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17 Best Things to Do in Carlsbad, California

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Carlsbad, California, is a cool, coastal town in San Diego County, about 35 miles north of downtown San Diego and 50 miles south of Orange County.

Carlsbad’s beautiful beaches stretch over 7 miles along the coastline and feature an incredible foodie scene, making this destination a must-see for solo travelers, families, couples, and everyone.

Here are some of the most popular Carlsbad attractions for anyone considering visiting this coastal city!

TL;DR

  • Most significant landmark – Carlsbad Village
  • Park to visit – Leo Carrillo Ranch Historic Park
  • Free activity – South Carlsbad State Beach
  • Activity for kids – LEGOLAND California Resort
  • Activity for adults – Witch Creek Winery
  • Place to eat – Campfire
  • Nightlife – Park 101
  • Place to stayOmni La Costa Resort

Things to Do in Carlsbad, California

1. Carlsbad Village

Carlsbad Village and Skyline

Address: Carlsbad Village, Carlsbad, CA, USA

Carlsbad Village offers the charm of a small town with a coastal downtown vibe. The area is very walkable, making it an ideal spot for families with strollers or those who prefer walking to restaurants, shops, and the beach.

Carlsbad Village is located on coastal bluffs right near the Pacific Ocean. Visitors can access Tamarack Beach, Ocean Avenue, Grand Avenue, and Cherry Avenue beaches from Carlsbad Village.

Grab a meal at one of the many restaurants in the village; everything from smoothies, sandwiches, and coffee houses to premium steakhouses and pubs is open and ready to serve you at Carlsbad Village. There are many gluten-free and vegan options as well.

Carlsbad Village hosts many local events, including the Carlsbad Village Farmers Market, live music, art shows, and various food and wine tastings. The Carlsbad Village Farmers Market happens every Wednesday at 2:30 pm, with fresh fruits, vegetables, meat, fish, cheese, eggs, and honey for sale.

Pick up a bouquet of fresh flowers, purchase some tasty fudge, or try homemade bread. Support local small businesses selling antiques, apparel, books, specialty food shops, gifts, jewelry, and more!

You will likely find yourself there more than once during your stay; there’s so much to see and do as you explore some of the finest independent shops and dining in Southern California

2. LEGOLAND California Resort

Legoland Entrance
image by Greg Goebel is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Address: One Legoland Dr, Carlsbad, CA 92008, United States

With over 60 rides, shows, and tourist attractions, LEGOLAND California Resort and Theme Park offers fun for the entire family, regardless of age! Explore the different lands inside the theme park, like Ninjago World, Imagination Zone, Pirate Shores, Castle Hill, and so much more entertainment.

Don’t forget to stop at MINILAND USA for an amazing view of tiny, iconic US cities made entirely of Lego bricks. You’ll see New Orleans, New York City, San Francisco, Las Vegas, and more!

Looking for more action? Take a daring ride on Captain Cranky’s pirate ship in Pirate Shores, visit the LEGO Moon Base in Imagination Zone, and go on a Deep Sea Adventure in Castle Hill. Secure travel insurance like TravelInsurance.com as you explore the resort and Carlsbad attractions for safe and hassle-free travel.

You can’t miss the LEGOLAND California Water Park, which features a build-a-raft river, splash pads, giant raft slides, and water cannon soakers. Cool off in the summer and fall at this thrilling water park.

Also on-site is the SEA LIFE Aquarium, home to more than 350 underwater species and 6,000 creatures. Look closely at sharks, octopi, sting rays, sea horses, jellyfish, and more.

Listen to an educational talk or join a feeding demonstration with SEA LIFE Aquarium’s knowledgeable and friendly staff. SEA LIFE Aquarium tickets can be purchased individually or bundled when purchasing LEGOLAND California tickets. 

We do not doubt that a stay at LEGOLAND California Resort will be one of the memory books for your family. LEGOLAND California is a must-see for bringing kids on your Carlsbad vacation. You can book your LEGOLAND tickets here!

