Horse Racing, Festivals & Concerts Make This Among Top Summertime Things To Do In San Diego
Opening Day at the Del Mar race track in San Diego, CA, is one of Southern California’s great social scenes, the “Kentucky Derby of the West Coast” as PubClub so accurately describes it.
Yet I discovered something else about the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club. Other days there are fun, too.
I went on a sunny Saturday – there is a summer racing season that goes from mid-July through Labor Day with a fall schedule from Nov. 8-Dec. 1 – and found it very Opening Day-esque but with one major difference. While there was a good crowd, it was not so large it overwhelmed the facility’s facilities.
You could walk right up and get a drink, get something to eat in a sit-down restaurant and stroll up to a betting window with an eagerly-waiting (and friendly) cashier.
As a result, I was on cruise control, able to move around at my leisure without having to calculate wait times in lines. That particular day there was also a wine festival and a few friends had come down for it from L.A. I did not have a ticket for that event but can tell you it was quite entertaining to watch the parade of pretty single San Diego single women go into it and, three hours later, stumble out of it.
Yes, I should have gone to the wine tasting – and Del Mar has all kinds of summer events, including including a tacos and beer day and a food trucks festival – but I did have other obligations and did just fine on the final Saturday of July.
First, as I now live in San Diego’s Gaslamp, I took the Coaster to the races. Then, I hopped on a double-decker bus into the track. Talk about arriving in style!
The great thing about Del Mar and horse racing in general is you have a lot of places to walk around and the atmosphere is very casual, so for the first race I walked right up to the railing and watched the horses stomp right by me.
I had a reserved seat and while it was nice kicking back in the shade with a double margarita (more on that later), I soon upgraded to a box a few rows up from and directly in front of the finish line. That was courtesy of a friend, Linda McCoy Murray, who is married to a trainer.
In the next box, I spotted legendary white-haired trainer Bob Baffert (a two-time Triple Crown winner) but got a crappy photo of him because by the time I said “say, is that Bob Baffert!?,” and pulled my camera out of my pocket he had changed positions.
Linda then got me “inside the circle,” the pre-race parade of horses, which was really cool.
And then, despite its $18.50 cost that nearly had me frozen in stunned silence earlier, I had another double margarita. That’s because it actually had enough tequila in it to make me rethink that $18.50 is a ridiculous price for a margarita. All of Del Mar’s “signature” drinks are half off on Fridays, by the way, until 6 p.m.
The Del Mar Concerts
After the races – and saying goodbye to Linda and her trainer husband – I met up with my wine festival friends go to the concert. Yes, there was a concert! It was free with the race admission ticket, tho lots of people come in just for the concerts.
My friends were certainly in a spirited mood for the show while I had a bit of a sobering moment by paying $15 for a lukewarm can of Ballast Point beer (turns out, the cheapest beer was $13 and why are drinks sooo expensive at sporting events and concerts?). Still I charged into the show.
It was a country band and there were thousands of people there for it. My friends squeezed to the front right in front of the stage like groupies while I walked around the area. It was a great set-up, with a kind of lounge area to sit and tons of open space for standing and even dancing.
This was really fun; the music was great, the wether perfect and the atmosphere was outstanding. It was easy to talk with and meet people and it was both a high-energy yet also a kicked-back scene.
Del Mar has a concert series throughout the summer and I highly recommend it.
But don’t miss out on the entire day, either. Just because it’s not Opening Day doesn’t mean you won’t have a grand time at Del Mar.