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 along San Diego County’s coastline. The crowd-pleasing September festival combines an A-list lineup of acts—like such past headliners as the Imagine Dragons, Pink, and Aerosmith—with locavore cuisine, San Diego craft beer, and creature comforts like shade, ample seating, and even spa treatments.
KAABOO was a hit when it debuted in 2015 for perhaps three 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 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 lounges), and an indoor comedy club, which has featured stars such as 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-outs, and makeup consultations.
Catch a concert at the small beach stage, snack on cuisine by San Diego’s celebrity chefs, or bliss out during a massage between shows.
The music, though, still takes center stage, with multiple stages hosting a varied lineup of arena-worthy rock, pop, funk, and hip-hop heavy-hitters throughout the weekend. For the late-night party crowd, an indoor dance venue features DJs and more bands from 10 p.m. until 2:30 a.m.
As mentioned, KAABOO also puts a serious emphasis on dining. Don’t miss the Palate area, where you’ll find demos, samplings, or 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 preferred 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 kid-friendly as other festivals.