More to Del Mar than Horse Races

View from Del Mar on the Beach motel balcony


My husband got tickets to see Lucinda Williams last weekend at one of our favorite venues, called the Belly Up in Solana Beach (little town just north of Del Mar, California, on the coast). Even though we only live an hour away, we decided to turn it into a weekend getaway and explore that area. In the past, we had only visited Del Mar once to watch the horse races for a company outing. This time, we stayed at the only hotel located directly on the beach, called the Del Mar Motel on the Beach. It was quite basic (2-star; $150 a night), but clean and comfortable, and we could step out on the sand and the view from the back patio was perfect.



That night we had dinner before our show at seafood place just down the road, called Brigantine. Not sure why we picked it, and it was on pricy side and not memorable. It was so dark inside we couldn’t see what we were eating. The waiter said they wanted the place to feel like inside a ship. Okay… After, we drove a few miles north to Solana Beach to see Lucinda, who rocked the house as usual. The Belly Up is in a quonset hut and is a relatively smaller, intimate venue.


The club is also located in this Cedros Avenue Design District in Solana Beach. Every time we saw shows here in the past, I walked by these enticing shops, but they were all closed for the night. This time I was determined to poke around a bit. So we returned the next morning to check it out.



It’s only a couple blocks, but claims to have 80-plus shops, mostly home and garden, galleries and one-of-a-kind stores. A few were quite hip, including this gigantic gift and book store, Solo (above).


The umbrellas hung over Leaping Lotus, another huge gift store.


The next morning we ate at the Beach Grass Cafe, in Solana Beach. Our friend, Anne, recommended it and said she dreams about their pineapple pancakes. As you can see, it’s very casual and dog-friendly, like much of these beach towns in North San Diego county.


Yup, guess what Charlie ordered? He got the short stack, which ended up being one pancake, and that was a little disappointing for him. I got the vegetable hash and it was yummy.


After lunch, we visited the San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Preserve, which is a wetland sanctuary that’s about 1,000 acres. We have driven by them for decades now on the way to San Diego and never stopped to check them out. The hiking trails gave us terrific access to the wildlife, namely the plentiful shorebirds, ducks and other waterfowl.


Our favorite birds were the scores of Long-Billed Curlews (sorry, I didn’t have a zoom lens to capture them for you). There was even a White Pelican, unusual for this location. So glad there’s a refuge for these amazing creatures. We loved the whole area (Del Mar, Solana Beach, San Elijo, Cardiff, etc.) , and how there is such excellent access to all the natural beauty, from the ocean to these wetlands. The night life isn’t bad either–as long as Lucinda is in town!

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