If you’re looking for a unique day trip that’s close to home, with fun and exciting options for both kids and adults alike and a bevy of special events held throughout the season, then you may want to head to Oceanport…where it’s off to the races! That’s where you’ll find the beautiful and historic Monmouth Park, long known as “The Shore’s Greatest Stretch” since it was first established in 1870.
Unlike many other horse racetracks – and even though its core business is gambling — Monmouth Park prides itself on being an affordable, family-friendly entertainment destination that makes a great “vacation for a day.” In addition to various eateries throughout the park, there is a large picnic area where families can bring their own lunches and grab a table. There’s a playground for kids. Every Sunday throughout the season, which runs this year from Opening Day on Saturday, May 14 through Closing Day on Sunday, September 25, is Family Fun Day, with pony rides, face painters, clowns, live music, and a bounce house. The free festivities go from 12:00 to 4:00 p.m.
The season boasts a diverse, packed schedule of events, with pretty much every weekend from Memorial Day through Labor Day hosting something new and offering inexpensive and fun family entertainment. In May, you’ll find Mom’s Day, Preakness Stakes Day, and the hugely popular Jersey Shore Food Truck Festival. Among the June events, there are Monmouth Park Kids’ Club, Scarlet Knights Saturday, Belmont Stakes Day, the 46th Annual Irish Festival, Father’s Day, and the delicious Wine & Chocolate Festival. July brings July 4 Holiday Racing, Budweiser Clydesdales Day, the Haskell Classic Car Show & Oldies Day, the Surf & Turf Seafood Festival, Monmouth Park Kids’ Club, Joes vs. Jocks Mini Golf Festival, Ladies’ Day, and the famous $1,000,000 Haskell Invitational. In August, come for the Italian Festival, Kortney’s Challenge & Food Bank Day, Monmouth Park Kids’ Club, Latin Fiesta, FNTSY Football Weekend, the New Jersey Thoroughbred Festival, BBQ & Craft Beer Festival, and Food Trucktoberfest. In addition, there are contests and giveaways on various dates.
Another attraction on the grounds is Bluegrass Mini Golf, scheduled to open for the 2016 season in early May, weather permitting. Please call for hours at (732) 587-8062. The last game starts 45 minutes prior to park closing. The price is $8 for adults, $7 for children age 12 and under, and free for children age four and under when accompanied by an adult. For details, visit www.bluegrassminigolf.com.
Horse lovers will certainly want to get up early to check out the popular Dawn Patrol program, held on Saturdays and Sundays starting at 8:00 a.m., June through August (except Haskell Day, July 31). Visitors can get an inside look at what racing’s all about, from the morning to the afternoon. Come for an insider’s tour of the backstretch, starting gate, and jockey’s room, and learn all about the life of the Thoroughbred racehorse, including training programs and equipment, feed programs, and a variety of other topics. This is a terrific program for kids and adults alike, and it’s free, but reservations are required. Call (732) 571-5542 to hold your space.
And what about the races? There’s no denying the rush of excitement that comes with seeing those magnificent horses and their talented jockeys bursting from the starting line and bolting swiftly around the track, vying for the first place finish to the cheers of the crowd. Unlike casinos, Monmouth Park does not root for their guests to lose; in fact, they root for you to win. Their proceeds come from a small percentage of every bet, regardless of which horse wins.
For the first two and last three weekends of the season, Monmouth Park is open on Saturday and Sunday; they’re open Friday through Sunday in between. Gates open daily at 11:30 a.m. and the first exciting race is at 12:50 p.m. Depending on the day, there are 10 to 12 races, with the last race running around 5:00 or 6:00 p.m. General parking is just $5 and general admission is just $5 for adults. Children age 12 and under are always free. The park always offers attractive options for groups, fundraisers, corporate events, and more.
Many people in the area associate Monmouth Park with good memories, and that tradition is something they’re very proud of. The horses are beautiful. The races are thrilling. The events are amazing. The atmosphere is clean, safe, friendly, and fun. It’s a very special place, and deserving of a place in the winner’s circle of day trip ideas.
For more information, go to www.monmouthpark.com or call (732) 222-5100. Monmouth Park is located at 175 Oceanport Avenue, Oceanport, NJ 07757.