If you’re looking for the best travel tips for a visit to Carlsbad, California, you’re in the right place. Learn what to eat, where to stay, and the sights to see in this fun destination. Planning a trip to Southern California? Here are some fabulous reasons to add Carlsbad to your list of places to explore. Pack up a beach themed basket and read on for all you need to know!
Discovering Carlsbad, California: The Backstory
When my son and daughter-in-law moved to southern California a few years ago, they were looking forward to spending some time on the beach. Unfortunately, their first beach visits were crowded, chaotic, and not relaxing at all. Finally, on the advice of a friend, they ventured to Carlsbad and found their beach town. On a recent trip, my husband and I had the chance to experience this fun location. After our journey, I just had to put together a post about the fun things to do in Carlsbad, California. Is Carlsbad expensive? There are a variety of bargain activity opportunities. If you’ve never been there, read on to get a taste of what makes it such a fabulous destination!
What is Carlsbad California Known for?
Even though this wasn’t the main reason we went to Carlsbad, many people journey to Carlsbad because of Legoland, California. This is definitely first on the list of fun things to do in Carlsbad, California. If you have older kids, they might miss the thrill rides, but this Legoland also has a waterpark. If you are wondering if Legoland is fun for adults, you might be surprised. Mindstorm robot programming can be very challenging, and it’s always fun to watch the kids get engrossed in a project. Get there early in the day to avoid the crowds.
Creatures of the Sea
What are the most popular things to do in Carlsbad with kids? In addition to Legoland, there is nearby Sea Life Aquarium. This amazing place is filled with fascinating exhibits, including a Sea at Night bioluminescence experience. Animals at the aquarium include sharks, rays, seahorses, and many other swimming creatures. An interactive touch pool and a freshwater shoal are just a couple of examples of the many exhibits available.
Daily informative talks are scheduled, as well as opportunities to plan parties. Located at One Legoland Drive in Carlsbad, a trip to the aquarium will enhance your visit, whether you combine it with a Legoland trip or explore it as a stand-alone attraction.
Fantastic Floral Displays
If you visit Carlsbad from March through early May, you are in for a big treat. The Flower Fields at Carlsbad Ranch offers stunning arrays of Giant Tecolote Ranunculus flowers over nearly fifty acres of color.
In addition to the fields of flowers, other attractions are available to visitors. A maze of sweet peas, an orchid greenhouse, and a historic poinsettia display are open for touring. Kids can go sluicing for gold and keep their finds. A u-pick blueberry patch is open to visitors from late March through April. The fields are also a popular event venue. Fun for the whole family!
Museums in Carlsbad
What are the Other Top Attractions to Visit in Carlsbad? Carlsbad has some amazing museums. The Miniature Engineering Craftsmanship Museum is filled with models of planes, cars, clocks, and more. What are some free things to do in Carlsbad? Visit this museum! It’s free. Be sure to check the website for days and times the museum is open.
The Museum of Making Music is another innovative Carlsbad attraction. Filled with a variety of musical instruments and examples of music throughout American history, this museum is an audio extravaganza. Make your own music when you visit, but be sure to check the website. The museum has been undergoing a major renovation, so stay tuned (haha) for future developments.
Interested in gems? Check out the GIA Museum. GIA stands for Gemological Institute of America, and the stones on display are stunning. Gems, jewelry, and incredible works of gemological art are arrayed in all their brilliance. Be sure to check the schedule on the website before paying a visit to these marvels. The museum is now offering eLearning opportunities for students. Contact the museum through the website if you are interested in arranging an opportunity.
Art and Wildlife
The Carlsbad Oceanside Art League features artists who work in a variety of styles. Paintings and photographs are on display and for sale. The museum seeks to promote fine arts in the Carlsbad community and provides scholarships for young artists as part of its outreach program. Admission to this gallery is free.
Carlsbad, California boasts some intriguing lagoons. The Agua Hedionda Lagoon Discovery Center offers visitors a variety of exhibits including photographs, an archaeological dig, and a touch tank. Three saltwater aquarium tanks feature species native to the lagoon. A natural history exhibit offers facts about the lagoon’s history and its animal inhabitants through the years. Natural wonders such as a live beehive, a native plant garden, and a succulent wall are other features of interest. Anyone into reptiles? The museum’s reptile city is for you! Check the website for the museum schedule and admission cost.
