At Canterbury Park 
By Holly Galbus

Thoroughbred horse racing, a card casino open 24/7, fun family activities and a full schedule of summertime events, including the inaugural Twin Cities Summer Jam music festival. It’s all available at Canterbury Park, just 90 minutes away in Shakopee, Minnesota. Canterbury Park, formerly Canterbury Downs, opened in June 1985. In December 1992, it closed due to a drop in attendance but re-opened a few years later under new ownership. In June 2012, Canterbury Park and the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community, owners of Mystic Lake Casino, formed a 10-year agreement, which added $75 million to horsemen purses over the life of the agreement.

In 2019, the racing season begins May 3 with a special weekend celebrating the Kentucky Derby. The season runs through mid-September, with races scheduled each Thursday through Sunday. Racing begins at 6 p.m. on Thursday and Friday nights, and on weekends, start time is 12:45 p.m.

Each day, the schedule includes eight to 10 races, with each race lasting 24 minutes. Arrive early (45 minutes before the first race) and plan to spend at least three hours at the park, or more if you would like to eat at one of the many on-site restaurants. There are numerous dining options available, from traditional stadium foods, such as hot dogs and mini donuts, to a full-service restaurant on the third floor. Admission to live racing is $7 for adults and free for those 17 and younger. There is no charge for parking.

New to horse racing? Not sure which horse to bet on? Not to worry. Canterbury Park offers lots of ways for novices to learn about the sport. When you get to the track, pick up the daily program. It lists every race and provides information about each horse and jockey.

Attend Paul Allen’s “Today at the Races” prior to the start time of the first race. Fifteen minutes before each race, while the horses are being saddled, racing analyst Brian Arrigoni will offer his “Paddock Preview,” a six-minute summary of the upcoming race. Or, you might just make a “hunch bet,” deciding a horse’s name or the jockey colors feel lucky. Whatever method you choose, keep in mind that the minimum bet is a mere $2. Bets can be placed with a teller, at a self-service machine or with your smartphone at

Canterbury Park is the location of one of the largest musical events of the summer. The Twin Cities Summer Jam, July 18-20, brings Aerosmith, Tim McGraw, Pitbull, Rascal Flatts, REO Speedwagon and others to the infield of Canterbury Park. Over three days, 12 bands will play the main stage with many more local and national bands performing on a second stage.

Fourth of July fireworks at Canterbury has become an annual event for many in the area. Nearly 20,000 people attended last year. This year, fireworks on both July 3 and 4 are sure to be two nights of dazzling entertainment.

Other fun, non-wagering events to plan your visit around include the English and French Bulldog races on May 26, Corgi racing (one of the largest non-horse racing events, with 90 dogs competing) and Extreme Day on July 13, when camels, ostriches and zebras take to the track. Planning a girls’ day out? Canterbury Uncorked, a wine and appetizer event, is June 28, and the Canterbury Cocktail Classic is July 26. Check the events calendar at for a complete listing.

Sundays at Canterbury feature family-friendly activities including face painting and pony rides. And the Little Big Thrill Factory and a mammoth playground get kids moving. It’s great for older kids, too, as the Rush family of Rochester discovered. “We celebrated our son Ryan’s 18th birthday at Canterbury,” says Nancy Rush. “It was unique and fun. He enjoyed it so much, he later brought friends to enjoy a day at the park.”

Holly Galbus is a freelance writer and news reporter.