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Off-season is prime time for charming Del Mar
By CARY ORDWAY
If you're looking for all the excitement of a state-quality fair and a great beach getaway to boot, consider visiting Del Mar between mid-June and July 4. That's when the San Diego County Fair comes to town with its top-drawer big-name entertainment and enough exhibits, fair food and displays to keep you busy for days.

Or, if you want a quieter experience, visit just about any other time of the year.

Technically it only has about 4,500 residents, but the beach town known as Del Mar has just the right combination of legend, lore and beach access to draw literally millions of visitors each year. Despite the onslaught, this distinctive little burg still registers high on the charm scale.

It's the kind of place where prospective residents are sure to ask about the zip code of any home they might buy—if it isn't 92014, well, that just won't do. With the median price home in Del Mar now close to 2.5 million dollars, the city bestows upon its new residents a certain status that you just don't find in most 'burbs. Chalk that up to Bing Crosby who, along with his buddy Pat O'Brien and Paramount Studios opened the Del Mar Race Track back in 1937. Soon the stars were coming south from Los Angeles to enjoy big-time thoroughbred racing "where the surf meets the turf." Just a few blocks from the ocean, the track became an icon not only for Del Mar, but for San Diego County, which to this day uses the 350-acre track facilities to host a plethora if events including the annual San Diego County Fair.

Nowadays, race season is 43 days long, from mid-July to early September. People come into town during that time and book short-term apartments fetching astronomical prices just so they can take part in the racing action. Meanwhile, those who have no interest in horse racing whatsoever still find Del Mar's beaches and upscale shopping an irresistible draw. The restaurants here are trendy and cater to a young, hip crowd of San Diego professionals—or at least professionally beautiful people—who drive their Beamers and Mercedes 20 minutes north from San Diego to be in the center of the action.

This all makes for world-class people-watching and, with the city's European-inspired architecture, makes visiting this tiny town a less expensive substitute for that trip to the Mediterranean. Whether you're on the beach or browsing the pricey shops in the Del Mar Plaza, the Pacific sunset from most locations in Del Mar is well worth the price of admission.
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