For those in southern California, we know that our fair hits different. The Del Mar Fair is special. It’s so much more than a traditional carnival; it’s a whole experience. From the minute you walk in, you are overwhelmed with sensations — smells, lights, food, shopping. And then, of course, there’s the music.
Being the ultimate summer kick-off, it’s hard to pass up.
Starting the first week or so of June and leading all the way up to July 4th, the Del Mar Fair stands as a rite of passage into the season. And, with it being the first relatively normal year post-COVID, the fair was the talk of the town. 2022 proffered a superhero theme, with the art exhibit posited right at the front. Hello, early Comic Con vibes (also coming back to town after a three-year hiatus!!). You could hear all along the main drag vendors playing music and making the devilishly delightful treats one can only find at the fair. Funnel cakes, churros, deep fried everything… this was a guilty pleasure treasure trove. There were also healthy(ish) options thrown in for those trying to maintain their beach bods.
Once ordered and satiated, it was time to head into the main halls of the racing building. On the way, a folky acoustic set was echoing out the garden area, perfect for twirling to. Inside the art exhibits, we were in search of two things — John Fogerty and a fabled speakeasy. That’s right, Creedence Clearwater Revival’s John Fogerty was in the house, performing at that very second somewhere in the vicinity and it had to be witnessed.
There’s nothing more 4th of July than a CCR soundtrack.
Without tickets proved a challenge, but we were determined anyway and got a few peaks inside the show. What really proved useful was the latter mission — finding the speakeasy. Turn’s out, if you hike to the sixth floor of the building and find a guy with wristbands who will check your ID, you can be led to the most glorious secret in all the land — Destination Unknown. A tropical paradise with many a flamingo and a rooftop view, Destination Unknown is a great oasis away from the kids. It had hammock chairs anchored to the ceiling to sit in and serious mixology-level cocktails to choose from. We were lucky enough to arrive just when a table got up from the patio section, enabling us to hear (in perfect audio, mind you), the rest of Fogerty’s set (which conveniently consisted of all the best CCR songs). That patio was a sing-along; with a view of the stage and those acoustics, it was like we were front row!
After that once-in-a-lifetime break, we meandered the art halls, looking at the winners and taking in the “oohs” and “aahs” of the spectators before heading back out for some serious dessert. Dining at a table next to an 80s hair metal band, I might head-banged a bit while munching on a turkey leg while others enjoyed insanely fully-loaded donuts.
Next up, naturally, were the rides! Around this time, since the concert took a chunk out of the evening, we really only had an hour or so before the fair closed for the night. We opted for a good ol’ fashioned ferris wheel. While waiting in line, you can hear all the ride classics from our youth, like Ozzy’s “Crazy Train”, mixed with some new housey EDM featured on rides like the “Rave Wave”. All of this, over shouts of winners from the carnival games and the loud POPs of balloon darts. What a vibe.
Before we knew it, the night had come to a close although that didn’t stop us getting kettle corn and bacon cheese fries on the way out. If you’re a teenager looking for a safe time out with friends to parents with kiddos to being a nostalgia-driven derelict running around in your 30s like us, the Del Mar Fair always has something for everyone. Now to just hear what next year sounds like! Oh… and to go back once the horse races open later this month. Happy summer, everyone!