La Jolla shines in new ‘100 Things to Do in San Diego’ guide

La Jolla locations fill the pages of David Swanson's "100 Things to Do in San Diego Before You Die."

When travel writer and San Diego native David Swanson sat down to write the second edition of “100 Things to Do in San Diego Before You Die,” a flood of places came to mind. Some are familiar, like the San Diego Zoo; some are known only to a few, like how to sail on a yacht that was used in the America’s Cup race.

But, the writer said, “it’s embarrassing how many locations are in La Jolla. I had to pull back.”

La Jolla is featured prominently in the book, which was published in May and is available online and at bookstores such as Warwick’s. Around two dozen locations are in the 92037 ZIP code.

“My grandparents lived in Pacific Beach, so La Jolla was one of the places I frequented and grew to love,” Swanson said.

The book features attractions across San Diego County, with a focus on the city proper. Swanson said he wanted to write a book that highlights his hometown, with its growing new identity beyond a year-round temperate climate.

Author and San Diego native David Swanson says "La Jolla was one of the places I frequented and grew to love."

“I’m a lifelong San Diego resident; my mother lives in the house she was born in, believe it or not,” he said. “It’s a city I have come to appreciate, having traveled the world and lived in other places. I have learned to appreciate the city in ways I didn’t growing up. The city has also grown tremendously in terms of its culture and diversity. It’s hard when you have a city with weather as wonderful as we have to not have that be a calling card for us. But the city has grown as new voices have come in. It’s developed an identity that goes well beyond the weather.”

There are two audiences for the book: those who have never been here and are looking to spend a vacation, and those who live here and might want to take a closer look.

“There are many of us, and I will use myself an example, who take the city for granted,” Swanson said. “It’s easy to overlook some of its unique aspects. How many San Diegans know one of the greatest architectural masterpieces is in La Jolla? It’s at the Salk Institute and designed by Louis Kahn. It’s something that, under normal circumstances, is easy to tour. I love to find things that many San Diego residents don’t know about.”

Here are some other examples of La Jolla locales that “100 Things to Do in San Diego Before You Die” highlights, along with Swanson’s comments about them:

Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve: “This is one of the jewels of California. It is one of the last undeveloped parcels of coastline from here to L.A. Our coastline is so important as an attribute and you have this little state park that is such a jewel. You have the beach, one of the world’s rarest pine trees and these bizarre bluffs that provide unusual scenery — all in one place.”

Aerial enthusiasts from the Torrey Pines Gliderport drift over the coast.

Torrey Pines Gliderport: “How many places in the world can you pull up in your car, spend some money and fly over a beach in a non-motorized aircraft? That’s a special attribute.”

La Jolla Ecological Reserve: “In the same day, you can paddle with sea lions, leopard sharks and sometimes gray whales, right off the beach of La Jolla.”

Grunion run: “Grunions [a type of fish] don’t believe in social distancing … so two nights before/after a full moon or new moon during the season [peak spawning is March to June, but the season goes into September], thousands of fish come onto the shore to do their mating dance. That is a very SoCal thing. You don’t find it out of the area.”

Further, he lists Bird Rock Coffee Roasters as a top coffee shop pick and identifies tide pools to explore.

“I have a lot of pride in my city,” he said. “I’ve written other guidebooks and stories for other outlets, and it’s easy to live in a city like this and write about just the tourist attractions. But to bring out some of its lesser-known qualities is something I really enjoy.

“I don’t think San Diego has been given its proper due. People think of it as an outdoor city with a great climate but don’t give us credit for arts and culture. The La Jolla Playhouse sends shows to Broadway. We have an opera and a symphony. We have a restaurant scene that doesn’t get the credit it deserves. So I love shining the light on my hometown.”

Learn more about the book at ◆