It’s officially summer in San Diego: The County Fair rolls into Del Mar Friday, bringing with it games, rides, neon lights and lots and lots of fried, weird food.
This year, the 25-day San Diego County Fair runs from June 5 through July 5, with the gates opening at 4 p.m. on Opening Day at the Del Mar Fairgrounds at 2260 Jimmy Durante Blvd.
As attendees trickle in, they’ll step back in time with this year’s fair theme: “A Fair to Remember: A Celebration of World’s Fairs and Balboa Park,” which commemorates the centennial of the 1915 Panama - California Exposition held in Balboa Park. Fair organizers say the theme aims to unite the massive fair with one of San Diego’s most iconic landmarks.
The theme will highlight all of the educational, cultural and technological advances introduced at world’s fair – from the telephone and bicycle to the ice cream cone and mustard. The fair will also highlight the ongoing importance of agriculture, which remains the core of all fairs and expositions around the globe.
The fair is closed Mondays and first two Tuesdays of the season. It is open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. the other Tuesdays, as well as and Wednesdays and Thursdays. Gates are open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Fridays, from 10 a.m. to midnight on Saturdays, and from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Sundays.
One-day tickets cost $15 for adults, $8 for adults ages 62 and older, $8 for kids ages 6 to 12 and free for children ages 5 and under. The “Best Pass Ever” is available for $25 per person and gets you into all 25 days of the fair for the flat, one-time price of $25.
Parking at the Fairgrounds costs $10 per vehicle and is cash-only. Preferred parking is also available for $20 per car in a specially-marked parking zone just past the main entrance.
Free parking is available at three off-site lots, too, and then attendees can take a free shuttle service into the fair that leaves from the lots every 15 to 20 minutes. Those lots are located at Horsepark (14550 El Camino Real), MiraCosta College’s San Elijo Campus (3333 Manchester Ave.) and Torrey Pines High School (3710 Del Mar Heights Rd.).
Besides games, rides, exhibits, shopping and activities galore, the Fair to Remember will also host several festivals throughout its run.
This includes the Bluegrass Festival on June 6, the Wine Festival on June 13, Asian Festival on June 14, the San Diego International Beer Festival on June 19 through June 21 and Distilled: San Diego Spirits & Cocktail Festival on June 27.
Of course, it wouldn’t be the fair without a loaded lineup of live music, too. This includes KC and the Sunshine Band on June 5, Peter Frampton and Cheap Trick on June 10, Colbie Caillat on June 13 and many others.
For the full calendar of fair events and concerts, click here.
Finally, attendees looking to refuel at the fair will have tons of food options from which to choose, including lots of gloriously greasy, fried foods. A guide of what to eat at the fair, plus some mouthwatering photos of it all, can be seen here.
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. Last year, 1,457,130 people invaded the fairgrounds for the Beatles-themed fair, the second-highest attendance in fair history.
For more details on everything that is the San Diego County Fair, visit the event website.