10 ‘Oz-some!’ reasons why you should attend the San Diego County Fair
Clicking your heels three times and reciting “there’s no place like home” won’t get you to Oz, but the theme of this year’s San Diego County Fair may just take you somewhere over the rainbow to a merry old place called Munchkin Land.
“Oz-some!” is the theme for San Diego’s biggest annual event held at the Del Mar Fairgrounds. Inspired by L. Frank Baum’s classic tale, the “Wizard of Oz,” fairgoers will ease on down the yellow brick road to the Emerald City where it will take the courage of The Lion to board the fair’s whirlwind of carnival rides; the brains of The Scarecrow to learn all about the creative and education exhibits; and the heart of the Tin Man to embrace new memories with family and friends.
With the fair expanded to 27 days of fun (May 31 through July 4), visitors will encounter: 4,187 attractions, 1,879 concerts, 83 rides, 28 contests, hundreds of animals and a multitude of exhibits, festivals and special events.
“The fair began in 1880 as San Diegans challenged each other to compete for who could grow the best fruits, bake the best pies and race the fastest horses,” said Tim Fennel, CEO of the Del Mar Fairgrounds and Racetrack. “The fair continues to celebrate agriculture and community pride. No two days are exactly alike at the fair. We have something for everyone. And you will find new treasurers each and every day.”
Here’s what you’ll find at the 2019 San Diego County Fair:
Step onto the set of the 1939 MGM film and discover how the movie has become an iconic treasure for all generations. See original props from the film and pieces from the private collections of the University of Southern California and the Wamego Oz Museum, including a Munchkin jacket that was worn during the film.
Don’t fly over the rainbow just yet. Be sure to add your wish to the “Wish Rainbow” chalk mural inspired by the wishes of the characters in the story: heart, courage, brain and home. And don’t miss the daily “Ask the Wizard” show where you can interact with the Wizard of Oz himself.
Be the envy of everyone on your social media page when you take a selfie at one of 11 immersive “Selfie Spots.” Take a photo in a tornado on the Gale Farm or with a few familiar characters, like Glinda the Good Witch or the Wicked Witch of the West.
Don’t head back to Kansas without visiting the Lollipop Guild candy store, or testing your knowledge of all things Oz by participating in daily contests and game shows.
Bloom-N-Art Garden Party
The second annual floral extravaganza combined its traditional Flower Festival with other Fair Art and Garden Show exhibits to make this the largest art-inspired affair of the summer. Visitors will learn how to choose flowers for artful vase arrangements, watch chalk art artists create colorful masterpieces (you can vote for your favorite) and purchase garden art by market artists. Other attractions include music, food and beverages, panel discussions and more. 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. June 1-2 at the Garden Show.
Up, up and away!
Soar over San Diego from the heart of the fair in a hot air balloon just like the Wizard of Oz rode in the movie. Get a birds-eye view of the ocean and of the fairground’s infield. Flights depart daily, weather conditions permitting. Price is $211 per adult and $191 for children ages 5-11, and includes fair admission, premium champagne, juice or mimosa toast, a cheese and chocolate plate, digital souvenir pictures, celebratory banners, a commemorative flight certificate and 2-for-1 wine-tasting vouchers for use at many southern California wineries. Advance booking is required through Magical Adventure. hotairfun.com
Swifty Swine racing pigs
A longtime fair favorite, fans of these cute little pigs will squeal with excitement as they watch their pick of the litter race to the finish line. Their reward? Not prize money, but an Oreo cookie nestled on a silver platter. The races are held several times daily in the Durante Area next to the Del Mar Arena.
Festivals and more festivals
The ninth annual Out at the Fair LGBTQ-community event features family-friendly entertainment and activities at the Paddock Stage, the Turf Club and the Ballast Point Paddock Stage. 11 a.m. June 1.
Let your spirits soar with tastes of sips and suds at the Toast of the Coast Wine Festival (June 8), the San Diego International Beer Festival (June 14-16) and the Distilled Spirit and Cocktail Festival (June 22).
The Asian Festival celebrates Asian and Pacific Islander cultures with music, dance, martial arts performance and Ikebana (flora) displays. 11:30 a.m. June 15 at the Ballast Point Paddock Stage.
The thrill of it all
If you feel the need for speed, then be sure to make the Fun Zone your first stop at the fair. New this year is the Endeavour — a much faster version of the classic Ferris wheel. Get swept away as open-air passenger seats whisk riders into a tornado of motion 60 feet through the air at a speed of 25 miles per hour. For greater effect, the ride sparkles with LED lights at night.
