Lonely Planet review
The Union Race Course was laid out on this spot in 1852, and New Orleanians have been betting on the ponies ever since. Today the Churchill Downs Company, which also hosts the Kentucky Derby, operates the track, and rechristened the Fair Grounds in 1863 during the Union occupation. This is the third-oldest track in the nation. During the Civil War, in addition to horse races, you could catch a bear fight down this way. Today, besides horse races, the Fair Grounds is the site of the annual Louisiana Derby (in March) and the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival . The Fair Grounds’ handsome gatehouse entryway was designed by James Gallier Jr in 1859 for an agricultural fair, and the stands were rebuilt following a disastrous fire in 1993. Buried in the infield are derby winners from an era when New Orleans was one of the premier tracks in the country. The racing season runs from November to March on Wednesday through Sunday, with a 1:30pm post time.