Out and About: Golden Gate Fields’ Dollar Day


Golden Gate Fields is the best Bay Are spot for horse racing since the closure of Bay Meadows. (Blair Hardee)

For some, traveling across the Bay can be a pain. There’s the bridge, the traffic, and the unfamiliarity of the East Bay freeways. There is one thing that can always get me over there though, and that’s Dollar Day.

For those of you who don’t know, there’s a horse track in Berkeley called Golden Gate Fields. They have live racing starting on Thursday and continuing throughout the weekend, but if you wait until Sunday you can really save a few bucks.

Sunday is Dollar Day, and that means admission, parking, hot dogs, soda and beer (for those of you over 21) all cost one dollar each. That means you can get a full day of entertainment for less than $10 (not including any money you may want to responsibly gamble).

It’s true that putting in a wager or two makes the races a little more exciting, but you don’t have to break the bank to do that either. You can bet as little as $2 that a certain horse will win, and depending on the odds, you may be able to double or even triple your money. Betting is done electronically now (which is good because with so many kiosks, the lines aren’t bad), so you find a station to put your money on a voucher and use that instead of cash for the day.

The computers may seem a little complicated at first, but it’s really as simple as putting in your voucher, picking the track (you can choose Golden Gate Fields or bet on many other tracks across the country from the same computer), and choosing a horse. The odds are all displayed on the left side of the screen next to the horse’s name (keep in mind these odds continuously change up until post time), so you know who looks good and who doesn’t look so good.

Even if you decide not to gamble, it’s easy to get excited watching the races. There are usually eight races total, all complete with a fast-talking British commentator to keep you updated on who’s in front. The crowd always gets worked up into a frenzy when the horses round the last corner, and that’s always entertaining too.

If you feel like exploring more of Golden Gate Fields, they have a club level (an extra $2 on Dollar Day) and the Turf Club, which is a more exclusive and slightly more expensive area. It’s $12 per person on Dollar Day (advance reservations required), and you get access to nicer seats and better food. If that’s something you may be interested in, but you must keep the dress code in mind. To enter the Turf Club, they strongly discourage wearing sweat pants, t-shirts, baseball hats, or flip flops. They do not allow shorts, tank tops or clothing with offensive logos. They suggest men wear slacks or “stylish denim,” and women wear dresses. Those awesome, extravagant floppy hats are also allowed for women.

Whether you decide to stay in the lower stands and have a fun, inexpensive day out, or you decide to be a little fancier and visit the Turf Club, Golden Gate Fields is always a win. Just keep the gambling in check and you’re sure to leave with a smile on your face.