Fried Food and Free Falls: Things to do at the San Diego Fair

The Del Mar Fair  San Diego County Fair has been a Southern California tradition since 1936. Each year, more than one million people come out to explore the fair’s exhibits and gorge themselves on fried food. Trips to the fair certainly aren’t good for your cholesterol, but they will fill you with a sense of nostalgia and remind you of what it was like to be a kid. Suitable for families, single people, and couples alike, no summer is truly complete without a trip to the fair. Before I get into all the crazy fun things you can do at the San Diego Fair, I’ll fill you in on a few basics:

Location: The Del Mar Fairgrounds are located at 2260 Jimmy Durante Blvd, Del Mar, CA 92014. Consisting of 370 acres of land, the fairgrounds are 21 miles north of downtown San Diego.

Time: The fair rolls into town the first week of June and whirls and twirls its guests until July 4th. The fair’s fireworks draw in tons of locals as well as tourists on Independence Day. Hours vary from year to year, but typically the gates open at 11a.m. and shut down at 10p.m.

Admission: $15 for adults, $8 for kids and seniors, free for children under age 5.

Parking: If you’re planning a trip to the fair, allot yourself at least 30-45 extra minutes for traffic and parking. You can pay $10 to park inside the grounds, but to save a buck, I recommend parking at a free lot and taking the fair’s free shuttle. Free shuttle service i provided from Horsepark (14550 El Camino Real, Del Mar), Mira Costa College’s San Elijo campus (3333 Manchester Ave, Cardiff), and Torrey Pines High School (3710 Del Mar Heights Road, Del Mar).

Things to do at the Fair:



From bumper cars to death-defying coasters, there’s an adrenaline outlet for all levels of thrillseekers. Rides aren’t included in your admission ticket, so you’ll have to buy individual tickets at kiosks throughout the fairgrounds. If you know you’re going to ride more than 3-4, visit on wristband day. Typically held on Thursdays, you pay $25 for unlimited ride access. Warning: this promotion is not recommended for people with weak stomachs or who emit embarrassing screams.



If you’ve ever wanted to bungee jump over solid concrete and a crowd of onlookers, you’ve come to the right place! For a small fee you can bungee jump or take on a series of other life-threatening endeavors (like getting harnessed into a sphere and getting slingshot into the sky).

Food, Glorious Food:


Eating at the San Diego Fair is an event in its own right. You’ll find classics like oversized hotdogs, nachos, cinnamon buns, and ribs, as well as twisted food concoctions that will have you questioning your morals. Think deep fried Kool-Aid, cheeseburgers with donuts in place of buns, and bacon cotton candy. Bring a buddy so you can sample a few things, and know where the closest bathroom is at all times when the inevitable rumbling of your stomach begins.



Looking to be heckled and have your manhood questioned? You’ve come to the right place. The game operators will try to entice you at every turn, promising oversized stuff unicorns and pride as your reward. Games at the fair can be thrilling, but people rarely win. Just keep that in mind before you start shelling out the big bucks for a $5 stuffed animal. It’s like a casino, if you know your price limits before you enter, you’ll leave happier.

Agrilcultural Exhibits:


Bunnies, chickens, and goats–oh my! The San Diego Fair began as a way to show off livestock. Although there’s more to it now, you’ll still find a ton of animals on display. Steers, pigs, horses, you name it. And yes, there’s even a petting zoo for your little critters to enjoy.

Pig Races:


Yes, you read that correctly. Pig. Races. Four mini pigs race for treats, and the crowd goes wild.

Art Exhibits/Concerts:


If you want to feel slightly cultured during your visit you’ve come to the wrong place, check out the art inside the exhibition halls. Paintings, wood carvings, precious gem stones await you inside. The fair also boasts an impressive concert lineup each year with a nice balance of contemporary artists and classic rockers.

Every year we take a photobooth picture to remember our time at the fair, it’s a nice memento and it doesn’t picture the 3,800 calories consumed. Do you have any fun fair memories from growing up?


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