Posing a delightful gamble for horse racing lovers, the back-to-back weekend races of Southern California’s Del Mar TVG Pacific Classic on August 17 and Saratoga Springs’ iconic Travers Stakes (celebrating its 150th anniversary this year) on August 24 are a coast-to-coast dilemma, to be sure. But for the true diehards (you know who you are), we recommend enjoying both historically significant races. So, yes, let’s go to Del Mar!
Aside from the city of Del Mar’s idyllic SoCal location (balmy and undeniably beautiful), the racetrack itself is quite impressive. With luxe, trackside dining and elegant hat-wearing spectators as far as the eye can see, the track experience comes complete with Del Mar’s signature cocktails, including the Cucumber Chili Margarita (made with Sauza Signature Blue Silver Tequila) and the Del Mule (featuring Maker’s Mark bourbon or Ketel One and ginger beer). Del Mar, here we come!
If you want to rub shoulders with horse racing’s glitterati, then definitely book your stay at L’Auberge Del Mar resort and spa; it’s one of those dreamy places where Worth Avenue and Rodeo Drive hypothetically intersect. L’Auberge emits luxury from its every manicured inch; it even made Condé Nast Traveler’s top spas in the US list. (I strongly recommend the spa’s Fountain of Youth Facial, followed by its signature Jet Lag Massage, to lift, drain and stretch your body and mind for full-on exhilaration). L’Auberge’s equally exhilarating private beach trail doesn’t hurt, either. The spa (and beach) experience is quite literally perfect.
About ten minutes inland and possibly even more over-the-top than L’Auberge is the Fairmont Grand Del Mar (technically, it’s in San Diego). Once you settle in and start basking in its expansive decadence, eye-popping extravagance and modern Mediterranean decor, you might need a nudge to leave your comfy confines and make the trek to the racetrack. With an enormous, inviting pool, pro-quality tennis courts, world-class spa and Tom Fazio-designed Grand Golf Club that winds through the canyon’s preserve, you’ll be tempted to extend your stay. And, yes, you’ll have to dine at Addison, Southern California’s only five-star and five-diamond restaurant, located right on the property.
And we’re just getting started. If you put golf, sublime massages and amazing cuisines above all else, then The Lodge at Torrey Pines is the ideal spot. Another five-diamond resort, this destination is sporty-elegant, and meets all the expectations of a five-star ultra-service. At first I thought the lodge might be a little too rustic for my admittedly spoiled tastes, but boy, was I ever wrong! It surprised me and easily became one of my best and most elegant stays ever.
There’s a lot to see within a 20-minute radius of the coastal racetrack. That said, if you’re traveling as a family and want to avoid all the fussy formality, you may decide that meandering casually for the duration of your trip is just what the doctor ordered. To start things off, you can literally roll out of bed and hit the sand at the elevated Del Mar Motel On The Beach, unshaven and uncombed. The La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club hotel boasts a long, private stretch of surf, 12 championship tennis courts, a 9-hole par-3 golf course and 3 worthy beachfront restaurants, all within close range of the Village of La Jolla’s legendary shopping and galleries. LIK Fine Art (chic, colorful, modern) is a must-see, as is the Martin Lawrence Gallery, both near famed Prospect Street. Also nearby is Balboa Park, home to the San Diego Zoo and no less than 17(!) museums—notably, the San Diego Natural History Museum (theNAT), the San Diego Museum Of Art and the Comic-Con Museum (coming soon).
Time to eat! Back closer to Del Mar, one stand-out where the locals dine with satisfying results is Brigantine, a seafood and oyster bar with award-winning fish tacos. Bangkok Bay Thai Restaurant, Eve Encinitas, Pamplemousse Grille and Sbicca are also popular options.
But wait, didn’t we come here for the ponies? Happy Trails in San Diego offers beach horseback riding, while Seeley Stables presents a highly rated museum consisting of a reconstructed stable and barns housing a collection of horse-drawn buggies, wagons, carriages and other equine memorabilia.
One thing’s for sure: No matter what you planned for this legendary horseracing week in Del Mar, you should really allow a couple of extra days to take it all in. Then, by all means, rush back to Saratoga in time for The Travers Stakes. Come to think of it, it really shouldn’t be a gamble at all—and you know we love to gamble.