What do you get with 11 square miles of pristine hillside on the Pacific Coast beaming with cosmopolitan stores and world-class restaurants? The one and only La Jolla, California.
Being a native San Diegan, this charming city has captured my heart ever since I was a wide-eyed girl watching the famous seals bask on La Jolla’s shores. It’s palm-lined streets, chic stores, and seaside activities always transported me from ordinary life to that blissful feeling of vacation. From highbrow dining to snorkeling alongside garibaldis in vibrant coves, La Jolla makes the perfect place for a staycation and awaited vacation.
Let’s be honest, a tourist in La Jolla would most likely will be walking in the middle of Prospect, with a gelato in hand, and probably bumping into strangers because they are too distracted by all the engrossing art galleries. While it’s fun to joke about tourists in San Diego, frankly I wouldn’t mind being one for the day…or maybe week! As tourists in other cities are struggling with metro cards and foldable maps, those in La Jolla are too busy enjoying themselves to even notice where they’re going. But just so that you don’t miss out on all the good stuff the city has to offer, here are some places to visit and great activities to do!
Activities for the Family
One of the places La Jolla is known for is it’s “Children’s Pool Beach”. Despite it’s name, this has actually turned out to be somewhat of an stadium where seals and sea lions bask in the sun and entertain onlookers. Although this discrepancy between the seals and the children occupying the “Children’s Pool” has been somewhat of a touchy subject throughout the years, this little beach serves to entertain families on a daily basis. Think about this as a free ticket to a Seaworld exhibit because you are literally just feet away from an entire colony of lively seals. If you have small children or any marine biology lovers, you don’t want to miss this!
My favorite thing to do in La Jolla is kayak through the sea caves! Ditching my own coast a few miles north and acting like a complete tourist for the day always brings me kayaking. While there are tons of local business that offer tours, I usually just like to rent a kayak, go out with a group of friends, and just go exploring on our own. However, if you’re new to the whole water sports experience I would definitely recommend joining a guided tour.
If you want to explore La Jolla’s famous sea caves but don’t think your toddler can handle the waves just yet, you still can! The Sunny Jim Cave Store is a bit touristy but only because it truly is a historic landmark in La Jolla. I’ll never forget my first experience in this store–after walking through a quaint little gift shop you are suddenly transported to the heart of the Pacific shore. This historic store is home to a manmade tunnel which allows you to explore the Sunny Jim Cave by land. In fact, this is the only known land access sea cave in all of California! You can even take a virtual tour of the store here.
This is a very cool image of the historic Cave Store back in the early 1900s.
It’s changed a bit since then…
La Jolla has a surprisingly rich historic past. I guess my own “history” with La Jolla is my family’s brunch tradition at La Valencia Hotel every Sunday. Well, it turns out those few years of tradition are nothing compared to the hotel’s 85 year history! The notoriously pink hotel first opened in December of 1926 and was intended to be an escape for celebrities from the pressures of Hollywood. Today, the hotel still hosts celebrities on a daily basis and its lavish beginnings remain intact.
If you’ve ever been to La Jolla before, you definitely know what La Valencia looks like, even if you don’t know it by name. It’s the bright pink building that sits at the heart of La Jolla’s downtown and is always filled with people dining al fresco in its lovely Spanish style courtyard. Yes, that one!
Although I may not recommend staying at La Valencia, you’d be crazy not to have brunch there! The Med is the hotel’s signature “Great Room” restaurant, which opens out to a sunny garden patio and canopied trellis arbor. The food and views can’t be beat, plus it’s always fun to explore the historic hotel after brunch.
This wouldn’t be an honorable blog about La Jolla without the mention of Warwick’s Bookstore. Now before you yawn at the mention of “bookstore”, bear with me as I tell you Warwick’s is actually the oldest family-owned and operated bookstore in the entire country. If you’re still not intrigued, you should know that because Warwicks is independently operated, the books and gifts are anything but ordinary.
I think of Warwick’s as somewhat of a quirky, authentic, and cultured staple of La Jolla and it’s creative community. I guarantee that if you walk into Warwick’s you’ll not only end up staying a while, you’ll also end up walking out with something you never knew you wanted.
Eating in La Jolla
I have a theory that you could close your eyes, walk into a random restaurant in La Jolla, and no matter what, love the food! This is because as far as dining goes, La Jolla has the best of the best! However, there is one place that is truly a local favorite and can’t be found in any other metropolitan city: The Cottage on Fay Avenue.
If you’re walking along Fay Avenue on a Sunday morning, it’s actually impossible to miss this place because you will probably have to push through a line of people on the sidewalk waiting to be seated. Actually, because of these wait times, the restaurant sets out free coffee and coffee cake to keeps its customers happy. While the wait can be a bit of a hassle, it is definitely worth your time!
Everyone has that one burger they would fly across the country just to eat– for me, it’s the George’s burger at George’s at the Cove. George’s at the Cove is known for being one of the best fine-dining restaurants in La Jolla; however, people often don’t know about the casual daytime food offered at their rooftop terrance. While this rooftop terrance certainly is more casual, the quality of their dinner menu remains. Plus, this terrace is completely surrounded by stunning ocean views!
The perfect meal to order at George’s would be: “George’s Famous Soup” to start, the “Grilled Niman Ranch Beef Burger” with blue cheese and sweet onion marmalade as an entree, and their delicious Bloody Mary on the side.
Living Like a Local
Besides the activities, stores, and restaurants, La Jolla is after all, a stunning neighborhood. In fact, I would say the biggest rivals to the pictures hanging in Prospect’s prestigious art galleries are the aesthetic estates nestled in the La Jolla hills.
Estate Weddings and Events is proud to call one of those architectural beauties one of our own. You can make this claim too by having the La Jolla Modern as the venue for your next event. This estate also lends itself well for a luxurious vacation because experiencing the La Jolla lifestyle is impossible without staying in a local estate!
The La Jolla Modern is one of our most exquisite venues. True to La Jolla style, the modern 5,000 square foot home features floor-to-ceiling windows looking out into uninterrupted ocean views.
The La Jolla Modern makes the perfect venue for an intimate or mid-sized event of about 120 people. With this much luxury, who says you need an occasion to party? Celebrating the beauty of life is what La Jolla is all about!
About the Author
Elizabeth is a freelance writer/blogger for Estate Weddings and Events and current student at Hamilton College in upstate New York. Born with a great deal of wanderlust, she is always in search of unique perspectives, physical challenges, and great books. You can follow her on Google+.