There is a good reason why Carlsbad, California, is called "The Village by the Sea." This small, affluent community about half way between San Diego and Los Angeles has the charm of an old European city and the atmosphere of a typical Californian coastal resort community. With seven miles of fine white sandy beaches, great restaurants and the perfect climate, the city is a popular weekend destination and a great place to live. Best things to do in Carlsbad, California with kids include Legoland California, Sea Life Aquarium and South Carlsbad State Beach.
1. LEGOLAND California
© LEGOLAND California
LEGOLAND California Resort promises fun for all ages and is one of the best things to do in Carlsbad, California. Located just half an hour north of San Diego, the hands-on theme park is home to over 60 themed rides, interactive attractions, and shows for children between the ages of two and twelve, while SEA LIFE Aquarium and LEGOLAND Water Park provide entertainment for the whole family.
LEGOLAND Water Park boasts LEGO Legends of CHIMA Water Park, which takes your imagination on an amazing journey with an amazing Lion Temple Wave Pool, terrifying crocodile swamp, and an interactive Build-a-Boat section, as well as Build-A-Raft River, and two sandy beaches. Shows and events at the park include Holiday Snow Days, Winter Nights, Jingle Jammers, and Mini Figure Trading, and guests have a choice of visiting for the day or staying longer in the themed LEGOLAND Hotel.
One Legoland Drive, Carlsbad, CA, Phone: 760-918-5346
2. South Carlsbad State Beach
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South Carlsbad State Beach is a beautiful stretch of protected coastline that offers an array of outdoor activities to enjoy. White sand, coastal bluffs, and warm water make it a favorite spot for locals and tourists alike – come and enjoy swimming, surfing, scuba diving and snorkeling, fishing, beachcombing, and picnicking. South Carlsbad State Beach is one of the top Carlsbad attractions.
The bluffs above the beach offer excellent camping, and the 220-site South Carlsbad State Beach Campground is very popular with easy access to the beach and amenities such as bathrooms with showers, electricity, and water, Wi-Fi, and a camp store.
3. Carlsbad Village
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Boasting an array of shops, restaurants, hotels, and many other services, Carlsbad Village is the heart and soul of Carlsbad. It is located in the downtown commercial area of Carlsbad and is easily accessible on foot, which is, in fact, the best way to explore the area and all it has to offer. If you are wondering what to do in Carlsbad today, this is a great place to start exploring.
Stop in at the Witch Creek Wine Tasting Shop for a sample of some of California’s best vintages or enjoy lunch at one of the many restaurants and cafés dotted around the area. Visit the Alt Karlsbad Hanse House on Carlsbad Boulevard, a famous landmark that is the site of the first mineral water spa in the village dating back to the 1880s, and a good place to indulge in a mineral spa treatment or massage.
Stroll through the Carlsbad Village Farmer’s Market held on Wednesdays and pick some fresh local fruits and vegetables or enjoy a drink at one of several buzzing bars and hot night spots that draw lively crowds in the evenings.
Carlsbad Village Association, 2788 State St., Carlsbad, California, Phone: 760-453-7076
4. Museum of Making Music, Carlsbad
© Museum of Making Music
The Museum of Making Music is dedicated to showcasing and celebrating the music products industry. Established in 2000, the museum features an array of special exhibitions and it hosts innovative concerts and educational programs, features that focus on providing cultural enrichment as well as preserving musical heritage.
Permanent interactive exhibitions are organized in chronological order and showcase the historical milestones, popular music, and instruments of several different eras, include vintage instruments and audio and video clips. Twice a year, special exhibitions are presented alongside modern music presentations and workshops that highlight the music of both local talent and renowned international and national musicians. The Museum of Making Music is open Tuesday through Sunday, and group tours can be organized in advance.
5790 Armada Drive, Carlsbad, California, Phone: 760-438-5996
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5. Sea Life Aquarium, Carlsbad
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SEA LIFE Aquarium is a family-friendly interactive sea aquarium located on Legoland Drive in Carlsbad. The aquarium is home to more than 5,000 sea creatures that represent over 200 species, some of which include clownfish, octopus, rays, sea horses, and sharks. Children are given the opportunity to touch some of the animals, including crabs and sea stars. Other potential animal encounters include watching the animals being fed as well as dive shows.
The aquarium welcomes school groups, other groups such as Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts, and corporate events and birthday parties that include a meal at the aquarium’s Ocean Journey Cafe.
