Thursday, March 29, 2018

March Beach of the Month: Del Mar, California

Located some twenty miles north of San Diego, Del Mar is a seaside town on the Pacific Ocean. Home of the infamous Del Mar Racetrack - founded and popularized by Bing Crosby - and the San Diego County Fair, Del Mar is for those with "a taste for fast horses, beautiful beaches and award winning cuisine."

On my recent visit to San Diego, I stayed with family north and inland of the city. The closest beach to visit was Del Mar. My mom, my sister, my two nieces and I put together a picnic dinner and drove over to see sunset. We watched the sun drop and enjoyed our dinner at a picnic table at Seagrove Park - a park with direct beach access - with the temperature being a chilly 55 degrees. We were cold but it was a peaceful sunset and there were plenty of people out enjoying it or a walk along the coast. I'd love to go back and spend a few days in Del Mar - and if I did this is what I could do there.

Where to Stay
Hotel Indigo Del Mar
I'd likely stay here as I like Holiday Inn's Hotel Indigo brand - it's fresh and each property is different - plus I'd probably be able to use hotel points. The Hotel Indigo is located two blocks from the beach on the main drag and has an outdoor pool along with ocean views. It also includes a day spa and the Ocean View Bar & Grill.

Hilton San Diego Del Mar
If you're a fan of the Hilton hotel chain, then you might want to stay here. Upscale rooms with an outdoor pool, fire pit and local area shuttle. 

L'Auberge del Mar
One of the poshest hotels - and spas - in the area, L'Auberge is considered a resort that includes a pool and tennis court. You might want to start saving your pennies if you want to stay here - or even go to the spa. I hear it costs a pretty penny.

Where to Eat
As I mentioned, we stopped at Von's Supermarket and brought our own food with us. But here are a few restaurants that I've heard mentioned:

Jake's Del Mar
Jake's is located right on the sand - next to the park we were eating in - with floor to ceiling windows and serves brunch, lunch, dinner and happy hour. Serving "chef driven coastal fare and sea elixirs."

Del Mar Pizza
I'd have to stop here to grab some pizza. A block uphill from the beach, there is outdoor patio seating available under twinkle lights. They specialize in thin crust Neapolitan pizza using a secret family recipe for it's dough.

Pacifica Del Mar
Here's your brunch spot - sitting on a hill in town with ocean views - Pacifica is known for their seafood. Their Ocean Bar includes and International Vodka Bar. And if you can grab a table with a sunset view.

What to Do
Del Mar Racetrack
As I mentioned before, Del Mar is known for it's horse racing. Founded and popularized by Bing Crosby - who knew?!- The Del Mar Thoroughbred Club racetrack is housed at the Del Mar Fairgrounds. This year the season runs from July 18 to September 3. And the world famous Breeders Cup Race brings some 90 million dollars in to the San Diego economy. So try your luck if you're in town!

San Diego County Fair
The largest county fair in the United States, the San Diego County Fair is held each year in June and July (2018 dates are from June 1 to July 4) It attracts over a million and a half visitors to watch concerts, ride rides, peruse the competitive exhibits and see the animals.

Del Mar Dog Beach
Bring your favorite puppy to Dog Beach which is known to be long, cliff-lined and perfect for a walk with Fido or Rover.

And, of course, there is the beach, surfing, paddle boarding, shopping and spa visiting if the above doesn't satisfy you.

Another unique feature of Del Mar is the Amtrak and Coaster trains which run right along the coastline. You can get off at the nearby Solana station and take a complimentary shuttle to Del Mar Racetrack.

How about you? Have you been to Del Mar? What is your favorite thing to do there?

Linking up with: WATW at Communal Global, The Weekly Postcard at Travel Notes and Beyond,The Weekend Wanderlust Travel Blog Party and Travel Photo Thursday at Budget Travelers Sandbox!

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Arches National Park

I'm a huge fan of the National Park system here in the US. I've visited quite a few and every time I do - and I see these stunning lands through my car window or in some cases, a shuttle bus window or on foot - my thoughts go to gratefulness that someone, at some time, deemed these places worthy of keeping the way they are. For all to enjoy. Arches National Park really hit home in this way for me. Driving through it on a muggy July day and seeing it for the first time - wow. That's about all I could say. Just wow. What an incredible place.

But let's back up a moment and say that, like so many places I've visited, Arches was not quite what I expected. I had heard that it is one of the smaller national parks so what I expected was a small park with a few arches. Not so. It's a quite large dessert wilderness with arches, yes, but so much more. It has giant rocks and giant slabs of rock, large pinnacles and hoodoos. It's basically a red rock wonderland. And, of course, there's the arches - all 2000 of them. (For identification purposes, an arch is anywhere that a hole has formed in the sandstone rock) It is the world's largest collection of natural sandstone arches and it is quite the spectacle to see.

There were fires in the area on the day of our visit so the air was quite thick and the clouds and smoke were laying low. That made for some moody photos. It was also Independence Day weekend which means crowds. I was visiting my friend Karen, who lives in Moab, and she told us that we needed to arrive at the park by 7am - to avoid lines - and she would meet us after for lunch. But we decided to try a different tactic and meet her for lunch then enter the park around 3pm. That worked. No lines getting in and we were able to get parking spaces near a few of the short walks. This plan only worked because we decided to forgo the Delicate Arch hike - the most popular arch in the park where parking is limited - and do some of the other arches.

We drove through the park marveling at it's wonders - seeing Balanced Rock - and made our way to the Windows section. We chose to walk the Double Arch trail - a half-mile flat path which leads you to Double Arch, the tallest and 2nd longest arch in the park. It was a great short walk for us since we were only there for the afternoon but it got us out of the car. My son's fiance was the only one game to go to the top of the arch - I think the smoke in the air was bothering the rest of us.  Then we just had to go to the viewpoint overlooking - from afar -  Delicate Arch, the most famous arch in the park. More than likely, if you've seen photos of Arches, they include Delicate Arch.
This was taken with major zoom from the viewpoint. Those are people hiking to the arch.

As usual, it was a short visit but still a fun day. A visit with a friend in Moab and then a drive and walk through one of the most unique places I've been. If given the opportunity, I would definitely visit Arches again - though I feel that I we got a good overview on our visit, I know we barely scratched the surface. 

Arches - you're quite the national park!

Things to know before you go:
- Arches is located just north of the town of Moab in Utah.
- The visitor center - including rest rooms, park rangers, a bookstore and a park film - is located at the entrance to the national park.
-Things to see include: the La Sal Mountains Viewpoint, Balanced Rock, the Windows Section, Delicate Arch and the Devil's Garden.
-Arches is an extremely popular national park. Traffic congestion can be brutal during the high season from March to October. If you don't have much traffic patience, you may want to plan your visit during low season.
-Camping is available at Devil's Garden Campground, 18 miles from the park entrance. Lodging is available in Moab, which is 5 miles away.
- Hiking,cycling,camping, stargazing and ranger programs are available within the park.
- Please respect your national parks. There were two or three tweens who were tumbling rocks down Double Arch and by the time we could get to them to tell them to stop, their parents pulled up and called for them to leave. I don't know where their parents had been, but it wasn't supervising their kids.

How about you? Have you been to Arches National Park?

Linking up with: WATW at Communal Global, Travel Photo Thursday at Budget Travelers Sandbox, The Weekly Postcard at Travel Notes and Beyond and The Weekend Wanderlust Travel Blog Party!