It’s no surprise that San Diego’s AAA Five Diamond and Forbes Five-Star luxury hotel, Fairmont Grand Del Mar, celebrates the holidays in posh style. Last month, I had the opportunity to preview what they have on tap for the holidays from family-friendly Thanksgiving celebrations to upscale sips. Centrally located east of Del Mar with almost equal distance to LEGOLAND California to the north and downtown San Diego to the south, it just might be hard to get the family to leave the kind of luxury this special resort offers. And, that would be just fine.

The holiday spirit extends throughout the expansive property with special packages on rooms, the spa, dining and other top-of-the-line festive experiences.

Holiday Cocktails In The Lobby Lounge

The Grand Del Mar Lobby Lounge Cocktail

Guests who pull up to Fairmont Grand Del Mar in mid-December through Christmas will be welcomed with warm chestnuts, an unusual treat in sunny Southern California. As an aside, watching local journalists attempt to open the chestnuts was an incredibly funny moment. Really, they are not common in these parts, but are delicious and will hit the spot as the weather turns cooler.

The palatial lobby both embraces guests and definitely signals that you’re entering a special place. Turn right into the Lobby Lounge to do just that–lounge–while sipping on a holiday cocktail such as the Al Capone with Bulleit Bourbon and the Ginger Pomegranate Martini (click links for recipes). The Al Capone struck me because while I’m not a fan of bourbon, I couldn’t taste it. It’s tempered by balsamic vinegar and ginger ale with the aromatic flair of basil. Delicious.

Elegant Holiday Dining: Amaya

The Grand Del Mar Amaya Pumpkin Soup

Though the food throughout the resort does not disappoint, guests of The Grand Del Mar have two of San Diego’s best restaurants to choose from. Our first stop was Amaya, located inside the main building a few steps away from the lobby. Mediterranean-style bits on tap for tasting include:

Roasted Pumpkin Soup, gingerbread crumbs, whipped crème fraîche

Caramelized Quince Tarte-Tatin with duck confit

Pave of Smoked Scottish Salmon, parsnip puree, apple chutney

Salmon Belly Tostada, avocado puree

I failed at limiting myself to a taste of each because they were so good. The smooth-as-silk pumpkin soup was the favorite among those I was standing with, though there wasn’t too much talking between the enthusiastic eating and much wine drinking. I could have stopped here and called the evening a success.

Except, the spa was next and I wasn’t going to miss that… obviously.

Holiday Spa And Haim Salon

The Grand Del Mar Spa

Any spa with Hermes scarves on the wall is a hit with me. From the tranquil lounging areas to the whirlpool, plan to spend extra time relaxing before or after any spa treatment. My skin was silky smooth after a hand massage using the pumpkin spice lotion. Several had their hair styled into stunning up-dos and curls. Here’s a special just for mom:

Holiday Bonus at The Spa (Available Monday through Thursday, December 2013)
Unwrap a special holiday bonus – compliments of San Diego’s only Forbes Five-Star spa. Book a 60-minute Therapeutic massage or any Haim hair service and receive a complimentary upgrade to 90 minutes or a deep-conditioning treatment with a hair service, plus two hours of Explorer’s Club fun for one child (ages 5-12) during appointment. From $195, exclusive of tax and gratuities.

Not to mention that this is the perfect place to spend the day getting nails and hair done for that special holiday affair.

Shopping And An Awesome Kids Club

Should you happen to arrive at Fairmont Grand Del Mar without luggage, not to worry. It might even be preferable. The boutiques have you covered from stylish jeans and a t-shirt to formal wear and even hostess gifts.

The Explorer’s Club is a kid’s paradise and let it be known that it is open past midnight on New Year’s Eve. There’s crafts, walls to color on, video games, places to lounge and more. It’s one of those places that’s likely hard to yank the kids out of when it’s time to go.

San Diego’s Best Restaurant: Addison

The Grand Del Mar Addison Scallop Caviar

A shuttle from the lobby chauffeured us  over to Addison, widely considered the best restaurant in San Diego for its exquisite menu, comfortable ambiance and attention to detail. In addition to the Krug and several other champagne offerings, we sampled:

Pumpkin Velouté with vanilla and fall spices

Escargot Tart, garlic, parsley and parmesan  

Sea Scallops, cauliflower and caviar

Gougeres, sherry mascarpone

Between the delicate flavor of a sea scallop topped with caviar to a sizable escargot tart my husband would have gone crazy for, it’s hard to pick a favorite here. Again, everyone raved about the pumpkin velouté. Bottom line: You can not go wrong with a pumpkin soup at The Grand Del Mar!

