Being handed the job of organising a hen do may seem like a daunting task. Thankfully though, there have never been so many options from which to select. From a straightforward night out on the town to afternoon teas, spa days and a whole load of other options, there is a hen do to suit all tastes.
Another option to add to that list is that of a Ladies Day at the races. An increasingly popular hen do choice, the glamour, party atmosphere, and excitement of Ladies Day regularly prove a huge hit with those preparing to tie the knot – whether they be ardent racing fans, or struggle to identify one end of a horse from the other.
There will, of course, be horses and betting present, though the latter is definitely optional. But, really, Ladies Day is all about dressing up, having a few drinks, watching some entertainment and generally having a whale of a time. All in all, it adds up to a pretty solid recipe for a hen do to remember.
The picturesque setting of the racecourse provides the stage for Ladies Day, with a standard race meeting featuring between six and eight thrilling races at intervals of around 30 minutes. Throw in a selection of bars, numerous catering options, betting facilities, and a thronging crowd, and you have everything you need for an exciting afternoon to celebrate those hen do festivities.
What makes Ladies Day different from your standard racing fixture is the firm focus placed upon style and additional entertainment. On top of the racing, many Ladies Days feature live music – sometimes from a big-name act – and an after-party.
The food and drinks options meanwhile are also ramped up a notch when compared to a run-of-the-mill racing fixture. Bubbles, bubbles, and more bubbles are to be found at dedicated Champagne and Prosecco bars at certain tracks, with other venues adding gin and cocktail outlets to the mix.
Then, of course, we have the fashion. Those in attendance invariably take the opportunity to pick out their most glamorous dress, spectacular shoes, and scene-stealing hat or fascinator, adding a glorious dose of glitz to the stands. The gentlemen in evidence at least attempt to match strides with the large female attendance, and can generally be spotted sporting their finest suits and slickest shoes.
In addition to looking and feeling wonderful, you may also be rewarded for your elegance at a Ladies Day. Almost all Ladies Days will offer a “Best Dressed Competition” dishing out prizes ranging from bottles of bubbly, significant cash sums (£5,000 and more at the very biggest events), overnight stays, and even holidays in Dubai.
One final note on your choice of attire, do remember to check with the track in advance should you plan to arrive in fancy dress. Most tracks will permit fancy dress – so long as it doesn’t step over the line of indecency – but may only allow it in specified areas of the course.
Wherever they take place, Ladies Days are amongst the most popular racing fixtures of the entire season, both with regular racegoers, and those celebrating a special occasion. Attend any Ladies Day and you are likely to spot at least one hen do in the crowd.
The quickest and easiest way in which to purchase tickets is via the website of the track you intend to visit. A quick online search will soon have you at the site you require. The exact range of ticketing options will vary from track to track, but most courses feature three broad options:
Do note that the above prices are guidelines only. Expect to pay a premium at the very biggest meetings, or those featuring live music from a big-name act.
Exactly which type of ticket you go for will depend upon a combination of your budget and the preferences of your group. Whatever your choice, always be on the lookout for group discount deals. Many tracks will lower the price per head for parties of ten or more, and occasionally even offer hen do-specific deals.
These packages will usually be visible in the ticketing section of a track’s website, but if not, it never hurts to contact the track directly via email or telephone to enquire about any deals they have available.
At any Ladies Day fixture, the main aim is to enjoy the atmosphere, facilities, food and of course drink. Whether or not you wish to enhance the entertainment with a few bets on the racing action is entirely up to you. Some in your party may wish to sample the traditional racecourse experience of placing a bet in the betting ring with one of the on-course bookmakers – a process no more complicated than approaching your bookmaker of choice, naming the horse you wish to bet on and how much you would like to stake.
Alternatively, many hen parties like to pool their funds and place a bet as a group; a popular option being that of a tote bet or a multiple bet, such as a Lucky 15. These bets can be placed before the start of the first race, and give you an interest in the action, whilst leaving you free to enjoy the other race-day entertainment. And, who knows, should your luck be in, you may even have some winnings to collect at the end of it all – helping to replenish the essential bubbly and cocktails fund.
