Speaking purely about the horse racing, The Cheltenham Festival really is the pinnacle of National Hunt Racing and if you're basing your decision whether to attend based on the racing alone, there really is nowhere better than The Festival in March.
However, the venue... Not so good. The following review is based on the premise of attending on a major race day as I did on Gold Cup Day.
First of all there's the location. If you're arriving at the races by car, work out the journey time on Google Maps or such like... then add 90 mins. No-one could possibly expect there not to be traffic issues with a venue capacity of 50k+, and the course is hardly to blame for the town layout but put simply, the town cannot cope with that amount of coaches and cars and it descends into an M25-esque gridlock on departure and arrival. We gave up on our bus and walked the last mile after a 40 mile journey clicked past the 2.5hrs mark. Not the venue's fault per-say, but it's an undeniable factor in how much you will enjoy the day.
The venue itself is very much along the lines of any other large racecourse. Attendees generally segregated into two classes of badge holders with the better badges gaining access to certain areas that others cannot. Eateries range from mobile burger vans through to sit-down options that (understandably) charge an arm and a leg. The bars are relatively spread out but still struggle immensely to cope with demand. If you go to the bar, expect a wait time to get served of 20mins or more at times and be aware that the bars do not let you carry alcohol back out into the racecourse open areas! This is very poorly advertised and we saw countless people emerging with 2-3 people carrying drinks for 8-12 people but being turned back. Poor mobile signals in the area clearly resulted in many people not being able to alert their friends and simply wasting their money. Very disappointing.
The general décor and layout is very much of the 70's and 80's and the course wins no awards for style or aesthetic design. But it's functional and easy to navigate.
Prices are what you'd expect. They're pricey compared to day to day prices but nothing more than what you'd be charged at a football/rugby match or any other racecourse. Variety of drinks on offer is poor, but this again is common at major sporting events. They need to sell quantity, not variety and the venue can't be blamed for this.
The viewing grandstand is fine in the premium badge areas, but let down slightly in the next grade down with obscured views and the horses only becoming plainly visible in the final furlong and a half. The main issue with the grandstand in both areas is it becomes massively overcrowded. You are crunched in to the point where moving your arms sufficiently to read the race card is difficult and anyone uncomfortable in confined spaces would struggle exceedingly!
In summary, as I said at the beginning, in sole regards to the quality of the racing, The Cheltenham Festival is the horse racing equivalent to The World Cup or Wimbledon and worth attending if only to tick it off on your life's 'to-do' list. However the venue and management let's the event down. Put simply, the course lets in too many people. If as they say 55'000 people attend on Gold Cup day then that figure should be reduced by roughly 5'000 -10'000.
An otherwise great day is let down by massive over-crowding, and a very poorly advertised policy on where you can and cannot take drinks. The venue may cite these issues as things a major event has as run of the mill. However Arc day at Longchamps in Paris, Wimbledon and Test Matches cope much better with these sorts of numbers than Cheltenham racecourse does.
As a supplementary note: If you're travelling in a large group, be aware mobile signals at the course can just disappear due to rural location. Make sure you have an agreed meeting point in the event of being separated.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.