I was sent home (very) full with lots of treats and a desire to book a handful of the experiences below for my family to enjoy during the holidays.

The List Of Signature Seasonal Events

Glow Golf Driving Contests (Friday, November 29, and Friday, December 27, 5:30pm): Resort guests of all ages can “glow” for a low score and in turn win prizes as they compete in glow-in-the-dark driving contests at the #3 tee box. Junior (13 and under) and adult divisions are available. Complimentary for resort guests only. On the day I visited, it was raining so we weren’t able to swing away at glow golf but it sounds fun!

Holiday Afternoon Tea (From December 4 through December 29; Daily, 2 to 4:00pm): Savor the resort’s elegant Afternoon Tea service complete with delectable savory and sweet holiday delights. Starts at $45.

5th Annual Nutcracker Holiday Tea (Sunday, December 22, at 11:00am and 1:30pm; Monday, December 23, at 11:00am and 1:30pm): It’s a family-friendly tea service (two courses of afternoon tea sandwiches and French pastries) and a 45-minute abridged performance of “The Nutcracker” ballet by the Scripps Performing Arts Youth Academy. $58 for adults; $30 for children (ages 4-11), exclusive of tax and gratuity. A portion of ticket sales is donated to Isabella’s Giraffe Club, a non-profit organization committed to providing emotional and educational support for parents with infants in a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

Polar Express Pajama Party (Friday, December 20, at 8:00pm): Resort guests attend in their favorite pajamas and bring a pillow for an evening of family fun, which includes enjoying a classic holiday movie while munching on popcorn and sipping hot cocoa. Complimentary for resort guests.

Story Time with Santa (Sunday, December 22, at 4:00pm): St. Nick will alight by The Grand Del Mar’s Christmas tree in the Aria Pavilion for a reading of the iconic classic, “The Night Before Christmas.” Complimentary for resort guests.

Winter Wonders Animal Visit (Friday, December 27, from 3:30 to 4:15pm at the resort’s Explorer’s Club): This is an annual event where animal lovers are invited to mingle with special furry guests sporting their luxuriously showy winter coats. Meet a fox, chinchilla, lynx and more. Complimentary for resort guests.

Sounds fun, right? San Diego residents should remember The Grand Del Mar when making holiday or spa plans and visitors should keep it in mind when looking for a luxury hotel in San Diego that’s perfect for couples, singles and families who love attention to detail. One of these days, I’ll give you a photo tour of how gorgeous the rooms and a better feel for the overall property. It’s a top pick for those with exquisite taste, definitely.

Fairmont Grand Del Mar
5300 Grand Del Mar Court
San Diego, CA 92130
(858) 314-2000

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Katie Dillon headshot

Katie Dillon is the managing editor of La Jolla Mom. She helps readers plan San Diego vacations through her hotel expertise (that stems from living in a Four Seasons hotel) and local connections. Readers have access to exclusive discounts on theme park tickets (like Disneyland and San Diego Zoo) and perks at luxury hotels worldwide through her. She also shares insider tips for visiting major cities worldwide like Hong Kong, London, Paris, and Shanghai that her family has either lived in or visits regularly (or both).

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  1. I feel like going out after reading your post and having seen the delicious food and cocktails! Funnily enough we just talking about pumpkin soup this week at home, I think it’s now definitely going to be on weekend menu!

    1. I even bought some pre-made pumpkin soup at our local grocery store the other day. Even that did the trick. ‘Tis the season!

  2. Looks divine!! I lived & worked in San Diego one summer when I was still studying and so want to go back! That tasting menu type-of-thing sounds delicious.

  3. oh how I could use a little pampering here before the holidays kick into high gear. Looks incredible and all that salmon! Oh my heart just swoons 🙂

  4. Those dishes look and sound to die for! What a wonderful opportunity to be pampered and for the kids to enjoy themselves.

  5. A few years ago I did not realize just how fancy the Grand Del Mar is and my daughter and I showed up for a Christmas tea in casual-dressy attire. Then the limos showed up with the ladies and girls decked out in their holiday finest. If you’re going to go here for the holidays…go big…and enjoy!!