Going to the race track is a favorite California pastime that offers so much more than a place to wager on your favorite thoroughbred. Between famous tracks like Santa Anita and the extensive California Fair Circuit up and down the coast, opportunities to enjoy horse racing are as vast as the horses themselves.

CALIFORNIA STATE FAIR 

This fair in the California state capital offers three weeks of live horse racing that started on July 8 and continues through July 24. Visitors can also enjoy special events including:

  • Best of California Brewfest, July 16
  • The Governor’s Cup Stakes Race, July 23
  • Cornhole Championship, July 23 

SANTA ANITA 

Santa Anita is synonymous with horse racing in Southern California. Live Summer racing wraps up on Sunday, July 10, with special events including poster signing with Hall of Famers Gary Stevens and Mike Smith on an exclusive poster featuring champion mare Beholder and undefeated filly Songbird.

Racing fans also head to Santa Anita November 4 and 5 for The Breeders’ Cup World Championships, one of the year’s most important races.

DEL MAR 

The 2016 season starts at Del Mar on Friday, July 15 and ends Monday, September 5. Can’t miss dates include July 23, when California Chrome is set to race at the San Diego Handicap, and November 11 to December 4, for the Bing Crosby Meet.

Several on-site restaurants while keep your energy level up while you watch the races. And Del Mar is the place to be at week’s end for Friday night post-race concerts featuring popular acts including Fitz and the Tantrums, Ziggy Marley, Chris Young, and Chromeo.

SONOMA COUNTY FAIR 

What could be better than horse racing in the Wine Country? The Sonoma Country Fair offers live thoroughbred racing from July 28–31, Aug 4–7, and a bonus, post-fair week Aug 12–14 on a dirt track as well as Northern California’s only fair turf track. Trackside and paddock-view dining makes horse racing even more enjoyable.

LOS ALAMITOS

Located in the Orange County city of Cypress, the famed Los Alamitos offers thoroughbred and Quarter Horse racing, and is home to several races worth a purse of at least $1 million:

  • The $1 California Breeders Champions Night coming up on July 30
  • The Ed Burke Million Futurity, which was held on June 19
  • Golden State Million Futurity on October 30
  • Los Alamitos Super Derby on November 6l and Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity on December 11

Los Alamitos Race Course’s most famous race is the $750,000 Champion of Champions, which will be held on December 10. This prestigious race typically crowns the American Quarter Horse Racing Association’s World Champion.

Los Alamitos’ upscale Vessels Club, $10 million restaurant enclosed in glass, is the prime spot to enjoy fine dining while at the track.

HUMBOLDT COUNTY FAIR 

Six days of live racing captivate horseracing fans at the Humboldt Country Fair from Friday, August 19 to Sunday, August 28.

GOLDEN GATE FIELDS 

Considered the premier horse racing spot in the Bay Area, Golden Gate Fields offers summer racing from August 19 to September 18.

From its Berkeley location, the destination has been exciting guests with thoroughbred racing since 1941. The Turf Club is the site of elegant meals and rich appointments including Tiffany style lights, Hermés and Gucci equine scarves, and leather furnishings, plus a tribute to Sprinter of 2005 Lost In The Fog and a memory art wall.

Its location at the apex of Golden Gate Fields, the theater-style seating, and the wall of glass provide an incomparable setting. The views are equally inspiring, of both the race tracks and Bay Area landmarks such as the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, and the San Francisco skyline.

Golden Gate Fields offers several other tasty places to eat, including stadium fare at the Horseman’s Circle in the Club House, Tastes of Italy on the track level, and a full bar at Paddock Pub and Circle Bar.

THE BIG FRESNO FAIR 

Racing at the Big Fresno Fair has been going on since the 1940s, and is typically the last of the California fairs during the year. Racing takes place from October 6–16.

Favorite spots to enjoy the action include the Luxury Deck, with panoramic views and buffet meals, and the Turf Club, with a private bar and numerous TVs showing races from across the country.

STRIDERS 

Striders is downtown San Diego’s first and only high-end horse betting club and lounge, with California cuisine, craft and local beers, handcrafted cocktails, and more than 100 televisions to watch the races.