See Related: Things to Do in California

3. Omni La Costa Resort & Spa

Omni La Costa Resort & Spa
image by Booking.com

Address: 2100 Costa Del Mar Rd, Carlsbad, CA 92009, United States

Ready for some fun in the sun at the best resort in Carlsbad? Welcome to Omni La Costa Resort! Book a cozy, spacious villa for a relaxing getaway in Carlsbad, California, any time of year.

The suites offer luxurious bedding, free WiFi, flat-screen TVs, and more. There are also dog-friendly options if your furry friend joins you on vacation! With two 18-hole golf courses, a luxury spa, and eight on-site pools, Omni La Costa Resort & Spa is the ultimate relaxation resort in North San Diego County.

You can also exercise at one of the 17 tennis courts or their state-of-the-art fitness center. Are you in the mood for a spa day? Omni La Costa Resort offers massages, facials, and other spa treatments that will leave you feeling relaxed and rejuvenated, just like a vacation should.

This resort is also pretty kid-friendly. Take the kids to the resort’s 100-foot water slide and pools, where they can splash and swim all day. If traveling without kids, enjoy the adults-only pool for peace.

After a day of resort-based antics, dine at one of the resort’s finest restaurants, including traditional American food at Bob’s Steak & Chop House, Mediterranean at Bar Traza, and a convenient marketplace that offers sandwiches, Peet’s Coffee, and treats when your sweet tooth kicks in.

Located a short drive to great shopping and dining on the coast, you’ll be in the perfect location to enjoy the coastal town when staying at Omni La Costa Resort & Spa in Carlsbad. You can book your stay at Omni La Costa Resort here.

See Related: Things to Do in Crestline

4. Carlsbad Premium Outlets

Shops at Carlsbad Premium Outlets
image by Prayitno is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Address: 5620 Paseo Del Norte, Carlsbad, CA 92008, United States

There’s nothing better than a shopping spree on vacation, and Carlsbad Premium Outlets offers some of the best shopping in San Diego County! Conveniently located off the Five Freeway and Palomar Airport Road, Carlsbad Premium Outlets has more than 85 designer and name-brand outlet stores and great dining options, making this mall an all-day activity in Carlsbad.

With designer brands, including Coach, Tory Burch, Michael Kors, Polo Ralph Lauren, Kate Spade, and Banana Republic, you’ll find stylish, affordable clothing and accessories for anyone on your shopping list.

You’ll find great deals on your favorite brands and convenient amenities, including electric vehicle charging stations, family restrooms, stroller rentals, ride-share pick-up and drop-off zones, and more.

After you’ve shopped yourself silly, take a shopping break and enjoy lunch at Ruby’s Diner or Blaze Pizza for some fast casual dining. Get a coffee at Starbucks, an ice cream bar at Haagen-Dazs, or a tasty pretzel at Wetzel’s.

Carlsbad Premium Outlets’ hours vary by season, so plan to be there between 11 am and 8 pm in the warmer months.

Enjoy the stunning views of Carlsbad and the Flower Fields as you browse the specialty shops. Carlsbad Premium Outlets offer an upscale shopping experience in Southern California. 

See Related: Best All-Inclusive Family Resorts in Jamaica

5. South Carlsbad State Beach

South Carlsbad State Beach Scenery

Address: South Carlsbad State Beach, California, USA

Carlsbad offers some of California’s most pristine and beautiful beaches, and South Carlsbad State Beach is one of the best. This five-mile stretch of beach is a great spot for families to spend the day or visitors seeking local surfing or skimboarding.

With stunning views of the California coastline, you’ll witness a quintessential day on the beach when you visit South Carlsbad State Beach. Spend the day playing on the sandy beach and ocean waves, or visit in the early evening to witness the stunning Southern California sunsets.

It’s a great destination if you’re all about seaside fun. South Carlsbad State Beach has great fishing activities, scuba diving, snorkeling, and windsurfing, and is even popular with geocachers!

If you’re a runner or a biker, South Carlsbad State Beach has a convenient boulevard adjacent to the beach where you can walk, run, or bike this five-mile stretch of the coast.

