With its natural beauty, energetic vibe thanks to the UC San Diego campus, and happening restaurant and arts scene, La Jolla is tailor-made for a day trip. Check out these must-visit spots and, along the way, the Murals of La Jolla, public art commissioned throughout the beach community (get a self-guided map at muralsoflajolla.com).
1. Start the day at Harry’s Coffee Shop
You can smell the bacon and syrup even before you enter Harry’s Coffee Shop, a 60-year-old family-owned institution. For the true Harry’s experience, order a B.W. Benny (eggs Benedict and bacon atop a bacon-studded waffle; pictured).
2. Shop for books
Hunt for new and used tomes at D.G. Wills Books (pictured), which also carries dollar bargains in the driveway. Head less than a half-mile up Girard Avenue to the venerable Warwick’s, a family-owned bookshop popular for its lectures and author talks (reservations are recommended).
3. Visit the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego
Home to artwork by the likes of Yayoi Kusama and Mark Rothko, the La Jolla branch of the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego is like a big-city museum minus the crowds. Fresh from a major renovation, it hosts a retrospective of mixed-media collage artist Alexis Smith beginning September 17. Closed Mondays–Wednesdays. Adults, $25.
4. Grab something to eat at El Pescador
Enjoy fish tacos, sashimi, or a bowl of clam chowder at the bustling El Pescador fish market and restaurant. Or choose something from the fish cases and they’ll cook it for you on the spot, charging according to the weight of the portion.
5. Discover Sunny Jim's Sea Cave
Souvenirs aren't the only thing you'll find at The Cave Store. Descend the gift store’s tunnel staircase that leads to Sunny Jim’s Sea Cave. Built in 1902, the passage is believed to have been used to transport alcohol and opium during Prohibition. Better still, kayak in and among the caves with La Jolla Kayak. Staircase entry, $10 for adults. Kayak tour prices vary.
6. Cool down at Bobboi Natural Gelato
You could order something familiar like strawberry and pistachio (pictured) at Bobboi Natural Gelato or, just as good, its signature combos: Think goat cheese and grapes, or pumpkin amaretto. Made in small batches, flavors vary by the week.
7. Watch penguins at Birch Aquarium
Weighing just 2 to 3 pounds each and standing about a foot tall, little blue penguins have taken up residence at the Birch Aquarium at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Catch them cavorting at the new Beyster Family Little Blue Penguins habitat. Adults, $24.95; reservations required.
8. Dine at Semola
Semola incorporates ingredients from small farms and local suppliers, which means its Italian-Asian-Argentine menu changes along with the seasons. The “Chef's Table” experience features an 8-course dinner served in the kitchen-cum-living-room.
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