Famous La Jolla Landmarks
La Valencia Hotel-1132 Prospect St, La Jolla, CA, 92037
The world-famous La Valencia Hotel, also known as the “Pink Lady of La Jolla” is on of La Jolla’s landmarks that opened on December 15th, 1926 as an apartment hotel during the golden era of Hollywood glam, which is the concept they had in mind when designing The Pink Lady.
This luxurious, vintage, Mediterranean style beach resort is situated in the heart and birthplace of La Jolla, The La Jolla Village on Prospect Street. When you step inside you are surrounded by old fashioned Spanish architecture elegance and stunned by the miles of blue Pacific Ocean views. Originally, the hotel’s owners MacArthur Gorton and Roy bought the hotel for $200,000.
MacArthur Gorton had connections with Hollywood stars and producers and invited them to the Grand Opening to bring people in the door. To Hollywood, La Jolla was a hidden gem that the rest of the world had yet to find out about.
Because of La Jolla’s natural beauty, Hollywood stars and producers would often come here to shoot and film. Stars would come (and still do) to La Jolla and stay at the La Valencia to escape the fast-paced city life. The Whaling bar, located inside La Valencia where Cafe La Roux is today, opened in 1949 and was also a popular place to be and remained so amongst locals until it closed in 2013.
The walls were decorated with nautical antiques from whaling vessels, and although it wasn’t a tiki-themed bar, they did serve drinks out of coconut mugs! The Whaling bar also became famous for its drink “The Whaler” which is a potent shake of brandy, creme de caçao, Kahlúa, triple sec, Bailey’s and vanilla ice cream. Just how many stars used to stay at the La Valencia, Dr. Seuss used to come to the Whaling Bar and write.
He was inspired by the palm trees and rainbow sunsets of La Jolla and gained much of his inspiration for his books from the landscape and interesting “character like” people he came across in La Jolla during his time. If you visit the “Legends Gallery” of fine art in The Village, you can see some of his original works, personal doodles and large paintings that were not published in his books! It’s safe to say The Whaling bar deserves to be recognized as a La Jolla landmark as well!
Mount Soledad War Veteran Memorial-6905 La Jolla Scenic Dr. S, La Jolla, CA, 92037
The Cross that sits all the way at the top of Nautilus Street on Mount Soledad is the only one of La Jolla’s landmarks that is a National Veterans Memorial. It is the only national veteran’s memorial that honors both the living and dead from the Revolutionary War to the current global “War on Terror”.
Black granite plaques surround the multi-level base of the cross, and from here you can get a 360-degree view of San Diego, which is a truly a remarkable sight to be seen. Volunteer Docents are available to answer questions about the Memorial and conduct brief tours on request. The Memorial is maintained by Mt. Soledad Memorial Association, a non-profit organization.
Many volunteer opportunities are available and major ceremonies are held on Memorial Day and during Veterans Week in November. There are over 40 individual Veteran Honor Ceremonies conducted during the year, so there are plenty of opportunities to pay your respects and attend a ceremony at this extremely unique and beautiful veteran memorial.
Children’s Pool-850 Coast Boulevard, La Jolla, CA, 92037
Children’s Pool is located in La Jolla Cove. As the name implies, it was originally intended to be a swimming area for children. In 1932, a sea wall was built to add extra protection from waves and after the wall was built, people found that this serene little beach was also quite popular for harbor seals and sea lions, not just kids and families.
Children’s pool provides a beach for them to sunbathe and swim in an area that has calmer conditions protected from sharks. They even come here to give birth to their pups. Tourists flock to this La Jolla landmark to admire this real-life marine exhibition up close, from a safe distance. The state ropes off the beach at certain times of year when the seals come to mate during pupping season, which is from December 15th-May 15th.
While marine life advocates have fought to close this La Jolla landmark, it remains a shared beach for humans and seals, although the seals have come to dominate the pool so much, that swimmers are highly discouraged from going in the water, or getting too close to the seals on the beach for safety and water quality reasons.
Windansea Beach-6800 Neptune Place, La Jolla, CA, 92037
Windansea Beach is located in the heart of La Jolla as the oceanfront of the Beach Barber Tract neighborhood. It is named after the 1909 Strand Hotel that was renamed “Windansea” Hotel in 1919 after the owner Arthur Snell ran a “naming contest”. The Windansea Hotel was located on Neptune Avenue between Playa del Sur and Playa del Norte however, it burned down in 1943.