Along with swimming and surfing, South Carlsbad State Beach offers great camping and overnight facilities at its large bluff-top campground. Convenient stairs lead down to the beach for campers. Looking for a hotel near South Carlsbad State Beach? The Park Hyatt Hotel is a stellar choice!

See Related: Family-Friendly Spring Break Ideas

6. Witch Creek Winery

Witch Creek Winery
image by Julian V/TripAdvisor

Address: 2906 Carlsbad Blvd, Carlsbad, CA 92008, United States

Looking for a great glass of wine? Then, you should definitely visit Carlsbad’s urban wineries, including the local favorite, Witch Creek Winery.

Founded in 1993, Witch Creek Winery is Carlsbad’s oldest urban winery specializing in making simple, easy-to-drink, consumer-friendly wines. Witch Creek Winery offers a modern take on a classic winery, sourcing its grapes from other vineyards around the country and transporting them to an urban facility for wine-making.

Located in the heart of downtown Carlsbad, Witch Creek Winery offers a vast selection of wines, including a Cool Cat Sparkling Wine, a sweet Pinot Noir, a dry Sauvignon Blanc, and many more. Enjoy a glass of wine or sample a few different sips while catching a nice breeze on the relaxing porch.

Witch Creek Winery has a menu full of tasty bites and treats if you get hungry while tasting all the wines. Their specialties include mixed Greek olives with a baguette, hummus with pita, and a satisfying charcuterie plate that pairs perfectly with the wide variety of wines.

The winery also offers hard apple cider, honey mead, and winemosa’s for adventurous taste buds. Visitors can purchase coffee, specialty gifts, and other items in their on-site store.

This local winery also hosts open mic nights, live music, and other events that locals and visitors enjoy. You’ll enjoy a few hours at Witch Creek with friends and family with friendly and knowledgeable staff nearby to answer questions and make recommendations.

See Related: Things to Do in Mariposa

7. Leo Carrillo Ranch Historic Park

Historic House in Leo Carrillo Ranch Historic Park
image by Ken Lund  is licensed by CC BY-SA 2.0

Address: 6200 Flying Leo Carrillo Ln, Carlsbad, CA 92009, United States

One of Southern California’s hidden gems, Leo Carrillo Ranch Historic Park is a treasured landmark that visitors and locals enjoy. Leo Carrillo Ranch is a historic rancho listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is known as Carlsbad’s sleeping beauty.

Featuring 27 acres of beautiful views of Carlsbad, wild terrain, and historic buildings. Rich in California history, Leo Carrillo Ranch Historic Park offers families a nice morning outdoors, getting some steps in and learning about the history of Carlsbad and its local plants and wildlife.

The old Spanish-style rancho was developed into a community park by locals and the city of Carlsbad years after its discovery. Visitors can take a walking tour of the ranch, exploring its many views, including the old barn, stables, corrals, and a bullpen.

You’ll encounter historic bridges, a botanical walking tour, the Caretaker’s Cottage, and the Hacienda compound on your walk. Keep walking to witness the old Wash house where Leo himself lives, pass under the Bride’s Arch, and stop at the iconic Deedie’s House, one of the ranch’s most popular buildings.

Add Leo Carrillo Ranch Historic Park to your itinerary for one of the best free things to do in Carlsbad, California. You won’t be disappointed! 

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8. Park 101

Park 101 Restaurant
image by Mary P/TripAdvisor

Address: 3040 Carlsbad Blvd, Carlsbad, CA 92008, United States

One of Carlsbad’s most popular dining spots is Park 101, a barbecue restaurant offering savory food, cocktails, beer, games, picnic tables, and a rooftop deck for fun in the sun all day and night.

Park 101 has an impressive menu, with items like St. Louis ribs, loaded baked potatoes, surf and turf fries, pulled pork sandwiches, shrimp rolls, salads, tacos, burgers, and more.

You’ll be thirsty, so check out their impressive cocktail list, with tasty concoctions like a prickly pear Paloma, a watermelon mule, a coconut margarita, and house beers and wines.

