The Spring Racing Carnival is, without a doubt, one of the biggest highlights in Melbourne’s social calendar, with various race days providing the perfect back drop for stunning fashion, trackside drinks and a whole lot of fun.
While there are many parts to this event, the Melbourne Cup Carnival is the pinnacle and offers a day to suit everyone. Starting with Girls’ Day Out in September, the carnival has six events in total, including sophisticated Derby Day, family friendly Stakes Day and, of course, the carnival’s namesake on the first Tuesday in November.
For those serious about the sport itself, the caliber of racing is exceptional. There are form guides to be studied, bets to be placed and – if all goes well – some serious winnings to collect. Those less concerned with the happenings on the course have a number of other interests to choose from, including Fashions on the Field, celebrity spotting in the various marquees, and sampling a wide range of bubbly. Any good race day starts with getting ready. While this may mean a quick shower and shave for the boys, the girls usually start planning their outfits well in advance. If you’re eager to get involved in Fashions on the Field, this year’s entries open in September. Check out the galleries of past winners here to get some outfit inspiration and remember to be on time on the day as the competition is notorious for waiting for no-one.
For the less fashion inclined, it’s important to remember that dress codes do apply and can vary slightly between race days. For example, while headwear of any kind is strongly encouraged throughout the carnival’s duration, Oaks Day attire is traditionally black and white. As a general rule, anything too casual or too revealing is usually frowned upon, particularly if you’ve purchased any level of entry above general admission.
Speaking of general admission, you can expect to pay between $45 and $70 just to gain entry to any day in the Melbourne Cup Carnival. If you’d like to make your general admission experience more comfortable and save a few dollars it’s always a good idea to pack a picnic blanket and some nibbles. It means you’ll be able to set up camp and skip the lines (and the prices!) for food. Starting at $400 per person and ending up in the ‘by invitation only’ category, a spot in one of the marquees is a substantial investment. By all accounts, if you’re willing to splurge, they offer a great race day experience with food, beverages, seating and décor that will have you feeling fancy in no time.
Chances are that you’ll also get to rub shoulders with some of Australia’s rich and famous. If you’re looking for something a bit fancier than general admission but more wallet friendly than one of the marquees, look no further than The Precinct. A ticket to this area gives you access to comfy outdoor seating (think beer garden style), live entertainment, super screen viewing of every race and additional food options. Wherever you find yourself on the day, remember to prepare for the unpredictable Melbourne weather (chances are you’ll need both sunscreen and a jacket), pack some creature comforts (for the ladies that’s high heel protectors to prevent you sinking into the grass and a few tissues for when the toilet paper inevitably runs out) and hatch an end of day meeting plan to enact in the likely event that some of your group gets separated.
If you find yourself feeling a little worse for wear the following day, Mr. Ed in Flemington does one of the best recovery breakfasts around. Their Saltbush Benedict or Horse’s Feed will have you feeling better in no time and, paired with a smooth Campos coffee or – for the brave – a Bloody Mary, any vestiges of a hangover will be quickly dismissed.