Whilst all 59 racecourses on the British mainland offer at least one Ladies Day throughout the season, there are a few factors to consider when zeroing in on your choice. Firstly, you may wish to prioritise those courses in the vicinity of a major city or town ahead of more remote rural venues. Whilst the day itself at a countryside track will most likely be excellent, such a location may have its disadvantages in terms of post-race entertainment, and accommodation – should any of your party wish to stay over the night before or after racing.
Also, remember to factor in the time of year. Racecourses aren’t immune to the wonderful British weather and, whilst the rain needn’t spoil your fun, particularly inclement conditions may see the race day cancelled entirely. This is a relatively infrequent occurrence, but still not something you want to be sweating over in the run-up to the big day.
Many Ladies Days take place during the warmer months of the year, in which case, this needn’t prove an issue. However, if planning a hen do for January or February in particular, you may wish to consider the excellent all-weather tracks of Chelmsford, Kempton, Lingfield, Newcastle, Southwell and Wolverhampton. With all that said, we now present our top five tracks for those seeking an excellent Ladies Day hen do experience.
Where better to begin than at the home of the Grand National – the most famous race in Britain if not the world? Boasting top-class facilities, with ticketing options to suit all budgets, a cracking day out is all but guaranteed at a venue with a strong Scouse flavour.
What really sells Aintree as a great option for a hen do, is the proximity of the track to the city of Liverpool. Under six miles from the heart of the city centre, and well connected by both road and rail, many hen parties head into Liverpool following the racing to keep the party going at the Albert Docks or on Hardman Street.
Twenty-five miles to the south of Liverpool lies the beautiful city of Chester. Steeped in history, Chester’s compact city centre is crammed with wonderful architecture and places of note. Possibly of more interest to hen parties is the excellent selection of pubs and bars, from swish cocktail bars to traditional pubs and lively nightclubs, there is something to suit all tastes.
Slap bang in the middle of all that is Chester Racecourse itself. One of the oldest and most distinctive in the land, the track could scarcely be more conveniently located and, happily for Ladies Day lovers, it stages four separate Ladies Days across the spring and summer months.
Regularly voted as one of the UK’s number one party destinations, Newcastle is hugely popular with both stag and hen dos, thanks to the elegant views and drinking establishments of the Quayside, the TV-famous Diamond Strip, and the legendary Bigg Market.
The city also boasts an excellent racecourse in the scenic Gosforth Park, just five and a half miles from the vibrant nightlife of the city centre. Thanks to its all-weather surface, the track stages meetings right throughout the year. Don’t let the northeast location put you off a trip to “The Toon” as Newcastle Central Train Station enjoys strong links with most areas of the country.
Another top-class race-day/city break combo is provided by the wonderful walled city of York. Home to a whole host of tourist attractions, including the famed shambles, York also boasts more than enough clubs and bars to facilitate even the most ambitious of post-race pub crawls. As for the track itself, it is quite simply the best in the north of England bar none, with stunning grandstands and a huge variety of food and drink options. Only around a mile from York City centre, the racecourse is ideally located for those looking to head into city after the last race.
Located in Suffolk, the exceptional course of Newmarket is known in racing circles as the home of flat racing. A lofty title, but one which the track more than lives up to, thanks to its outstanding facilities, large capacity, and high-end race day experience. With many of the main meetings – including Ladies Day – taking place during the summer months, there is also a fair chance that the track will be bathed in sunshine during your visit. Post racing options include the small but bustling town of Newmarket itself, or a night out in classy Cambridge, which is only a 20-minute train ride away.
Finally, when planning a Ladies Day hen do, it is, of course, rather handy to know where your nearest tracks are located and when they hold their Ladies Day events. The below table list all 59 racetracks by region, and details when they traditionally hold their Ladies Days.
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