Windansea is the beachfront area extending from Palomar Avenue to Westbourne Street and can be easily identified by its little shack made of palm fronds on the rocks right in front of its famous reef break. The shack was originally constructed in 1946 by Woody Ekstrom, Fred Kenyon, and Don Okey. “The Surf Shack at Windansea Beach” was designated as one of the La Jolla landmarks by the San Diego Historical Resources Board on May 27, 1998.
Windansea gained its popularity from non-locals thanks to the Windansea Surf Club which was formed in 1962 by Chuck Hasley. This exclusive club was made up of the best surfers who were there to catch the best waves, have a great time, and make a name for themselves as surfers from Windansea.
Many surf legends were part of Windansea Surf Club such as The Endless Summer stars and first Vice President Mike Hynson and Skip Frye. In 1963, Michael Dormer and Lee Teacher built a six foot, 400-pound version of their Hot Curl cartoon character out of cement, iron, a mop, a light bulb, and a beer can. Hot Curl, with his long bleached hair wearing nothing but board shorts and his beer belly, appeared on the rocks over next to the surf shack at Windansea, holding a beer in one hand while checking the surf.
In 1964 Hot Curl was featured in “Muscle Beach Party” starring Frankie Avalon, Annette Funicello, Buddy Hackett, and Don Rickles. The Windansea surf club is still around today, and although the Southern California surfing culture has changed since the ’60s, the WindanSea Surf Club’s mission is one the entire community loves to support, to this day, they host surf contests, community service projects and promote the stoke of surf with the same spirit Chuck Halsey intended when he started the club.
Their mission: “Dedicated to promoting excellence in our ocean and community, preserving and respecting Windansea’s past, protecting the ocean and coastal environments, fostering a positive image of surfers locally and globally through charity and competition, and supporting our youth for a brighter future”. Even for non-surfers, Windansea is one of the most popular beaches in San Diego for its white sand, beautiful views, clean blue water that is perfect for swimming, body boarding or spending a long summer day with friends and family.
Black’s Beach-2800 Torrey Pines Scenic Dr. La Jolla, CA, 92037
Black’s Beach is part of Torrey Pines State Beach and one of the La Jolla landmarks it is the 2 mile stretch of ocean, and up to 60 feet of sand at low tide. It is one of California’s premier surf spots and nude beach. To get down to the beach, you have to descend from the 300-foot sandstone cliff, once you reach the beach you will find people, surfing, hang gliding off Torrey Pines Gliderport, playing volleyball, jogging and enjoying the quintessential Southern California beach life.
Blacks Beach was named after the Black Family, who moved to La Jolla in the 1940s and bought roughly 248 acres on Torrey Pines cliffs along the canyon abutting the beach. A submarine canyon (which is essentially a steep-sided valley cut into the seabed) funnels powerful swells into Black’s Beach, which what makes it one of the most highly rated and unique surfing spots in California, beach-goers have to beware of the water’s conditions at Black’s, as it is not recommended for unskilled swimmers.
La Jolla Country Club-7301 High Ave, La Jolla, CA,92037
The La Jolla Country Club is one of the 2 clubs that are La Jolla Landmarks. Being a member here is an elite group to be part of. The Country Club is known for its history of classy events and beautiful golf course where legendary golfers come to play. The Country Club was established in 1927 and the impeccably maintained 18 hole golf course was designed by William Bell.
The view from the Country Club is spectacular and overlooks all of La Jolla Village and the Pacific Ocean. There are multiple dining areas in the Colonial-style clubhouse and the Par-72 golf course lays its longest at 6,685 yards and 5,594 from the forward tees. The course is challenging and The Country Club is a beautiful place to play golf, hang out, lunch with a view and enjoy the La Jolla lifestyle.
Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve-12600 N Torrey Pines Rd, La Jolla, CA, 92037
Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve is one of the most naturally preserved stretches of land in the Southern California Coast and of the La Jolla landmarks to make our list. All 1,500 acres of land that makeup Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve is in its natural state before San Diego was developed.
Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve has beautiful stretches of beach, rare matured Torrey Pines trees, rigid bluffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean, maritime chaparral, and a lagoon where migrating seabirds take refuge. The Park is open daily from 7:15 AM to sunset and free guided walks for families and small groups are available on weekends and holidays at 10 AM and 2 PM, and during the summer at 10 AM on Friday’s. People come here to hike, admire the views, get away from the demands of their busy, everyday life and admire the beautiful nature Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve offers.
La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club- 2000 Spindrift Drive, La Jolla, CA, 92037
The La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club is a private beach club as well as a resort open to the public. This one of the La Jolla landmarks that originally opened in 1927 as the La Jolla Beach and Yacht Club. On August 19th, 1935 Frederick William Kellogg purchased the property and envisioned an oceanfront resort that would attract tourists and locals alike.
He built four tennis courts, a swimming pool, the “Beach Club Apartments” and gave the resort its official name “The La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club.” The Club remains as genuine and timeless as Kellogg designed it. There is so much to do at the Beach and Tennis Club. Here you can find everything including beach volleyball, croquet, bocce ball, ping pong, ocean activities such as kayaking, paddle boarding, snorkeling, scuba diving.
They also offer whale watching tours, brunch and dinner cruises, wine tours to Temecula, hot air balloon rides, gondola rides, dining at the famous Marine Room, where the waves literally crash against the glass as you dine. All in all, The Beach and Tennis Club is a great family friendly place for all to enjoy and create lifelong memories.
La Jolla Recreation Center-615 Prospect Dr. La Jolla, CA, 92037
The La Jolla Recreation Center is one of the historic La Jolla landmarks donated to the city by philanthropist Ellen Browning Scripps, on property adjacent to her home, and designed by San Diego’s greatest known architect, Irving Gill in 1915. Scripps’s legacy intended “the building must be open to any person, regardless of race, creed or opinions.”
In 1919, the first recreation director, Archibald Talbot, was hired and remained in this position until 1952. He and his wife Agnes developed a structured program of sports, particularly baseball and tennis. The Rec Center was originally called the Children’s Playground and Recreation Center and still stands without much change to the building from the original.
The Rec Center still has a children’s playing area, hosts many community sport recreation programs and classes, as well as serves as a meeting place for the La Jolla Town Council and the La Jolla Community Planning Group.
In 2015, at The Rec Center’s 100th birthday celebration, The director of the La Jolla Recreation Council commented, “The Rec Center has always been a great place. It’s a center point for La Jolla. Generations of people have grown up here and had their children play — and their children’s children play here. And that’s what Ellen Browning Scripps wanted, to let children have fun.”
La Jolla Women’s Club-7791 Draper Ave, La Jolla, CA, 92037
The La Jolla Women’s Club is located in the heart of The Village, one block from the ocean. The La Jolla Women’s Club was created in 1894, back when La Jolla was a simple little village, scantily populated with cottages. As we all know, this time in America wasn’t easy for women.
They were subservient to men and did not have the legal right to vote. This is when a group of intelligent and revolutionary women came together to talk about current events, politics, and literature in a safe place. They originally called themselves “The Women’s Literacy Club of La Jolla” and quickly gained members. Speakers such as Helen Keller and Lucy Stone were invited to speak about important topics such as women’s suffrage and the lack of female representation in the American political system.
In 1901, Ellen Browning Scripps became president of the club and the name was changed to La Jolla Woman’s Club. In 1913, Scripps hired Irving Gill to design and build the club that still stands today. Amongst many others, this building is considered one of his greatest works. He used a “tilt-slab” construction technique to assemble the exterior arcade walls on site which was groundbreaking at the time. The La Jolla Women’s Club is made up of traditional arched open doorways that wrap around the veranda and intricate gardens.
These brave women became very influential in local and national politics. They fought for and influenced legislation for child labor laws, helped pass a California bill to protect the redwoods and national forests and relentlessly demanded the appointment of women to the Board of Education. They also went to bat for special programs for children with disabilities in public schools.
The club endorsed a resolution to the 65th U.S. Congress recommending the early passing of the Susan B. Anthony Amendment to the Constitution (women’s right to vote), as a War Measure Legislation, and investigated subjects such as “The Value of a Scientific Education”. During World War I the club formed a War Emergency Service Committee with money collected for the Red Cross and raised more than $100,000 for War Bonds.