Park 101 also has a great nightlife scene; from trivia nights and live DJs, Park 101 is open weekend nights til 11:30 pm. This place is a blast. Located inside the Carlsbad Village, Park 101 attracts quite the social scene most nights.

You’ll find yourself coming back for another visit after tasting the food and cocktails and experiencing the laid-back, enjoyable atmosphere.  

See Related: Things to Do in Mendocino

9. Carlsbad Food Tours

Group on a Carlsbad Village Local Food Tour
image by GetYourGuide

Looking to explore Carlsbad Village for tips on the best eateries and places to visit? Carlsbad Food Tours is the perfect way to kick off your vacation! With so many restaurants, what better way to find the hidden gems than from a local?

Carlsbad Food Tours offers an inside look at the hot spots that locals love on a unique walking tour of Carlsbad Village.

Embark on a three-hour culinary and history tour of Carlsbad with a guide, where visitors will stop at eight different spots in the village to sample foods, gelato, wine, beer, chocolate, and much more. Arrive hungry.

Be sure to wear comfortable clothes and shoes to enjoy yourself fully! This tour happens rain or shine, so be prepared if the weather is less than ideal. If you desire a guided way to see the heart of Carlsbad, this food tour is one of the best things to do in Carlsbad, California.

See Related: Things to Do in Napa Valley

10. Carlsbad Flower Fields

Flower Field in Carlsbad Ranch
image by FASTILY is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

Address: 5704 Paseo Del Norte, Carlsbad, CA 92008, United States

If you’re lucky enough to be in Carlsbad from March to May, it’s essential to stop at the flower fields, one of the most beautiful scenic views (outside of the beach, of course!) that Carlsbad offers. The famous Carlsbad Flower Fields cover an area of 50 acres and showcase over 500,000 blooming flowers annually.

These acres of jaw-dropping Giant Tecolote Ranunculus flowers bloom at Carlsbad Ranch each spring for six to eight weeks. This annual burst of color attracts tourists and locals to glimpse the stunning rows and rows of pink, red, and yellow flowers.

Along with stunning flower fields, Carlsbad Ranch offers an orchid greenhouse, a field of flowers replicating the American flag, 5 acres of sunflowers, blueberry picking, a butterfly garden, and a maze for children. It’s an incredible kid-friendly place to visit.

While you’re there, go on a tractor ride around Carlsbad Ranch, enjoy live music, or watch a movie at the Paul Ecke Jr. Barn to learn about the vibrant history of the Flower Fields.

Hungry during your visit? Enjoy pizza, kettle corn, lemonade, and ice cream at Carlsbad Ranch. You can also taste freshly picked strawberries in shakes, smoothies, chocolate-dipped strawberries, Dole whip, and more.

Make it a visit to remember and bring the camera to take beautiful pictures of the spell-binding flower fields. You certainly won’t forget this stop on your trip to Carlsbad, California. You can plan your trip to the Flower Fields here.

11. Alga Norte Community Park

Alga Norte Community Park Building
Management / TripAdvisor

Address: 6565 Alicante Rd, Carlsbad, CA 92009, United States

For family fun with the locals, visit Alga Norte Community Park for swimming and a full day of activities.

Alga Norte Community Park is open from 8 am to 10 pm and features a state-of-the-art aquatic center, the largest skate park in San Diego County, a dog park for your furry friends, basketball courts, a massive playground, as well as picnic and barbecue areas.

The park’s aquatic center includes a 56-meter competition pool and a 12-lane instruction pool. There is a designated splash pad for little ones and a warm water spa for adults. Work out at the beautiful fitness center, or take your dog to make some furry pals at the off-leash dog park. Show off your competitive side with a game of basketball or baseball.

If you’ll be in Carlsbad for a while and need an activity to keep your kids busy for a few hours, Alga Norte Community Park is the perfect place to spend the day.

