12 Things to Do in La Jolla with Kids

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Fun things to do in La Jolla with kids: watch breaking waves at La Jolla Cove.
Breathtaking waves are a common occurrence at La Jolla Cove. Photo credit: Christy from Stained with Style

Wondering whether to include La Jolla in your Southern California vacation itinerary? It’s well known for pricey shops and restaurants and sweeping ocean views. But there are plenty of things to do with kids including tide pool exploration, family friendly hikes and the chance to get as up close and personal as you dare with sea lions.

12 Things to Do in La Jolla with Kids

My husband and I traveled with our three kids to La Jolla, California, in late November. I was worried. Will it be too cold for the beach? How will I keep my kids from going crazy indoors if we can’t go in the ocean?

Crisis averted! I found twelve great outdoor activities with breathtaking views and local wildlife all with great food nearby (never forget the food). The kids loved these activities, too! Some of this was out of my comfort zone, but it was worth it. It was so much fun that I had a hard time cutting the list down to 12 things to do in La Jolla California with kids.

Read More: A Complete Guide to Exploring San Diego with Kids

Fun things to do in La Jolla with kids: Adorable seals sunning themselves on the beach at the children’s pool (La Jolla).=
Adorable seals sunning themselves on the beach at the children’s pool (La Jolla). Photo credit: Christy from Stained with Style

1. Mt. Soledad Scenic Drive

My first recommendation, especially if it is a cloudy day, or if you are up too early for the beach (like we were), is to head up on a scenic drive to Mt. Soledad. Plenty of signs guide you up the mountain’s scenic route, and when you follow them, you will not be disappointed! The curvy, but not scary, mountain roads offer ocean and city vistas from every turn.

2. Mt. Soledad National Veterans Memorial

Perched on the top of Mt. Soledad (the mountain in La Jolla), the Mt. Soledad National Veterans Memorial offers a beautiful vantage point from which to view San Diego. From the top, there is almost a 360° view of San Diego. On a clear day, you can see Sea World! Often called a unique memorial, it commemorates veterans (both living and deceased) from every conflict in our nation’s history.

Fun things to do in La Jolla with kids: eating on the beach!
One of the most delicious açaí bowls I have ever had from Juice Crafters photo credit: Christy from Stained with Style

3. Juice Crafters

One of our favorite things to do, especially when the kids are jet-lagged (after flying in from Maryland) and up super early, is to head to Juice Crafters. This Southern California franchise provides delicious, healthy way to start the day.  The juice artisans will happily split a smoothie into several cups for the kids.

My kids loved the crunchy monkey, with cacao nibs that made them think it’s chocolate, walnuts and goji berries (for protein and some vitamin C after a long flight). I really like the bowls and the Green Soul smoothie, which has just enough sweetness with the pineapple and banana, to counteract all of the green (kale, celery).

4. La Jolla Cove

After we grab our smoothies, we walk down to La Jolla Cove.  The cove starts at a small beach, where we like to watch the groups learning to scuba dive, and follows a walkway along the water to the Children’s Pool. It was interesting to see some older kids (I would guess high school age), learning to turn on their tanks, and help one another with the gear.

Along the walkway is a lovely green space where the kiddos can run free. Keep a look out for the seals and the sea lions all along that path. We have seen them so close, that you can reach out and touch them (BUT DO NOT!!!) from the pathway.

Interested in exploring tide pools? It’s a really fun La Jolla beach activity for the littles who can get up close with all sorts of marine life. La Jolla Cove is a popular spot, as are Shell Beach and Windansea Beach. Plus, the Birch Aquarium offers guided tours of the tide pools at Dike Rock, just north of Scripps Pier. (Note: The tours, suspended for Covid, will return in Winter 2023).




5. Children’s Pool

On the other side of the pathway from La Jolla Cove sits the Children’s Pool. The little beach could be somewhat family friendly if the tide is right, but the seals and sea lions have taken it over! Sadly, that means that the beach is typically inaccessibility to people, but it sure is fun to see the seals and sea lions. We often walk on the jetty to watch them frolic in the waves and on the sand. This whole walk is a MUST do in La Jolla with kids!

6. Parakeet Cafe

La Jolla has a lot of unique dining, with everything from Thai food to the Melting Pot, but one thing that is purely Southern California cuisine is the Parakeet Cafe. California cuisine usually incorporates what is fresh, local, seasonal, and oftentimes, pretty darn healthy. Located just steps from Juice Crafters on Silverado street, this made-for-Instagram restaurant, with its neon and wallpapered walls, is worth a stop.

It has a huge variety of coffee, with everything from a traditional cappuccino to a turmeric latte (which has no coffee added to it, but a ton of folks ordered it as I stood there). The barista serving up our beverages clearly loves the craft and there are a variety of healthy (while YUMMY) food and baked goods!

A pile of sea lions is a fun thing to see in la Jolla CA
A huddle of sea lions makes a great photo…but don’t touch! Photo credit: Christy from Stained with Style

7. Seal Rock

Seal Rock is on the other side of the Children’s Pool, the jetty that I mentioned where you can get up close and personal with the seals and sea lions. Look for the informative signs that will help you discern the difference between the two. The temperature drops as you approach the ocean walking the Seal Rock paths. This wasn’t too much for our hardened East-Coast children, but, for me, I wish I had brought a jacket.

