This post was most recently updated on October 26th, 2018
It’s time for another ‘Dine & Do’ date idea! This time, my husband and I spent some time in beautiful La Jolla, CA. While La Jolla is actually part of San Diego and not its own city, it is well-known as one of the swankiest neighborhoods in southern California. La Jolla is a coastal neighborhood with seven miles along the beach. With plenty of hills along the coastline, homes here have incredible views. The village of La Jolla includes lots of boutique shops, restaurants, and art galleries. So what do I suggest for a fun date?
Look for Troll Bridges in La Jolla
Okay, I’ll admit it. I like to find things to do that are a little outside the box. Since I’ve lived in San Diego for over 25 years and have been to La Jolla many times, I did some hunting for new ideas. When I heard about “hidden” troll bridges, I just had to check it out for myself. Armed with step-by-step instructions, my husband and I headed towards the La Jolla Country Club area just below Mt. Soledad.
The Right Directions
As it turned out, the instructions we had were not completely accurate, so I’m updating them for you. Approach this neighborhood on Exchange Place (traveling away from the water) and take a slight left as it becomes Soledad Avenue. Turn right on Al Bahr Drive and you will not miss this pretty arched bridge built in the late 1920’s:
There’s a sweet little garden next to this bridge. I couldn’t tell if it is public space or if it belongs to the home right next to it, but the entrance is through a wooden gate facing the road.
After you drive through the arches of the Al Bahr Drive bridge, turn right on Crespo Drive. Turn right on Castellana Road, and it will take you through the arches of another bridge, right under Puente Drive.
As a side note, if you drive up onto Puente Drive, it is a deadend, but you can see the ocean from here.
Check out the Troll House
Why all this troll talk, anyway? Oh yeah, I forgot to explain that. There were several homes built in La Jolla many years ago that appeared to be much shorter than most homes are today. People started calling them troll houses, and the name just stuck. The bridges are in the same area, so they were called troll bridges. It is really just an illusion — partly because the homes are built just below the edge of the hill — and also because the front doors are short. There’s one example remaining now, and it’s at 7477 Hillside Drive. From the Castellana Road bridge, turn right on Hillside Drive, and you will see this home on your left:
It’s Really About the Views
You don’t need to be looking for troll bridges and houses to justify driving around the La Jolla Country Club neighborhood. Make it an adventure to see the beautiful homes. Some look like something out of Tuscany. A few homes are ultra modern. And some are sprawling mansions while others are relatively modest, but most have amazing views and a very steep pricetag.
The best part was discovering La Jolla Natural Park. This was the highlight of our exploring. It’s 42 acres of undeveloped park and trails with the most sweeping gorgeous views I’ve ever seen of La Jolla and the Pacific Ocean. You can find the trail we used at the end of Brodiea Way, but you can’t park right there. Your best bet is to park on Encelia — just don’t bring a crowd because you won’t find many places to park. Look at this view:
We were here on the 4th of July, and a few people had chairs set up to come back later and watch the fireworks from here (Great idea!) I only saw three other people the whole time I was enjoying the views and the coastal breeze. This is not a touristy, developed park. It’s really a secret gem, so please don’t tell everyone!
Dining in La Jolla
The last time I’d been in La Jolla, I’d spotted a restaurant I wanted to check out. It looked popular, and it was on Avenida de la Playa, the main street leading to La Jolla Shores Beach. (Want to read about the Best Five Beaches in San Diego?) Shorehouse Kitchen happens to be ranked #24 out of 1057 restaurants in La Jolla. 1057 restaurants?! I had no idea there are that many! Shorehouse Kitchen serves breakfast and lunch only, and we got there just in time to get some lunch before they closed. We loved the beach cottage atmosphere, the open windows, the beautiful wood tables and beach art.
I liked that we weren’t rushed by our waitress, even though the restaurant was emptying out. And what I ordered was delicious! Oh my gosh, I don’t think a flatbread pizza could taste any better. But I’m getting ahead of myself. First we ordered an appetizer: the Charred Brussel Sprouts with pancetta and fig glaze. I never liked brussel sprouts as a kid, but I am a fan of this new trend of topping otherwise unappealing items with amazing sauces that make them taste like dessert!
After our appetizer, my husband had the Turkey BLT sandwich on toasted brioche with fries. I didn’t try it because I had my own masterpiece to eat, but he said it was very tasty!
My order must have been inspired because it tasted heavenly. Just imagine a buttery flatbread crust with pears, pancetta, caramelized onions, gorgonzola and gruyere cheeses, topped with arugula. All of these flavors just melded perfectly!
