The race is woven around a storyline about finding King Kandy, the lost king of Candy Land. The board consists of a winding, linear track made of 134 spaces, most red, green, blue, yellow, orange or purple. The remaining pink spaces are named locations such as Candy Cane Forest and Gum Drop Mountain, or characters such as Queen Frostine and Gramma Nutt.
Players take turns removing the top card from a stack, most of which show one of six colors, and then moving their marker ahead to the next space of that color. Some cards have two marks of a color, in which case the player moves his or her marker ahead to the second-next space of that color. The deck has one card for each named location, and drawing such a card moves a player directly to that board location. This move can be either forward or backward in the classic game; backward moves can be ignored for younger players in the 2004 version of the game.