Which brings me to being a tourist in a warm weather area. The La Jolla weather in late November was wonderful for us Marylanders, but you would have never guessed it from the way the locals were dressed. While we were sun-worshiping in shorts, T-shirts, and flip-flops, the locals were in boots, puffy coats and hats. I even saw a lady in a full-on trench coat, scarf and stocking cap. I can’t imagine how ridiculous we looked to them in our summer outfits.

Fun things to do in La Jolla with kids: Shopping on Girard Ave.
My shopping buddy checking out the clean beauty products on Girard Ave. Photo credit: Christy from Stained with Style

8. Girard Avenue and Prospect Shopping

I really like to do a little shopping, or just take a walking tour of the shops (when I am on vacation), Girard and Prospect are my picks. You can find retail outlets like Kate Spade, antiques, as well as local purveyors like Balboa Candy. A trip along Girard with the kids wouldn’t be complete without a stop at Geppetto’s Toys store. A San Diego tradition for over 40 years, kids of all ages can browse for hours in its whimsical books and crannies. There really aren’t very many old fashioned toy stores around anymore, and my kids loved browsing the shelves.

Fun things to do in La Jolla with kids: hiking in Torrey Pines State Park.
Our family halfway through the Torrey Pines State Park hiking trail. What a view! Photo credit: Random stranger corralled into snapping a picture

9.  Torrey Pines State Park

Best for older kids, or for more experienced hiking kids, Torrey Pines State Park is a fun trip. I thought it best for more experienced hikers (or smaller kids in hiking backpacks), because of the narrow trails with crumbling cliffs on them.

There are lots of fun, scenic trails along the cliffs and down to the beach. Be aware that there may not be beach access, depending on the surf. Torrey Pines has majestic, red sand cliffs that you can climb for the perfect photo opportunity (just like we did in our picture), or to see the spectacular views from the top.

Read More: All the FREE and FUN Things to Do in San Diego

Fun things to do in La Jolla with kids: tree climbing at La Jolla Shores Beach
My daughter climbing the trees on La Jolla Shores Beach. Photo credit: Christy from Stained with Style

10. La Jolla Shores Beach

No trip to California would be complete without a trip to the beach. La Jolla Shores Beach offers plenty of parking, and lifeguards on duty (which is very important for smaller swimmers).  It is also the perfect place to take a surfing lesson from one of the many companies operating there.

Adjoining the beach is Kellogg Park, which is full of large grassy areas and a playground with the perfect climbing trees. My kiddos love those trees because they are low enough to the ground, that even the smallest kiddo can partake.

Interested in kayaking or snorkeling while you’re in La Jolla? The south end of La Jolla Shores Beach is where you’ll put in. If you didn’t travel with your gear, you can still enjoy the water. There are a number of outfitters in town who offer snorkeling, kayaking and paddleboarding rentals and tours. The kayak tours take you out to La Jolla’s famous Sunny Jim’s sea cave. The sea cave is also accessible from town. Head to the Cave Store. You’ll head down an old bootlegger’s tunnel into the cave.

Want to see La Jolla’s beautiful beaches from the sky? Check out Torrey Pines Gliderport. They offer paragliding and hang gliding for all ages. You’ll soar tandem-style with one of their professional pilots.

Fun things to do in La Jolla with kids: street vendor dining at the Taco Stand.
My favorite Street Corn at the Taco Stand in La Jolla. Photo credit: Christy from Stained with Style.

11. Street Corn at the Taco Stand

One of our favorite San Diego treats is the Mexican street corn from the Taco Stand. The Taco Stand is a La Jolla local favorite for burritos, and unless you arrive early (or late), expect to find a line. It is one of our family must stop visits in San Diego!

Besides the corn, a fun/unique treat is the California burrito. It even comes with french fries inside, which is something I have never seen before.

12. Birch Aquarium

Conveniently located in La Jolla the Birch Aquarium is a kid-friendly museum with lots of hands-on activities. These, are just a few of the MANY things to do in La Jolla and in northern San Diego. From seeing the seals, and hiking, to trying a new Southern California style cuisine. Get outdoors and enjoy!

Where to Stay in La Jolla

Most visitors to La Jolla take day trips, preferring to stay in the downtown San Diego or Los Angeles areas. But if you want to spend the night, consider the Scripps Inn. It’s a boutique hotel with only 14 rooms and killer Pacific ocean views. It’s probably better suited for a grown-ups only getaway to La Jolla. You’ll probably want to make a return trip after visiting with the kids to check out La Jolla attractions like the area art galleries, the La Jolla Playhouse or to enjoy a leisurely brunch.

There are lots of options for hotel stays near La Jolla, including vacation rentals. Use this interactive map to help you find a place to stay in the area.




One response

  1. It’s interesting that you mentioned how Mt. Soledad is an excellent vantage point that allows you to see all of San Diego. While my wife and I are on our honeymoon in San Diego, she would like to take pictures so that she can remember what the city looks like. Maybe going to Mt. Soledad would be the best place for her to take pictures of a beautiful view.