DEL MAR—It’s back and sweeter than ever! The San Diego County Fair officially opened its gates to the public on Friday.
This year’s theme, “How Sweet It Is, is presented by Albertsons and Vons.
Get ready to leave the ordinary world behind the minute you step into this magical candy land that’s overflowing with opportunities to truly savor summer with the excitement of a wide-eyed kid.
The Del Mar Fairgrounds has transformed into a magical world of tasty treats, flashy entertainment, adorable farm animals, scream-worthy carnival rides, fantastic festivals, goofy competitions and endless opportunities for fun through July 4. It simply wouldn’t be summer in San Diego without this iconic fair, which draws approximately 1.6 million visitors annually and is one of the top five fairs in the United States and Canada.
What fun to watch the racing pigs throw it into four-squeal drive, dance your heart out at a silent disco, sneak over to the Cocoa Cabana speakeasy for some savory sips and taste deep-fried delectable treats that you never even knew existed!
The Fair, which began in 1880 to bring San Diego County farmers together to share ideas, compete for the best pies and citrus fruits and challenge each other to horse races, continues to celebrate agriculture and community pride. No two days are exactly alike at the fair, and you’ll find new treasures each time you visit.
This year’s Fair features the hidden Cocoa Cabana speakeasy, where you’ll find candy-infused cocktails and an oasis that will make you feel like you’ve been transported to the tropics! Fairgoers can learn about this shhhh….weet secret at various bar locations throughout the Fair.
Sweet: A Tasty Journey
You’ll unwrap a world of flavorful fun when you step inside the Fair’s new theme exhibit. Engage all your senses – sugary scents, flavorful treats, interactive games and colorful candies around every corner. Cross the chocolate river into our land of sweet imagination, honoring the most famous chocolate factories! You’ll also learn about real-life candy factories right here in San Diego, discover the local connection to the Candyland game, and follow the colorful squares to Rock Candy Mountain. And be sure to take the Jelly Belly Bean Boozled Challenge to try to guess what flavors you’re tasting!
Creative bites are always a star of this show, and whether you’re on the hunt for deep-fried favorites, healthy snacks or unique rainbow-colored unicorn foods that are currently all the rage, there’s more palate-pleasing options than you can imagine. Can’t choose just one? Try our “Taste of the Fair” on Thursdays where you can buy taster portions of delish Fair foods for just $3!
Here’s a sampling of fun foods you’ll find at the Fair this year: Deep-fried filet mignon; unicorn cotton candy ice cream sandwiches; ramen burritos; bacon-wrapped baklava; cheesy bacon-bombs; cinnamon roll sundaes; lasagna nachos; unicorn burgers; donut grilled-cheese sandwiches; lobster tacos; red velvet funnel cake; chocolate-dipped jerky; spaghetti donuts, and macho nacho bacon unicorn dog
It’s time to toast Mike Hess’ new brew crafted specifically for the San Diego County Fair: The Tangerine A-Fair! This juicy IPA is on draft at the Fair, at 25+ breweries around San Diego and is available for purchase at Albertsons|Vons stores.
Head to the candy shop
Have an affection for confections? Candy Pros is just the spot to explore! This new colorful candy shop features gummy treats dipped in your favorite sweet sauces and sprinkles.
The momentum of the Fair’s bright lights, sounds and countless exciting activities can sometimes build to an overwhelming crescendo for children and adults with autism, PTSD and other sensory-sensitive conditions. That’s why the San Diego County Fair has partnered with KultureCity to offer calm spaces for guests with sensory needs to de-escalate. The main sensory station location is at Guest Services. The satellite station is in the Creative Youth tent in Family Funville.
In addition, Guest Services will offer free sensory toolkits that can be used while out and about at the Fair. The kits include noise-cancelling headphones, fidgets, weighted lap pads and other helpful tools.
Fabulous festivals and events
Let your spirits soar with tastes of sips and suds you’ll find at the Fair’s Toast of the Coast Wine Festival on June 9, The San Diego International Beer Festival June 15-17 and The Distilled Spirit and Cocktail Festival on June 23.
Spoil your green thumb at the Bloom n’ Art Garden Party June 2-3, take a one-day journey through Asia without ever leaving the Fair at The Asian Festival on June 2, celebrate the LGBTQ community at Out at the Fair June 9 and get your mariachi on at Festival de Mariachi on June 10. Enjoy the last hurrah of the Fair on July 4 with a spectacular Independence Day celebration including a parade, fireworks and entertainment.
It’s all about the music
Music is always the star of the show at the San Diego County Fair. There are 26 nights of entertainment on the Corona Grandstand Stage featuring Sugarland, the Barenaked Ladies, Gabriel “Fluffy” Iglesias, The Fray, Nancy Wilson of Heart, Hanson and Cheat Codes, just to name a few. Your ears are also in for a sweet treat at the Paddock Concert Series and Solid Gold Concert Series. To explore the full line-ups, visit www.sdfair.com.
Indulge in healthy options
The Fair isn’t just about candy and deep-fried treats! From learning about how nature’s fruits and veggies grow and ripen to tracking your steps around the Fairgrounds and finding good-for-you snacks to keep you energized, there are a whole lot of naturally-sweet and healthier options to enjoy at this year’s Fair.
Your ticket to ride
Thrill seekers will find more than 80 rides to choose from including the always popular Big Wheel, Crazy Mouse roller coaster and Sky Ride. There are plenty of ride package specials to get more thrill for your bills – go to sdfair.com to learn about the “Ride Fanatic Pack” for $46, the “Pay One Price Ride Days” for $38 on Wednesdays and Thursdays in June and more!
The Fair runs Friday, June 1 through Wednesday, July 4 (26-day season). The Fair will be closed Mondays and Tuesdays in June
Gate hours: June 1: 4-11 p.m.; Wednesdays, Thursdays and July 2: 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Fridays and July 3: 11 a.m.-11 p.m.; Saturdays and July 4: 10 a.m.-11 p.m.; Sundays: 10 a.m.-10 p.m. (The Fair stays open for approximately 1 hour after the gates close for the night.)
The Del Mar Fairgrounds are located at 2260 Jimmy Durante Blvd. in Del Mar.
Admission: $19 adults; kids 6-12 and seniors 62 and over, $12; kids 5 and under get in free.
Save 20% on adult admission when you purchase Fair tickets at Albertsons and Vons grocery stores ($15 instead of $19). Seniors and children’s tickets are $11.
“Kids Days” feature free admission on all Fridays in June for kids 12 and under.
“Sweet 16 Day” on June 16, features free admission for all 16-year-olds (with proof of age). “College Day,” Friday June 8, features $10 Fair admission with student ID (at the Fairgrounds box office on the day-of only). For $28, get unlimited entry to the Fair with the “Best Pass Ever.”