Candice

Hats, Horses and High Rollers: Opening Day at the Del Mar Races

Opening Day hats on display at the Del Mar Racetrack
Opening Day at the Del Mar Racetrack

…and they’re off!

Seventy-five years have passed since Bing Crosby and his friends opened up the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, but the glamour and prestige of Opening Day hasn’t faded with age. Every year, locals and visitors alike flock to the seaside racetrack to soak up the first day of racing action, not to mention gawk at all the elaborate hats on display, and this year’s Opening Day was no exception.

Opening Day hats on display at the Del Mar Racetrack

Those looking to visit the Del Mar races this season can embark on the journey car-free; just hop on the North County Transit District’s COASTER commuter train. Ride the train to Solana Beach, then hop on one of the free shuttles that take you directly to the track’s front gate. The best part is the view – it sure beats staring at the cars stuck in traffic!

Ride the Coaster train to the Del Mar Racetrack

No need for a designated driver when you take the Coaster to the racetrack, and the view is outstanding.

While the races are the main event, Opening Day is one heck of a party with plenty of smiling faces under those elaborate hats. It’s best to make a day of it, so dress up, grab a few of your friends and a Del Margarita and settle in for afternoon.

Opening Day at the Del Mar Racetrack

Even after Opening Day has come and gone, the action at the track is just warming up. All season long, the Del Mar racetrack is home to events that appeal to visitors of all ages, like the Gourmet Food Truck Festival on July 28, where more than 50 trucks come to the track to offer a wide range of delicious, fun and funky dining options. Parents can bring the kids out for Family Fun Day on July 22, and dog lovers can cheer on the fastest runners on four legs…four very short legs! The Wienerschnitzel Wiener Dog Nationals take place at the track on Sept. 3. And of course, Fridays are all about music at the track, with Del Mar’s Summer Concert Series. After the races end, race-goers can enjoy free live music from a lineup of performers including Wavves, Dashboard Confessional, Ben Harper and more. Check out the full lineup for information on performances schedules.

Opening Day at the Del Mar Racetrack

Opening Day 2012 broke attendance records, with more than 47,000 people attending

If you’re planning on attending Opening Day next year, or any of the other days this season that feature concerts or special events, be sure to plan on arriving early and give yourself extra travel time.

Brent Bernasconi

Trains, Grains and No Automobiles – A Green Beer Tour of San Diego

La Jolla Wine Tour Beer Train Tour Collage - Coaster Ride

I love beer (IPAs to be exact) and it helps that I live in San Diego with over 40 amazing breweries to its name. The hard part is getting a chance to sample all of the different local brews.

There is a new way in town to do just that through La Jolla Wine Tours (LJWT) who are now offering a Beer Train Tour. LJWT’s goal is to showcase great San Diego breweries, wineries and restaurants while making sure everyone has a fun and safe time. They offer beer and wine tours on foot, by car, and now, by train that take visitors all over the county. All I heard was beer, food, train, frivolity and sunshine and I was sold.

On a gorgeous Friday afternoon, my little brother (now 21, which is scary), myself, and a few other beer fans met up with beer and wine sommelier, Stephen, and tour guide/tour creator, Patricia, from LJWT to embark on The Beer Train Tour.

Once aboard The Beer Train Tour, our group made three stops along the coast of San Diego starting in the Downtown area and ending in the seaside village of Carlsbad. Here is a sample of what you might expect to experience on this fun and green tour:

La Jolla Wine Tour Beer Train Tour Collage - The Beer Co.

Station 1: Downtown’s The Beer Co.

We all met at our first stop, The Beer Company, in San Diego’s Downtown. After the meet and greet, Stephen got down to business and led us through the complexities and flavors of a few samples from the Beer Co.’s wide selection and styles of in-house beers. As a bonus, we were lucky enough to meet one of the brewers while he poured us a pitcher straight from the tanks! To keep things fun, Patricia threw out a couple trivia questions that resulted in a few prizes for me (I admit it- I am a beer nerd) and the ability to select a growler fill for the train ride.

La Jolla Wine Tour Beer Train Tour Collage - Coaster Ride

Once good and giddy, our group took a short walk to the Santa Fe Train Station to hop on the train. As it pulled out of the station, we all relaxed in our comfy chairs while enjoying a growler fill of The Beer Co.’s Trippel (a Belgian style Tripel) as the views of the waterfront chugged by. Next stop, the sleepy surfer town of Encinitas.

La Jolla Wine Tour Beer Train Tour Collage - Encinitas and Union Kitchen

Station 2: Encinitas’ Union Kitchen and Tap

Moving away from the hustle and bustle of downtown, we disembarked from the train into the sun-kissed, laid back surfer town of Encinitas. We strolled down the South Coast Highway 101 enjoying the warm ocean breeze and picking up a few fun facts from Stephen as we made the short walk to the Union Kitchen and Tap. Stephen perused the local beers on tap and made sure to order samples based on everyone’s preferences. Magically, both food and beer samples made their way to our table and before we knew it, it was time to ride on to our next destination.

Note to self: Head back to Encinitas and the Union for a quintessential San Diego afternoon of sunshine, surf and great beer.

La Jolla Wine Tour Beer Train Tour Collage - Carlsbad and Coaster

Station 3: Carlsbad’s The Compass

Now even happier and chattier than before, everyone unloaded from the train into the coastal village of Carlsbad. As we walked to our final stop, Stephen gave us a quick history of Carlsbad and its special liquid resource, mineral water. After waving hello to a LJWT wine tour group at the Witch Creek Winery, our lively group of new friends sat down at The Compass for a few more samples, mac and cheese (that my brother loved), and good conversation before heading back south on the train to San Diego and the weekend.

As I reflect back on the fun I had, I especially appreciated how Stephen and Patricia made sure everyone received the chance to both sample a beer style they loved and one they had never tried. As a local, the tour also introduced me to new local restaurants (my brother has decided to return to The Compass for his birthday in May) with a large selection of taps allowing San Diegans and visitors the chance to sample many local beers in one place.

Whether you are in the mood for beer or wine, LJWT has you covered with even more great tours:
– Wine Train Tour
– San Diego County Wine Tours
– Beer and Wine Walking Tours
– Special Holiday Tours

So what are you waiting for? Call LJWT, get on the train and enjoy all that San Diego has to offer.

Tell me in the comments below: Where is your favorite place to grab a drink while in San Diego?

PS. Stop by Bine and Vine in San Diego’s Normal Heights Neighborhood for a great selection of bottled beers and wines. Ask for Stephen and tell him Brent sent you!