Legoland California Resort, One Legoland Drive, Carlsbad, California, Phone: 760-918-5346
6. Leo Carrillo Ranch Historic Park, Carlsbad
© Leo Carrillo Ranch Historic Park
Leo Carrillo Ranch Historic Park is a municipal park that sits in a 27-acre canyon and one of the best things to do in Carlsbad, California. Opened in 2003 and designated as a Historic National Landmark, the park is a former working ranch that was at one time owned by actor Leo Carrillo. In addition to the beautiful natural landscape, the park includes a reflecting pool, old windmills, adobe buildings, and other historic buildings.
The park is home to many plants such as birds of paradise, bougainvillea, and agave as well as various kinds of trees. There are also many peacocks that walk around the park and add to the unique ambience.
7. New Village Arts Theatre
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New Village Arts Theatre is a performing arts theater that presents dramatic and musical productions. With a seating capacity of 99 people, the intimate theater hosts productions arranged by a local ensemble group. This group is made up of 14 actors, designers, directors, and stage managers. Some of the past productions have included As You Like It, Golden Boy, and Into the Woods.
The theater offers several education outreach programs including Mondays with Sammie, and visits to schools led by the Junior Ensemble. The theater works with a local youth acting program called Kids Act, which offers acting classes for children.
2787 State Street # B, Carlsbad, California, Phone: 760-433-3245
8. Cape Rey
© Cape Rey
Cape Rey is a lovely resort on Carlsbad Beach, offering stunning Pacific Ocean views from most of its lovely guest rooms and suites. The resort, which was originally opened to the public as the Hilton Carlsbad Oceanfront Resort and Spa, showcases New England-style decor and offers 215 guest rooms, showcasing amenities such as custom-designed beds, flat screen televisions, minifridges, and microwaves. Upgraded rooms offer separate living and dining spaces, with some offering private balconies. Resort guests can dine at Chandler's Restaurant and Lounge, which serves up locally-sourced coastal fare, or enjoy drinks at its intimate cocktail lounge. Other resort amenities include a state-of-the-art fitness center, a full-service spa, and a spacious oceanfront outdoor pool and fire pit, with direct beach access provided for all guests immediately across the street.
1 Ponto Rd, Carlsbad, CA 92011, Phone: 760-602-0800
9. Carlsbad Food Tours
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Take a culinary and history tour of the village of Carlsbad with Carlsbad Food Tours. Facilitated by gourmand tour guides with a love and passion for Carlsbad and its best eateries, tours wind their way through Carlsbad’s most scenic and historic neighborhoods where you will learn about the history of the village and get to taste some of the best food on offer.
Tours take you to locally owned and operated specialty food shops as well as ethnic and local eateries where you can meet the chefs and artisans and sample their wares. Visit Carlsbad’s Urban Wineries to sip award-winning wines grown in California and stop in at favorites such as Gregorio’s Italian Restaurant, Café Topes, Witch Creek Winery, Cafe Panini, and Chocolate Bar (always a winner!). Tours are available Tuesday through Saturday, and ticket prices include all food and wine tastings.
1778 Callisia Court, Carlsbad, California, Phone: 760-990-0690
10. Pedego Carlsbad
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Pedego Carlsbad offers a unique and fun way to see and experience the coastal town – on an electric bike! The bike comes with an electric assistance of up to 20 mph, giving you the freedom to go farther and faster without extra effort which makes Pedego Bikes a very popular way to cruise the city.
Pedego Carlsbad offers a range of fun tours and excursions ranging from the Dali Lama Tour, which cruises along the coastline parallel to the Historic Hwy 101 and showcases the simpler, quieter lifestyle of the past, to the Couples Romantic Picnic Tour, which features seven miles of spectacular beaches and picturesque lagoons for the perfect picnic.
Other tours include the Oceanside Pier and Harbor Tour, where visitors can explore the quaint neighborhoods of Carlsbad and visit the house where Top Gun was filmed, and the Rock & Ride Tour where friends can explore Southern California’s breathtaking coastline while listening to their favorite music with audio headsets. Simply call to book your spot, hop on your bike, and go.
2978 Carlsbad Blvd #130, Carlsbad, CA 92008, Phone: 760-729-2453
11. The Flower Fields at Carlsbad Ranch, Carlsbad
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The Flower Fields at Carlsbad Ranch consist of close to fifty acres of Giant Tecolote Ranunculus flowers that have transformed the hills of North San Diego County into one of the most spectacular displays of natural color and beauty in the world. Blooming for just approximately six to eight weeks each year – from early March through early May – the fields come alive with color, attracting visitors from all over the world to take in the breathtaking scenes.
Open to the public seven days a week during the blooming season of spring, The Flower Fields at Carlsbad Ranch also offer a garden and special nursery and a small gift shop, and they host several festivals throughout the season. Please check the attraction's web site for opening times. The season runs from early March 1 to early May 8.
