Where else in the world has a horse race that created a public holiday? A fine and festive affair in Melbourne, the rest of the country also stops in its tracks, if only for a few minutes, on the first Tuesday of November for the Melbourne Cup.
Melbourne Cup is as much about the celebration as it is about the horse racing. Hundreds of thousands pour through the gates of Flemington. The atmosphere on Cup Day is arguably the most festive – attracting the creme de la creme of society and even Hollywood royalty – but it's only one part of the carnival.
With Flight Centre's Melbourne Cup packages selling fast, we've put together this handy guide for navigating each day of the Melbourne Cup Carnival. Saddle up!
Sofitel Girls' Day Out – September 12, 2015
Sofitel Girls' Day out celebrates the return of spring racing. The 12th of September sees the first return of this season's frocks and fascinators, or at least provides opportunities to shop for that perfect race-day outfit.
Paris Lane is a lively retail and entertainment precinct with views across the racetrack and Melbourne skyline, a highlight for lovers of fashion and food and wine, while children can keep amused with free activities in the Kids' Zone.
For the punters, Sofitel Girls' Day Out is not without competition. The headlining Group 1 Makybe Diva Stakes is a $400,000 race which signals the beginning of middle distance racing. This day is known to unearth new stars of the racetrack.
Turnbull Stakes Day – October 4, 2015
Presented by Yellowglen, you can bet that the bubbles will never run out on Turnbull Stakes Day. The event is considered by many as a guide to predicting future Melbourne Cup Champions.
Turnbull Stakes Day involves the first 2,000-metre race of the season and a total of $1.75 million in prize money. You've a choice of premium vantage points for the races; Hill Stand Corporate Suites, the Panorama Restaurant opposite the winning post, as well as the exclusive Terrace Restaurant, said to have one of the most coveted positions on a racetrack in the world.
Bubbles are always a good bet on race day
AAMI Victoria Derby Day – October 31, 2015
A day reserved for racing purists, AAMI Victoria Derby Day really needs no introduction. You may not realise it's the nation's only race day in which all events have Group Status but you'll likely be aware it's arguably the most prestigious race day on the social calendar.
The who's who of fashion elite attend this glamorous day, frocked up in the latest black and white fashions while mingling, wining and dining. And then there's Myer Fashions on the Field. This stylish institution kicks off where frocked-up fashionistas trot across the stage and indulge in their passion for fashion. The competition is held over three race days.
A different way to experience Melbourne Cup: by cruise
Emirates Melbourne Cup Day – November 3, 2015
Emirates Melbourne Cup Day is the pinnacle of not only the racing calendar; it's also the most glamorous sporting event of the year. The greatest thoroughbreds and their teams may compete for glory and a stake in the whopping $6.2 million in prize money, but there's plenty happening off the track on this iconic day.
Again, the fashion stakes are high. If the monochrome Derby Day dress-code is a little too boring for your tastes, Melbourne Cup Day is the place to bring your A-game. The more flamboyant the better, though maybe not in the case of Gabi Grecko's striking orange 'outfit' in 2014.
If you're one of the lucky few well-heeled mere mortals, you may find yourself rubbing shoulders with the movers and shakers, A-list stars, D-grade celebrities in the Birdcage. The place to see and be seen, the Birdcage is a conglomerate of lavish marquees, each year outdoing the last in extravagance. From Mumm and Swisse to Lavazza and Emirates, no expense is spared when it comes to food and wine, entertainment and celebrity guests.
Hats off to race-day fashion
Crown Oaks Day – November 5, 2015
Hopefully the hangover has subsided in time for Crown Oaks Day. The day for the ladies, Crown Oaks Day is a time to express your personality in a wash of blooms, romantic and dreamy fabrics. The elegant atmosphere fittingly plays hosts to the finals of Myer Fashions in the Field, with the Victorian state winner crowned.
Also, you'll want to take a punt on the Group 1 Crown Oaks race, with the winner bestowed with $1 million and a crystal trophy.
Emirates Stakes Day – November 7, 2015
Emirates Stakes Day tones down the party atmosphere with a day for the whole family. There are two final major racing events, including the weight-for-age VRC Classic which was previously won (twice) by Black Caviar.
The excitement doesn't necessarily wind down off the field. There's loads of entertainment for all ages and budding style icons can take to the stage in a Fashions in the Field event for pint-sized race-goers and their families.
Visit your local Flight Centre store or call 131 600 for more advice and the latest deals on travelling to the Melbourne Cup.