Location: La Jolla (12 Miles / 20 Minutes North of Downtown San Diego)
Features: Art Galleries; Exclusive Shops; Luxury Cars; Fine Dining; Spectacular Setting; Accessible from downtown San Diego on a top-rated Sightseeing Tour
Highlights for the Village of La Jolla: La Jolla is home to the most expensive housing market in America. The thought of visiting a high-end retail district may seem intimidating but La Jolla is different from other wealthy communities.
La Jolla is a place where the wealthy go to be anonymous. They blend right into the crowds browsing through shops and enjoying the spectacular views down at the coastline. There is not an air of pretentiousness in La Jolla. You don’t need to look like a million bucks to enter a high-end store or art gallery.
This creates a unique opportunity for people to window-shop in a high-end district without feeling pressure. It may have to do with the fact many residents have lived here for years or multiple generations since World War II when land in La Jolla was cheap due to fear of attack after the bombing at Pearl Harbor. Or, it may have to do with San Diego’s laid back beach culture where people are generally friendly with one another. Whatever the reason may be, visitors will find La Jolla to be a welcoming place.
There is an eclectic mix of shops, restaurants, and other businesses lining Prospect Street and Girard Avenue. A handful of shops spillover onto adjoining streets. While strolling down the streets and breathing in the ocean air, you can window-shop for unique items you won’t find in most other shopping districts, step into art galleries to see the works of masters, find souvenirs in novelty shops, eat an ice cream treat, or enjoy fine dining at some of Southern California’s best restaurants.
You will also be within a short walk of one of the most spectacular coastlines in the world, Contemporary Art Museum, and one of the oldest libraries in the country.
La Jolla Art Galleries – You will find most of the art galleries along Prospect Street between Coast Boulevard at the north end and Girard Avenue at the south end. Many of the prices are eye-popping. It’s no surprise when you find pieces like a Picasso, Rembrandt, or Matisse. For those on a tighter budget, you can take home a small framed photos taken by wildlife photographer, Thomas Mangelsen, at his Images of Nature store and landscape photographer Peter Lik, at his gallery. There is a wide variety of art from over two dozen galleries that will appeal to all tastes. The La Jolla art galleries generally open by 10AM. Many close by 6PM, some have extended hours on Friday and Saturdays, and a few larger ones stay open into the evenings all week long to attract the dinner time crowd.
Estate Sales and Antique Shops – Many residents of La Jolla come and go from around the world. Those moving to La Jolla are often in search of unique items to fill their homes. Those on the way out often hold estate sales or sell their items on consignment. You will find a number of shops along Prospect Street and Girard Avenue out to where it meets Torrey Pines Road. From Antique Maps to Persian Rugs, you too will probably find something of interest. Most shops open between 10AM and 11AM and close between 4:30PM and 6PM. The local business association provides a list of specialty stores and antique shops in La Jolla.
La Jolla Shopping – You will find over 100 apparel and jewelry stores in and around the main streets of La Jolla. They range from upscale retail stores you would see in premium malls like Ralph Lauren and Armani Exchange to one-of-a-kind Boutique Shops. The local business association provides a list of jewelry stores and apparel shops in La Jolla. Most are open from 10AM – 6PM.
La Jolla Restaurants – Visitors can select from dozens of fine dining restaurants and even more casual restaurants. This doesn’t include several take-out and dessert shops.
Those looking to enjoy ocean views of La Jolla Cove while dining may want to try George’s, Trattoria Aqua, Crab Catcher, Brockton Villa, or Goldfish Point Cafe. Other restaurants with nice ocean views include La Valencia Hotel, Vigilucci’s, Cody’s, Little Korea, Jose’s, and the Prospect Bar & Grill.
I have not tried all the restaurants but my favorites so far for places to take visitors are the outdoor patio at the La Valencia Hotel, the Ocean Terrace at George’s, and Vigilucci’s.
There are many more restaurants in the shopping district without ocean views. If you are looking for a quick bite to eat but want something of good quality and a wide selection, my sightseeing tour guests love Girard Cafe. Those who love breakfast foods will want to visit Harry’s Coffee Shop.
Get reviews for La Jolla restaurants from the San Diego Union Tribune’s web site.
La Jolla Activities – Nearly all visitors to the Village of La Jolla walk down two blocks from Prospect Street to the La Jolla coastline and enjoy some of the most memorable views one will ever experience. Towards the south end of Prospect Street, visitors can immerse themselves in art at the Museum of Contemporary Art. Those who love music and art should visit the La Jolla Athenaeum. If you like luxury cars, you can see a Ferrari, Lamborghini, Bentley, Rolls Royce and more in person by heading over to Ferrari and Maserati of San Diego at the corner of Girard Avenue and Pearl Street or the Symbolic Motor Car Company and the Sports Car Company near the intersection of Pearl Street and La Jolla Boulevard. History buffs can buy a Walking Tour Guide and Map created by the La Jolla Historical Society.
Information on Visiting the Village of La Jolla
Directions from Google Maps to the intersection of Prospect Street and Girard Avenue in La Jolla, CA 92037. (This intersection could be referred to as the center of the tourist area. Shops, restaurants, and art galleries line both Prospect Street and Girard Avenue. Ellen Browning Scripps Park and the beachfront are just two blocks down the hill from this intersection.)
Traffic – Torrey Pines Road is the main route providing access from San Diego highways to both Prospect Street and Girard Avenue. Traffic is slow leaving La Jolla on Torrey Pines Road during the middle and late afternoon hours on weekdays. Fortunately, you have a great view down to La Jolla Shores while you wait in traffic that may delay you up to 10 minutes. Summer traffic can be very heavy entering La Jolla from highway I-5 throughout the day. (Learn how to get the latest traffic updates.)
Parking – Street parking is free but there is typically a 2 hour limit or less. Street parking is hard to find around dinner time. Parking lots are available and usually cost between $5 and $10 for the day.
Transit – Buses do serve the Village of La Jolla. It is an hour’s ride from downtown San Diego. (See San Diego Transit Information for bus schedules and information for the online Transit Planner.)
La Jolla Sightseeing Tour – TourGuideTim, owner of this travel web site, offers half-Day, Expert-Guided Tours from San Diego to La Jolla and Torrey Pines. Enjoy Amazing views, Fascinating Trivia, and free time.
See 360 degree views from one of the highest hilltops along the Southern California coast, Multi-million dollar mansions, Sea Lions, Seals, Brown Pelicans, Cormorants, Paragliders flying off ocean cliffs, and Torrey Pines Golf Course, home to the 2008 U.S. Open.
Learn about History of Aviation, Geology, Architecture, Famous Residents, and more.
Get more sightseeing tour details, check out the reviews from past guests that make this a Top 10 San Diego Attraction, and book your tour today!
La Jolla Travel Blog – Get to know La Jolla intimately through the eyes of Elizabeth Hansen. Elizabeth is a professional travel writer who has written for the likes of Frommer’s and National Geographic Traveler. She provides unique insight, in a well-written style, about her hometown. Her blog about La Jolla is a fun way to learn about the area for both locals and visitors.