In 1919, the La Jolla Women’s Club voted to endorse a resolution favoring the formation of the League of Nations to pursue peace. In 1920, the club launched an appeal to raise money for starving children in Europe and raised more than $2,000. During the Great Depression, members donated Christmas food baskets to more than 200 people. These women truly impacted our country’s history and made a difference.
It is an honor to still have the La Jolla Women’s club standing today. In more recent years The Club gradually evolved into more of a social setting where members meet and enjoy activities monthly luncheons, bridge, yoga, and book club. This La Jolla landmark was designated as one of the official La Jolla landmarks and Historic Site No. 79, City of San Diego Register on March 2, 1973, and was placed on the National Register of Historical Places on November 5, 1974. Today the club is preserved to pristine condition and is as beautiful as ever, it even serves as a popular venue for events, weddings, and meetings.
University of California San Diego-9500 Gilman Dr, La Jolla, CA, 92093
It is no surprise that UCSD is one of the La Jolla landmarks on our list. It started out as a military training ground, then transformed into a marine research station, and finally, to the university it is today. founders of the University of San Diego’s main goal for the campus was that it had to be “distinctive”, UC San Diego’s beginnings start in 1903 when the Scripps family and other members of the community commission the Marine Biological Association.
On July 12, 1910, The Marine Biological Association of San Diego renamed the Scripps Institution for Biological Research. As the city of La Jolla grew after WWII, locals became more fearful about the close proximity of Camp Matthews to their neighborhood. The La Jolla town council began their efforts to close Camp Matthew in 1956 but initially failed.
In 1959, Congressman Bob Wilson introduced a bill in Congress that would allow the university to assume Camp Matthews’s grounds. In 1958, The University of California Regents establishes an Institute of Technology and Engineering (later renamed the School of Science and Engineering) on the San Diego campus, which consists of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. This year, UC San Diego’s road map comes to life, and this La Jolla school prepares to open.
Roger Revelle recruits Harold Urey from the University of Chicago to teach chemistry at the School of Science and Engineering (later to become UC San Diego). Urey won the Nobel Prize in 1934 for his discovery of deuterium. His presence sparks other essential faculty members to follow his lead and become faculty. On November 18, the University of California, San Diego is officially established and the first students enroll.
In 1961, UC San Diego, which now has 160 students and 70 faculty members find its leader. Herbert York, a world-renowned physicist who helped develop the atomic bomb as a young researcher and later championed arms control, is named founding chancellor of UC San Diego. By 1965, the campus population grows to 560 students and 140 faculty members and by 1968 the first graduating class received their degrees.
This same year, huge leaps in the medical field are made at the UC San Diego Medical Center when surgeons perform the regions first kidney transplant. Campus population grows to approximately 3,800 students and 370 faculty and in 1969 the university imposes students pay tuition for the first time. The University of California San Diego has paved a road by innovative intellectuals for future students and faculty to continue on this path today. In 2019, UC San Diego is a top school in the Country.
With outstanding numbers of scientific and educational breakthroughs, inventions, academic awards and recognition, more than 570 student organizations, 9 athletic centers and titles such as “one of the most LGBTQ friendly universities in the nation, it is safe to say UC San Diego will keep making history and molding students that help will change the world.
Salk Institute For Biological Studies-10010 N Torrey Pines Rd, La Jolla, CA, 92037
In 1957, Jonas Salk, developer of the first safe and effective polio vaccine opened the Salk Institute. He always dreamed about creating a research mecca where professionals in the field could come together to create and explore the principles of life science and unfold discoveries for the future of humanity.
Salk was gifted with 27 acres overlooking the ocean in La Jolla and in 1960 and partnered with architect Louis Kahn to design his research center. He told Kahn, “create a facility worthy of a visit by Picasso”, and Kahn did just that. Salk did not realize at the time his Institute would be known as one of the most beautiful La Jolla landmarks. In 2018, the Salk Institute was named the most beautiful building in California.
With financial support from the National Foundation/March of Dimes, the Salk Institute for Biological Studies officially opens in 1963. The first scientists to dedicate themselves to this institute were Jacob Bronowski, Melvin Cohn, Renato Dulbecco, Edwin Lennox, and Leslie Orgel. The Nonresident Fellows were Leo Szilard, Francis Crick, Salvador Luria, Jacques Monod, and Warren Weaver.
