Del Mar, Del Mar
Season: July 18-Sept. 5.
Getting there: The track is about 100 miles south of Los Angeles, a two-hour drive on a good day. Trains run from Union Station in downtown Los Angeles and stop in Orange County before arriving at Solana Beach, where free double-deck buses shuttle you to the track.
Insider tips: Del Mar offers Daybreak at Del Mar, which runs from sunrise to about 9 a.m. and gives you a chance to watch morning workouts and catch some behind-the-scenes information.
Need a post-race beverage? Jimmy O's, a jumpin' sports bar and restaurant in the heart of downtown Del Mar; 225 W. 15th St., (858) 350-3735.
Need a steak? Red Tracton's, across the street from the track, is a popular pre- and post-race destination. Known for its steak and seafood, it's also a great spot for a pre-race Bloody Mary. A lively piano bar in the evenings. Steaks from about $25; 555 Via de la Valle, Solano Beach; (858) 755-6600, http://www.redtractonssteakhouse.com.
Other hangouts: Try Fidel's Little Mexico for happy hour or dinner on the heated patio. Entrees from less than $10; 607 Valley Ave., Solana Beach; (858) 755-5292. The Green Flash, beachy good time on the sand with killer sunsets. Dinner entrees from about $11; 701 Thomas Ave., San Diego; (858) 270-7715, http://www.greenflashrestaurant.com.
Lodging choices: If you feel lucky or want to act like a high roller, L'Auberge del Mar Resort & Spa is the spot. Rooms from $275; 1540 Camino del Mar, Del Mar; (800) 245-9757, http://www.laubergedelmar.com. Hampton Inn is nothing fancy but is close to the finish line. Rooms from $84; 11920 El Camino Real, Del Mar; (858) 792-5557, http://www.hamptoninndelmar.com.
Golden Gate Fields, Berkeley
This 70-year-old track, eight miles from Oakland and 11 miles from San Francisco, is known for its breathtaking city and bay views and for hosting Bill Shoemaker's first win ever in 1949. The track crosses the Albany-Berkeley city line.
Season: Oct. 20-Dec. 18.
Getting there: Off Interstate 80. Take Gilman Street or Buchanan Street exits to enter the track. To avoid fighting traffic, hop on BART and take it to the North Berkeley station. From there, the free shuttle will whisk you to the track. The shuttle leaves every half-hour and returns patrons to the station at the end of the day. See the schedule at http://www.goldengatefields.com.
Inside tip: Find the perfect lid at Berkeley Hat Co. This unusual shop offers an outstanding selection of hats, giving you a fresh look and maybe your good luck charm for a day at the races; 2510 Telegraph Ave., Berkeley; (510) 549-2955.
Need a post-race beverage? Less than a mile from the track, Pyramid Ale House is the place for hand-crafted beers, all made on-site; 901 Gilman St., Berkeley; (510) 528-9880, http://www.pyramidbrew.com.
Need some seafood? Dungeness crab cakes, a grilled lamb salad and baby back ribs are among the dishes offered at Townhouse Bar & Grill, a former bootlegging facility once run by a guy named "Blackie." Entrees from $14; 5862 Doyle St., Emeryville; (510) 652-6151, http://www.townhousebarandgrill.com.
Other hangouts: Get your dive bar on at Missouri Lounge, a friendly spot with a variety of beers; 2600 San Pablo Ave., Berkeley; (510) 548-2080.
Lodging choices: DoubleTree Berkeley, at the Berkeley Marina, is the closest hotel to the track and offers good views of San Francisco Bay. Rooms from $118; 200 Marina Blvd., Berkeley; (510) 548-7920), doubletree1
.hilton.com. Claremont Resort & Spa in the Oakland hills is a classy hotel with spectacular views of San Francisco Bay. Rooms from $145; 41 Tunnel Road, Berkeley; (510) 843-3000), http://www.claremontresort.com.