The Melbourne Cup Carnival ends with Stakes Day – the ‘Family Day’ of the Festival. A slightly more chilled out vibe and lots of family friendly activities make this day lots of fun for all ages.
When: Saturday 10 November 2012 (click here for our 2013 post)
Where: Flemington Race Course, 448 Epsom Road, Flemington VIC 3031
Cost: General admission adult $55, children under 15 free, family pass (2 adults, 2 children 17 and under) $110. Click here for more information. There are further options for Reserved Grandstand Seating, but check the website it’s very detailed. Annual VRC membership fees start at $265, click here for more information. All children’s activities are FREE of charge.
This is my brief summary of the Melbourne Cup Carnival: Darby Day is the day to be seen, Cup Day is crowded, Oaks Day is traditionally for the Ladies (but you could mistake it for Blokes Day) and Stakes Day is the relaxed day – ‘Family Day’.
I have never taken my children to the Races, so this year was a new experience for all of us – and we had a really fun time! A totally different experience to going with a bunch of friends – but a great experience all the same.
[Without wanting to sound up myself, I need to point out that I have always been in the lucky position to attend as a guest of a member, so any views expressed in this review have to take into account my limited knowledge of the trackside extending beyond the Members sections and public areas adjoining.]
So what’s it like with kids?
First – you need to keep your wits about you.. it’s still crowded, busy and noisy (obviously some places worse than others).
Second – there is not going to be lots of standing about idly chatting and sipping champagne.. let’s face it, kids do not want to do that and given the large crowds you can’t really afford to take your eyes off them for more than a few seconds; if you want that kind of day book a babysitter and leave them at home.
Third – Stakes Day offers some fantastic kids activities – but hanging about these areas is a totally different experience to hanging out with a group of friends. If you want to explore a bit then there is a lot of ground to cover so you need to pace yourself and really work out what will realistically work for your family.
Fourth – my lovely friend Bec, who we were the lucky guests of, is a seasoned pro and she came with her stroller, despite her four year old not really needing it (much) and it was an absolute god-send. Naturally a day at the races is like any other day out with kids; we dressed to cater for the 11C and rain (when we left home) through to the 24C and blistering sun (by the time we returned home). We also packed our lunches, water bottles (no alcohol permitted via pedestrian entry gates) and a picnic rug (just in case). Thank goodness for that stroller – it was our transport device for all our crap and, by the end of the outing, Bec’s fading little one.
Finally – just because you’re going with kids doesn’t mean it’s not still about fashion and dressing up.. in fact there is even more dressing up involved with the extra outfits to organise. (Click here to read about the Fashions on the Field at 2012 Stakes Day.)
We were very lucky as the lovely people at Charlie & me offered to dress Immi and Charlie… and how cute are their outfits! I can also report that the clothes have since been washed and they still look brand new. And another note – they both wore their shoes all day for the very first time on Stakes Day and then chose to wear them again all day the next day, clearly they really love them and found them very comfortable.
Imogen wears: Bright Cobalt Sunshine Dream Frill Sleeve Floral Dress $24.50, Hibiscus Retro Sport Short Sleeve Cardigan $22.50, Citrus Sunshine Dream Basic 3/4 Leggings $12.50, Peach Tropical Mix Canvas Bow Ballerina shoe $19.50, Hibiscus Bright Fashion Handbag $12.50, hat is her own.
Charlie wears: Frog Green Marine Adventure Check L/S Shirt $22.50, Frog Green Marine Adventure Coloured Skinny Jeans $29.50, Deep Ocean Beach Club Skate Shoe $24.50, Greystone Marine Adventure Boys Sunglasses UV Category 3 Sunglasses $9.50, hat is his own.
Our Stakes Day involved visiting three areas. The Precinct, The Members Stand and The Nursery. Click here for a map.
The Precinct is accessible to General Admission and Members ticket holders and is very close to the main entrance if you are arriving by train. On Stakes Day the Precinct is free to enter and it is set up specifically for families. There is a huge list of things to do – I have tried to include a photo of most things. The Precinct offers lots of seating areas, good shade cover, food, bar and tote facilities (the tote was subtly tucked away and not very obvious at all).
We started our day in the Precinct arriving at about 10am. Officially this area wasn’t really kicking off till 11am, but everything was set up and pretty much ready to go – so other than a couple of other families, for the first 45 minutes we had the entire space to ourselves! By the time we left this area (just before midday) it was starting to get a little busy with a few queues forming at the activities that were one child at a time. I have heard that by mid afternoon the area is packed – so I highly recommend you turn up early… we ended up featuring in quite a bit of Channel 7’s live telecast too as the camera crews were desperate for some footage of kids doing stuff – my girlfriend and her little one were even interviewed in the animal nursery which gave us all a giggle.. I have to say standing in an animal nursery petting a goat whilst dressed up in your finest is quite surreal.
Next stop was The Members Stand to see some horses. Whilst we could have made our way right up to the track – with little ones (and a stroller) navigating our way through crowds needed to be limited (mostly for our own sanity) and the Grandstand really offers it all – shaded seating, a great view across the track, amenities and the opportunity to see the horses up close as they are led around the mounting yard. We watched two races, consumed the rest of our lunch and enjoyed a seat – oh and finally the mums had a moment for some champagne.
Once everyone had had enough of watching the races (or crowd watching in my case) and Charlie had done his fourth lap clambering over the seats to the back wall and back (before we got told off) it was time to check out the members kids area, so it was onto The Nursery.
Ahhh so many gorgeous flower beds wherever we went, so many pretty women and girls – it is such a beautiful day! I digress..
Our first glimpse of The Nursery was from the train window on our way into Flemington in the morning – and the sight of the activities was enough to spur everyone on to check this area out. The Nursery family area was in the far corner and consisted of football games, painting activities, bungy trampolines and the biggest jumping castle I have ever seen… it could have been the size of 8 jumping castles joined together.
Given it was now just after 1.30pm this area was pretty busy – The Nursery was fully populated with everyone’s BBQs and luncheons in full swing. The sun had us striping down to our final layers and there were lots of groups strutting their stuff. While the crowd is still largely 18+ it’s lovely to see a sprinkling of children, and over in the family activities area there were lots of kids. We had a go on the giant jumping castle, made a trip to the toilets (where the queues were for the mirrors not the loos!) and bumped into some friends along the way. We gave the bungy trampolines a miss – the queue was rumoured to be 45-60 minute wait.
We finished our day by 3pm and made our way home in an almost empty train (the train to the track at 9.30am had also been empty). Everyone was pretty zonked by the time we sunk into our train seats and it was nice to leave before anyone got ugly (and I am referring to both the crowd in general and the kids).
Finally I have to give full marks to all the staff at the VRC – they were absolutely delightful at every point, from the people manning the activities and rides, the people at the ticket gates, the staff directing the crowds, the people working in the food and drink areas, the entertainers – it was incredibly jolly and civilised throughout and the staff went out of their way to help us and welcome us. Sometimes at big public events when you’re the woman with the pram and kids in tow people can give you a wide berth – it was quite the opposite in this case, we felt very welcomed and had staff go out of their way on multiple occasions – from playing with our children through to minding our stroller, it absolutely made the day that much more enjoyable. Bring on 2013!