You don’t need a high tolerance for open fields, concession-stand dining or possibly mud to enjoy KAABOO Del Mar, a unique weekend music festival on San Diego County’s coastline. The crowd-pleasing September festival combines an A-list line-up of acts—past headliners include the Imagine Dragons, Pink and Aerosmith—with locavore cuisine, San Diego craft beer and creature comforts like shade, ample seating and even spa treatments.
When it debuted in 2015, KAABOO was a hit for three possible reasons. For starters, its home base—the Del Mar Fairgrounds, the beachside summer home of the Del Mar Racetrack—is a comfortable venue with indoor space and ready-made seating, including VIP-style boxes.
Second, the weekend’s slate of offerings creatively expands the boundaries of a traditional music festival to draw from the worlds of art, comedy and foodie-friendly cuisine. 'People loved that there was stuff to do other than just listen to music,' says Bryan Gordon, founder and CEO of the festival. 'They loved the multisensory aspects, like the live painting—seeing the blank canvases being transformed into full murals over the three days.'
Third, September is a blissful time to visit San Diego: the ocean is at its warmest, the evening air is balmy and the summer’s tourist population has thinned.
The KAABOO grounds, aside from the main stage area, feature a smaller stage with its own pool and sandy beach (including cabanas and chaise longues), and an indoor comedy club, which has featured stars including David Spade, Janeane Garofalo, Nick Offerman and Craig Robinson. And, as a bold contrast to any possible mosh-pit scene, KAABOO offers a small indoor spa with massages, blow-dries and make-up consultations.
Catch a concert at the small beach stage, snack on cuisine from San Diego’s celebrity chefs or chill out with a massage between shows.
The music, though, still takes centre stage, with multiple stages hosting a varied line-up of arena-worthy rock, pop, funk and hip-hop stars throughout the weekend. For the late-night party crowd, an indoor dance venue features DJs and more bands from 10 pm until 2.30 am.
As mentioned, KAABOO also places a serious emphasis on dining. Don’t miss the Palate area, where you’ll find demos, samples and full meals from local star chefs paired with limited-production wines, local craft beers, and small-batch mezcal and bourbon.
Insider tip: you can buy a range of passes, from the general-admission-style Hang Loose pass to the VIP-level Hang Five and Hang Ten passes. Also known as the 'Amplify' option, the VIP passes offer varying perks, such as better seating at stages, access to special lounges and even a few exclusive shows. Most passes are for the full three days, but single-day passes tend to go on sale closer to the event. Also, KAABOO promotes itself as an 'adult escape', so it might not be as child-friendly as other festivals.