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  • Chrissy Somers

Day Trippin' in Arlington Heights, IL

Updated: Apr 30, 2021

45 minutes Northeast of Geneva is the lovely town of Arlington Heights, known best for Arlington Park Racetrack. Pack some lunches and bring some betting money… Giddy up… we’re DAY TRIPPIN’ to Arlington Heights!

I’m not much of a gambler and my knowledge of proper horse bets spans as far as the horse name I like best in any given race, but I still LOVE going to Arlington Park Racetrack. The energy and vibe is always so thrilling (and the drinks ain’t so bad either)!

I’m all about a fun time on a low budget. That being said, this trip certainly isn’t free, but you CAN make it a cheapone!

TOTAL COST OF TRIP: $136.80(includes $52 for betting and booze money at Arlington, and a sit down restaurant after with beers)

STOP 1: Arlington Park

  • COST: (When purchased in advance online for a weekend race) $8 per adult, $4 per child four years and older, FREE for kids three and under, $8 for a large cooler… $40 betting money… $12 for two beers

  • HOURS: Gates open an hour and twenty minutes before the first post: 12:00p for us

  • ADDRESS: 2200 W. Euclid Avenue, Arlington Heights, IL 60005

Pony up and live a little! A day at the races is fun for adults... a day at the races on SUNDAYS is fun FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY!

My husband and I both grew up in the northwest suburbs of Chicago (he in Palatine, I in Roselle), so we’ve been to Arlington Park a LOT, both with and without kiddos. Six years ago, our trips to Arlington Park looked MUCH different than they do now… like, REALLY different, but I digress.

Arlington Park is open from May 4 to September 22 this year. Races occur most Thursdays and every Friday through Sunday rain or shine, Sunday being the BEST day to go for a family as it is Family Day (and the worst if you want this to be a kid-free trip). If you want to get all dressed up Preakness-style, you should plan to attend Arlington for the 36th Running of the Arlington Millionon August 11. This is Illinois’s version of the Kentucky Derby, so bust out that seersucker suit and those fancy fascinators! The show is just as much in the stands as it is on the track!

We walked in the park right when they opened at noon, grabbed a section of benches in “The Park” (what they call the general admission seating area), parked our cooler, and began lathering everyone up in sunscreen (again, SOOOO different than our visits “back in the day”). Keep in mind that general admission seats are beaten by the elements (sun, rain, wind). If you want something more protected, opt for the slightly pricier Box Seats.

I pick my horses by their names... Race 1, self-explanatory.... Race 4, my friend's name is Vanessa. It's science. Real technical and stuff.

We packed the cooler with lunches, lots of drinks, and lots of snacks, but made sure to leave the Blue Moon, Jack Daniels, and other glass containers and alcohol at home. Darn rules. Coolers and cooler bags are welcome but will be charged a fee of either $5 or $8 depending on size. NOTE: If you get Box Seats, coolers are prohibited. If you don’t want to worry about lugging around a cooler, no worries! There is a food court with plenty of options inside and LOADS of bars and bar carts throughout the park. You’ll still be able to get your drink on, friends (some of you more than others depending on how much you win or lose).

Because Sundays are Family Days at Arlington Park, the Junior Jockey Zone is open on the east side of the park. You can buy an early entry pass for $6 per kid, but we knew we had several hours at Arlington and didn’t want to waste the money. Yes, I made my kids wait in semi-long lines for pony rides. #MeanMommy. Shorter lines existed for all the other fun Junior Jockey Zone things like the petting zoo, coloring/crafting area, games, activities, and other vendor booths with freebies.

The first race started at 1:20, so we made sure to head back to our seats and get our bets in before post time. My husband and I typically bring $20 each to bet with. Again, we aren’t gamblers but it is SO MUCH fun when you win (I once left $60 ahead just by letting my daughter choose the color of the jockey’s silks… I gave her a marginal cut of the winnings)! Typically, there are eight or so races with 30 minutes between each race, so budget wisely if you’re going there with only a few bucks.

Getting these goggles MADE. THEIR. DAY. Of course, sharing was an issue [insert eyeroll here].

HELPFUL TIP FOR THOSE WITH KIDS: On Sundays after each race, the winning jockeys give away two pairs of racing goggles to kiddos that are waiting down by the entrance to the track.

After several hours of ponying up and losing it all, and visiting the Junior Jockey Zone every half hour, we decided to head out for some dinner!

STOP 2: Dinner at Peggy Kinane's in downtown Arlington Heights

  • COST: $56.80

  • HOURS: Each day varies, Sunday hours: 10:00am - 1:00am

  • ADDRESS: 8 N. Vail Avenue, Arlington Heights, IL 60005

Downtown Arlington Heights is SUPER cute with loads of restaurants and chic little storefronts. BONUS: it’s less than ten minutes from Arlington Park! Peggy Kinane’s is a little cheaper than some of the other area restaurants, so it was our first choice.

Two beers, two kids meals, a BBQ Chicken Quesadilla, and a Shanghai Chicken Salad later, we were ready to drive back home. We made sure to leave our waitress a HEALTHY tip for serving two tired parents, two crabby kids, and a fussy babe.

STOP 3: Burn that last bit of energy at the AWESOME playground at Lake Arlington

  • COST: $0.00

  • HOURS: Dawn - Dusk

  • ADDRESS: 2201 N. Windsor, Arlington Heights, IL 60005

Take in the sites of this beautiful 50-acre detention lake. Normally, you can rent sailboats or pedal boats, but due to the pandemic, renting equipment is currently unavailable.

There is a two mile walking path, sheltered picnic area, an outdoor bathroom, fishing, and a very cool playground that looks more like a ropes course!


Legoland Discovery Center | Schaumburg, IL | This indoor two-story playground features MILLIONS of LEGO bricks, interactive exhibits, play areas, and several opportunities to engage in some STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) activities.

Chicago Athenaeum Sculpture Park | Schaumburg, IL | With over 20 sculptures and works of art in this park, the most visited and photographed is 'The Muse', a 40-foot long woman who seems to be blanketed in the grass she is positioned upon. Stand in her hand and you may hear her whisper inspiration into your ear.

Pirate's Cove Children's Theme Park | Elk Grove, IL | This theme park was designed for kiddos between 1 and 9 years old, with hands-on activities and pirate-themed entertainment (opening Memorial Day Weekend 2021).

Once the kids’ butts hit their carseats, they were OUT like a light. Quiet car rides home after a long, fun day in the sun is a WIN in my book.

Was this article helpful for planning your trip? Is there something I missed that you think other readers need to know? I’d love to hear about it! If you go to Arlington Park, shoot a message to

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