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12. Carlsbad Lagoon

Kayaks in Carlsbad Lagoon
image by Maryl54/TripAdvisor

Address: 4215 Harrison St, Carlsbad, CA 92008, United States

Carlsbad Lagoon calls your name if you need a break from the beach but still want to spend time outside. Also known as Agua Hedionda Lagoon, the Carlsbad Lagoon is one of three in the area and is a coastal wetland offering year-round recreational use. Visitors can rent a variety of motorized and non-motorized vehicles to enjoy a day in the sun.

If you’re looking to spend the day on a boat, Carlsbad Lagoon offers boats, including a Bayliner, Pontoon, CraigCat, FunCat, and Mini boats to rent for the day. Maybe you’re looking for a workout on the water — if that’s the case, the lagoon offers single and double kayaks, so you can ride solo or with a partner.

If paddle boarding is more your style, the stand-up paddleboard is waiting if you are up for the challenge! These 12-foot-long foam boards are designed for one person and provide a full-body workout.

Settle in with a few friends, pack a lunch, and don’t forget the sunscreen. You’ll enjoy a picturesque day on the water and have amazing memories of Carlsbad.

See Related: Where to Stay in Santa Barbara

13. Museum of Making Music

Harp Guitar Exhibit at Museum of Making Music
image by solyanka is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Address: 5790 Armada Dr, Carlsbad, CA 92008, United States

Ready to take a break from the sun and learn about California’s music culture and history? Make a stop at the Museum of Making Music for a lesson on the revolutionary sounds of jazz, folk, rock ‘n-roll, and pop and how musical instruments changed the industry along the way!

Returning to the museum’s galleries, including the famous instruments, products, and gear used to make music transcending time and space. You can explore familiar tunes in audio and video clips, play vintage instruments, and discover the magic behind making music that can only be experienced firsthand at the Museum of Making Music in Carlsbad.

General admission to the museum is $15, and children under 3 get in free. The Museum of Making Music is closed on Mondays but is open every other day of the week from 10 am to 5 pm.

Along with galleries, the Museum of Making Music also participates in the annual Artwalk Carlsbad, a local event with live music, fine art exhibits, and live art created in real time.

See Related: Things to Do in Venice Beach

14. Rancho Carlsbad Golf Course

Playing Golf

Address: 5200 El Camino Real, Carlsbad, CA 92010, United States

Carlsbad offers some of the most stunning and challenging golf courses in California. If you have time to play golf while in town, let it be at the Rancho Carlsbad Golf Course.

Rancho Carlsbad Golf Course is an 18-hole, 3-par course and driving range located just a few minutes from the Pacific Ocean in Carlsbad. With incredible views, sunny skies, and a challenging course, you’ll be more than satisfied after spending a few hours on the golf course at Rancho Carlsbad Golf Course.

Rancho Carlsbad Golf Course is also home to a new sport known as FootGolf, which combines the precision of golf with the passion and energy of soccer. If golf is too much of a drag, or if you’re a sucker for soccer, you HAVE to check it out.

If you need to refuel after a round, stop at the 19-hole deli for sandwiches, burgers, hot dogs, beer, wine, and more. Or you can try the Gimme Grill, featuring an extended menu with breakfast sandwiches, Philly cheesesteaks, tacos, and more.

Rancho Carlsbad also hosts live music events throughout the year, where families are invited to listen to local musicians, enjoy some great food, and spend an evening outdoors.

See Related: Things to Do in Pleasanton

15. Campfire

Campfire Outdoor Seating
image by jennlovesfood /TripAdvisor

Address: 2725 State St, Carlsbad, CA 92008, United States

Craving a delicious feast in a laid-back environment? Campfire in Carlsbad checks every box and brings a powerful mission statement— their purpose is to gather around a fire, create food, and value community.

Campfire’s craft cocktails include clever concoctions like Flower & Ash, made with tequila and burnt honey, Distant Drums, made with bourbon and brown butter; and the Buena Suerte, with rum and roasted macadamia.

With starters like oysters, fresh crudites, and fish skewers, it’s easy to see that a meal at Campfire will be incredible. Their daily menu includes delectable dishes like smoked brisket, grilled octopus, and charred chicken.

Wrap up your meal with the most savory-sweet dessert — s’mores, of course! How else would you eat dessert at a place called Campfire?

