Opening Day at the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club on July 17th is no quiet affair. It’s a thrilling event that attracts more than 45,000 race fans, socialites and those who simply love to see and be seen—in the scene. These folks flock to the racetrack for a kinetic atmosphere filled with fabulosity, fashion, and fun amid one of Southern California’s most revered social events of the year.

Beyond the horse racing and betting excitement that reaches a fever pitch—the style and tradition of Del Mar’s “One and Only Truly Fabulous Hats Contest” is, alone, worth the price of admission. Here, participants are judged on the creativity and look of their painstakingly custom-crafted chapeaus. Every year, there are some stunning designs and over-the-top styles worn by women with equally colorful personalities. Even if not participating in the contest, the racetrack is filled with haute hat-wearing ladies as well as gents who dawn their daytime best.

In addition to the fashion event aspect of the affair, Opening Day festivities also include a wide range of activities to ensure a good time for all. There is on site dining and a variety of bars that quickly become standing room only. It’s worthwhile to buy a ticket to the annual Coors Light party, held in a separate private tent, which features a live band, DJs, private trackside area with tent featuring food and beverages, a microbrew beer garden with more than 50 types of beer, and prizes and gift bag giveaways.  For those seeking to bet and win a buck or two, there’s also a newcomer seminar to help anyone who is not sure about the terminology and needs to learn how to place the varied type of bets available on the races.

HOT TIP: If you want to elevate your Opening Day experience once the racetrack revelry is done, do not miss the exclusive L’Auberge Del Mar Opening Day After Party also on July 17th, which kicks off at 5 p.m. and ends at 11 p.m. Now in its fifth year, this 21 and over luxe party is considered the hottest ticket in San Diego on the racetrack’s opening day.

For $100 per person, you’ll rub elbows with a veritable who’s who while savoring gourmet delights from the on-site KITCHEN 1540 and swaying to tunes by DJ FishFonics and award-winning DJ Gabe Vega. All this amid striking ocean views from L’Auberge Del Mar’s Pacific, Sunset and Ocean Terraces, as well as the pool deck and lobby where the event is held.

Make the experience that much more luxurious and personal by booking a chic cabana or private table, which are centrally located to the action as well as the ocean-side scenery. These boast a dedicated staff so there’s no waiting and wanting amid the crowd.  Here you can enjoy good eats and bottle service for your group, or you can order up some of the horse race-inspired cocktails.

You simply must try L’Auberge Del Mar’s signature summer Vodka Julep, which pays homage to the Kentucky Derby’s signature Mint Julep cocktail. The SoCal-inspired spin on this lovely libation consists of Grey Goose Vodka, Pernod Absinthe, mint leaves and simple syrup that are muddled and then served on the rocks. Simply the perfect refreshment to cap an exhilarating day under the San Diego sun.


• Gates at the Del Mar Racetrack open at 11:30 a.m. on Opening Day with the first post at 2 p.m. The rest of the season features horse racing on Wednesdays through Sundays up until September 4, 2013.  Del Mar Opening Day Stretch Run Admission: $10; Clubhouse Admission: $20; Coors Light party tickets: $30. More information is available at

• Tickets to the L’Auberge Del Mar Opening Day After Party are $100 through its e-store located at


“The Luxe List” Executive Editor Merilee Kern scours the luxury marketplace for exemplary travel experiences, extraordinary events, and notable products and services. Submissions are accepted at Follow her on Twitter here: and Facebook here:

***Some or all of the accommodations(s), experience(s), item(s) and/or service(s) detailed above were provided at no cost to accommodate this review, but all opinions expressed are entirely those of Merilee Kern and have not been influenced in any way.***