Carlsbad sits between Oceanside and San Diego with a long stretch of beaches, several creeks, and lagoons, making it a perfect spot for a weekend getaway or a rest stop on a long journey.
Most families with children flock to Carlsbad to spend a day or two at Legoland. The theme park is filled with rides and experiences based on the popular Lego toy brand. And if a park full of thrills is not enough, you can go next door to the new Water Park and Sea life Aquarium.
Interesting Fact: Captain John Frazier discovered mineral springs on his farm in 1882. He and two other men founded the city of Carlsbad, and the mineral water from the springs was bottled and sold. The city became a popular destination for health seekers. In 1895, a fire destroyed the original hotel at the springs, but it was reopened in 1993 as a spa. Carlsbad Mineral water is also sold at the location for $1 a gallon. Read more about Carlsbad history here.
When you have your fill of theme parks, head to the flower field for a wonderful walk among the colorful flowers, head to the beach for a nice stroll along Pacific Coast Highway or visit the Museum of Making Music.
Legoland Theme Parks
One of the must-see attractions is a replica of “Washington DC” with a presidential motorcade. The theme changes depending on the sitting president and current events.
Other lands to visit:
Miniland USA: Over 1 million Lego bricks that have been used to create miniature versions of famous landmarks from around the United States.
LEGO City: This land is full of kid-friendly rides and attractions, including the Lego City Deep Sea Adventure submarine ride, the Lego City Fire Academy, and the Lego City Driving School.
LEGO Kingdoms: This land is themed around medieval knights and castles. You can ride the Dragon Coaster, go on a quest in the Forestmen's Hideout, or build your own Lego knight in the Royal Joust.
LEGO Ninjago World: This land is based on the popular Lego Ninjago TV show.
THE LEGO MOVIE World: This land is based on the popular animated movie, The Lego Movie. You can ride the Unikitty's Disco Drop, build your own Lego creation in Emmet's Super Suite, or meet some of your favorite characters from the movie.
For kids of all ages, head to the LEGO LIFE ZONE to build and share your Lego creations. Parents can cool off in the air-conditioned rooms and charge their devices while watching their kids.
Legoland water park has many innovative rides like “Build a Raft River” – where you first design and build your raft and then float down the river – as well as the traditional wet fun for all ages.
The Flower Fields
The “Carlsbad Flower Fields” is a seasonal attraction, but a must-see for everyone. About 50 acres are set aside to grow a variety of colors of the “Tecolote Giant Ranunculus” (also known as the Persian Buttercup).
The flowers usually bloom from mid-March to mid-April. Call ahead to check if the flowers are in bloom because it varies depending on weather conditions every year. In 2018, the bloom continued until early May.
Tip: If you just want to admire the flower fields without paying the entrance fee, go to Armada drive which runs along the top of the fields. This is only good for a high-level view, but a good intro to the fields.
During the peak bloom, you can enjoy rows upon rows of flowers on a sloping hill. You can walk around among the flowers and take pictures or you can ride the tractor-pulled wagons that take you around the fields. The wagon goes around the fields and makes frequent stops to enjoy the view and take photos.
Interesting facts: Carlsbad has a windmill, located at Palomar Airport Road and the 5 Freeway/Coast Road. While the windmill is part of a catering and conference complex it was part of the original Pea Soups Andersen’s.
Close to the main entrance, you can stroll through an Artist Garden, go through a maze, relax, and watch the kids frolic in Santa’s Playground or go panning for gold. Several concessions stands serve coffee, snacks, kettle corn and frozen lemonade.
On the way out, you can stop at an Armstrong shop to pick up some potted plants or cut flowers – or anything else you need for your garden.
Food Tasting Tour
I always try to take a food tasting tour with a reputable company when I visit a new city. It is one of the best ways to learn about a new place's history, culture, and cuisine – and, of course, because I love food.
Carlsbad Food Tours provided the food tasting tour, and I thoroughly enjoyed the three hours we spent with Ben, our tour guide. He was friendly and informative, and provided a wealth of information about the city and the food scene.
Interesting Facts: Carlsbad is named after a 19th century spa in the former Czech Republic known as Karlsbad.
The tour had us stopping at six establishments, including a winery, where we tasted a variety of savory and sweet samples.
Every place selected by the tour company for us was great, but I had a few favorites.
To start with, “The goods donuts” were unique and delicious. Ben mentioned that every day they may have a different selection of special. Our special was the “Butter salted caramel” and we loved it.
Frog landers crêpes were my second favorite. We tasted their Supreme Crêpe which was filled with Brie, Bacon, mozzarella, Spinach, and Tomato.
One other place I did not mention, was Cacciotti's Italian Restaurant, where the food was so good, we came back for dinner and dessert the same day.
It is important to mention that the tour wasn't all about the food. We also got to admire some street art and landmarks along the way and learned about the founding of Carlsbad.
I recommend this food tasting tour to anyone staying in Carlsbad or passing by. You can more information about this tour and others here.