Shorehouse Kitchen has a bakery that opens at 7:30 am, and they even have a Doggie Menu. There are a few free parking spots in front on Avenida de la Playa, and a few more in the back (we scored one of those). It’s only about one-third of a mile from Shorehouse Kitchen to the beach, so if you’re at the beach and you’d like something better than sandy snacks for lunch, it’s an easy walk!
Don’t Worry – There’s More!
I never write a ‘Dine & Do” without adding a few more options. So here they are:
–Walk along La Jolla Cove and watch the snorkelers vying for position to see the bright orange garibaldi…or better yet, join them! Sit on one of the benches along the sidewalk in the Ellen Browning Scripps Park and watch the waves crash on the rocks below.
–A fun place to go on a date OR with your family is to the historic Cave Store ; buy $5 tickets to descend 145 steps down into a cave and hear the stories of how the cave was used for smuggling.
–Stroll Prospect Street and explore the beautiful art galleries and boutique shops. Head down the hill on Girard Avenue and stop for authentic artisan gelato at Bobboi’s. I’ve been to Europe, and Bobboi’s gelato is just as good as the European stuff. That’s why it’s rated 1st among dessert places in La Jolla! Then go watch the waves, the sea lions, and the sunset near the Children’s Pool.
–Eat dinner at the upscale Crab Catcher (ranked #22 out of 1057) for beautiful views of the ocean and caves below…(be sure to use this Groupon for a better deal).
–Another great place for dinner is Piatti, on Avenida de la Playa. Piatti is rated #6 among La Jolla restaurants, and serves up some great Italian food.
–And finally, another favorite destination is the Mt. Soledad National Veterans Memorial, 6905 La Jolla Scenic Drive South. On top of the highest point in La Jolla is a beautiful cross and memorial that can be seen from nearly anywhere in La Jolla. Engraved in the walls surrounding the memorial are the names, images and stories of more than 3200 veterans, including Jimmy Stewart. (It’s the only memorial that includes images of veterans).
La Jolla is really a very beautiful place in San Diego to hang out. With beaches, tide pools, sea lions, shopping, eating, and spectacular scenery, you can’t go wrong. If you’ve been to La Jolla, I’d love to hear your suggestions, too!
This article is now available as a mobile app. Go to GPSmyCity to download the app for GPS-assisted travel directions to the attractions featured in this article. For a small fee, you’ll be able to follow my footsteps through La Jolla with a GPS-embedded article, without internet or mobile data. I’ll earn a few cents and that will help me to keep providing travel tips to you! (You can also download the article free without the GPS guide).
If you’re interested in more ‘Dine & Do’ ideas, click on one of the posts below:
Little Italy, downtown San Diego, CA
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The views were truly breathtaking!
And enjoying them with you made it even nicer!
My 1st visit to California was to San Diego and La Jolla. It was the first trip I made without my husband and kids once I was married. I loved everything about California. I’d love to plan a return trip with my entire family though I doubt they’d be as excited about the troll bridges as I would be. 🙂
You definitely should bring them along — there’s so much to see and do here! Something for everyone!
I haven’t been to La Jolla, but I’d love to go one day. Your day of activities sounds like a great way to tour the area and see the sights. I’d love to try the flat bread and hear the history about the cave.
It’s really the prettiest part of San Diego! I’m sure you’d love it!
There’s no doubt that La Jolla is “the Jewel” of San Diego…It truly is my favorite beach!!
Lots of good reasons for La Jolla to be your favorite!
Tami, What a great post about La Jolla! I must go see those troll bridges now!
Haha! Remember it’s really more about the views!
We used to call the smaller looking houses munchkin houses, and we heard that the munchkins from the wizard of oz bought them! Who really knows?! Great pics too by the way!
Yes, that was definitely part of the legend! Thanks for stopping by and commenting!
Hi Tami! When I was a teenager, growing up in San Diego, some nights we would pile a ton of us in someone’s car (no seatbelt requirements back then, smile) and go out driving to find the Midget Houses. That’s what we called them. The legend is that some of the actors from The Wizard of Oz had specially built houses up there on the hill in La Jolla. It’s been decades since we did that, so I’m happy there is still at least one of those houses left. It’s a funny, quirky little thing.
I love your blog, even though I think I’ve “seen it all”, having lived is SD for so long…you still surprise me again with new info. Thanks and keep writing!
Thanks, Anna! After living here as long as I have, it is so much fun to discover something I didn’t know about before.