What are the Best Outdoor Activities in Carlsbad?
Parks abound in Carlsbad. Ever heard of the California gnatcatcher? It’s an endangered species that can be found in the Hidden Canyon Community Park. This 22-acre, largely undeveloped open space contains walking paths, picnic areas, playgrounds, and a trail that connects it to the Ann D. L’Heureux Dog Park. If you are traveling with a dog, this park features a dog drinking fountain, receptacles for cleanup, and a large fenced area. Located among eucalyptus trees, this park is a great place to relax and let your dog run.
Tennis anyone? Poinsettia Community Park contains ten lighted tennis courts and six lighted pickleball courts. There are also picnic areas, a playground, three lighted softball/baseball fields, a lighted basketball court, and a synthetic turf multi-sport arena field. If you are into outdoor athletics, this is your place.
The Leo Carillo Ranch Historic Park was once the residence of Hollywood actor Leo Carillo. 27 acres surround the ranch buildings and are open to the public for touring. The ranch offers a botanical garden, cultural programs, art classes, and field trips. Get a taste of California history when you visit.
Gotta Love Those Lagoons
The 350-acre Buena Vista Lagoon is the only freshwater lagoon in California. It is home to a large variety of waterfowl and has been designated as an ecological reserve. Trails, a nature center, and picnic areas offer visitors opportunities to view the wildlife residents.
The Batiquitos Lagoon is well-known for its birdwatching areas. With 526 acres of tidal wetlands, the opportunities for observing over 185 bird species provide year-round interest for visitors. Both docent-led nature tours and self-guided walks are offered.
Into watersports? Carlsbad Lagoon offers a variety of rentals for groups large and small. Enjoy spending time in motorized watercraft such as pontoon boats or non-motorized kayaks, paddleboards, aqua cycles, canoes, or pedal boats shaped like swans. This certainly qualifies for the list of fun things to do in Carlsbad, California.
The Beach at Carlsbad
A visit to Carlsbad would not be complete without a visit to South Carlsbad State Beach. When we were there, it was a Saturday and the sky was overcast. There were still plenty of kids jumping in the waves and surfers trying to catch a good one. The beach wasn’t too crowded, and we enjoyed strolling in the sand as the waves lapped at our feet. The park has convenient restrooms and a very handy foot-washing station. There are volleyball courts and camping sites as well. We had a lot of other things we wanted to do and see in Carlsbad, so our time on the beach was much too short. I definitely want to return again one day to soak up the relaxing atmosphere.
Eating in Carlsbad
After our walk along the beach, we were hungry. That’s why we’ll explore fabulous food locations on our list of fun things to do in Carlsbad, California. Fortunately, a favorite restaurant was close by. Jay’s Gourmet was all set up with an outdoor seating area and awnings provided shade.
Surprisingly, there wasn’t much of a wait to be seated. Jay’s has a wide variety of specialties, including seafood and pizza. Since I knew we were going to have dessert later at another favorite eatery, I opted to order an appetizer and soup. Between my sausage rolls and clam chowder, I had a filling meal. Others in my party ordered mozzarella sticks, minestrone soup, and pizza. It was all delicious. As you may know, I am a huge fan of clam chowder. If clam chowder is on the menu, I consider it my duty to sample it, as I do when we are traveling on the Oregon coast. Jay’s clam chowder did not disappoint me. Filled with chunky clams, the flavorful soup also contained bacon, corn, and carrots. Bliss!
Other Fun Eateries
Other fun places to eat near Carlsbad Village(the historic downtown Carlsbad) include Mikko Sushi and the Village Kitchen and Pie Shoppe. When you feel sufficiently fortified with delicious food, you might want to venture out into Carlsbad Village and do some shopping. One unique feature of Carlsbad Village is located at the intersection of Carlsbad Boulevard and Carlsbad Village Drive. The intersection is quite large, so there is actually a diagonal crosswalk in addition to the usual crosswalks. Traffic is stopped four ways to allow pedestrians to cross safely. It’s fun to watch everyone swarm across the middle of the intersection at the same time.
Once safely across the street, shopping awaits. There is also a sweet reward in store for shoppers located just around the corner. Read on to find out what it is. It’s in the next section of fun things to do in Carlsbad, California.
