Photos by Aaron S. Terry, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.00
Colonial Downs 10515 Colonial Downs Pkwy New Kent, VA 23124
Year Opened: 1997
Colonial Downs is located in New Kent, VA not far from Colonial Williamsburg, and re-opened for Thoroughbred racing in 2019 after a 5-year hiatus from the sport. The facility is part of the same complex as Rosie’s Gaming Emporium casino and offers both a dirt track as well as two turf courses. Horse racing is only available in the summer months (July through early September).
Food & Beverage 5
There is plenty of food on offer at Colonial Downs, including full bars on each level of the clubhouse, a full-size restaurant called Rosie’s Kitchen inside the casino (ground level, featuring such items as burgers, flatbread pizzas, and chicken or fish sandwiches), a buffet on the third floor of the clubhouse (included as part of the ticket price for that level), food for purchase on the fourth floor of the clubhouse, and multiple options outside next to the track.
The options outside include a smoked sausage stand, a fresh-squeezed lemonade stand, two bars, and a food truck serving up boozy ice cream drinks. There are also additional food options, sans any alcohol, available in the family zone section on the right-hand side facing the clubhouse.
The staff at Colonial Downs pull out all the stops even on days when there are no major stakes races – the amenities include a jet flyover following the National Anthem, a bouncy house and petting zoo with pony rides set up for the kids, free stuffed animal horses for the little ones, myriad betting stations so there is never a wait if you want to have a flyer, multiple horse statues on the grounds in case you want to take selfies, and almost every seat outside is undercover, to protect fans from the elements.
There are also plenty of places to watch the races from; you can stand up close next to the rail or sit at one of the many picnic tables and watch while you eat. Or, of course, if you are willing to spend a little more on tickets you can sit in air-conditioned comfort on the third or fourth level of the clubhouse.
There is not much within close distance of Colonial Downs – there is a gas station with a Dairy Queen on the periphery of the property, but not much else. There is a golf course to the south of the track with lots of nice houses abutting it; in fact, the main entrance to the track is shared by those residents. There are some restaurants and hotels a few miles away if you want to stay near the track, but the big attraction of course is Colonial Williamsburg, about half an hour away. However, there are so many dining options at Colonial Downs itself that you likely won’t need anything else during your visit.
Colonial Downs has pretty good attendance during most race days, and you will see plenty of people there with children. As with most horse racing courses, there is not much crowd noise except at the end of each race, when you will hear a few folks enthusiastically cheering on the horse of their choice.
Getting to Colonial Downs is pretty easy, as it is not far from I-64 and 1-95, the two main arteries taking people to the bigger cities north, south, and west. Once you get on the property there is free parking right next to the facility, but you may want to arrive early, as the closest spaces tend to fill up fast.
There is a slight delay getting inside the clubhouse, as they do check IDs to make sure you are 21 – kids are allowed trackside, but you must be 21 or older to bet or to enter the casino and clubhouse. I didn’t see any kids inside, so it isn’t clear to me whether an adult has to go inside to buy tickets while the kids wait outside, or if there is a separate waiting area inside where children are allowed.
Once at the track itself, there is plenty of room to move around and more than enough seating to accommodate the crowd size. There are chairback seats as well as chairback benches, depending on your preference, and there are escalators inside if you have tickets for the third or fourth level.
Return on Investment 5
General admission seating is free at Colonial Downs, or you can pay a little extra for better seats outside ($5 to $40 each). Tickets inside the clubhouse are $75 each, but you must buy them in sets of at least four – food is included with tickets on the third level (buffet style), although you have to buy your drinks; only water is included in the base price.
Tickets on the fourth level are also $75 each, again purchased in sets of at least four, and although the fourth floor has better seats, the food is not included there. However, since you can watch for free if you choose, seeing the races at Colonial Downs represents a great return on investment, given the free parking and all the great amenities.
The horse statue in the main parking lot is of Secretariat, and there are other horse statues on the property as well. The facility also offers some great views, such as the fountain and pond in the infield, and is well kept up both outside and in. There is no gift shop on the property, however, so there isn’t a way to grab any souvenirs of your visit.
I would recommend a visit to Colonial Downs – this is a very upscale track without the upscale prices you may see at other tracks. In addition, the facility is very easy to get to for many people on the eastern seaboard, so it will be easy to plan a visit.