San Diego County Fair 5K
Get ready to run, skip and stroll your way through the fair and see all of the “Oz-some!” attractions before the big daily crowds arrive. This VIP experience is open to all ages. Registration includes two tickets to the fair, exclusive event T-shirt and more. 7 a.m. check-in, 8 a.m. start June 15. Del Mar Arena.
Get your game on
eSports (or electronic sports), a form of competition using video games, makes its debut at the fair. Professional or casual gamers can test their skills playing Super Smash Bros Ultimate and Rocket League mechanics. Coaches will be on-site to help you level up your play. Listen to an eSports psychologist presentation that addresses better practice habits when gaming, dealing with burnout, coping with anxiety during competition as well as dealing with toxicity. Enter the weekly Super Smash Bros Ultimate Tournament from 6 to 10 p.m. every Friday for cash prizes. Saint Archer 17 Hands Restaurant & Bar, the Paddock.
Dining on the farm
Barry Schneider, executive chef of the fairgrounds and Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, will prepare a five-course, farm-to-table menu, with each course paired with award-winning wine and beer. 4:30 to 7 p.m. June 29. Paul Ecke Jr. Flower and Garden Show. $141 per person, includes fair admission, dinner and preferred parking.
At the end of the rainbow
On July 4, the fair closes out its run with a Hometown Heroes parade, patriotic contests and entertainment. The parade starts at 12:30 p.m. inside O’Brien Gate (main gate) and heads down the Avenue to the Fun Zone. At 9 p.m., the fair launches its Grand Finale Fireworks Spectacular show that includes more than 3,600 aerial display counts, with 500 8-inch shells choreographed to music. Corona Grandstand Stage.
General admission ranges from $14 to $20, but there are plenty of discounts and deals. Children 12 and younger are admitted free on Fridays. A 27-day season pass is available for $32 at the fair box office, online or at San Diego County Albertsons and Vons stores. Children 12 and under get in free on Fridays. Albertsons and Vons stores are also offering a $6 Fair Days ticket deal for admission only on May 31, June 1 and June 5 ($10 minimum store purchase required).
On-site parking lots open at 9 a.m., two hours before the fair gates open, except Mondays and Tuesdays in June. On Opening Day, Friday, the lots open at 1 p.m., three hours before the fair gates open. On July 4, the gates open at 8 a.m., two hours before the fair gates open. General parking is $17 ($27 in the preferred lot) for vehicles and motorcycles. Free shuttle service runs continuously. Oversized vehicles and RVs are not allowed in any of the fair’s on-site parking areas.
Three off-site lots offer parking and free shuttle service to and from the main O’Brien Gate: Del Mar Horse Park (14550 El Camino Real) is open every day at the fair and costs $5 to park; free parking is available at Torrey Pines High School (3710 Del Mar Heights Road) and is open Saturdays and Sundays and July 1, 2, 3, 4; and at MiraCosta College’s San Elijo Campus (3333 Manchester Ave. in Cardiff) open Saturdays and Sundays and July 1, 2, 3, 4.
North County Transit District offers “NCTD Fair Tripper” for $21 ($13 ages 6-12 and 65 and older), which includes round-trip fare on the Coaster and Sprinter trains and one-day fair admission. Children 5 and younger ride free with a paying passenger and receive free fair admission. gonctd.com
San Diego Metropolitan Transit System and the San Diego County Fair offer the “Region Plus” Fair Tripper for $25 ($15 ages 6-12 and 65 and older), which includes bus and trolley transportation and one-day fair admission. Up to two children 5 and younger ride free with each paying passenger. sdmts.com
Take any San Diego trolley line — Blue, Orange or Green — to the Old Town Transit Station or Santa Fe Depot and hop aboard the Coaster train that stops at the Solana Beach station north of the fairgrounds. Special Route 408 bus runs between the station and the fair’s west gate.
Did you know
- In L. Frank Baum’s original novel, “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” (1900), on which the film is based, Dorothy wears silver shoes. The color of the shoes was changed to red to optimize the new Technicolor film process used in big-budget Hollywood films of the era.
- Four years after writing “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” Baum continued to write 13 more books about Oz, including “Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz,” “The Road to Oz” and “The Emerald City,” all written while he spent winters in Coronado between 1904 and 1910.
San Diego County Fair
When: Opens at 4 p.m. Friday. Continues 11 a.m. Wednesdays through Sundays and July 1, 2 and 3; 10 a.m. July 4. Closed Mondays and Tuesdays, except July 1 and 2. The fair closes July 4.
Where: Del Mar Fairgrounds, 2260 Jimmy Durante Blvd., Del Mar.
Tickets: $20 for adults, ages 13 to 61; $14 for children ages 6 to 12 and seniors 62 and older; children 5 and under are free.
Phone: (858) 755-1161.
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