Shopping Secondhand in Carlsbad
If you feel like having some retail therapy, Carlsbad has a lot to offer. Carlsbad Village (the heart of downtown Carlsbad) has many quaint shops. I’m a huge fan of second-hand stores, so I wanted to be sure to pay a visit to Double Take, a clothing consignment boutique. If you are a fan of quality consignment clothing, you can find some great bargains here. Insider tip: The entire loft of the shop is devoted to items that have been marked down from their already-low prices. For more information, check out the Double Take Facebook page.
Surf’s Up at the Surf Shop
Sun Diego is a super fun surfboard shop located in the historic Twin Inns building on Carlsbad Boulevard. It’s just a short walk from the beach, and it has a lot to offer even the casual, non-surfer visitor.
In keeping with the vintage atmosphere of the Twin Inns location, the store has a collection of vintage surfboards on display. For those who long for their own surfboard, Sun Diego offers a wide variety of choices. Even if you have no intention of ever surfing in your life, the shop is a great place to browse around and pick up a fun souvenir of your time in Carlsbad.
A Can’t-Miss Treat
Behind the surf shop lies a very quaint shopping center called Village Faire. There are 36 shops, restaurants, and services, surrounding a lovely courtyard.
We weren’t there to go shopping, though. There was something else that had drawn us to this location, beckoning us with a variety of tempting flavors. Mystified by my clues? I won’t keep you in suspense any longer. We were in search of a sweet treat, and we found it at Gelato Love. If you bring up their website, you might just want to lick the screen.
The toughest thing about visiting Gelato Love is having to narrow down your flavor choices. I struggled mightily to choose three that would go well together. No matter what you decide, you will be in for a creamy flavor explosion. I ended up going with pistachio, caramel, and raspberry. The names they were given in the shop were much more poetic, but I can’t remember what they were. I was too distracted by the anticipation. What a wonderful experience!
What are Other Fun Things to do in Carlsbad, California?
If you happen to be in Carlsbad Village on a Wednesday, you’ll have the opportunity to visit the Carlsbad Village Farmer’s Market. Support local small businesses and get some great deals on a variety of goods. Other shopping opportunities may be found at the Carlsbad Premium Outlets. 85 restaurants and shops offer intrepid consumers numerous ways to find some bargains.
Staying in Carlsbad and Getting a Free Acrobatic Show
Want to stay in the heart of Carlsbad Village and be right near the beach? The Best Western Plus Beach View Lodge is located in a prime spot with an excellent ocean view. Insider tip: Enjoy watching amateur acrobatics? Right across the street from the lodge is a grassy area where local acrobats like to display their skills. It’s terrific free entertainment!
Traveling to Carlsbad by Car
If you travel to Carlsbad, you might want to have some helpful transportation information. Traveling by car? YOu might wonder how far is Carlsbad California from San Diego? It’s just 35 miles, and the fastest way to get there from San Diego is by traveling north on Interstate 5. Doing the whole southern California road trip experience? You might wonder how far is Carlsbad from Hollywood? It’s about 100 miles. San Diego is definitely closer.
Traveling to Carlsbad by Plane
If you are traveling to Carlsbad by plane, you might wonder which airport do you fly into for Carlsbad, California? San Diego International Airport is the closest major airport to Carlsbad. How far is Carlsbad CA from San Diego airport? It’s only about 35 miles away. There is a local airport, McClellan-Palomar Airport, which offers commercial commuter flights to Los Angeles and Los Vegas. How far is Carlsbad from LAX? It’s about 91 miles to Carlsbad from LAX. If you are wondering where do you fly into for Legoland California, you probably do not want to fly into Los Angeles.
Is There a Train from Los Angeles to Carlsbad?
Yes! There is a train approximately every hour each day. It departs from Union Station in Los Angeles and arrives at Oceanside Station in Carlsbad in a little less than two hours. You can purchase a one-way ticket from Los Angeles to Carlsbad on Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner for about $30.
Traveling to Carlsbad by Bus
If you live in the Los Angeles area, you might wonder does Metrolink go to Carlsbad? If you don’t mind transferring from one bus to another in Oceanside, you can catch the Breeze bus and ride directly to the Carlsbad train station. For more information about traveling to Carlsbad, you can visit the Carlsbad Village Association website.
