Gallop, don’t walk, to San Diego’s glamorous Del Mar Racetrack season running July 15 through September 5th. Chic La Jolla ladies and Hollywood celebrities sip and sup in the chichi Turf Club, once the playground of Bing Crosby, Desi Arnaz, Jimmy Durante, Dorothy Lamour, W. C. Fields, Paulette Goddard, Edgar Bergen, June Haver, Ann Miller, Don Ameche, Ava Gardner, Red Skelton, Pat O’Brien even the notorious J. Edgar Hoover.
San Diego’s temperate summer is a welcome alternative to Tampa Bay’s oppressive humidity, perfect for an upscale Pacific vacay, a mix of culture and cocktails from Balboa Park’s museums and world-class Old Globe Theater to downtown Gaslamp Quarter’s eclectic nightlife and Padres stadium.
If you can make it, you’ll relish Del Mar’s Opening Day, the most anticipated social event of the year. Stretch limos unleash dapper gents and lovely ladies in posh outfits, complete with elegant or whimsical hats. The competition for best hat is ferocious (and worth $5,000 in prizes); I once saw a chapeau adorned with a motorized racetrack among the fascinators and feather adorned chicanery.
On Opening Day, you can attend the Harrah-sponsored $30/person party features a DJ, dancing and games tent, gourmet food trucks, beer garden and cocktail bars, photo booth and jumbo video boards or dine with the hoi-polloi in the Turf Club.
Whether you go Opening Day or during the summer racing season, you’ll be greeted by fountains, lush foliage, blooming flowers, vintage Hollywood props, stunning thoroughbreds and the hippest, best dressed crowds. When the caller yells, “And they’re off,” you can feel the energy. The food and cocktails are sensational from the reserved Clubhouse Terrace Restaurant to Café del Sol.
On Friday’s the Racetrack is THE place to be seen with a hopping happy hour featuring signature cocktails until 6 pm (Cucumber Chili, Billionaire Margaritas). At 4 pm, the concerts amp the fun, featuring Ziggy Marley, Brian Setzer and other legendary musical acts.
Upscale Hotels: Closest to the track is the exquisite Fairmont Grand Del Mar while the picturesque L’Auberge Del Mar nestles in the village overlooking the Pacific Ocean. L’Auberge’s glamorous Del Mar Suite has a fireplace, U-shaped wet bar and coastal view from three patios while the five Pacific Suites face the ocean. Even better, your pampered pup is welcome! Their award-winning restaurant, Kitchen 1540, serves dinner and Sunday brunch and you can get pampered at the full-service European Spa when you’re not taking a surf lesson or riding an Electra cruiser bike. On Opening Day, L’Auberge features the annual after party.
Delectable Dining: For surf and turf, enjoy the Hyatt Regency’s Trulock and Georges at the Cove in La Jolla and especially Chef Jeff Jackson at A.R. Valentien. For casual seafood, Del Mar’s Poseidon and the Brigantine are the hot ticket. Before or after the track, linger at the Del Mar Plaza and enjoy Italian cuisine at Il Fornaio or new American seafood dishes at Pacfica Del Mar. Fidel’ Norte’s in Solana Beach serves classic Mexican dishes while Jake’s for happy hour and ahi tartare tacos is the best seat in town. The piano bar and ginormous steaks at Red Tracton’s is a racetrack favorite; you’re sure to encounter a colorful crowd in from Palm Springs and Newport Beach.
Written by Nanette Wiser
Photos courtesy of Del Mar Thoroughbred Club