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San Diego County Fair

Most native San Diegans know the newly re-named “San Diego County Fair” as the Del Mar Fair. Don’t be alarmed if a few locals shoot you a curious “huh?” face when asking for directions to the San Diego County Fair. The name change is fairly recent.

For those of us lucky enough to dub beautiful San Diego as our hometown, you will probably recall fond memories of spending summer after summer at the fair. Whether it was a hot, sticky school bus ride or sitting shotgun during your 16-year-old brother’s student driver days, we all experienced a bit of excitement in our tummies as we saw the bright colored tents and tall carnival rides from the freeway.

The fair has changed quite a bit since its original opening in 1880 as an agricultural fair for local farmers. However, it continues to retain its classic charm as new attractions come and go. Each year, the San Diego County Fair kicks off summer and opens their gate to the public during the first week of June until the 4th of July. Unfortunately for us, the hard-working staff at the fairgrounds need their rest too. With the exception of July 2nd, the SD Fair will be closed on Mondays. Aside from Mondays, the public is welcome to visit at 11am on Tuesday- Friday and 10am on Saturday- Sunday. The grounds begin closing down at 10pm on Sundays, Tuesday- Thursday and 11pm on Friday- Saturday.

The SD fair takes on a new theme every year and all you space alien fans will be ecstatic to learn of this year’s outer space theme. The San Diego Fair will showcase two different outer space exhibits. The “Out Of This World” exhibit features educational activities such as stargazing with the exhibit telescope, taking a peek at the insides of space shuttles, experiencing the difficulties and excitement of astronauts, and even an area where you can “walk on the moon”! Area Fifty-Fun showcases the mysterious science fiction side of outer space. Fair visitors can explore the alien crash site and observe workers as they "discover" new creatures in the learning lab.

Aside from the outer space exhibits, the San Diego County Fair offers a bunch of things to do and see. From art contests to glutinous fair food- there is something for everyone!

  • Agrifair: It gets a little smelly in there, but the Agrifair is well worth it. You can only wave "hi!" to the animals at the San Diego Zoo and San Diego Safari Park so the Agrifair is perfect for those of you wanting a little more interaction. Interactive experiences are available at the Sheep and Goat Pasture, Pig Pen, and Cattle Pasture. Other notable favorites are the Turkey Stampede and fun tours of the World of Horses. Also, don't miss a chance to win some prizes at their contests. I must say that I'm pretty excited about prune pit spitting contest, vegetable bowling, and the garlic toss. My little cousins better watch out!
  • Car Shows: Car lovers will be thrilled to see all the vehicles awaiting them just past the arena gate. The most sought after and unique cars arrive from well-known car clubs in the region. Guests are allowed to browse cars until 3pm daily. During the week of June 26- July 4, the Chevrolet Del Mar Arena will be hosting its "Motorsports Week" where huge monster trucks, transformers, and demolition derbies will be displayed to the public.
  • Food: There has been quite a craze over fair food these last few years. Fried kool-aid, fried oreos, huge turkey legs the size of your head, slow cooked barbecue, the fair has fried everything you can imagine! Trust me, you won't be able to find the willpower to skip out on these treats. A few new favorites are the dishes served in empty pineapple bottoms, baconshrooms, cookie dough on a stick, and deep-fried peanut butter and jelly. I, personally am a little afraid of the concept of deep-fried butter, but this, too, is gaining popularity. A friend of mine says it tastes like a churro. Mmmm, churro! Try it and tell us how you liked it!
  • Games and Rides: Don't deny it, you were always a tad bit jealous of those lucky people who won the obnoxiously huge stuffed animals! If you're feeling lucky, be sure to stop by Fun Zone and Kiddie Land to take a chance at those fair games. There are also 80 different rides you can choose from. For your convenience, there are tons of ticket booths for purchasing ride coupons. Unique rides like the Zip Line and Sling Shot, however, cost extra so be sure to look up the pricing before you purchase tickets. 
  • Our Body Exhibit: If you missed Bodies The Exhibit in San Diego a few years back, this is the perfect place to catch front row views of real organs and bodies and oh yeah, brush up on some of your rusty anatomy knowledge. The exhibit entrance fee is an additional $7, but you won't be disappointed with all the cool things you'll see. Looking back, our high school teacher may have bored us to death with his monotone voice as he taught a classroom of sleepy seniors, but this is quite a unique exhibition. Our Body Exhibit highlights the inner workings of our bodies in an artistic and fascinating way. Don't miss out!
  • Shopping: Shopping at the fair? You'd be surprised at all the local vendors selling unique trinkets and hard to find items. Think farmer's/flea market, but times a thousand. Take a look around at one of the huge shopping areas for refuge from the sun and some good old shopping. You may go home with a new blender, some shoes, or other little knick-knacks.
  • Surfside Race Place and Bingo Del Mar: Visitors who purchase a San Diego County Fair ticket gain free entry into the Surfside Race Place where thoroughbred racing takes place. Unfortunately, Surfside Race Place will be closed on Tuesdays. If you happen to stumble upon the closed doors on a Tuesday morning, don't worry, Bingo Del Mar takes place everyday from 12- 8pm. Eight whole hours of bingo and the big prize is 50% of the pot! Although we may not think Bingo is a vicious or cut-throat game, some players are pro and have tons of bingo cards going on at once. Bring your game face!

Aside from these activities, there are still many more things to do and see at the San Diego County Fair. Check out the Flower & Garden Show, award winning show dogs, wood design artwork, and homebrewed beer contests. There is also a wide selection of live entertainment including singers, bands, artists, performers, and comedians. Look through the San Diego County Fair website to catch the days your favorite band is performing! If you're a local, you may even recognize a few names of kids and neighbors you know from the community exhibitions that feature student art, photography, and unique collections of trinkets.

Summer in San Diego is a special time. And what better way to spend long summer days than at the San Diego County Fair? Most of us have grown up going to the fair. It's just something we do. I may not have received a blue ribbon for my childhood artwork or for my 3rd grade plant (resembling more of a sprout), I still, however, experience excitement every time I drive past the San Diego County Fair.