FREE Things To Do In La Jolla

Some of the best things to do in La Jolla won't cost a cent.

Our gorgeous seaside community offers plenty to do that won’t dent the wallet. There are plenty of great free things to do in La Jolla ranging from art to food and even taking in the sights of air gliders.


Here are 19 free things to do in La Jolla, CA.

1. La Jolla Shores Beach

When looking for things to do in La Jolla, the beach is definitely the top of the list. The waves here are thought to be the most gentle in the county, making this an ideal place to paddle out in a kayak, learn to surf or scuba dive (plus, the underwater ecological park is nearby). There’s plenty of flat sand for families to sprawl out as well as lifeguards, showers and restrooms. It’s one of the most family-friendly beaches in San Diego, definitely. Kellogg Park (below) is adjacent. See why we think La Jolla Shores is San Diego’s best beach.

La Jolla Shores Beach
8200 Camino Del Oro
La Jolla, CA 92037
(619) 221-8899

2. Kellogg Park

Tons of space to kids to run and play steps away from La Jolla Shores Beach. People picnic and even exercise on the huge grassy area. A nice playground (most appropriate for younger kids) is near the beach. This is perfect for the times that you want to go to the beach without the sand. It’s open from 4:00am – 10:00pm and there’s a sizable adjacent parking lot (though it can fill up quickly during the summer). And, it’s near La Jolla Shores Hotel.

Kellogg Park
8200 Camino Del Oro
La Jolla, CA 92037

3. Torrey Pines Gliderport

The Torrey Pines cliffs have a long history of soaring aircraft dating back to the 1930s. Today, grab a picnic and bring the kids to the huge grassy area for memory book-worthy photographs that take advantage of the colorful gliders and Pacific Ocean backdrop. Located above the cliffs of Black’s Beach, the atmosphere is relaxed and those who are daring can actually strap in and learn how to do it (a cost applies), but perhaps watch those who are learning here first. Torrey Pines Gliderport offers paragliding and hang gliding lessons and tandem flights. Casual food for purchase is available at the Cliff Hanger Cafe.

(Fun fact: Charles Lindbergh flew along the coast from Mt. Soledad to Del Mar in a Bowlus sailplane on February 24, 1930. So that would be over Torrey Pines Gliderport.)

Torry Pines Gliderport
2800 Torrey Pines Scenic Drive
La Jolla, San Diego, CA 92037
phone: 858 452 9858

4. Seals at the Children’s Pool

La Jolla’s Children’s Pool was supposed to be a swimming area for kids, as the name implies. The sea wall was built in 1931 to protect the area from rough waters. The protected area has gradually filled up with sand to form a little beach that seals and sea lions have called home since about 1992. Though there is controversy regarding whether they should be permitted to stay, on any given day, locals and tourist can catch a glimpse of them sunbathing, swimming and nursing their pups. It’s pretty cute and kids love it. See my guide to visiting the La Jolla seals and sea lions.

Children’s Pool
850 Coast Blvd
La Jolla, CA 92037

5. La Jolla Recreation Center

Whether you live in La Jolla or are just visiting, the La Jolla Recreation Center is a fabulous place to let kids blow off steam. The play area is sizable with three plays areas including swings, monkey bars, play structures, basketball courts and plenty of grass. There’s picnic tables (perfect for groups–it’s not uncommon for kids to celebrate a birthday here) and decent bathrooms. Bring a picnic or walk to the Museum Cafe for lunch after play. A lot of seasonal festivals happen here, too.

La Jolla Recreation Center
615 Prospect Street (at Draper Street)
La Jolla, CA 92037
(858) 552-1658

6. La Jolla Library Events

The La Jolla Library hosts free youth and adult events. Go online to check the calendar. Kids love the story time, baby yoga and sign language classes while adults can enjoy everything from creative writing workshops to yoga. Plus, it’s a nice space to read or study in.

La Jolla Library
7555 Draper Ave (between Pearl St & Kline St)
La Jolla, CA 92037
(858) 552-1657

7. Warwick’s La Jolla Events

Perhaps one of La Jolla most beloved stores, Warwick’s Books offers events with well-known authors. Have look at the calendar. While some are exclusively book signings (in which case you’d need to buy a book), some include interesting talks with a variety of authors that are both local and not. We’ve had celebrities Ozzy Osbourne to Apolo Ohno with even a few Real Housewives mixed in. It’s the country’s oldest family-owned bookstore.

7812 Girard Ave
La Jolla, CA 92037
(858) 454-0347

8. Museum of Contemporary Art, La Jolla Edwards Sculpture Garden

While the museum has an entry fee, the Edwards Sculpture Garden is free to the public daily between 11:00am – 5:00pm. The garden isn’t huge but kids will love it exploring it while you soak in the panoramic ocean views. It’s a lovely place to spend time. Download the sculpture garden guide. And read more about MCASD La Jolla’s family offerings.

Museum of Contemporary Art, La Jolla
700 Prospect Street (between Draper Ave & Eads Ave)
La Jolla, CA 92037
(858) 454-3541
[Update: 3/17 – Note that the museum is currently closed for renovation.]

9. Shell Beach Tide Pools

Located at the south end of Ellen Browning Scripps Park, Shell Beach Tide Pools are at the bottom of a small stairway there. Come when the tide is very low (1.0 is OK but minus tides are ideal) for best viewing. Usually, December and January are the best months for that. Sea slugs, starfish, fish and other sea life can be visible here. Don’t bother if the weather is stormy as you don’t see much even if the tide is low. Kids love it and you can picnic at Ellen Browning Scripps Park.