Their main focuses of study were regenerative medicine, immune system biology, neuroscience, and neurological disorders, cancer biology, plant biology, metabolism and diabetes as well as AIDS, Alzheimer’s and cardiovascular disorders. One of the main areas of study plant biologists are working on today is to improve the quality and quantity of the world’s food supply and addressing critical environmental issues such as global warming.
In the words of Jonas Salk, “The Salk Institute is a curious place, not easily understood, and the reason for it is that this is a place in the process of creation. It is being created and is engaged in studies of creation. We cannot be certain what will happen here, but we can be certain it will contribute to the welfare and understanding of man.”
Scripps Institution of Oceanography-8622 Kennel Way, La Jolla, CA, 92037
The Scripps Institution of Oceanography is the largest and first department established at UC San Diego and one of the La Jolla landmarks. Today, it has grown to become one of the most important centers in the world for physical, chemical, biological, and geographical studies.
Scripps Institution of Oceanography beginnings goes back to 1903 when UC Berkeley zoologist William Ritter, physician Fred Baker, Ellen Browning Scripps, her half brother E.W. Scripps, retired former newspaper tycoon, and members of the community charter the Marine Biological Association.
In 1909 Ellen Browning Scripps donates $150,000 to the Regents of the University of California to support the opening of the marine biological laboratory to permanently reside where it began in La Jolla. The following year, the George H. Scripps Memorial Marine Biological Laboratory officially opens, as the first permanent marine science facility in the western hemisphere.
On July 12, the Marine Biological Association of San Diego is transferred to the Regents of the University of California and renamed the Scripps Institution for Biological Research. 1915, the pier is constructed at Scripps Institution of Oceanography. It will be refurbished in 1946 and completely replaced in 1988, renamed as the “Ellen Browning Scripps Memorial Pier”.
On October 13, 1925, The Scripps Institution for Biological Research is renamed Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Amongst many other programs, Scripps Institution of Oceanography established the Deep Sea Drilling Program, recovering ocean cores that lead to breakthroughs into the dynamics of the earth’s crust, including continental drift, earthquakes, and volcanism.
The research and discoveries made by scientists here have been some of the most influential and prominent findings in this scientific realm in human history. Today, Scripps Institution of Oceanography welcomes government, private and industry collaborations, tours, and public use of the venue for private and corporate events. The Scripps Institution for Biological Research is admired and greatly respected not only by San Diego but the world.
Museum of Contemporary Art-700 Prospect St, La Jolla, CA, 92037
There are two locations of the Museum of Contemporary Art, one in downtown San Diego, and one here in The Village of La Jolla. The La Jolla Museum of Contemporary Art is one of the La Jolla landmarks and was founded in 1941 and built by the architecture firm Mosher and Drew, who has done a series of expansions in 1950, 1960, and again, in 1970.
Venturi Scott Brown and Associates completed the renovation of MCASD in 1996. In 2014, after a long debate on who should do the next renovation, it was remodeled again by Selldorf Architects. The goal was to create an expansion to maximize gallery space and increase meeting spaces for the public while using the natural beauty of the land to enhance this vision.
When you are designing an art museum, the architecture is just as important as the art inside of it! When the Museum of Contemporary Art in La Jolla first opened, it was known as The Art Center in La Jolla. Today, MCASD is a world-renowned art museum with over 4,700 pieces of art, in all forms of media and applications that date back to 1950.
The museum holds a wide array of art styles and mediums. You will find abstract art, minimalism, California art, Latin American art installations, Baja California art, pop art, and conceptual art. This La Jolla landmark is known for collecting works by promising emerging artists and under-recognized, mid-career artists, as well as the works of major figures in international contemporary art.
The museum is currently closed for renovation as of 2017, however, construction plans to double its size and quadruple its galleries. Kathryn Kanjo, The David C. Copley Director and CEO says, “Selldorf’s expansion brings cohesion to the campus and clarity to the visitor experience.
The design, which doubles the building’s overall size, sensitively responds to its site between the village and shore. It respects and celebrates its place in the coastal landscape as it integrates the needs of the Museum into the aesthetics and culture of the community.”