Although the international horse racing season may not be as front-and-center in American horse-racing fans’ minds—specifically, Down Under in Melbourne—it holds its own even when put up against its stateside Triple Crown rivals in terms of super-sized events. The huge stakes, gaming, fashion, eye-catching hats and wall-to-wall society events will be familiar to any Saratogian used to our own incredible horse racing season. So, now you have a very good reason to jet off to Australia for some equine indulgences, and, don’t forget, when it’s their turn to take over the racing season, the weather will still be in its perpetual state of summery warmth.
The location doesn’t hurt, either. The Telegraph, ABC and insider.com have reported that Melbourne is “the most livable city in the world,” “the world’s greatest city” and “the best place to live in the world,” respectively. Located on the southern-most tip of Australia, the art, cuisine, culture, design, entertainment, sporting events—even the coffee!—are hard to beat. My favorite time of day is Melbourne’s fabled High Tea, seemingly available everywhere in town. Seriously. Everywhere. The Flemington Racecourse, ground zero for the “Carnival,” as the Melbourne Cup is known, is a weeklong event from November 2-9, with a purse totaling some $7.3 million. Victoria Racing Club’s Melbourne Cup hosts Victoria Derby Day as the opening event, which isn’t to be missed. As huge as these races are, though, the racing can easily become an afterthought if you decide to let the sexy temptress that is Melbourne seduce you away from the track. It’s easy to do, that’s for sure.
For globetrotters, the deluxe hospitality scene abounds here, but it’s quantified a little bit differently than just by the number of Michelin-starred restaurants or Leading Hotels of The World assignations a destination has been awarded. So, embrace Melbourne’s finery their way. First on this—and any other luxury list in Melbourne—is the Park Hyatt Melbourne with its stately presence, elegant public spaces, oversized suites, award-winning spa, amazing gym and an indoor pool with a million-dollar view. The Lounge & Garden restaurant overlooks Trilogy Gardens, changing the mood of the space throughout the day, from breakfast to well after the sun’s gone down, while Radii is the hotel’s hero restaurant with daily, carefully curated menus. Sofitel, the original boutique chic, never disappoints anywhere in the world, especially here. Check out its Opera or Imperial suites for that extra edge of sumptuousness. Sofitel’s lounge and dining options are stellar, too. No35 Restaurant offers fine French gastronomy with a view, while High Tea (yes, again!) is offered daily in a lofty, ultra-modern art gallery lounge. (Yes, please!) You’ll definitely want to utilize your Club Accord perks here, as Sofitel’s known for its pre-theater dining packages. Want old-world digs with global modern management? The Rialto is the InterContinental’s impressive Melbourne outpost. The Market Lane Bar adds refinement to an adult-only smorgasbord of bites, delicacies and cocktails without the time constraint of a formal sit-down meal. Perfectly positioned on the Yarra River and the famed Southbank Promenade, The Langham offers amazing views and exciting epicurean wonders. The Lyall Hotel & Spa is privately owned and offers a refined and detailed personal experience as well.
Venturing out for fine dining is taken seriously in Melbourne. Listed as one of the “Top 50 Restaurants In The World,” Attica offers the most unusual experience (French Laundry meets Brooklyn warehouse) and sits on top of all must-do lists offering rare-to-table ingredients and experiences. As does Vue de Monde for modern French culinary exquisiteness and over-the-top tasting menus, while serving up one of the best views in the city. While you’re at it, put MoVida and Cutler & Co on your fine foodie list as well.
Let’s do some sightseeing! It wouldn’t hurt to do some last-minute, pre-flight research into Melbourne’s spontaneous pop-up scene (scenestr.com.au/melbourne). The Melbourne Star Observation Wheel is a great way to get the lay of the land. Aside from really great art, the Melbourne Museum is quite fascinating for all ages, with multiple exhibitions running simultaneously. From Darwin to DNA, Victoria’s Aboriginal history, mind exploration, bugs, marine life, records and music revolutions, eel feeding and so much more, the museum really has it all!
And who could blame you should you decide to hunker down at the racetrack? Flemington literally tips its cap to everyone. The food is terrific, and can be enjoyed everywhere from The Precinct to The Rose Room, The Terrace Restaurant and The Perch In The Birdcage. The architecture of the pavilion is breathtaking, and it’s best served up with the carnival’s signature cocktail in hand. Grab a Flemington Fling, is a bubbly blood orange vodka drink with hints of lime and mint. The thirst is real.
Whatever you decide to do, Melbourne is one of the most memorable spots on the planet, and you’ll want to schedule plenty of time to simply enjoy it without restriction. Isn’t it time you got to the starting gate in Melbourne?