Other Fun Travel Destinations:
If you enjoyed this list of fun things to do in Carlsbad, California, here are some other destinations you might like:
- Timberline Lodge: A Year-Round Iconic Oregon Getaway
- The Oregon Garden Resort: A Relaxing Destination
- Glacier National Park: 10 Essential Tips for First-Timers
- Fun, Free, Fabulous Things to do in Wichita Falls Texas
- 20 Amazing Things to do on a Trip to Wallowa Lake
- Redlands: An Amazing Southern California Destination
- 20 Best Things to do at Silverwood Theme Park
What to Bring to Carlsbad
When you pay a visit to Carlsbad, especially when spending time on the beach, you will want to bring along a few important items. Here are a couple of recommendations.
An Expandable Neoprene Tote Bag
This neoprene tote bag has can be used in its compact form or in its expanded form to carry all of your items for enjoying the beach. It’s roomy enough to carry towels, swimsuits, sunscreen, snacks, and whatever else you need. The inside has two roomy pockets and a removable bottom liner. A mini bag is attached for keeping track of smaller items. It’s the perfect tote bag for a visit to Carlsbad.
The Essential Handbag
When traveling in cities, train stations, bus stations, airports, or wherever there are crowds, a secure handbag that will confound would-be thieves is a must. My favorite travel handbag has been with me inside Buckingham Palace, the Vatican, the Louvre, and Carlsbad, California. It’s the Travelon Anti-Theft Cross-Body Bucket Bag, and I have witnessed firsthand its effectiveness.
When traveling to Carlsbad, I wasn’t as worried about theft. I did appreciate the roomy side pockets for water bottles. This amazing handbag has traveled to more places than I have, as it has been borrowed. My mom has the same handbag in brown, and her bag was put to the test while traveling on the Paris Metro, where she thwarted some would-be thieves.
Did the pickpockets give up because of the security features such as the locking zippers or the slash-resistant cable inside the shoulder strap? Theft happens, and the Travelon bag is the best way I know to be prepared. The main compartment is roomy (I fit an iPad in it) and the side mesh pockets are perfect for an umbrella or, as previously noted, a water bottle or two. A small compartment has RFID-blocking organization spots for credit cards and a passport. I could go on and on. It’s a phenomenal bag, and I hope to take many more trips with it.
Other Travel Essentials
Keep track of all of your belongings (even your kids) with Apple air tags. These handy devices come with a battery and are even water-resistant. Just use a simple one-step process to connect the tag to your iPhone or iPad, then use the Find My app to locate your item. Get a 4-pack and use for tracking luggage, pets, and more.
Whether you are camping or staying in a hotel, be safe with a portable carbon monoxide detector. This one has an AC-adaptor with battery backup. It’s only 2.75 by 1.5 by 4.5 inches, and could save your life.
Streamline Your Packing Strategy
Do you want to avoid overpacking on your next trip? Never check a bag again when you use this Capsule Wardrobe Packing List.
It’s digital, customizable, printable, and FREE to subscribers of the Fluxing Well site. Thanks for joining me on a virtual visit and exploring fun things to do on a visit to Carlsbad, California. May you have many happy travel experiences!
14 thoughts on “27 Fun Things to do in Carlsbad, California”
It all looks excellent but those flower fields at the ranch are stunning!
Yes! They are glorious!
Looks like there would be a lot of things to do. There is something for everyone. I think I would try the seafood, shopping, and the ice cream.
There are definitely many activities. Your three choices are winners!
We had so much fun visiting Carlsbad as kids.
Definitely want to go back and bring the family.
Great list of suggestions! And I love that you included a fun thrift store!
You probably have tips to share with me! Great to know you are a fellow Carlsbad fan.
I hope I can visit these places someday! The pictures look so pretty and inviting
Thank you! I hope I get to return there someday as well. Happy travels!
I was stationed at Oceanside almost 35 years ago and had no idea that there was so much around Carlsbad. Amazing what we have learned with the advent of the internet. Good information. Thanks.
You are very welcome. I never would have thought of visiting if it weren’t for my son and daughter-in-law. I love getting travel tips from others!
Thanks for this great list of fun things to do in Carlsbad, California! It looks like a great place to relax and have fun! I love your photos too!
Thank you! We had a great time, and I was happy to share our experience.
Great ideas! We love Carlsbad and most years we visit there at least three times a year!
It was my first time, and I’d love to return. Maybe our paths will cross.=)