Shell Beach Tide Pools
Coast Highway at Ellen Browning Scripps Park
La Jolla, CA 92037

10. La Jolla Open Aire Market

Every Sunday from 9:00am – 1:00pm at La Jolla Elementary School, the La Jolla Open Aire Market is free to wander. Browse the selection of artisanal breads, gorgeous flowers, organic fruits and vegetables as well as a variety of fresh food. Loads of food venders are onsite to prepare everything from an early morning burrito to crepes. Should you choose to purchase, feel good that some proceeds benefit La Jolla Elementary School. There are also free family activities on every third Sunday ranging from crafts to holiday-related activities.

La Jolla Open Aire Market
Corner of Girard and Genter Street

11. Picnic at Ellen Browning Scripps Park

AAA Magazine says that this is the most photographed spot in San Diego. It’s on a bluff above the beach with panoramic views and plenty of grassy area to spread out for a picnic or a game of catch. It’s near the Children’s Pool and Shell Beach and walking distance to plenty of places to eat up on Prospect Street. The only restrictions are that alcohol and glass containers aren’t allowed. Dogs on a leash are O.K.

Ellen Browning Scripps Park
Coast Blvd & Girard Ave
La Jolla, CA 92037

12. Windansea Beach

A beach in a residential area with great waves for surfing, Windansea is a local favorite and much less touristy than other beaches in the county. There isn’t a ton of sand or tourist amenities but it is a gorgeous place to hangout and watch the sunset.

Windansea Beach
6800 Neptune Place
La Jolla, CA 92037

13. Stuart Collection

The Stuart Collection, an internationally renown sculpture collection on the campus of UC San Diego, is free to explore with a map that can be printed online or via a brand new iPhone app. This collection is different from your average sculpture garden because some of the pieces are incorporated into buildings on site. The famous Sun God sculpture is part of the collection. My 6-year-old daughter explored the entire collection with her grandma and loved it. Wear walking shoes, bring snacks and take the family on a sort of treasure hunt.  The 18th sculpture installation, Fallen Star, is a crooked little house that kids will love on top of the engineering building called Jacobs Hall. It’s open on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 11:00am – 2:00pm (though can close at any time–call to verify). Note that if you are driving to campus, you’ll need to seek out metered parking or purchase a short term parking permit.

Stuart Collection
UC San Diego campus

14. The La Jolla Caves

It’s better to have a kayak, but La Jolla is home to seven sea caves between La Jolla Shores and La Jolla Cove. All but one (Sunny Jim’s Cave–$4 entrance fee for adults) are only accessible by kayak though you can see Clam’s Cave from Goldfish Point on Coast Blvd. The caves are perched in 75 million year-old sea cliffs. As you might imagine, everything from immigrants to contraband whiskey have been smuggled into the area via the ocean and hidden inside the caves. Most kayakers enter the ocean at La Jolla Shores beach and paddle out toward the caves. If you don’t have a kayak, it’s easy to rent one or book a tour of the caves (I went out recently with Everyday California).

15. Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial

Not only does it boast on of the best views of San Diego, the Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial honors veterans that have served our country with beautiful black granite plaques. There are over 3000 of these granite plaques on 6 Memorial Walls that are mementos of the brave people who fought way back when in the Revolutionary War to the current Middle East conflict. There are onsite boxes with pamphlets as well as docents to answer questions and provide additional insight. It’s a great teaching moment for kids with even some familiar names such as Presidents of the United States. There is a plaque locator online. Two major Veterans events are held at the site on Memorial Day and the Saturday prior to Veterans Day on November 11th.

Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial
6905 La Jolla Scenic South
(between Soledad Park Rd & Via Capri)
La Jolla, CA 92037
(858) 459-2314

16. The Map and Atlas Museum of La Jolla

The Map and Atlas Museum of La Jolla offers free entry in an effort to foster an appreciation of the geography, history, politics, and artistic beauty of antique collectible maps and atlases. On display is the largest private collection of rare maps. The museum offers guided tours for schools and interested individuals as well as educational resources for teachers and the general public. The museum is open Wednesdays and Thursdays along with the first and third Saturdays of the month from 11:00am – 4:00pm.

The Map and Atlas Museum of La Jolla
7825 Fay Avenue (Courtyard Level)
La Jolla, CA 92037
(858) 653-6277

17. Architectural Tours of the Salk Institute

Photography and architecture enthusiasts should consider a free guided architecture tour at the Salk Institute. Jonas Salk hired famous architect Louis Kahn to create awe-inspiring buildings using materials requiring minimal maintenance while allowing natural sunlight to flood into the labs. It is an extremely highly-regarded experience and includes an introduction to the Institute’s science. Free tours are available Monday through Friday at 11:45 a.m. Reservations are required. You may also arrange private tours for groups of 6 or more.

Salk Institute
10010 North Torrey Pines Road
La Jolla, CA 92037
(858) 453-4100 Ext. 1200

18. La Jolla Concerts by the Sea (Summer Only)

On Sunday afternoons from July through Labor Day (check the calendar for exact dates), free concerts in a variety of musical styles happen at seaside Ellen Browning Scripps Park. There’s concessions to purchase food from and fun for the whole family. The concerts happen between 2:00pm – 4:00pm.

La Jolla Concerts by the Sea
Ellen Browning Scripps Park

19. Snorkel with the Leopard Sharks

Leopard sharks flock to La Jolla’s warm and shallow waters during the summer and it is possible to respectfully snorkel along side them. One of the best places to do so is at La Jolla Shores beach near The Marine Room restaurant because the waves are gentle there. Be calm, don’t make noise and they’ll stick around to swim with you. They do not typically like bubbles from scuba gear so snorkeling in shallow water is your best bet. This is one of the more unique things to do in La Jolla, so don’t miss it!

La Jolla Shores Beach
8200 Camino Del Oro
La Jolla, CA 92037
(619) 221-8899


Have other favorite free things to do in La Jolla not on this list? Leave us a comment!

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