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Torrey Pines Gliderport

Soar the skies above La Jolla’s rugged seaside cliffs, blufftop mansions, and the sandy shoreline at Black’s Beach

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If you’ve ever wanted to fly like an eagle, you can live that dream in San Diego. At Torrey Pines Gliderport in La Jolla, you’ll soar effortlessly above the Pacific’s wind-ruffled waves, suspended in a colorful paraglider while securely strapped to a qualified pilot. Your only task is to sit comfortably in your harness and keep your eyes on the megawatt view—a wide-angle perspective on the endless ocean and the brayed-tan sands of Black’s Beach. First-timers, take heart: The scariest part is before you take off. Once you’re gliding through the air, anxiety vanishes. Most flights last about 20 minutes, which is just enough time to amp up your endorphins and leave you grinning from ear to ear.

Beginners of any age, from toddlers to centenarians, can go for a tandem flight. Torrey Pines Gliderport has a stellar safety record—having flown nearly 150,000 accident-free tandem flights in the last 20 years. You can fly in either a hang glider or a paraglider (a hang glider has a kite-shaped metal frame; a paraglider has an inflated wing with no frame), but paragliding is more common because it’s better suited to a wider range of wind conditions. You don’t even need to plan ahead—tandem flights are offered on a first-come, first-served basis whenever the wind is favorable.

Even if you have no intention of leaving the ground, you can have almost as much fun as the fliers. Torrey Pines Gliderport enjoys one of San Diego’s best coastal viewpoints from its perch atop a 350-foot-high bluff. Lookie-loos are welcome—order a sandwich or salad at the Cliffhanger Café, then watch the gliders take off and float through the air. On weekends, live music adds to the party atmosphere.

There’s plenty more to do in La Jolla, from kayaking in sea caves to taking an architectural tour of the Salk Institute. Golfers can swing over to Torrey Pines Golf Course for a round of golf and lunch overlooking the 18th hole at A. R. Valentien. At nearby Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve, admire the world’s rarest pine tree, the Torrey pine, as you hike through dramatically eroded coastal badlands to the beach. Look up to the sky as you walk, and you’ll probably see smiling gliders drifting gently overhead.

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