NOTE: MCASD La Jolla and the Museum Cafe are closed for renovations.

A morning spent at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego (MCASD) in La Jolla is a fantastic way to clear the mind and break from the chaos of daily life. The setting is naturally calming. Once the former seaside home of philanthropist Ellen Browning Scripps, the museum’s panoramic ocean views are as spectacular as its carefully-curated collection representing art from the 1950s to present day.

“Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” – Pablo Picasso

I might argue that a half-day visit to MCASD in La Jolla alone or with a friend might just be good for you. Here is why.

You Can Unplug

A Marilyn Monroe mural inside MCASD La Jolla

I wasn’t expecting to feel so relaxed after a museum visit.

The thing about contemporary art is that there are many layers to each piece as our Gallery Educator, Janet Rostovsky, pointed out. I’m no neurologist but pausing to interpret the art felt akin to unplugging because, all of a sudden, my thoughts about the art temporarily pushed all of the other life stuff away. I wasn’t thinking about work, chores or parenting. Knowing there are no right or wrong answers really when trying to decode an artist’s message is a rather freeing feeling, too.

Serenity is enhanced by the fact that the museum is never intensely crowded and because blue skies and ocean are visible through its windows. Also, while my daughter loves MCASD in La Jolla, she was at school while I enjoyed this peaceful grown-ups outing.

Exhibits at MCASD in La Jolla Change

The Ed Russian exhibit at MCAS in La Jolla

Changing exhibits in addition to a permanent collection ensure there is always a reason to go.

We enjoyed Ed Ruscha Then & Now: Paintings from the 1960s and 2000s, on display until April 24, 2016. His work is influenced by popular media, commercial culture and places in Los Angeles. Having grown up in Southern California, I quite enjoyed looking at familiar places as they were in the 1960s as well as his use of clever words (Ruscha worked in advertising) in some of the paintings.

La Jollans might be interested to know that he’s the same artist who created Brave Men of La Jolla, the outdoor ship mural pictured above, which can be seen from Coast Blvd. MCASD has about 30 pieces of his work in their collection and enjoyed a longstanding relationship Ruscha.

Also, don’t miss àlvaro Blancarte: Marking the Present, on view through April 24, 2016. The artist uses a variety of textures like sand mixed with marble powder to recreate the Baja California landscape on canvas.

Creativity Flows in the thoughtLAB

In addition to looking at art, visitors to MCASD in La Jolla can create their own downstairs in the thoughtLAB. It’s a place to learn more and share thoughts about the art on exhibit as well as doodle, draw or write whatever inspires you. The intention is to provide a chance to think about the process of creating art rather than simply admiring it.

Also, studies have shown that creating art is good for the brain because, basically, it improves the interaction between its parts in a way that other tasks do not. So take a few minutes here to let the creative juices flow.

Relaxation in the Edwards Sculpture Garden

The Edwards Sculpture Garden at MCASD in La Jolla has a spectacular view of the Pacific amid cool art.

Take a therapeutic walk around the Edwards Sculpture Garden, an outdoor space full of larger-than-life sculptures, murals and more scattered throughout the museum’s exterior. I challenge you to take 20 minutes and sit somewhere amid the ocean breezes and Pacific Ocean backdrop to just breathe.

I personally love this sculpture garden guide covering the 16 pieces that is geared toward families with small children (who will love every piece) but nice for adults who want to learn a bit more about each one.

Delicious Lunch at the Museum Cafe

Lunch under filtered sunlight on the Museum Cafe’s outdoor patio is fun in the company of friends or simply a book. I’ve always loved the salads here and my latest Fuyu Persimmon and Local Ruby Beet Salad topped with the famous poached chicken did not disappoint. We started with a Burrata Mason Jar with tomato marmalade and grilled bread that I’d also highly recommend. My friend chose the Mexican Shrimp and Papaya Salad (also delicious). The carrot cake looked too good to pass up and it was so just get it.

I’m not alone in my sentiments as I always seem to run into someone I know every single time I dine at the Museum Cafe. Breakfast is an option, too.


There are some people, like me, who find shopping therapeutic. If this is you, stop into the museum’s X Store to flip through a wide range of interesting art books and browse really cool housewares, children’s products and more that mirror the same contemporary style of the museum itself.

The Bottom Line

The ocean view from MCASD in La Jolla
The ocean view from MCASD in La Jolla

MCASD in La Jolla is located on Prospect Street within walking distance to many La Jolla hotels. Four-hour parking is also available on Prospect Street near the La Jolla Recreation Center.

If you’re one of the residents who hasn’t been to the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego in La Jolla recently, it’s high time that you change that.

Put a visit on your to-do list and see what I mean. It’s nice to find respite near home every once in a while.

Have you visited MCASD in La Jolla lately?

Katie Dillon is the managing editor of La Jolla Mom. She helps readers plan San Diego vacations through her hotel expertise (that stems from living in a Four Seasons hotel) and local connections. Readers have access to exclusive discounts on theme park tickets (like Disneyland and San Diego Zoo) and perks at luxury hotels worldwide through her. She also shares insider tips for visiting major cities worldwide, like Hong Kong, London, Paris, and Shanghai, that her family has either lived in or visits regularly (or both).

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