The gorgeous California enclave of La Jolla may be famous for a lot of things, but a family day at La Jolla Cove is definitely one of the most fun things to do in this Southern California beach town. A community just minutes north of San Diego, La Jolla is famous for the challenging links at Torrey Pines Golf Course, the famous stages of La Jolla Playhouse, the renowned expertise of the Scripps Institute of Oceanography, and the sunswept surfers at Windansea Beach.
However, our family loves visiting La Jolla Cove the best. We could go back again and again to watch the blue ocean waves, the kites flying above and the harbor seals sunning themselves on nearby rocks.
Here’s a suggested itinerary with ideas on how best to enjoy a family day at La Jolla Cove.
Family Day at La Jolla Cove
As locals, we feel extremely well qualified to give you our recommendation on how best to spent a family day at La Jolla Cove. After all, we live a few minutes down the road and have done this dozens of times with our kids.
Start With a Good Breakfast
Depending on which end of the Cove you choose to start, there are two great breakfast spots with menus to please both the younger and older members of your clan. Brockton Villa, perched on the hillside overlooking the cliff and seacaves, offers oceanview seats from almost every table and a menu of treats to die for. Our favorites are the Cinnamon Roll Pancakes with cream cheese frosting, and the breakfast tacos.
On the other side, Richard Walkers’ Pancake House is located on Prospect Street and always sports a line of folks waiting for a table. But don’t worry, the line moves quickly and you will soon be enjoying a ridiculously delicious breakfast. Try the fresh strawberry crepes or the crowd-pleasing German Pancake with lemon and sugar.
Now that you are all sufficiently fueled up, you can explore La Jolla Cove and all its wonders.
Visit the Seals at Children’s Pool
Just down the hill from the Museum, La Jolla’s harbor seals and sea lions are the true family draw. During birthing season, the seals gather on the warm sands of Children’s Pool Beach. They sun themselves in a protected area where their pups can learn to swim safely. These seals are so darned cute, and both kids and adults have huge grins on their faces while watching their antics. With soft coats of mottled brown, cream, grey and white, the seals swim, frolic in the waves, yawn and nap together in large numbers. Others perch along the rocks or swim through the kelp beds nearby. It’s quite a show!
Bring your cameras and perch along the cliff, or brave the narrow breakwater walk out into the waves. But beware – the waves sometimes hit the seawall with a dramatic spray, sending drenched visitors running in all directions.
Shops and Restaurants Along Prospect Avenue
Eventually you may get bored of the expansive ocean vistas and postcard-perfect California photo opps (haha – never). Stroll up the road to Prospect Avenue and tour through the shops, boutiques and galleries that line the busy streets. There’s something for everyone along Prospect and the surrounding streets. California olive oil tastings at WeOlive to trendy fashions at Blue Apparel or Fresh Produce – so many places to draw you in. There is also an impressive group of galleries along the way, featuring a variety of well-curated art for all tastes.
If you’ve worked up another appetite by now, our favorite place for lunch with an ocean view is at George’s at the Cove. Walk up the stairs to the top deck for an al fresco experience on the Ocean Terrace. You can dine in the sun or at shaded tables on delicious dishes forged by renowned chef Trey Forshee.
Museum of Contemporary Art
It’s hard to decide which is the better view – the ocean vistas from the windows and balconies at the world class Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, or the astounding collection of art itself. Hint: go for the art – it’s really quite worth it. Enjoy works by well-known artists like Andy Warhol and Frank Stella, alongside fun and quirky pieces like the sculptures of Nikki de Saint Phalle.
**The museum is currently closed for renovations and expansion, with new construction quadrupling the amount of exhibit space. Check their website before you visit to find out their schedule for reopening (currently slated for late 2020). If you are really jonesing to take in some contemporary art, this museum also has a large exhibit space in downtown San Diego.
The Cave Store
Kitschy but fun, the Cave Store is an institution in La Jolla Cove. Visitors can walk down stairs located inside the store into Sunny Jim’s Cave located below at the mouth of the roaring ocean. Some say the tunnel, which was dug in the early 1900s, was used to smuggle hooch during prohibition. True or not, the fun view of the ocean from the cave is worth the small fee charged.
Outside the store is one of the best views from the Cove looking back at La Jolla Shores Beach, and over to Scripps Pier and Torrey Pines Golf Course. Many a post card depicts this exact view, and you can snap it for free from your fun tour of La Jolla Cove!