Tucked between two other upscale neighborhoods – La Jolla and Solana Beach, Del Mar could rightly be called the Hollywood of San Diego. There is an underlying vibe of prosperity and leisure to this little community than cannot be denied. This is where the beautiful people congregate, at the iconic race track by the sea, in upscale shops and restaurants, or on family-friendly beaches. Delmar is anyone’s summertime place to be when they host the wildly popular San Diego County Fair followed by the annual Del Mar Thoroughbred racing season. You’re sure to enjoy the many exciting tourist attractions packed into the Del Mar enclave.
When Del Mar was still a gleam in the eye of Colonel Jacob Taylor, it was already destined to be a playground for the rich and famous. That was, in fact, his vision for the seaside village when he bought the original 338 acres from Enoch Talbert in 1885. Colonel Taylor wanted to create a seaside resort that catered to the elite. Del Mar has owned that personality ever since, as evidenced by its many famous residents as well as a continuous flow of well-to-do tourists. Celebrities and professional athletes from Burt Bacharach and Desi Arnaz to Tony Hawk and Aaron Rodgers have called Del Mar home.
You know you’re from San Diego when the ditty “Where the surf meets the turf at Del Mar” has been stuck in your head at least once. The seaside Del Mar Race Track has been the symbol of its host neighborhood since Bing Crosby personally greeted the first fan through the gates on Opening Day in 1937. The very next year, Seabiscuit beat Ligaroti by a nose in front of 20,000 cheering fans and put the race track on the map. These days, racing season in Del Mar starts with a flourish of extravagant hats on Opening Day in mid-July and runs through the beginning of September. The track recently added a post-summer 15-day elite Thoroughbred racing season in November called The Bing Crosby Season honoring its founder and glamorous Hollywood roots.
The San Diego County Fairgrounds is located on Jimmy Durante Boulevard just off the I-5 Via de la Valle exit. Although it started as a struggling agricultural fair in 1880, the Fairgrounds along with the Del Mar race track that it leases to the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club remain completely self-supporting. The Fairgrounds’ past is as storied as the race track’s with tales of racing ostriches, a burning motorcycle stunt man, strange hauntings, and even a mini-atomic explosion. Today, the three-week summertime fair draws over a million visitors, and is among the top ten fairs in the country. It includes everything you’d expect from a fair: rides, games, headlining entertainers, flower shows, livestock auctions, exhibits, and tons of food. The Fairgrounds also hosts Scream Zone, the frighteningly popular haunted house attraction on Halloween, and the beloved Holiday of Lights display in December.
Del Mar offers tourists and locals a few great beaches. Torrey Pines State Beach is located on the border of La Jolla and Del Mar. It offers ample parking in lots and along streets surrounding the lots. It has bathroom and shower facilities and is adjacent to Torrey Pines State Park where a short climb leads to epic ocean views. River Mouth Beach, more commonly known as Dog Beach, is in front of the Del Mar race track; it not only allows dogs to romp and swim freely, but has space for several sand volleyball courts as well. Del Mar City Beach runs from 15th Street in Del Mar to River Mouth Beach, and can be accessed by every street in between. Two family-friendly parks along this stretch of beach, Powerhouse and Seagrove, have children’s playgrounds, expansive grassy picnic areas, and free summer concerts.
Other Things to Do and See
Consider staying in a local boutique hotel that is as mesmerizing as Del Mar itself. You will be hard-pressed to find a more charming and unique hotel anywhere in San Diego than Les Artistes Inn and Secret Garden Inn. Though they are two different inns, they are on the same property and run by the same owner. Each room of Les Artistes is decorated to honor a different artist from Gaugin to O’Keefe; the Secret Garden has themed rooms as well. There is even a two-bedroom, two-bathroom penthouse suite. These delightful inns have paid extraordinary attention to detail, and you’re the beneficiary.
There are tons of things to do in Del Mar, but one place you’ll want to visit for sure is the distinctive shopping area of and around the Del Mar Plaza at Highway 101 and Camino Del Mar. It offers the peaceful taste of a European-styled hill town featuring boutique shops, exciting galleries, ocean-view fine dining, and lots of little surprises. Interact with and feed the exotic birds at the Free Flight protective sanctuary for $5; it’s located at 2132 Jimmy Durante Boulevard. If you time your visit right, you can catch one of three annual Del Mar Antique Shows on the Del Mar Fairgrounds where 250 antique dealers present their wares at themed shows. There is a wide array of great restaurants and bars throughout Del Mar, many within walking distance of Powerhouse and Seagrove parks and the Del Mar Plaza. Experience all this neighborhood has to offer on your next vacation.