Home to Legoland, the flower fields, a waterpark, an Aquarium and beautiful beaches, this sleepy little beach town is becoming a major tourist attraction in Southern California.
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 Sealife Aquarium.
When you have your fill of theme parks, head to the flower field for an amazing walk among the colorful flowers or head to the beach for a nice stroll along Pacific Coast Highway or a dip in the ocean.
Legoland Theme Parks
The original Legoland park is geared towards younger children, but there are several attractions with the whole family in mind.
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.
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 takes you around the fields. The wagon goes around the fields and makes frequent stops to enjoy the view and take photos.
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 concession 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.
Carlsbad is a beach town, after all, so you have to 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 great 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.
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
This long stretch of sandy beach is divided into 2 main sections. The main beach for day use, and the South Beach for camping.
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 WiFi.
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 surf school at the southern end of the beach.
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 very easy. It runs along the north side of the lagoon.
Agua Hedionda Lagoon
Agua Hedionda is another protected preserve run by a volunteer foundation. Before you go on this easy 2.5-mile hike, spend some time at the discovery center.
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 foot 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 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 long with a 400 feet 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.