You know it’s officially summer in San Diego when bright neon lights, live music and the wafting aroma of fried food lure you to Del Mar for the annual San Diego County Fair.
This year, the 24-day fair season begins June 7 and runs through July 6.
The fair -- located at 2260 Jimmy Durante Blvd. -- is closed Mondays and the first two Tuesdays of the season. On weekdays, the gates open at 11 a.m. and close at 10 p.m. Saturday hours are from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m., and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Sunday.
The theme this year the “Fab Fair,” which celebrate the 50th anniversary of The Beatles’ first visit to the U.S., sparking the British invasion in music and pop culture.
In keeping with the groovy theme, the grand entrance to fairgrounds is framed by a giant yellow submarine prop. Once inside, fairgoers will spot additional decorations featuring the Fab Four and colors and motifs of the Flower Power era.
Admission to the fair this year is $14 for adults and $8 for children ages 6 to 12 and adults 62 and older. Kids 5 and under get in free. If you’re planning to visit more than once, the “Best Pass Ever” will get you admission to the all 24 days of the fair for $24. That pass can be purchased online now through July 5. Tickets are available here.
Parking is $10 per vehicle in the fair’s onsite parking lots or free is you park at the Horsepark Equestrian Center on the corner of Via de la Valle and El Camino Real.
Besides games, rides, exhibits, shopping and activities galore, the Fab Fair will also host several festivals throughout its run.
This includes The Toast of the Coast Wine Festival on June 14, the San Diego International Beer Festival on June 20-22, the Gospel Festival on June 28 and the Big Bite Bacon Fest on July 5. Additional tickets are required for admission into those events.
Of course, like every year, it wouldn’t be the fair without a loaded lineup of live music.
Third Eye Blind is set to take the stage on Opening Day. The rest of the fair calendar is filled with bands like the Huey Lewis & the News, REO Speedwagon, Lit, Smokey Robinson, Hunter Hayes and reggae favorite Matisyahu, among many other performers.
Finally, those looking forward to some gloriously unhealthy fair food will certainly have a lot of snacking options.
In addition to the fair’s regular fare, a few new menu items this year include the Mad Hatter’s double-decker funnel cake smothered in clotted cream and strawberries and Chicken Charlie’s triple-decker Krispy Kreme cheeseburger, a sweet meat treat that stuffs three beef patties between two donuts.
Of course, at every corner there’s fried everything, as well as fair classics like hot dogs, corn or the cob and ice cream. The craft beer and wine bar offers local, award-winning brews and wine. For a sneak peak of this year's fair fare, check out this photo gallery.
According to the San Diego County Fair website, the fair dates back to 1880, when a group of San Diegans organized an agricultural fair to bring county farmers together to share ideas and show off their goods. After that first gathering, the county fair was held annually with a few exceptions across different locations in the county until 1936, when it moved to its home in Del Mar.
The event was suspended during World War II, but has taken place in Del Mar every year since 1946.
Attendance is strong every year. In 2012, the attendance record was broken with more than 1,517,508 fairgoers walking through those gates.
This year, the one millionth visitor will receive a bunch of gifts, including a lifetime pass to the San Diego County Fair.