Our family is spending 4 nights at La Valencia Hotel in La Jolla we need some advice on cool family-friendly things to do during our time there. We are a family of 5 with kids 13, 16, 18 yrs old. Thanks for any help!
If your family likes adventure, I'd highly recommend Torrey Pines Hike for a great family day. The main trail leads you up the back of the hill then down towards the ocean; it empties out onto the beach and it's a lovely walk back. It's one of my favorite hikes in San Diego. If you're staying in La Jolla then you're close to Mount Soledad which is nice for about an hour, unique lookout spot for views of San Diego.
Hillcrest is kinda a fun part of town to explore; it's quirky and hip.. Buffalo Exchange is where I end up for vintage shopping! Another must see family adventure would be Sunset Cliffs at sunset. If you're down in Point Loma the Cabrillo National Monument is pretty legit (not an all day thing but it's very beautiful and the lighthouse is so cute) to go to during the day.
San Diego Zoo is an amazing zoo and enjoyable for all ages. It's a really well designed zoo with beautifully preserved plant life mixed in. I feel that the plants make the day of walking around more exciting and tranquil. I'm pretty sure the plant collection is more valuable than the animals.
Balboa Park is right next door to the zoo, filled with museums and park areas for playing frisbee or having a picnic. There's always tons of stuff going on at Balboa.
For restaurant suggestions, Tender Greens is my favorite (I always get the bbq chicken hot plate with the spinach salad and mashed potatoes!!) But, Phil's BBQ is the classic San Diego place to be. If you have teenage boys… don't miss this place. There's always a wait but it's sooooo worth it. My favorite thing on the menu is their beef ribs (guilty pleasure).
If you want a local (hole in the wall) experience with the family.. go get California burritos at Ortiz's Taco Shop or if you can't get into the french fry thing… I love their veggie burrito. It's a super casual taco shop but the experience is memorable. Soo good! Around the corner is Cotijas Cocina Mexicana on Voltaire. To wrap up my food rant, I can't forget to plug for Extraordinary Desserts the whole family will fall in love, it's the most extraordinary place to get beautiful, decadently rich, expensive ($6-12 a dessert), large, professional, and unforgettable desserts. Definitely worth the drive down from La Jolla.
I know this is more than you could do in 4 days but I wanted to give ideas. There are so many amazing things to do in San Diego as a family. Hope you have a great trip!
Mentioned in this answer:
The Boardwalk Mission Beach was a big hit with my teenage niece when she came to visit. In addition to a very very tame small amusement park (which is probably not a draw for the older two), there's a Wave House Athletic Club at the boardwalk. You can get food & drink, sit in a family-friendly outdoor bar area directly on the beach and watch people surf the man-made waves. The kids can sign up for lessons and take a turn on the smaller waves. In La Jolla itself, Roppongi Restaurant & Sushi Bar has an amazing happy hour for food that is family friendly and so good - a very short walk from your hotel. La Jolla Shores Rentals provides great kayaking opportunities. If you'd rather have calmer waters for kayaking, head over to Mission Bay Aquatic Center to rent kayaks or other water toys (including stand-up paddle boards, I think.)
Mentioned in this answer:
If you enjoy wildlife, stop by La Jolla Cove Beach and watch the sea lions anytime night or day.