If you don’t get the chance to make a reservation at Campfire for dinner (which is highly recommended), there are usually spots open at the bar. Unfortunately, Campfire does not allow dogs on-site, so leave your furry loved ones home for this meal.

While kids are welcome at Campfire, the environment, cocktails, and food are better enjoyed among adults. Take your friends, date, and enjoy the time away at Campfire.

See Related: Where To Stay In Morro Bay, California: Best Areas

16. Electric Bike Tour

Couple Riding Carlsbad's Rental Electric Bike
image by Viator

Eager to explore Carlsbad and all the stunning beaches? Rent an electric bike and explore at your own pace, with your family, or alone.

Pick up your bike rental, locks, and helmet at Pedego Carlsbad, and be on your way! You have three hours to explore the coastal bluffs and stunning views of the Pacific Ocean.

We recommend heading south after getting your gear to enjoy the 6-mile stretch of the coast. Make stops at North Ponto Beach, Tamarack Beach, and other hidden gems along the way.

Stop and grab a bite at any of the Carlsbad Village restaurants, get a caffeine buzz at a local coffee house, do a little shopping, and hop back on your bike for more sights. If you leave Carlsbad and continue south, you’ll visit Leucadia and Encinitas, two more awesome beach towns in North County.

Once the three hours are up, return your electric bikes to Pedego Carlsbad and grab a meal nearby. After three hours of moderately challenging biking, you’re sure to have worked up an appetite. You can book an electric bike rental right here.

See Related: Things to Do in The Bay Area

17. New Village Arts Theatre

New Village Arts Theatre Actors on a Play
Management / TripAdvisor

Address: 2787 State St, Carlsbad, CA 92008, United States

Are you in the mood for some professional theater? Head to New Village Arts Theatre in Carlsbad Village for an entertaining show or musical performance.

The New Village Arts Theatre is a 100-seat, intimate performing arts theater that offers a full season of plays and musicals featuring the best talent in Southern California.

With lauded past performances, including The Mechanicals, Leonard Bernstein’s New York, and Beehive, the New Village Arts Theatre brings culture, art, music, and talented performers to Carlsbad’s main stage.

The theater offers small pre-packaged concessions should you get hungry during a show. Ensure you arrive early to get to your seats without interrupting the show.

Late attendees will be seated at the discretion of the House Manager to avoid disruptions in the intimate theater. Plan an evening out in the village by seeing a play at Village Arts Theatre, grabbing a drink at a pub, and walking around downtown like the locals.

Interested? You can book tickets for the Village Arts Theatre here. The theatre is also close to several hotels in Carlsbad to book and rentals to check out.

See Related: Couples Getaway Ideas

Tours in Carlsbad

1. Carlsbad Food Tour and Wine Tasting Top Recommendation

The Carlsbad Food Tour and Wine Tasting is the perfect way to savor the distinctive flavors of Carlsbad Village. This 3-hour gourmet walking tour takes you to six beloved locations, where you'll sample local cuisine, California wines and rich desserts. You'll also get an insider's look at the town's thriving food culture, learning local history, facts and stories along the way. Best of all, the small-group tour ensures a personalized experience. So come hungry and ready to enjoy all that Carlsbad has to offer!

2. Carlsbad 3-Hour Electric Bike Rental

Looking for a unique and active way to explore Carlsbad, California? Rent an e-bike and see the sights at your own pace! This 3-hour rental gives you plenty of time to cruise around town and check out all the beaches and landmarks. Best of all, you won't get tired pedaling thanks to the electric motor. All biking equipment is included, so all you need to do is choose a rental time that fits your schedule.

3. LEGOLAND® California - 1 Day Admission

Looking for some fun for the whole family? Then head to LEGOLAND® California Resort! With more than 60 rides, shows and attractions, this is sure to be a day to remember. Plus, with optional visits to SEA LIFE Aquarium, you can make it a two-day adventure. And don't forget to meet Emmet and all your favorite characters in the brand-new LEGO MOVIE WORLD. So much fun awaits you at LEGOLAND California Resort!

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