I always think of summer as a sure bet in Del Mar: the beach, the shops, the track. Now fall is too. This year, for the first time, horse-racing fans can enjoy the sport of kings at Del Mar's where-the-surf-meets-the-turf racetrack during the inaugural Bing Crosby Season, Nov. 7-30. I visited the San Diego County town just before the end of the track's summer season. My long-shot horses came in last, but I had fun and the weekend was reasonably priced. The tab: from $145 a night at Hotel Indigo and $16 for ceviche at Café Secret.
Hotel Indigo (710 Camino del Mar;  755-1501) changed brands (it was a Best Western) and its look about 2 1/2 years ago. The hotel, one of six in town, is central and has large rooms decorated with wave-action murals and horse-racing memorabilia. If you're lucky (I wasn't), you'll get a peekaboo ocean-view room with a deck.
Del Mar Village has a host of interesting restaurants, including Café Secret Cocina Peruana (1140 Camino del Mar; (858) 792-0821), which made the cover of San Diego Magazine's Best Restaurants 2013 issue. The 5-year-old cafe offers the flavors of South America. "We like to share the authentic Peruvian food we enjoyed in our childhood," said Bratzo Basagoitia, who owns the tiny cafe with his wife, Daniella. My fave: the clásico ceviche, a mixture of fresh fish tossed in lime juice, with cilantro and onions and served with yams.
There was so much to do but so little time. I hung out at Dog Beach with my four-legged pal Darby and de-stressed with yoga and an invigorating acupuncture massage at Place360 Health&Spa (1219 Camino del Mar; (858) 793-1104). And, of course, I explored the Del Mar racetrack, onetime playground of Hollywood stars. The Art Deco facility offers history galore and colorful characters to watch. It obtained rights to run the late-season meeting after the closure of Hollywood Park.
The lesson learned
Del Mar racetrack is close to the Pacific Surfliner route, so I could have left my car at home, avoided traffic jams and made it to the track — or town — by boarding the train. It stops at Solana Beach, and a free shuttle runs throughout the day to the track.