Gold Cup is a quintessential Virginia event that must be experienced at least once. Horse racing, tailgating, and ladies in big, beautiful hats come together on one magical day in this seasonal countryside steeplechase.

The Virginia Gold Cup is a legendary horse race held in the rolling fields of The Plains. Over 50,000 spectators attend, either for the picnics and people-watching or the incredible horse races held throughout the day. The best way to experience it is with a group of friends or family, a packed lunch, and the best tickets you can afford. You'll want to be near the action when the horses set out, even if you've never been to a race before.

Courtesy of the VA Gold Cup

DATE: Saturday, October 27, 2018
TIME: Gates open at 10 a.m. All DMV traffic heads out the same way, so get an early start! Races and competitions occur throughout the day. Check the official schedule to make sure you don't miss anything. Gates close at 6 p.m.
LOCATION: 5089 Old Tavern Road in The Plains, VA
TICKETS: $25 for General Admission Tickets. Children under 12 attend for free. $50 General Admission Car Pass admits 1 vehicle and up to 4 passengers along the North and South rails. Visit the event ticketing page for additional price points and details. Group reservations and badges vary widely, so make sure to get a headcount before you reserve a spot.

What to wear:

It's all about the outfits at Gold Cup. Ladies generally wear dresses and hats, while men usually take this opportunity to break out the bow ties and their preppiest pants. Shorts are not permitted on Members' Hill. While not mandatory, Wayfarers are all over the place. Don't worry if you don't have anything special; the Gold Cup folks encourage creativity and even have a hat contest at midday. Categories include Best Racing Theme, Funniest/Most Outrageous, Most Glamorous/Elegant, Best Children's Hat (under 18), and Best Men's Showing. Get out those glue guns!

Courtesy of the VA Gold Cup

Tailgating 101:

In the spirit of the competitive nature of Gold Cup, there is even a tailgate competition. Make sure your picnic is a beautiful showstopper and not just delicious if you want to enter. The best tailgate setups will have a theme and include signature dishes complete with recipe cards for the judges. See the event website for details on how to enter.

Courtesy of the VA Gold Cup

Things to know before you go:

  • Every visitor must have a ticket or be included in a group reservation to attend. Only children under 12 attend for free.
  • Food and drink will be available at various concession stands, but you are encouraged to bring your own race day picnic. 
  • Pets are not permitted at Gold Cup, so be sure to leave Fluffy at home.
  • Wagering on races is available throughout the day at official booths.
  • The event is attended by tens of thousands of people. Once you get there, coordinate a meeting spot in case someone wanders off. If you are meeting friends, find out their gate number and parking reservation if they have one.

Courtesy of the VA Gold Cup

Are you heading to Gold Cup this year? Any tips for first-timers? Let us know and post your photos in the comments below.

Dream big: Here are the most expensive real estate listings in Fairfax County!