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A Grand Time in San Diego

The Grand Del Mar resort is 12 miles north of downtown San Diego.

San Diego, with its pluperfect weather, is always an excellent place to visit. However, when it comes to North San Diego—Del Mar in particular—July through early September is my favorite because the horses are out at the Del Mar Race Track. It’s one of the most beautiful places in the world to watch thoroughbreds run (this year through September 7) and the motto “Where the Turf Meets the Surf” pretty much sums up the reason why. Factor in the pretty-in-pink historic Spanish architecture and you have a winner no matter which horse you’re betting on.

The perfect lodging complement to a day at the races is just 10 minutes away: The Grand Del Mar resort, which has to be one of the most exquisite luxury hotels on the West Coast, if not the United States. We stayed for three days and wished it could have been longer—like the whole summer!

One of The Grand’s big appeals is its location. Although not on the beach (only a few minutes away), it is nestled in the midst of the ruggedly beautiful 4,100-acre Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve (peñasquitos is Spanish for “little cliffs”). The area offers 37 miles of hiking, biking and horseback riding trails, so in addition to a championship golf course designed by Tom Fazio, four swimming pools (one with an adjacent sand beach) and two tennis courts, The Grand also has a beautiful equestrian center with horseback riding activities for all ages. We went horseback riding and hiking and only scratched the surface of the beautiful terrain that surrounds the resort.

The Grand’s design pays homage to resort architect Addison Mizner, who was the most famous American architect in the 1920s. Mizner is best known for his work in South Florida, where his design imprint remains prominently on display today in the communities of Palm Beach and Boca Raton. Lushly landscaped grounds complement the resort’s grand architecture: winding walkways link the expansive terraces and fountain gardens. The rooms are also beautiful and well tended by the friendly, professional staff.

The resort's impressive wine cellar.

During our stay, we ate at The Grand’s five-star Addison restaurant, where we had a dinner that my husband and I are still talking about. The four-course prix fixe repast was prepared by resident chef William Bradley and paired with wines from the resort’s 2,500-bottle cellar, a gorgeous space visible from the restaurant. As we sat in the spacious yet intimate dining room overlooking an idyllic waterfall lagoon with swans gliding about, we started with a glass of champagne, one of three varieties being offered that night. Our menu choices were exquisite (one unexpected amuse-bouche was a single raspberry poised in a green apple consommé) and together with the wines expertly selected, explained and poured, the end result was flawless. I’ve had a lot of wine-paired meals, but never one as perfectly blended as this.

If I’d wanted to, I could have taken a cooking lesson from the charming Chef Bradley during my stay. Or gone hot air ballooning, surfing, kayaking, biking—you get the picture. Kids staying at the resort can attend a golf academy or the activity-packed Explorer’s Club. I got the feeling that The Grand’s staff of friendly concierges could arrange just about anything you desire.

I took advantage of the resort’s spectacular 21,000-square-foot spa. Often, no matter how beautiful a spa’s surroundings, you find the same old selection of treatments. Not here. In fact, the resort has a treatment table I’ve not encountered anywhere else: At the click of a switch, the flat table you’re lying upon—covered with a rich herbal mud body masque—descends into a warm water immersion bath, though you don’t get wet. It’s kind of like sinking into an especially soft waterbed. My skin felt amazing afterward.

A luxury resort often bills itself as such to justify its sky-high costs. But The Grand Del Mar, with its gorgeous surroundings, easy elegance, terrific staff and superb amenities, has earned its luxury appellation in spades!

Photos courtesy of The Grand Del Mar

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About Sarah Elbert

Sarah Elbert

As executive editor of Delta Sky, Sarah Elbert lassos the best writers she can find to cover the world—as well as contributing some prose of her own. Before coming to Sky, Sarah was editorial director of magazines including Northwest WorldTraveler and Carlson Wagonlit Travel's Postcards. She has been a newspaper editor, a freelance writer and an Associated Press reporter, riding with the White House travel pool (back in the Clinton days) and covering everything from natural disasters to a cat kidney transplant. Sarah has written for The New York Times, the New York Post, the New York Sun—but not the NY Daily News. She now lives in Minneapolis, which she finds lovely and underrated, but does occasionally miss Manhattan and the Staten Island Ferry. Sarah would like to think she could again go backpacking across Europe, and she still loves to travel, but she knows that train has left the station. It's just so much quicker to fly.

About Deborah Caulfield Rybak

Deborah Caulfield Rybak

Senior editor Deborah Caulfield Rybak interviewed the Who’s Who of Hollywood during her years as an entertainment industry reporter at the Los Angeles Times. She still prefers writing about the arts to almost any other journalistic activity, so it’s a good thing we’ve got her on that beat at Sky. She’s pocketed numerous journalism awards and co-written three books.

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Liz Doyle

After a few years navigating the trenches of New York's fashion scene as a stylist assistant at Harpers Bazaar, fashion editor Liz Doyle is excited to be back in her childhood hometown of Minneapolis. When she isn't scouting the latest trends in fashion and travel, she moonlights at a local Parisian brasserie where she says "welcome" and "enjoy" a lot and occasionally tries to improve her French. Though her foray to the editorial side of the magazine industry is a new one, she welcomes the challenge and can't wait to see what this new adventure holds.

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Amanda Hoffstrom

Associate online editor Amanda Welshons maintains the web and social media presence of Delta Sky. She enjoys using new media and exploring how different platforms enhance the reader experience. Based in Minneapolis, Amanda has several destinations on her bucket list including London, Paris and Sydney. She just spent a blissful week in St. Lucia for her honeymoon, and can't wait for upcoming trips to Chicago, Seattle, Vancouver and New York. When she’s not in the office, she's a pop culture junkie, soaking up as many movies, television shows and magazines as possible.