City Gems: La Jolla

In City Gems, Travel by City Gems2 Comments





Next up in this blog series is from Katie Dillon, and she is taking us to La Jolla, California.

La Jolla Shores Beach

I often forget that not everyone knows where La Jolla is, let alone how to pronounce it. La Jolla (La-HOY-ya) is a seaside community in San Diego, California that’s known for pretty beaches and an upscale-casual lifestyle. With everything our little slice of heaven offers, it’s difficult to leave. Here are my personal favorite things to do.

Style In My City

Mimi & Red, located in Bird Rock, provides women with reasonably-priced, stylish finds from maxi dresses to fun, everyday accessories. The owners clearly have an eye for what’s in season, as it’s tempting to take entire displays up to the cash register for purchase.

Lululemon seems to power the entire La  Jolla mom community from luon pants to over-sized shirts that are both comfortable and flattering.


Tijon is a new addition to the La Jolla shopping scene. Get this: You can design your own perfume in a real lab setting. Grab a white coat, pipettes and experiment away under the direction of experts. They’ll also keep your perfume recipe on file in case you need a refill. The store is full of neat jewelry and other gifts, too.

Sweet Treats

Come On In Cafe La Jolla Desserts

Come on In Cafe! is known for casual breakfasts outside, lunches to go and half-priced bottle of wine nights on both Mondays AND Tuesdays. However, the cake is to die for. Get banana, carrot, lemon blueberry or coconut and thank me later. An entire 8″ cake is just $30 and I’ve been known to buy, slice and freeze for single-serve portions later.

Froglanders has been the popular fro-yo spot for as long as I can remember. The parking lot is terrible, but there’s  something about the silky low or nonfat treat that makes 17 three-point turns worth it. Get the nonfat peanut butter flavor.

Kids Stores

Geppetto’s is where I buy birthday presents, mainly because with locations across the county, I know the gift can be returned if it doesn’t work out. Also, they dish out excellent advice. I often run in and tell the sales person that I need a gift for, say, a 2-year-old. They pick out a popular favorite, wrap it and I’m out the door within 10 minutes. Priceless.

Hillside Artisans is an adorable,  upscale boutique geared toward kids ages 0-8 with an emphasis on the younger end. As the name implies, they focus on great design and rich colors. Skip Hop and Tea Collection are a few of the brands they carry. This might be a good stop for the mom who doesn’t have a baby registry or the kid who has everything.

Date Night

Whisknladle’s excellent yet not overwhelming wine selection plus the artisan cheese and meat cutting board tend to win us over on date night. We sit in the cozy space, chat and nibble on charceuterie. Eventually, we’ll moved on to some sort of fabulous locally-sourced specialty entree and mind-blowing dessert, like the butterscotch budino.

Herringbone Whole Fish Ceviche

Herringbone is one of Brian Malarkey’s seafood-oriented restaurants. The indoor-outdoor ambiance and earthy-chic decor almost outshine the food. I mean that as a compliment. Try the whole fish ceviche–it’s worth every penny of the $25 price tag.


La Valencia remains the belle of the ball, rich with history and luxurious amenities. It’s in the midst of a renovation, though most of the hotel is open. Situated on Prospect Street, you can walk to the best shopping and dining as well as the beach. The ocean views from the lobby and most rooms are hard to beat. Brunch at the Mediterranean Room is a must-do.

Grande Colonial offers a bit more value, while just a few blocks away from La Valencia. It’s La Jolla’s oldest hotel at 100 years old and quite family-friendly. It’s easy to walk to the Cove and you can see the famous seals lounging from some rooms. Room service comes from NINE-TEN, one of the best restaurants in the city. Order the half-baked chocolate cake and the lemon ricotta pancakes.


La Jolla Shores Hotel rests right on the big, flat, white sand beach called–you guessed it–La Jolla Shores. It’s here where most of the surfing, kayaking and other water sports take place. Kids can spend ages on the beach and playground here and if you forget to pack anything, the boutiques on nearby Avenida de la Playa can hook you up. The hotel is newly renovated, but doesn’t have much of a pool. You won’t need it with the beach just steps away. The ocean breezes here are amazing.

The big question:  If I’m planning a trip to San Diego, should I visit La Jolla? The answer is that it depends on your budget, time on the ground and whether or not your family is of the power-tourist variety.  If the latter, maybe skip it. But if you’re looking for family-friendly lodging that skews slightly upscale, gourmet eats within walking distance, ocean views, and boutique shopping, definitely put La Jolla on your itinerary.

125headshotKatie Dillon writes La Jolla Mom, a lifestyle site dedicated to luxury travel, parenting, food and local happenings. When not traveling, she lives in La Jolla, CA with her husband, daughter and dog. She freelance writes for Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, Trekaroo, 10Best (a division of USA TODAY Travel) and Red Tricycle. Find Katie also on Google +, Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter.

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  1. I’m from San Diego and while I was growing up my mom made us visit EVERY place in the city so that we could be more culturally aware and less ignorant.

    One of the most fun things to do (that wasn’t mentioned in the post) is to visit the Children’s beach. Well maybe its better to say the EX-children’s beach. A few years ago the beach was taken over by seals and the city voted to preserve the beach for seals rather than children. The beach is protected by a big wall the jets out into the ocean and it’s a lot of fun to go out on the wall and watch the seals in their “natural” habitat.

    It’s a must-do in my book!

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