Mere minutes by foot or car from the heart of downtown Charlottetown, in the east end of the city, is a truly Island experience you can’t miss during your visit – Red Shores Racetrack & Casino. This modern, sprawling 50,000 square ft facility is home to the historic Charlottetown Driving Park, exceptional dining facilities, a casino featuring over 200 slots, blackjack tables, a private poker room and electronic roulette and baccarat. And to top it all off, there’s also a teletheatre hosting pari-mutuel betting and enhanced simulcast racing. There’s really no other place like it, especially if you’re a foodie or curious to learn more about the sport of harness racing!
Intrigued? Hungry? Looking for a unique night out? Get the inside scoop on the Red Shores experiences that await you!
The epicentre of the Island’s longstanding and beloved tradition of harness racing, the Charlottetown Driving Park (CDP) has played host to exhilarating live races since it first opened over a hundred years ago in 1889.
Dubbed the “Kentucky of Canada”, the CDP is considered one of the top harness racing tracks in North America. Countless standardbred horses and jockeys driving sulkies (2-wheeled carts) have strutted their stuff on the CDPs’ oval dirt track, vying to win purses of modest and massive amounts and hoping to develop a reputation for consistent wins on the harness racing circuit. In the centrefield of the track is the original judge’s stand. Built in 1889, the stand was restored in 1999 and declared a national historic site. Today it is used for special functions and occasions.
Harness racing is a long-held tradition that remains as deeply entrenched in the Island culture today as it has been for the past 100+ years, with weekly live racing from April through to January. Race nights vary throughout the year, but always include Thursday and Saturday evenings, when live racing is paired with exceptional dining at Top of the Park.
The biggest week of the year at the Charlottetown Driving Park is Old Home Week (Aug 9 -18, 2018), which concludes with the Gold Cup and Saucer Race. One of the most celebrated harness racing events in Eastern Canada, it showcases the fastest horses and most skilled drivers competing in 15 racing programs over nine days. On the final day of Old Home Week, as the midnight hour draws near, the top horses and drivers are introduced to the packed crowd. At exactly two minutes to midnight, the call to the post is heard and the horses and drivers race around the track, thrilling the crowds and vying to win the big purse and the title of Gold Cup & Saucer Champion. It’s always a night to remember.
Forget what you might think you know about buffets or casino food, because the dining experience at Red Shores will turn you into a convert. From the minute you walk into Top of the Park, it’s evident the restaurant was built to impress on every level, including its ambience. The light, modern and comfortable dining space is the first indication that you’re in for a treat. With three tiers of seating and large floor-to ceiling windows overlooking the track, every single diner is guaranteed spectacular views while they enjoy their meal.
But what about the food? Ah yes, that’s what you came for after all! The culinary team at Top of the Park, led by Executive Chef Andrew Smith, will have you coming back for seconds and thirds of their buffet spread. With a dedication to sourcing from local farmers and fishers that is, to be frank, not the norm for buffet offerings, Top of the Park consistently serves up an outstanding dining experience that even the most particular of foodies will savour. You can even check out a list of their local suppliers, which number over 17 and includes small-scale organic farmers, local wineries, a premium fishmonger, and even a wild foods forager!
With theme nights that change throughout the year, you can look forward to ever-changing menus featuring Island classics from land and sea and global flavours. And while the buffet is all-you-can-eat, the culinary team makes no compromises when it comes to the quality or selection of dishes on offer. So be sure to pace yourself (a little slower than the racing horses) and take time to savour the fresh and flavourful food on your plate.
What do you get when you combine the thrill of live harness racing and dinner overlooking the track? A unique experience you don’t want to miss! Dine at Top of the Park during one of their Race Night Buffets and you can place bets on the harness races right from your table, with staff coming around regularly to take your bets. Red Shores recently launched a new fan-friendly bet called Pony Pik. All you have to do is ask for the Pony Pik and you are in the race. Betting isn’t for everyone of course, but regardless of whether you decide to test the waters or not, you’ll still get to enjoy a brand new ‘show’ every 12 minutes, as a new race gets underway.
As soon as you walk through the front entrance at Red Shores Racetrack & Casino, you ‘ll find yourself taking a stroll through history courtesy of the expansive display of historic pictures that greets you. Showcasing over 800 photographs, you’ll quickly get a deep sense of the venue’s proud harness racing history, its enduring traditions and the passion that continues to fuel the Island’s harness racing industry. Take time to check out the photos of past champions, Gold Cup & Saucer competitors, and royalty that have visited the Charlottetown Driving Park (sorry, we’re not telling you which royals have visited, that’s half the fun!). Give a nod to the Hall of Famers including Joe O’Brien, Wally Hennessey and many more! And if you want to delve further, visit the 2000 Winners’ Club to find out where some of the Island’s top drivers compete on the North American racing circuit.
Want to take a tour of the barn? Learn to play blackjack? Sponsor your own race? Enjoy a Land & Sea Buffet? No problem! With their new ‘Build Your Own Experience’ program, Red Shores invites guests to create an experience tailored to their interests, budget and when they’re visiting. It’s as easy at A-B-C!
There’s truly something for everyone at this beloved Island destination, so be sure your Charlottetown vacation includes a visit to Red Shores Racetrack & Casino!