Polo isn’t called the sport of kings for nothing. With its spectacular steads, gourmet picnics and well-heeled crowds, polo is a refined game. But it’s not just Middle Eastern sheiks and English royalty who are having all of the fun with the mallet these days; a few posh places around the U.S. allow you to enjoy the spectacular sport and all of the spoils that come with it. In fact, our Forbes Travel Guide editors have rounded up three cities where you can experience a relaxing weekend while also basking in the polo life.
The polo: Each Saturday from July 20 through Aug. 24, you can take in a lively match at the Bridgehampton Polo Club at Two Trees Farm in Bridgehampton, N.Y., where players compete for the USPA Monty Waterbury Cup (in the first three weeks) and The Hampton Cup (during the final three weeks). General admission to the event is just $30 per car, but the VIP tent at Bridgehampton is invite only—this year, VIPs will enjoy a pre-match reception with delicious summery cocktails and light bites. VIP cabanas—primarily reserved by companies for a whole season—accommodate 10 people, and include a tent with field-side seating, a picnic catered by local Italian restaurant, Tutto Il Giorno, champagne, wine, a hostess to help guests to the tent and complimentary parking. Doors open at 3 p.m., and matches run from 4 to 6 p.m. Opening and closing days typically draw the largest crowds, and you might even spot a celebrity—in the past, Bobby Flay and Star Jones, among other celebs, have been in attendance.
The eats: Tutto Il Giorno will have a pop-up restaurant on-site serving light bites; or, you can purchase one of its gourmet picnics, which will include treats such as fresh baked bread, Mediterranean-inspired antipasti, mozzarella caprese salad and more. While you eat, sip a glass of event sponsor Bertaud Bélieu’s delicious rosé, or try some bubbly from the prosecco bar.
The dress: Event organizers call it “Hamptons chic.” Bridgehampton Polo Club is slightly more casual than some clubs—a simple, stylish sundress is fine, or you can turn it up with a cocktail dress, hat and heels.
Where to stay: Right now we’re particularly enamored with the Topping Rose House, which is convenient to Bridgehampton Polo and brand new, to boot. Run by celebrity chef and Forbes Travel Guide Tastemaker Tom Colicchio, the renovated, pristine white, Greek Revival home offers cozy gray rooms with wood floors, area rugs and clean, modern furnishings. Or, if you’d prefer a bit more space, you can book one of the four cottages on the property, which are set between the orchard and the farm and have either rooftop decks or patios. And speaking of farms and orchards, the ingredients for your meals at the hotel’s lovely restaurant are reaped from its own fields, or are purchased from surrounding farms and area fishermen, resulting in delightfully fresh fare.
The polo: The Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club’s summer season Sunday matches began July 7 and run through Oct. 13. (Keep Sept. 1 circled, however, because that’s when polo players duke it out for the Bombardier Pacific Coast Open finals.) You can enjoy matches one of several ways: over brunch on the clubhouse terrace; buy a $10 general admission ticket and watch from the grandstands; enjoy a tented luxury cabana for 10 with a dedicated food-and-beverage server and valet parking; or reserve a member box, which seats eight people and includes a devoted server and two umbrellas for shade. And of course be sure to join in on the traditional halftime stomping of the divots with a complimentary glass of champagne (à la Pretty Woman).
The eats: To watch a polo match in high style, make advanced reservations for a gourmet brunch on the clubhouse terrace. If you’re field-side in the grandstands, you can order food from the Centennial Cafe, including delicious wood-fired pizza, burgers and salads, or bring your own picnic. Each event is sponsored by a winery (think Alexander & Wayne, Carr and Summerland) that offers complimentary wine tastings, and you can also enjoy the vino, champagne and cocktails from the cash bar.
The dress: Casual attire is permitted, but many attendees dress up. After all, this is polo!
Where to stay: We recommend Four-Star San Ysidro Ranch, which offers luxurious cottages and suites in the foothills of nearby Montecito. The historic 550-acre resort, where young John F. and Jackie Kennedy honeymooned, is filled with lush gardens overlooking the Pacific Ocean, and its bungalows’ overstuffed armchairs offer a nice place to sink into after a long day of drinking champagne and cheering on riders and ponies.
The polo: The San Diego Polo Club also hosts Sunday matches during the summer—this year’s started on June 9 and will continue through Sept. 29 (though there won’t be matches July 28, Aug. 4 and Aug. 11). Gates open at 12:30 p.m., and matches are played at 1 and 3 p.m. Whether you purchase a pretty white table in the VIP tent for the whole season, a general admission pass to enjoy the spoils of the Player’s Club area (mingling with the players, drinking cocktails from the cash bar), or tailgate on the east side of the field at no charge, you’re sure to savor the sport, sun and lovely scenery.
The eats: This year’s cuisine is catered by The Wild Thyme Company, and the menu includes small bites such as shrimp ceviche and a cheese board with dried fruit, nuts and crackers, as well as more substantial sandwiches—the gourmet grilled cheese with cheddar, provolone and Havarti looks delightful. There are two full bars in the Player’s Club area for general admission guests, and VIPs can order food and drinks at their tables.
The dress: Wear your best “garden party” attire. Male VIPs should wear a blazer and women should wear wedges or flats rather than heels—after all, this is grassy terrain. Elegant white dresses and seersucker suits are the standard.
Where to stay: Five-Star The Grand Del Mar, just north of San Diego and a touch south of the polo club, will provide more than ample accommodations for your polo weekend getaway. The amazing Mediterranean-style resort offers four gorgeous pools, a world-class golf course and a Five-Star spa. And there’s even an on-site equestrian center should you want to ride horses on Saturday before settling in for polo spectating on Sunday.
Photos Courtesy of Bridgehampton Polo Club, Juan Lamarca, The Grand Del Mar, Topping Rose House, San Ysidro Ranch A Rosewood Resort