Tampa Bay Downs located?

Tampa Bay Downs is at 11225 Race Track Road, Tampa, Florida. It's conveniently situated and easily accessible, offering parking for guests.

What are the cost considerations for visiting Tampa Bay Downs?

While costs can vary, Tampa Bay Downs typically offers a range of pricing options for different seating areas and special events.

It's recommended to check their official website or contact them directly for the most accurate and up-to-date pricing information.

What is the racing season calendar?

The racing season calendar provides information about the scheduled races and events at Tampa Bay Downs. Live racing usually takes place from late November through early May; on most other days of the year, you can catch simulcast races. 

Winning horse and jockey after a race at the Tampa Bay Downs. Jockey  in a magenta and yellow jersey and horse have a large flowery prize draped over the jockey's lap.

Final Thoughts: Visting Tampa Bay Downs

The conclusion of your visit to Tampa Bay Downs is not just the end of a day at the races—it's a culmination of thrilling moments, shared cheers, and perhaps a triumphant wager. 

Every element converges, from the thundering hooves on the track to the strategic bets placed at the windows, to create an unforgettable experience.

Tampa Bay Downs promises a vibrant and memorable experience for horse racing fans. It's a destination that encapsulates the excitement, glamour, and fun of live horse racing. 

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Tampa Bay Downs: Tips to Know Before you Go. Winning horse and jockey after a race at the Tampa Bay Downs. Jockey  in a magenta and yellow jersey and horse have a large flowery prize draped over the jockey's lap.
What to expect while visiting Tampa Day Downs, Tampa, FL.  Three images: Winning horse/jockey, horse being prepped for race and horses lined up in the parade of horses.
Your Guide to Horse Racing at Tampa Bay Downs. Image of the grandstand and benches in front of it.

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