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5 Things you MUST do at the Winter Equestrian Festival

An insider’s guide to enjoying this international gathering of equine athletes and their greatest fans in Wellington, Florida

The Palm Beaches are known world-wide for our perfect beaches and warm blue waters, a place of accessible luxury within the reach of nearly anyone. There’s also our reputation as an equestrian paradise, where horse enthusiasts of all types come to enjoy the grace and beauty of horses in competition. For these fans, all horse paths lead to the village of Wellington and the Winter Equestrian Festival, which runs from Jan. 3 – March 31, 2024, at Wellington International.

This largest and longest-running equestrian festival in the world features 12 weeks of competition for hunters, jumpers and equitation, featuring riders from over 50 countries and all 50 states. 

With over 6,000 horses (worth over a half-billion dollars) and $10 million in prize money, it would be easy to assume that the event is exclusively for jetsetters. On the contrary, the festival is meant for everyone who loves horses, both young and old. Each week is packed with events and competitions designed to thrill the entire family – and most of them are free!

Whether it’s your first time or you’re coming back for another ride, here are 5 things you MUST do while attending the Winter Equestrian Festival.

1. Attend Saturday Night Lights

Saturday night’s alright for jumping in The Palm Beaches!

Each Saturday evening, the festival is packed with show jumping and an exciting array of free entertainment, perfect for the entire family. Kids will be thrilled to watch beautifully trained horses make spectacular jumps in the arena. Families can also spend time at the children’s fair, complete with bounce houses, a petting zoo, pony rides and a carousel – all free! Spend a pleasant winter evening in The Palm Beaches under a starry sky and Saturday Night Lights!

For a date night, or perhaps a night out with friends, consider dinner and drinks at The Gallery. This restaurant is a unique dining experience for the Grand Prix and Wellington’s premier afterparty following the competition. 

With its vast windows and open-front row, this unique venue ensures an immersive equestrian spectacle. Delight in a sumptuous buffet and sip at the open bar. And once the competition wraps up, the Gallery seamlessly shifts into an exclusive nightclub for guests aged 21 and over.

Located next to the Central Park bar, The Gallery includes reserved seating for table of eight, six, and four guests. 

3. Visit “Pony Island” to see the smallest (and cutest) competitors tour the arena

A special area set aside for younger riders, “Pony Island” is a place where the littlest competitors start living their biggest dreams. Pony Island has two competition rings and a warm-up ring, and spectators can watch kids age 5 to 13 practice. It’s a thrill to see kids ride like the grown-ups!

4. Go shopping with an equestrian point of view

More than 80 equestrian and lifestyle vendors set up shop at the Winter Equestrian Festival, with a treasure trove of equestrian gifts of all kinds. A leisurely walk across the showgrounds will allow you to see the wide array of beautiful things you can take home for yourself or a fellow equestrian.

Vendor Village is central for equestrian apparel and accessories (along with the WEF souvenir store), and the International Ring features boutiques and brands, with an iconic Hermes equestrian store.

5. Grab lunch or drinks at the Tiki Hut

A fun, casual meal can be found at the Tiki Hut. Overlooking the International Arena, it is the perfect place to see some of the finest riders and horses in the world compete – all while sipping adult beverages and soaking up some sun. Lunch is served Wednesday through Sunday, and dinner is served on Saturday nights. Burgers, wraps, chicken fingers and salads are among the items on the family-friendly menu.

Admission to the Winter Equestrian Festival is free every day of the event. Parking is free for daytime events and $20 per car for Saturday Night Lights. There’s no better way to explore the exciting and beautiful world of equine competition, so make plans to enjoy a beautiful winter’s day in The Palm Beaches! Explore things to do, find a place to stay, and sign up for our free eNewsletter to keep up to date on all the latest news and happenings. 

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