It has been on my bucket list for a few years now to attend one of the biggest annual Southern traditions: the Carolina Cup! I finally got to check this item off of my bucket list last weekend, when I attended the 81st annual Carolina Cup steeplechase race. The Cup is held annually in Camden, SC, and is probably the most famous horse racing event held in the Carolinas!
My first experience with horse racing was last May, when I had the opportunity to visit Churchill Downs in Kentucky twice during an internship that I had in Louisville. Visiting Churchill Downs was all I needed to fall in love with racing- it is such a fun and fast-paced sport, and I love the culture of a day at the races. Derby inspired fashion is possibly my favorite part of all! Ladylike dresses and large hats are usually incorporated into my spring and summer wardrobe to begin with, so having any event to attend that's an excuse to wear them is always wonderful!
I went to the Carolina Cup with one of my blogging besties, Cara from Caralina Style. Cara came down the Charlotte and ended up spending the whole weekend with me, which was so much fun! The Springdale Race Course in Camden, SC, is about an hour and forty-five minutes south of Charlotte, so we woke up early Saturday morning to get ready. We made a quick stop at Chick-Fil-A for breakfast, and then we were off!
Since this was my first Carolina Cup experience (and hopefully not my last!), and this event is such a Southern tradition for many Carolinians, I thought that it would be fun to recap how Cara and I spent our day at the Cup, our thoughts for if we return in the future, and what we recommend bringing!
All photos in this post are from my iPhone- both Cara and I left our DSLRs at home that day, and that was a good decision! A lot more walking was involved than we both expected, and I can't even imagine what it would have been like to lug around my heavy camera all day. (Carrying large camera + day drinking = NO.)
|How fun is this Snapchat filter that was sponsored by Bumble?!|
The gates to the Carolina Cup open promptly at 9 am each year, and the first race of the day begins at 1:30 pm. Cara and I decided to try and arrive between 11-11:30, and this was a perfect arrival time since we didn't have specific tailgating arrangements made. Springdale Race Course has two different tailgating sections, both of which are open to all ticket holders of the Cup to walk through. One is a general tailgating section right in the middle of the field, where groups of families and friends set up tents, trucks, and other tailgating necessities, and then stake their spot for the whole day.
The other tailgating section is College Park, which is reserved for Greek organizations (mainly fraternities) from various large universities across the South. Cara and I took a couple of walks around College Park, and it was quite the experience! The various fraternities all turn their tents into total party zones, and it was fun to see the different environments from tent to tent (some were blasting rap music and had people dancing on trucks, and others decorated their areas with hay bales and played the latest country hits). Even though my college does have Greek life, we mainly have sororities, and the small fraternity culture at my school does not really have the same feel to it as what I got to see at the Carolina Cup. It was definitely fun to get to see what Greek life is like at big schools for an afternoon!
The Carolina Cup is an open container event for those aged 21+. Even though Cara and I didn't have specific tailgating arrangements made, we were able to enjoy adult beverages over all sections of the race course. Something that we didn't know before attending is that glass container beverages are prohibited. We had to leave our glass items in my car, and walked back out to the parking lot a couple of times throughout the day for refills. So we ended up just using plastic cups and some adorable matching koozies. (And how cute is that fun Derby themed Snapchat filter pictured above?!) I didn't drink very much as I was driving that day, but it was still really fun to get to enjoy an open container event! I definitely think that it was more fun to attend the Cup as a 21+ year old.
Preppy clothing brand Lauren James was one of the sponsors of the Carolina Cup this year, and Cara and I got to visit both of their tents! We even got to meet the founder of the company, Miss Lauren herself! Cara wore one of Lauren James' dresses for the Cup, and I think that I might definitely consider wearing one of their beautiful and classy styles if I attend the Cup again. (The dress that I wore was my 21st birthday dress!)
For watching the actual races, Cara and I found some standing spots against a fence near the race track, and had a pretty good view of the horses. (We also ended up being right in front of the hoses where the horses are bathed after they race, as pictured above!)
There are six races throughout the afternoon, and we left either right before the fifth race, or during it. The town of Camden is small, and we didn't want to get caught in tons of traffic as thousands of people tried to exit the race course at once! I think that this was a very smart decision. If you are tailgating, it would be hard to leave early. But for general admission ticket holders, definitely take advantage of sneaking out early if you can!
Cara and I had a lovely day at the Carolina Cup, and both of us would like to return either next year or in another future year! I do think though that probably the funnest way to do the Cup would be to attend with a larger group and have the reserved tailgating experience. Cara and I talked about how much fun it would be to get a big group of NC and SC bloggers together for next year, and to all go down early in the morning and spend the whole day tailgating together!
Have any of you ever been to the Carolina Cup before? Or any other popular horse racing events? It's still my dream to attend the Kentucky Derby someday, since my first Churchchill Downs experience was so incredible!
xoxo Miss ALK