5704 Paseo Del Norte, Carlsbad, California, Phone: 760-431-0352
12. Agua Hedionda Lagoon Discovery Center, Carlsbad
© Agua Hedionda Lagoon Discovery Center
The 400-acre Agua Hedionda Lagoon is home to a wide variety of locally endemic and indigenous flora and fauna. In order to protect them and showcase their diversity, the Discovery Center aims to educate and inspire the next generation to ensure the continued protection of this important watershed. This is accomplished by offering access to fun inter-active activities including a petting pool, an archaeological dig, a bee aquarium, aquaponics and a marshland trail suitable for all ages. In addition you can explore the interesting Butterfly Corner, Reptile City, Sanders Pond and Fairyland. A visit to the center is a great way to combine education and family fun.
Agua Hedionda Lagoon Discovery Center, 1580 Cannon Rd, Carlsbad, CA 92008,
13. U-Pick Carlsbad Strawberry Company, California
© U-Pick Carlsbad Strawberry Company
U-Pick Carlsbad Strawberry Company is always happy to welcome enthusiastic strawberry pickers. There is just no denying that newly-picked, farm fresh strawberries taste and smell fantastic and everyone enjoys the chance to hand-pick their own bucket. The entire family can join in the fun as they pick and eat their way to strawberry bliss. The strawberry season usually extends from the end of January to mid July, depending on the weather. After picking your strawberries you can visit the sunflower maze and stock up on other fresh produce. In fall the emphasis turns to pumpkins and you can have fun choosing your own Halloween pumpkin at the Pumpkin Patch and lose yourself in the corn maze.
U-Pick Carlsbad Strawberry Co., 1050 Cannon Rd, Carlsbad, CA 92008, 760-603-9608
14. Aviara Golf Club
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The Aviara Golf Club is based at the Park Hyatt Hotel with magnificent views over the tranquil Batiquitos Lagoon nature preserve and offers an outstanding green and tee layout. Residing in what is known as the "Golf Manufacturing Capital of the World," the Aviara Golf Club, designed by Arnold Palmer, features a par 72, 18-hole course made up of more than 7,000 yards of uniquely sculpted landscapes with rolling hillsides covered in native wildflowers and great bunker and water challenges.
The Aviara Golf Club is also home to the Kip Puterbaugh Aviara Golf Academy, one of the oldest golf academies in the United States, and it offers a variety of day courses and golf schools for all abilities that focus on the mental, physical, and technical aspects of the game.
7447 Batiquitos Drive, Carlsbad, California, Phone: 760-603-6900
15. Batiquitos Lagoon Foundation Nature Center
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The Batiquitos Lagoon Foundation Nature Center is dedicated to preserving and educating the public about the Batiquitos Lagoon. This lagoon, a coastal wetland and nature reserve maintained by the California Department of Fish and Game, has been designated as the Batiquitos Lagoon State Marine Conservation Area and is one of the few remaining tidal wetlands along the southern coast of California.
The center offers narrated guided walking tours that describe the lagoon habitat and its importance to the plants and animals that live there. Animals include birds, mammals, fish, insects, and more.
7380 Gabbiano Lane, Carlsbad, California, Phone: 760-931-0800
16. Things to Do in Carlsbad: Craftsmanship Museum
© Craftsmanship Museum
The Craftsmanship Museum is devoted to collecting, preserving, and exhibiting crafts made of wood and metal. It is also known as the Joe Martin Foundation Craftsmanship Museum and the Miniature Engineering Craftsmanship Museum. The museum’s collection consists of 500 working miniature engines such as internal combustion engines, a Bentley rotary aero engine, radial engines, and many more.
Other interesting objects in the collection include models of cars, airplanes, and other objects, including a model of a 1932 Duesenberg as well as World War II fighter aircraft models. The objects are maintained in an on-site machine shop staffed by craftsmen and volunteers.
3190 Lionshead Avenue, Carlsbad, California, Phone: 760-727-9492
17. Carlsbad Lagoon
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The Carlsbad Lagoon is a water sports center that offers a variety of activities and equipment rentals, including canoes, kayaks, paddleboats, stand up paddleboards, and wave runners. There are also speedboats available for rent. The center has trained instructors who can teach visitors how to do a variety of fun water activities including water skiing and wake boarding.
The center offers several programs such as Camp H2O, which is a summer youth camp. Here children learn about many kinds of water activities as well as educational topics such as oceanography. The camp also includes games and barbecues on the beach.
