A Day at the Races

Dust off your hat and head down south to Del Mar for another thrilling summer of wining, dining and all those glorious Thoroughbreds.

Since the race track opened its gates back in 1937, the city of Del Mar has become the destination for Southern California’s most spirited crowd, welcoming celebrities, socialites and spectators each summer for concerts, cuisine and Derby-style racing. This year is no exception, with an estimated 47,000 visitors expected to drop in on the small seaside town beginning July 17. If you plan to get close to the action, here’s a guide to Del Mar that showcases more than just the pretty ponies.

Where to Stay

Del Mar is small. Quite small, in fact. The sunny seaside town stretches only a few blocks along the Pacific just west of the 5. Accommodations, however, are abundant and appealing, with everything for the budget traveler to luxury weekender.

On the northern end of Camino Del Mar, you’ll find Hotel Indigo, a large complex of spacious rooms that are perfect for boarding the entire family. Walking distance from the beach, the hotel offers space and convenience with a cool beachy vibe. 710 Camino Del Mar, ihg.com/hotelindigo

Down the street, closer to the racetrack, resides the star of Del Mar. Sorry, Seabiscuit, I’m talking about L’Auberge Del Mar. This handsome resort, designed with coastal charm by Barclay Butera, overlooks the Pacific with its own private walking path and killer views. In addition to bright and airy accommodations, the restaurants are equally appealing, including the delicious KITCHEN 1540 and outdoor venue Waterfall Terrance. Spa-goers should eagerly indulge in the Spa L’Auberge, with a menu of treatments inspired by the healing powers of the ocean. 1540 Camino Del Mar, laubergedelmar.com

Where to Dine

In addition to the eateries at both Hotel Indigo and L’Auberge, the sidewalks of Del Mar are bustling with cafes, bars and daily bites. Just across from L’Auberge atop Del Mar Plaza is Pacifica Del Mar, a popular local restaurant with exceptional food and views. Fish is the specialty of the house, including chilled Peruvian ceviche, slow poached Maine lobster and their house specialty, a sugar-spiced salmon. An iPad reveals a tailored list of excellent wines, and my dessert trio finished the meal on a winning note. When we visited, this place was jumping with eager diners, so be sure to make a reservation. 1555 Camino Del Mar, pacificadelmar.com

What to Do

After you’ve circled the main drag for shopping and sunshine, it’s time to hit the main event: the track. Of course one of the main highlights of the event is the “One and Only Truly Fabulous Hats” contest, a continuing tradition of glamorous, eye-catching and elaborately beautiful hats.

Del Mar’s richest and most prestigious race, the $1 Million TVG Pacific Classic, will take place Sunday, August 25 and is expected to attract many of the country’s top jockeys, trainers and racehorses. The track’s Family Fun Day happens Sunday, July 21, but families can enjoy kid-friendly activities in the Infield every Saturday and Sunday throughout the meet. Dog lovers can cheer on the fastest dachshunds in the West between races during the Wiener Dog Nationals—a perennial family favorite at Del Mar on Labor Day Weekend, September 1. Racing at Del Mar takes place Wednesday through Sunday, with post time for the first race on most days at 2 p.m. On Fridays, first post changes to 4 p.m.

Besides world-class Thoroughbred racing, Del Mar is known for its incredible lineup of entertainment, hosting big-name musical acts on the Seaside Stage for its Summer Concert Series. New to the track this year is the Del Mar Grill Fest on August 17, where more than 30 championship barbeque teams, restaurants and caterers will be serving anything and everything grilled, including desserts. Del Mar’s two beer fests will both feature more than 100 brews, showcasing more than 40 beers from the San Diego area on July 27 and more than 40 IPAs on August 31. Cheers to another great Del Mar season.

For more information on the Del Mar Race Track schedule, call 858-755-1141 or visit delmarscene.com.