Affordable Family Fun – A Night at the Races

This past summer, FM and I hosted our niece at our house for a week during her summer vacation.

We’ve long-planned to have three or maybe even four kids, so the week gave us a taste of life with more than two. All told, things went very well!

Our niece was excited to get a week of relative independence away from home (as much as you can give an 11-year old), our toddler was overjoyed to have another kid around who he could play with, and we were happy to have an extra set of hands around to keep our son occupied and help out with tending to the baby, making meals, and getting household chores done.

One of the potential challenges that we had anticipated in advance was that we’d need to find a way to keep a pre-teen entertained and engaged during her time with us. In her frugal wisdom, FM took it upon herself to do some advanced scouting by researching low-cost and free activities for us to do with the kids over the course of the week.

One such activity that came up in her searches was heading to the horse racing track located about 15 kilometres from our house.

FM and our niece both love horses and our son is a fan of pretty much every animal at this stage of toddlerhood. I also enjoy gambling every now and then – mostly in friendly wagers, but occasionally in very small amounts of cash for some cheap, added entertainment.

Those things, combined with the gorgeous weather forecast for the night we could attend and the absence of any admission fees, made a night at the track seem like a perfect frugal adventure for the five of us.

And just as we’d hoped, it didn’t disappoint.

We arrived just as the first race of the evening was ending and stuck around for a pair of races. We spent just over an hour standing trackside, watching the horses up close and personal.

The highlight of the evening for me and FM had to be watching our son cheer, clap, “ooohhh”, and “aaahhh” as the horses came racing down the stretch toward us. I’ve noticed in my brief stint as a parent that the old cliché is most definitely true; few things in life will bring you as much joy as seeing your child doing something that makes them happy.

The races actually ended up being a secondary piece of the entertainment though. The kids found it much more interesting to have lots of horses out warming up on the track and passing by us frequently between the race as opposed to having a pack of them fly by us in a flash during a race.

The viewing area by the track also provided a great view of the stable where the horses entered and exited the track from. Our son absolutely loved being able to watch literally dozens of horses come and go over the course of just a few minutes.

And while I had planned on placing some small bets on the races, I ended up not spending a cent. Instead, we each picked a horse for each race and made friendly wagers within our little group. None of our horses ended up winning those friendly wagers anyways, so no one was able to collect their desired prize, but it made the races entertaining nonetheless.

By the time our evening wrapped up, we’d only spent 30 kilometres worth of gas money and made some priceless memories in the process. A frugal parent’s dream evening!

I’m also happy to say that the week with our niece didn’t scare us off from our plan of having more kids. No idea when we might look at adding to our family, but it’s still something that’s in the cards.

If you’ve got any ideas for affordable family fun that you’d like to share, please leave a comment below, connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, or email me at

 Thanks for reading!

Frugal Father

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