Fun for the whole family on Dog Beach in Del Mar, California
Fun for the whole family on Dog Beach in Del Mar, California / © Barcroft/Getty Images
March/April 2016

Turf and Surf

Experience the former playground of the stars in Del Mar

BYTeresa Bitler
When Bing Crosby sang, “Where the Turf Meets the Surf,” he was referring to the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, the horse racing track he helped found. But the phrase also aptly describes Del Mar, California, itself. Since its earliest days, the village 20 miles north of San Diego has drawn visitors to ride — and later cheer on — horses, as well as play in the waves of the Pacific Ocean. 
Movieland’s Own Track
A great place to begin a weekend escape in this seaside town is at the racetrack, which really sets Del Mar apart from other San Diego County communities. Opened in 1937, the track gained national attention when it hosted the Seabiscuit – Ligaroti match race the following year (Seabiscuit won).
By the 1940s, it had become a playground for Hollywood’s elite. It wasn’t uncommon to see Crosby, Lucille Ball, Desi Arnaz, Betty Grable, and Mickey Rooney in the stands. Jimmy Durante was such a regular that both the turf course and the street in front of the track bear his name.
Catch a Wave and More
Once you’ve experienced Del Mar’s turf, head to the surf. Del Mar City Beach is one block west of Camino Del Mar, where you’ll find most of the local boutiques and fine restaurants. 
At Del Mar City Beach, you can swim, surf, stand-up paddleboard, kayak, or just soak up the sun. 
Traveling with Fido? Check out North Beach, affectionately known as Dog Beach. Some days, you’ll see four-legged surfers practicing for the Surf Dog Surf-A-Thon held there in September.
Strolling Downtown
If you want to really get to know Del Mar, spend an afternoon downtown. You can pick up a walking-tour map at the Del Mar Community & Visitor Center that will direct you to points of interest, which have QR-coded plaques you can scan with your smartphone to learn interesting facts about the sites. Stops along the way include L’Auberge Del Mar, originally the historic Stratford Inn; the Del Mar Library, formerly the St. James Catholic Church; and Del Mar Plaza.
Between stops, hunt for the perfect memento to bring home or dine on fresh seafood as you watch the waves.
TERESA BITLER is the author of Backroads & Byways of Indian Country.
If You Go
Getting there: There are multiple non-stop flights daily between Phoenix and San Diego. Or, you easily can drive to Del Mar in six hours from the Phoenix area. 
When to go: Visit before summer to avoid crowds. The 2016 racing season runs July 15 – Sept. 5, and Nov. 10 – Dec. 4.
Learn More
Discover more fun places to see in California at or by calling your local AAA Travel agent at 1-888-870-9392.
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