Carlsbad is a beach town, so you must spend some time at the beaches. You can stroll along the Seawall Trail, visit one of the State Beaches or hike along the wetlands of a lagoon.
The seawall trail starts at the intersection of Carlsbad Village Dr. and Carlsbad Boulevard (which is an extension of Pacific Coast Highway). This also happens to be one corner of Carlsbad Village, with many shops and restaurants.
The trail is paved with upper and lower sections and splendid views of the beach and the ocean. The upper trail is always busy with hikers, bikers, and skaters. It is hard to navigate during peak hours – like weekends and holidays. On the lower side, only pedestrians are allowed, so it is a much better walk.
Interesting fact: The first skateboard park in the world was in Carlsbad. Skateboarding became popular in the 60s – the thing for surfers to do when they couldn’t surf – and grew increasingly in the 1970s. There is a wonderful recently built skate park by the Carlsbad Safety Training Center off El Camino Real.
The seawall trail is about 1-mile long and ends at Tamarack Beach, which has a lifeguard station and restrooms. You can extend your hike beyond this beach, but the trail meanders between side streets and homes before it reconnects with the beach.
Carlsbad State Beach
The main beach is open to all and is popular for swimming, surfing, scuba diving, fishing, and beachcombing. It has showers and restrooms.
The campground sits atop the cliffs, with stairs and ramps down to the sand. It is very popular during the summer months, and you will need reservations many months in advance. Spaces are available for RVs with hookups, electricity, and Wi-Fi.
South Ponto Beach
This beach is very popular with surfers and gets very crowded in summer. The beach is located on a sandbar protecting the Batiquitos lagoon from the ocean. There is also a surfing school at the southern end of the beach.
Museum of Making Music
The collection includes instruments from ancient civilizations, as well as instruments from popular music genres.
For example, in the Guitar exhibit, you can see the early attempts at a guitar like instrument, the progression of bigger and louder acoustic guitars and the evolution of electric guitars.
I was surprised to see a Harp Guitar and watched a video of a musician playing it.
The museum also has a variety of interactive exhibits that allow visitors to learn about music making. My favorite was the hands-on keyboard and synthesizer section and the electric drums set.
The Museum of Making Music offers a variety of programs and events for visitors of all ages. These programs include concerts, workshops, and educational classes.
The museum also offers a variety of resources for teachers and students.
I enjoyed my visit to this unique museum and learned about the history and culture of music making.
If you ever played an instrument, or contemplated playing one, this is the place for you.
Leo Carrillo Ranch Historic Park
Leo Carrillo Ranch Historic Park is a 27-acre park in Carlsbad, California, which was once the home of actor and conservationist Leo Carrillo. The ranch was built in the 1930s and is now a popular tourist destination.
The ranch features a variety of buildings, including a hacienda, a barn, and a cabana. There are also hiking trails, a reflecting pool, and a cactus garden. Visitors can take guided tours of the ranch or explore it on their own.
Leo Carrillo was a well-known actor in the 1940s and 1950s. He is best known for his role as Poncho on the television series The Cisco Kid. Carrillo was also a passionate conservationist and worked to protect the environment. He donated his ranch to the city of Carlsbad in 1961.
Leo Carrillo Ranch Historic Park is an excellent place to learn about the history of the American West and the life of Leo Carrillo. It is also a beautiful place to relax and enjoy the outdoors.
Batiquitos is a tidal lagoon at the southern end of Carlsbad with wetlands and a nicely maintained trail. The coastal wetlands are managed by the Batiquitos Lagoon Foundation, and the volunteers operate a nature center with exhibits of the wildlife in the area.
From the nature center, the trail follows the shoreline of the lagoon, with stunning views of the marshes and avian residents of the wetlands. Along the way, many trees and covered benches offer protection from the sun.
The trail is about 3-miles long with one gentle hill and considered easy. It runs along the north side of the lagoon.
Agua Hedionda Lagoon
This center has exhibits of the region’s birds and wildlife and a history hall showing the geological eons that formed the lagoon.
The center also has a small aquarium and a touch pool where kids can pet some sea creatures. Right outside the center, you find a native plant garden and a short trail that winds in a loop through the lagoon. Along this short trail, you can take side trips to some shaded and secluded areas.
For more adventure and workouts, find the longest trail at the corner of Kelly Drive.
Hosp Grove Trails
Several trails wind through this eucalyptus tree grove, with great views of the city and the ocean. The trail climbs for about 100 feet (ca. 30 m) for a commanding view of the Buena Vista Lagoon and the ocean behind it.
An extinct volcano in Carlsbad with lush vegetation, a lake and a well-maintained hiking trail. The trail is about 3 miles (ca. 5 km) long, with 400 feet (ca. 122 m) elevation.
You don’t have to make this climb to the top of Mt. Calavera (Skull Mountain), but if you do, you will be rewarded with expansive views in all directions – all the way to the ocean.
The trail can be confusing at times, so watch out for the signs along the way.