By Ashley MackinWith the Old Town Trolley Beach Tours now operating in full swing,
La Jolla Lightdecided to take a ride on the new transport for a first-hand look. The trolley, painted like a Woody van, departs from Old Town San Diego and then stops at the cross on Soledad Mountain, rambles through the Village of La Jolla, and heads on to Belmont Park in Pacific Beach.
Old Town Trolley managers let me ride the full loop last week, starting in La Jolla. Because everyone else on the morning tour got off in La Jolla, it was just I and a mother- daughter pair from Colorado on the trolley to Pacific Beach.
Nonetheless, our driver, David, told us about famous La Jolla residents and La Jolla High graduates (including Raquel Welch and Gore Verbinski), and why La Jolla is “the Beverly Hills of San Diego,” drawing oohs and aahs from the other riders.
As we entered different neighborhoods, such as WindanSea and Bird Rock, David explained what sets each apart.
Now, picture a train in New York. The transition from La Jolla to Pacific Beach is similar to a subway ride in New York. You can look out the window and see the Empire State building and think of the glamour and romance of the Big Apple, and then seemingly all of a sudden, you are in Brooklyn or the Jersey Shore. Much like the views of La Jolla bring up feelings of idyllic luxury, we seemed to turn a corner and be in the more edgy and exciting Pacific Beach.
Since it was just the three of us, the Colorado mom was able to ask questions. Otherwise, the drivers have facts and points they try to make on each leg of the tour.
The visiting twosome exited at Belmont Park, but not before saying how fantastic the tour was and making sure they had a tour schedule, including the time of the last pickup. During the less scenic moments (read: the freeway between Pacific Beach and Old Town) drivers play music from the Beach Boys and other surf singers.
The next tour group — headed by another driver, Mike — departed from Old Town right on time. Heading toward Soledad Mountain, the 10 of us learned about the contributions of San Diego icons Kate Sessions, John Spreckels and Ellen Browning Scripps. This information was one of the best parts of the tour, according to a family visiting from Connecticut.
Arriving at Soledad Mountain, we saw the views that amaze San Diego residents — I’m proof — and visitors alike, every time. All riders exited at Soledad Mountain for a 10- 15 minute break that is part of all the trolley Beach Tours. One visitor stood looking at the view of La Jolla Shores, smiling and shaking her head.
Mike rang the trolley bell as a warning that the tour would soon be departing, one of the few times the bell was rung. Mike said it’s often a judgment call, but the bell usually is sounded only to indicate the trolley is leaving, or if someone is in its path (as was the case in the Village, when a small group of pedestrians did not look before crossing the street).
Heading toward my last stop was the only point at which I was holding my breath, because the trolley heads down Via Capri’s steep and winding road to bravely get to Torrey Pines Road, the way by which our trolley entered the Village. I didn’t move a muscle when our driver said he had to concentrate on driving, so he would not be narrating.
Overall, I was surprised at how fast and maneuverable the trolleys were. The trolley easily passed The Cove and Children’s Pool before stopping in The Village, with reminders that the beach is walking distance from the Village stop. Drivers also share tips on where to rent beach equipment, such as kayaks.
Lucky for the riders, both seals and sea lions were resting on rocks in view of the trolley.
Winding around the Recreation Center and through the Village’s shopping areas, riders undoubtedly got ideas of how they wanted to spend their time while in La Jolla.
The drivers encouraged locals to hop on board and get a Hometown Pass, with which those living in San Diego ride for free as long as they bring a paying guest.
If you go■ What: 90 to 110-minute, 24-mile continuous beach shuttle with music, stories, history and views
• Beach Tours depart the Old Town San Diego Trolley stop every hour starting at 10:15 a.m.
• The La Jolla stop departs at 15 minutes past the hour, starting at 11:15 a.m., with the last pickup/drop off at the La Jolla stop at 6:15 p.m.
• It operates Thursday-Monday and is closed Tuesday and Wednesday
■ Tickets: $16-$36
■ Contact: (619) 500-9477