In summer, San Diego and La Jolla has an activity for everyone – old and young alike. Whether people like the outdoors or prefer taking in museums, hearing music or seeing theater, they will almost certainly find their desires during a quick weekend getaway or on a longer stay.

For the water person, the beaches here are the best. From Mission Beach to La Jolla Cove, there’s fun in the ocean, whether diving, snorkeling or riding waves. For culture lovers, there is an abundance of events; for example, La Jolla’s SummerFest presents the best in chamber music, Aug. 3 through Aug. 24; theater-lovers have the world-class Old Globe Shakespeare Festival and the award-winning La Jolla Playhouse.

For everyone, San Diego Zoo is rated one of the world’s best, while Birch Aquarium in La Jolla Shores and SeaWorld are great places to go, particularly this year.

Let’s open this cornucopia of fun and have a closer look:

Pandas, Sharks and Mantas

At San Diego Zoo, a new Panda Trek has been added this year. This exhibit transports guests into a world inspired by China’s giant panda reserves. Over half an acre, people learn about animals that share habitat with this endangered bear species, ending up at the at the panda habitat, where they greet these special animals.

This year also marks the 19th anniversary of Nighttime Zoo, featuring special entertainment during extended summer hours. New to the night celebration, is a 20-foot-long serpent puppet, brought to life by puppeteers. It sinuously winds through Panda Canyon, in honor of the Year of the Dragon. In addition, there are live music, acrobats, up-close animal encounters and much more.

At Birch Aquarium, leopard sharks are the star of special activities. Thousands of these amazing, harmless sharks congregate every year near La Jolla Shores to spawn. They are just off shore, easy to spot in the water. Birch visitors can learn about them and go on underwater excursions.

Manta, SeaWorld’s amazing new attraction takes guests from watching rays in awesome underwater flight to the sensation of actually being one. As advertised, “You can soar, dive and twist like a ray.” Manta launches riders over a half-mile course in a ray-shaped car, taking more than a dozen twists and high-bank turns, culminating in a thrilling 54-foot drop. Passengers finish up in a 100,000-gallon tank, which allows them to see, feed and touch rays.

SummerFest and Theaters

Music lovers look forward to La Jolla’s SummerFest. The annual season, July 31 through Aug. 24, looks to be one of its most ambitious and adventurous. The opening weekend, Aug. 4, presents the famed Tan Dun piece, “Water Passion After St. Matthew,” conducted by the Oscar-winning composer himself. In this unusual piece, Tan Dun creates a “water instrument” orchestra and employs a wide range of vocal styles including those of Peking Opera. The event will be held in the larger La Jolla Playhouse, instead of the usual venue, Sherwood Auditorium in the Museum of Contemporary Art.

Very special, as well, will be the appearance, Aug. 8, of jazz star and master saxophonist Branford Marsalis. He will play Hindemith and Busch with the SummerFest musicians, and  jazz favorites with his regular group.

Other highlights include the Tokyo String Quartet, Aug. 12, playing Haydn, Beethoven and Elgar.

Aug. 18, famed tango master Pablo Ziegler appears with the Ziegler Classical Tango Quartet, and, on Aug. 22, cellist Gary Hoffman and pianist Jon Kimura Parker perform the complete Brahms Trios.

Meanwhile in another part of San Diego, playgoers come to bucolic Balboa Park where The Globe Shakespeare Festival holds forth with a repertory company performing three great plays, two by Shakespeare, and a revival of an American favorite. Part of the fun here is to see various actors in the company play different roles.

In Shakespeare’s “Richard III,” young American actor Jay Whitaker, a hit in last year’s “Amadeus,” returns to play the nefarious king. The bard’s “As You Like It,” and the revival, “Inherit the Wind,” round out the bill on the outdoor Festival Stage.

Indoors, the Old Globe theater  presents “Divine Rivalry,” a fascinating new play by Michael Kramer and D. S. Moynihan, which transports audiences to 16th century Florence, where two of the world’s greatest artists, Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, face off in a painting competition orchestrated by political mastermind Niccolò Machiavelli. In the small Sharyl and Harvey White theater “Gods of Carnage,” begins July 21. This Broadway hit by Yasmina Reza was made into a recent film and should be a hit here.

At the La Jolla Playhouse a new play, “Blood and Gifts,” plays through July 12. By J.T. Rogers, it tells the story of the secret spy war behind the official Soviet-Afghan conflict of the 1980s. The play offers up a slice of history laced with dark humor.

“The Nightingale” opens at the Playhouse July 10. A new work, with book and lyrics by Steven Sater, music by Duncan Sheik and directed by Moisés Kaufman, the musical is based on Hans Christian Andersen’s classic tale about a young emperor in ancient China. His luxurious but constricted life inside the walls of the Forbidden City is upended by the song of an extraordinary bird that lives beyond his reach.

Opening Aug. 11, will be “An Iliad,” by Denis O’Hare and Lisa Peterson, based on Homer’s epic poem about the Trojan War.

After taking in the exciting attractions this part of the world offers, and if there’s still a desire to shop, then Girard and Prospect avenues in La Jolla are the places to go.  There are art galleries, shoe and clothing stores, a pharmacy with lots of fun items as well as pharmaceuticals, an excellent bookstore and a fabulous nursery/gift shop. Of course, restaurants dot these avenues as well as the other nearby streets. Something for all – you bet.

For further information, contact San Diego Zoo 619-231-1415,; Birch Aquarium (858) 534-4374,; Sea World (800) 257-4268,; Globe Theater (619) 23-GLOBE,; La Jolla Summerfest (858) 459-3728,; La Jolla Playhouse (858) 550-1010,

About Larry Taylor: Larry has spent 15 years in the newspaper industry, prior to going into teaching at Fullerton College in 1975. He retired in 2000. During his time in newspaper work and education, he wrote stories on travel and covered the arts–theater, music and culture.. Today, his wife, Gail, takes photos. They travel extensively and write about it.