There is something incredibly exciting about seeing beautiful animal athletes compete in a track race. Maybe that's why there were so many people at the track this Saint Patrick's Day, even at the risk of missing out on the world's shortest St. Paddy's Parade in downtown Hot Springs. We have been to Oaklawn several times and always try to come at least once during the season, which lasts from mid-January to mid-April. We bet sparingly but often, which contributes to the excitement, but even small children love seeing the horses race and going down to the paddock to see them up close. If you go, especially when there are stakes races or the Arkansas Derby, you will really need to get reserved seats in the enclosed stadium ahead of time. Good seating goes fast, and unless you have a box or want to stand (or sit) outside at the track (this gets crowded fast), you will need to reserve (you can do it online). This cost is additional to the general admission fee. For those of you who enjoy spending the day at the track, there are some decent restaurants and concessions, including sit-down restaurants, and a great Oyster Bar. There is of course a good deal of beer and other forms of alcohol available: try out the Arkansas Sports Tavern, which has one of my favorite waitresses, the diminutive Ellen. I believe she gives me good luck. Should you wish to place a bet, the cashiers could not be more helpful, efficient and courteous and there are a lot of windows. The grandstand could, however, use more ATM machines, but maybe they are trying to limit the availability of cash to those who might have a gambling problem. There's also a "Gaming Room" /Casino (for over 21 only) that is open year-round from 10 a.m. to 4 a.m., and an extra hour on Friday and Saturday night. My advice is to leave your car at the hotel and take a taxi or a shuttle; traffic is horrendous at peak times, but sometimes if it's very crowded, the shuttles also get overcrowded with testy folks who have imbibed a bit at the track. So be prepared. There are a number of good restaurants now in Hot Springs, besides those at the track. If hearing the phrase, "And they're off" is one of the more thrilling phrases you like to hear, this experience can be thoroughly enjoyable, especially at non-peak times. We're sorry we're missing the Derby, but we'll be back next year.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.