“Are we there yet?” blaring from the backseat of the car or the mere thought of flying with kids might just be enough for parents to rule out a long trip. Of course, with San Diego as our backyard, we can recharge our parental batteries close to home. Pack the car and make the short drive (assuming it’s not rush hour) to La Jolla for a few days, where some of San Diego’s finest beaches, hotels, restaurants and shopping await.

photo courtesy of jurvetson on Flickr

Where to stay
Put your car in the hotel’s parking lot or valet and leave it there. You won’t need it if you stay at any of the family-friendly hotels below.

La Valencia Hotel: A landmark since 1926, the La Valencia Hotel is for families seeking a 5-star stay in an intimate Mediterranean-style hotel with a central location on Prospect Street. Kids will love the swimming pool and the nearby beach. You’ll love the luxurious spa, fine dining, nearby shops and living large during your stay.

Grande Colonial: Choose between a standard hotel room or an extended stay suite (these have nightly rates, too) with a kitchen or kitchenette for families who like to eat in. Also located on Prospect Street, this family-friendly hotel’s in-room dining is via NINE-TEN, one of San Diego’s best restaurants. Half-baked chocolate cake, anyone? Some of the rooms have a view of the seals at the Children’s Pool, just a few minutes walk away. Rooms are reasonably priced for La Jolla.

La Jolla Shores Hotel: The location is right on La Jolla Shores beach–your kids will insist on spending all day there. It’s no trouble, though, as the hotel provides chairs, towels and umbrellas. Kids ages 8 and under who are hotel guests eat breakfast for free at The Shores Restaurant, where you can see sandcastles built the day prior through the huge glass windows. Within a quick walk are the shops and restaurants of La Jolla Shores.

photo courtesy of sidewalk flying on Flickr

Family-friendly eats
In La Jolla, you’ll be overwhelmed by excellent dining options. Happy hour is also an great way to sample some of La Jolla’s finest restaurants on a whim and at a discount in a more family-friendly atmosphere.

Casual dining: Among the many fast food options is Smashburger on Prospect Street where a quick gourmet burger, salad or hot dog are on offer. Coffee shops are plentiful in all parts of La Jolla for muffins and a cup of Joe.

La Jolla Shores: Piatti La Jolla offers Italian fare, wood-fired pizza and an extensive gluten-free menu. There’s plenty of buzz in this community-oriented restaurant to hide the occasional squeal. Parents will appreciate the full bar and fulsome wine list.

With a view: Hello, ocean. George’s Ocean Terrace probably has one of the best views in San Diego. There’s no formal kids menu but the chef can customize an entree to suit little palates. Enjoy al fresco dining on a shaded patio with craft cocktails, fish tacos, the famous black bean soup and Wikki Stix for the kids to play with. Make a reservation in advance.

photo courtesy of Katie Dillon

Must-do activities
La Jolla is a resort town with activities for all ages centered around the ocean.

The Children’s Pool: La Jolla is home to controversial seals. Should they stay or be forced out? Either way, they’re here now and kids love them. Enjoy a nice walk along the cliffs, look at the seals and snap a few panoramic photos for the memory books.

La Jolla Shores Beach: Kayak, surf, stand up and paddle, or lounge on this flat, sandy beach. A few steps away is also Kellogg Park, a giant playground for kids. Pack a picnic and spend a day here, but be mindful that parking can be tough at peak times. Arrive early during the summer.

Birch Aquarium: Spend a morning learning about sharks, reefs, coral and more through marine exhibits and hands-on displays. Check the calendar for animal feeding times and special events. The Birch Aquarium showcases research discoveries of the Scripps Institute of Oceanography at UC San Diego.

What’s on your family’s must-see or must-do list in La Jolla? Leave a comment.

— Katie Dillon