Perfect Getaway: La Jolla

Plenty of new experiences await in this artsy cliffside town with stellar views.
La Valencia Hotel is a La Jolla landmark. Photograph by Kyle Garay, Courtesy of La Valencia Hotel

This year is a big one for openings and new exhibits in La Jolla. With a renovated art museum, a boutique hotel that just opened, and the newest residents at the Birch Aquarium, the town offers lots to see and do, even if you’ve visited many times before. The most iconic places there feel celebratory and updated for visitors. Go this month for a quick getaway now that most of the summer tourists have left, and fall in love with the relaxed yet stylish vibe of this seaside village.


The inhabitants of UC San Diego’s Birch Aquarium vary from half-inch dwarf seahorses to 6-foot leopard sharks. Tide pool touch tanks and exhibits geared for kids make this a good visit for all ages ($19.95 and up). The newest and most entertaining residents are the Little Blue Penguins. Unveiled in July, the Beyster Family Little Blue Penguins exhibit is the only place on the West Coast to see these enchanting seabirds. Signs about conservation provide uplifting action messages.


Unwind for a few days of luxury away from home and in another time. La Valencia Hotel, called the Pink Lady, celebrates its 95th anniversary this year with special experiences. See why stars of the past such as Mary Pickford, Ginger Rogers, David Niven, and Gregory Peck were lured to the Spanish Revival property. Extra touches such as painted tile and mirrors that mimic the shape of the iconic bell tower add panache to breezy rooms that overlook the ocean ($488 and up). Take advantage of the cocktail butler, who brings your custom drink to your room, then dine at the beautiful Mediterranean Room. Its balcony provides fresh air and a lovely view to dive into the sunchoke and heirloom tomato bisque with lobster ($18). 

Raised by Wolves takes you into a secret world with fantastic drinks. Photograph by Marrie K. Stone


The kind of place where deals and romances happen, Raised by Wolves is a speakeasy at Westfield UTC. Enter what looks like a specialty liquor shop, sit in armchairs by the fireplace, and be transported to a world of mystery and old-world charm as the fireplace rotates. A gorgeous ceiling hovers over the enormous bar with a water feature in the center. Tuck into a small table in the very low light and sip the Goodbye Stranger, featuring whiskey, amaro, and Luxardo cherry liqueur ($15). For the well-heeled, the Old-Fashioned features Real Deal 1950 Stitzel Weller Very Old Fitzgerald with bitters for—yes, you’re reading this correctly—$699.


There is no shortage of restaurants boasting astounding vistas in La Jolla. For food to match the setting, head to George’s at the Cove. Make a reservation for lunch or dinner to sample the seasonal menu. Pasta is a good bet here, so try the fettuccini with peas, tarragon, parmesan, and breadcrumbs ($26). Service is warm and knowledgeable.


After a $105 million renovation, the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego ($15 and up) reopened in April. The building now has plenty of space and light to show off its collection of more than 4,700 pieces made after 1950 and still make room for special exhibits. Female artists take center stage in exhibitions such as the recent “Niki de Saint Phalle in the 1960s” and the upcoming “Alexis Smith: The American Way.”

The Birdseye boasts perfect sunset views. Photograph Courtesy of The Birdseye


Cormorant Boutique Hotel opened in May and features rooms with clean lines, thoughtful planning, and a place in the center of the action ($220 and up). Hermès bath products and soft robes add to the pampered vibe. There’s no elevator so travel light if your room is on the fourth floor. From there you can open the door of your room and walk five steps to The Birdseye, the hotel’s rooftop bar and restaurant. Incredible sunset views and cocktail flights—mojitos, mimosas, or margaritas in four flavors ($35)—await. 


Shows at The Old Globe have gone on to Broadway more than 20 times and won 13 Tony Awards; the recent “Bob Fosse’s Dancin’ ” is likely to continue that trend. It’s worth the drive to Balboa Park to see this month’s extravaganza, “Come Fall in Love—The DDLJ Musical,” which features an acclaimed creative team from India and the U.S. 


Sept. 24-25. The 13th Annual San Diego Spirits Festival moves to the Museum of Contemporary Art this year with unlimited cocktails from more than 60 brands plus music and access to the galleries.

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