4215 Harrison Street, Carlsbad, CA, Phone: 760-434-3089
18. GIA Museum
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The Gemological Institute of America (GIA) Museum is devoted to researching and educating the public about the field of gemology, gemstones, and jewelry making, important activities in this area as the Gemological Institute of America is headquartered in Carlsbad. The GIA Museum features a variety of exhibits.
Symphony in Gemstones is an exhibit that includes a miniature trumpet made of turquoise and gold, a harp made of tiger eye, a grand piano made of black onyx, and more. Other exhibits include Generations of Mastery: Gemstone Carvings by Dreher and More is More: Duquette Wilkinson Jewelry, among others.
5345 Armada Drive, Carlsbad, CA, Phone: 760-603-4000
19. Rancho Carlsbad Golf Course
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Rancho Carlsbad Golf Course is a 18-hole par 3 course public golf course that also features a driving range. It is known for its beautiful setting in the hills just north of the College Boulevard-El Camino Real intersection, and the Pacific Ocean is just a few minutes away from the golf course.
The par 3 golf course offers a challenging and enjoyable experience, yet golfers can complete the 18-hole course in less than three hours. On the north side of the golf course there is a driving range made of natural grass. The 19th Hole Deli offers a variety of drinks and light meals.
5200 El Camino Real, Carlsbad, CA, Phone: 760-438-1772
20. Carlsbad Premium Outlets
© Carlsbad Premium Outlets
Carlsbad Premium Outlets is a shopping destination that features more than 90 high-end designer stores such as Tommy Hilfiger, Michael Kors, Cole Haan Outlet, and Calvin Klein, among others. The mall was designed around a central courtyard with fountains, and the architectural style is Tuscan.
There are also several eateries for hungry shoppers, including places such as Panda Express, Rubio’s Fresh Mexican Grill, Ruby’s Diner, and Subway. You will always have room for desert with places like Haagen Dazs. The mall also hosts many events throughout the year.
5620 Paseo Del Norte, Carlsbad, CA, Phone: 760-804-9000
21. The Crossings at Carlsbad
© The Crossings at Carlsbad
The Crossings at Carlsbad is a 6,835-yard public golf course and event facility. The 18-hole course sits between the Pacific Ocean and the nearby foothills and offers spectacular views. Covering an area of more than 400 acres, the course blends in with the natural habitat of the California coastal environment, and visitors can often see many kinds of wildlife here.
Created by well-known golf course designer Greg Nash, the course is appropriate for all levels of golf enthusiasts, from beginners to advanced players. The golf course offers electric golf carts to facilitate traveling around the seven-mile cart path. The 28,000 square foot clubhouse contains a restaurant, a golf shop, banquet facilities, and much more.
5800 The Crossings Drive, Carlsbad, CA, Phone: 760-444-1800
22. Carlsbad Village Farmers' Market
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Carlsbad Village Farmers’ Market is a weekly Wednesday farmers’ market that offers fresh organic produce, flowers, handmade arts and crafts, locally prepared hot and cold food, and plants. Carlsbad Village Farmers’ Market is one of many reputable markets to make the list of San Diego County’s Certified Farmers’ Markets.
This type of farmers’ market allows consumers to buy directly from farmers and helps to support the many small farming operations in the area. Carlsbad Village Farmers’ Market also hosts events such as free concerts performed by local musicians.
2788 State Street, Carlsbad, California, Phone: 760-453-7076
23. Things to Do in Carlsbad: Alga Norte Community Park
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Alga Norte Community Park consists of 32 acres and is San Diego County’s largest state park. It features shaded picnic areas with barbecues, several basketball courts, three ball fields, a shaded playground, and an off-leash dog park. The park’s aquatic center includes a 56-meter competition pool, several diving boards, a 25-yard instruction pool with 12 lanes, a children’s splash pool, and a fitness room.
Although bicycles are not allowed in the park, there is a lighted skate park for skateboarders. There is also a snack bar called the Dive in Grill.
6565 Alicante Road, Carlsbad, CA, Phone: 760-268-4777
24. K1 Speed Carlsbad
Provided you are more than 48 inches tall you are eligible to have hours of family fun at the K1 Speed Indoor Karting venue in Carlsbad. Karting provides all the thrills of proper motor racing without the risks and the venue is ideal for families. It is also ideal for groups of friends and offers special group rates for Junior Birthday Parties, Adult/Teen Parties, Girls’ Night Out or Corporate Team Building events. Various themed races are hosted including a Teen Cup and a Junior League event. Visitors are welcome to just “Arrive and Drive” on a first come, first served basis but groups need to book their slot in advance.
K1 Speed Carlsbad, 6212 Corte Del Abeto, Carlsbad, CA 92011, 855-906-5711