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Top 8 Activities For Non-Golfers at San Diego’s Fairmont Grand Del Mar Hotel

Playing golf, getting it good at it and enjoying it takes a long time. For the “Golf Widows” among us – and you know who you are – it can often seem as though 18-holes can take forever. I won’t even get started on waiting for someone playing 36-holes. Fortunately, some golf resorts with excellent courses have not only appreciated but also embraced the Golf Widow’s dilemma to ensure everyone is happy. One of those is the Fairmont Grand Del Mar in north San Diego. No small wonder it has won so many awards, including the Triple Five-Star from Forbes 2019 Travel Guide.

Just minutes from San Diego International Airport, downtown and the tony town of La Jolla, it is a Mediterranean marvel of grand public spaces, and 249 beautifully appointed rooms and suites set five miles from the beach on a backdrop of 400 dramatic coastal canyon acres. Guest rooms are large, starting at 500-square feet and contain every possible amenity, including personal favorites: Nespresso machines, two charging stations each with five USB ports, and deep soaking bathtubs with separate walk-in showers in bathrooms that also contains flat-screen televisions. Rooms have either Romeo and Juliet-style balconies or large patios.

For golfers there is the only Tom Fazio-designed golf course in San Diego. And if you are looking for help with your putt, chip or swing, affable Eric Nillson – the Fairmont’s golf pro – can certainly help. But enough about golf. Here are some great activities for Golf Widows to enjoy:

1. The Center For Wellbeing

Just walking into this space is completely relaxing. Simply put, this is a beautiful spa containing 21,000 square feet of Greco-Roman and Moroccan style elements. Comfortable loungers and period furnishings include brocade sofas and gilded mirrors allow guests to dream of a different era. Indoor spaces have warming fireplaces and outdoor spaces have relaxing fountains. The in-depth spa menu includes a host of Signature Wellness Experiences running from 75 minutes to 135 minutes. There are restorative Grand Wraps, facial therapies and therapeutic massages. I opted for the latter, and by orders of magnitude, it was one of the best massages I can recall having. There is also a full-service salon for men and women.

2. Eat like you mean it

This is no place for counting calories. The property has six dining options and uber prompt 24-hour room service. Indeed when I ordered room service, I was told it would not take more than 30-minutes. Twenty-two minutes later, breakfast arrived complete with a steaming hot latte.

At Amaya Chef de Cuisine Anthony Stagnaro grilled a perfectly prepared New York Strip and another morning, cooked up a delicious California specialty, Huevos Rancheros, served with guacamole. One sunset I went to Addison – San Diego’s only Michelin-starred restaurant for a glass of bubbly and small bites. With inspiring Tuscan-like views on the patio, I marveled over the warm gougére with smoked bacon and sampled a small array of cheeses: Spanish goat’s milk, Italian sheep’s milk, British cheddar and naturally, a French blue. Mais oui.

For serious coffee addicts or those needing a seriously delicious snack, the gourmet Cent’Anni has all manner of caffeine, healthy salads, French baguette sandwiches, and naturally, fresh and fabulous carbo-loading pastries.

3. Channeling your inner royal

Nothing quite channels one’s inner royal like having afternoon tea.  Fit for the likes of Megan and Harry – and they will always be considered royals no matter where they live – the Fairmont gets their afternoon tea perfectly right. It can be served in the lobby with green views, by the fireplace, or in the traditional library. With five types of black teas, four greens, a red and four herbal teas, choices abound. Then there is the real reason for tea, and here talented Pastry Chef Heather Campbell really shines. On one tier, sits a slice of opera cake, next to passion fruit profiterole, two mini macaroons, a berry tart and a hazelnut financier – all delicious. Those morsels were surpassed only by the Tahitian vanilla and currant scones served with lemon curd, clotted cream and a house made berry preserve so delicious it had me considering allegiance to the British Crown.

4. Enjoy your furry family member

Like many Fairmont Hotels, the Grand Del Mar is Fido friendly. Being able to travel with one’s pooch is especially important for Golf Widows. My 16-year old Bichon Frise rescue, Señor Cesar, had an exquisite time at the Fairmont. He especially enjoyed the comfortable bed and decorated house-made dog biscuit waiting for him in our room – or as he likes to think – HIS room where I am merely present for his walking and belly rubbing pleasure. He was also deeply impressed with the “Four Legged Friends” menu at Amaya Bistro. He enjoyed immensely his chopped burger patty while impatiently waiting for a coconut and peanut donut because, well, every rescue dog deserves desert.

5. Exercise

It goes without saying that at least for the average Golf Widow, all of that eating requires some exercise. Fortunately, there are plenty of excellent options here.  The Center For Wellbeing has a complete fitness center with state-of-the-art equipment. There are also daily fitness classes taught in a separate, light-filled studio and include Pilates, Tai Chi, yoga, body sculpt, cardio muscle circuit and cardio core. Two tennis courts grace the property and tennis pro Lynn Lewis can certainly help your game.  Twice weekly adult cardio tennis clinics can be complemented with private lessons. Lynn gave me an excellent workout and useful pointers. Most important, it was so enjoyable I did not think about my Golf Widow status!

6. Take a hike

While technically hiking is exercise, it actually does not feel like exercise since the area is so beautiful. Amid the plentiful choices: a few minutes off property is a two-hour, four-mile guided canyon-to-waterfall hike. Also nearby, the Carmel Mountain Preserve containing 300-acres of habitat protected open space.  As we walked, there were plenty of lichens, wild cucumbers and to prove were really in nature, coyote droppings. There are also three trails starting at the Fairmont: the Resort Loop and Grandview Trail, each just over a half mile and the 2.8-mile Shaw Trail.

7. Swim or relax

If you dream of swimming or relaxing, this is the place. There are four pools, including a large adults-only pool and Jacuzzi with oversized day beds. The verdant palm and cypress trees and other lush Mediterranean plants around the pool areas sets a calming mood. Most importantly, water temperature is 82, so anytime is the perfect time for a swim.

There is excellent poolside service for lunch, champagne, Mimosas or Bloody Mary’s.

8. Be entertained

If all of this is not enough, there is live music on weekends in the main lobby. Also scheduled entertainment including dueling piano shows, stand-up comedians and dancing at the Fairmont’s Club M.

If you can tear yourself away from the Fairmont Grand Del Mar, there are literally dozens of other things to do in downtown San Diego and La Jolla. And if horses float your boat, there is Del Mar Racing. With all that is on offer for Golf Widows at the Fairmont Grand Del Mar, I am guessing all of those other activities will simply have to wait for another day and another 36-holes.

Julie L. Kessler is a journalist, attorney, legal columnist and the author of the award-winning memoir: “Fifty-Fifty, The Clarity of Hindsight.” She can be reached at

Julie L. Kessler

Written by Julie L. Kessler

Julie L. Kessler is Money Inc's Senior Travel & Luxury Editor and writes for several major media outlets in the U.S. and overseas. She is also an attorney and legal columnist and the author of the award-winning book "Fifty-Fifty: The Clarity of Hindsight." She can be reached at

Read more posts by Julie L. Kessler

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