An art mural with a colorful painting that says Carlsbad in it with various scenes of life in Carlsbad in each letter

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27 Fun Things To Do In Carlsbad, California (Local’s Guide)

Carlsbad also known as the Village by the Sea has it all as far as premier destinations go. Imagine a charming laid-back beach town that has incredible weather year-round. No matter what your interest is, you will find many fun things to do in Carlsbad!

Of course, one of the top Carlsbad attractions is the beach but there are plenty of activities for an outdoor lover such as walking, paddle boarding, surfing, and yoga.

And after you have burned some calories there are more than enough excellent places to indulge your inner foodie.

Standing up on the bluffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean and the gorgeous coastline as hanging out at the beach is one of the most fun things to do in Carlsbad, California.

With a growing number of breweries and wine bars, you can enjoy local sips after a day at the beach.

And if you visit Carlsbad in the spring, you will be rewarded with seeing vibrant flower fields at Carlsbad Ranch located near the famous Legoland theme park!

I might be a little biased growing up nearby but I have a feeling that once you visit Carlsbad you will find that this is the first of many visits to come!

READ MORE: Best Beaches In San Diego!

A close-up of the golden sand and turquoise water as the wave splashes the shoreline

Best Hotels In Carlsbad

Depending on the type of activities you are looking to do, I’ve listed hotel options that are literally steps from the beach and those that are resort-style but maybe a few minutes away from the beach.

Steps From The Beach

Resort Style Hotels

Tiki's carved into old palm tree stumps are fun to see along the front of Ocean Palms Hotel in Carlsbad Village, California.

History Of Carlsbad

Prior to the 16th century, the area of Carlsbad was home to the Luiseno Indians before the Spanish discovered the beautiful and plentiful region in the 1600s.

During the 1700s and into the early 1800s, the Spanish built Spanish missions throughout California.

At the time the missions controlled and governed over the local Indians and the land. During the 1800s there were a series of land grants which divided the mission lands with the land of Carlsbad falling into the Rancho Agua Hedionda land grant.

The Carlsbad Mineral Spa with an alkaline water fill up station and a statue of John Frazier in Carlsbad, CA.

Then in 1882 Captain John Frazier dug up what is now a famous well near the train station and declared the mineral water so fresh and chemically similar to the water from the spa town of Karlsbad. Karlsbad is what is now known as Karlovy Vary in Czech Republic.

You can still see the site where John Frazier dug up that well in front of Alt Karlsbad also known as the Carlsbad Mineral Water Spa.

If you want to sample how clean and fresh the alkaline mineral water is, you can fill up at the refill station there.

Statue of John Frazier who dug the first well in here for the fresh alkaline mineral water that Carlsbad is famous for.

Fast forward to today, the town of Carlsbad is still a sought-after destination to play, relax, and dine in style.

Tip: If you want to have a therapeutic massage or spa treatment with mineral water then consider booking an appointment. I have had many massages here over the years and they were wonderful!

The Carlsbad sign that stands as an arch over the main intersection of Carlsbad Village on Carlsbad Blvd  with palm trees and a blue historic building is one of the top Carlsbad attractions.

Fun Things To Do In Carlsbad

1. Carlsbad Visitor Center

If you are new to visiting Carlsbad, stop by the Carlsbad Visitor Center to get any info you might need. Plus, you can see the charming old railroad depot that it is housed in!

The railroad depot that you see today is pretty old for California as it was built in 1907 by the Santa Fe Railroad. It has also served as a Post Office and general store back in the day.

The Carlsbad Visitor Center which is now housed in the 1907 old railroad depot that is a golden yellow and trimmed with forest green.

Even though this historic railroad depot stopped being used by the railroads in 1960, it was later converted to the Carlsbad Visitor Center. You can even learn a little bit about the railroad history while you visit too!

Address: 400 Carlsbad Village Dr, Carlsbad, CA 92008

2. Hang Out At Carlsbad Beaches

Carlsbad has some of the most popular beaches in San Diego and some of my personal favorites in the county.

It is likely because I grew up here and spent countless hours each year basking in the sun on these awesome beaches.

A lifeguard tower near the shoreline at Carlsbad State Beach
Looking down onto Carlsbad State Beach from the top walkway with several volleyball courts on the sand and a blue lifeguard tower
A sunny day at the beach in Carlsbad with a lone rainbow colored beach umbrella on the golden sand

But even tourists think that the beaches in Carlsbad are pretty terrific. The two main beaches that run along the Village, are Frazee State Beach and Carlsbad State Beach.

But for most locals, we call that whole area Carlsbad State Beach.

Continuing south of Carlsbad State Beach is Tamarack State Beach and known as a popular surf spot among locals. There is a paid parking lot at Tamarack and can be located at Lifeguard Tower 36.

If you continue on south of Tamarack you will come to Terramar Beach where Cannon Rd meets Carlsbad Blvd (Coast 101 Highway). It is easy to find as it is just south of the Carlsbad Power Plant.

Looking south to north up the coastline in Carlsbad on a sunny day with turquoise blue water and sandy b

Further down you will come to South Carlsbad State Beach which also includes the beach at the campgrounds.

And lastly, there is North Ponto and South Ponto Beach separated by the outlet from the Batiquitos Lagoon to the Pacific Ocean.

Various shades of clear blue water near the jetty where water from the lagoon meets the ocean

Tip: There are restrooms at Tamarack Beach and on the north end of Carlsbad State Beach near the ramp.

Note: Dogs are not allowed on any Carlsbad beaches but are welcome on a leash along the seawall, in Carlsbad Village or any of the trails in the area.

Unfortunately, due to people going overboard with alcohol, you can no longer drink alcohol at any beach in San Diego…

READ MORE: Best Beaches In San Diego, California!

3. Walk Or Run Along The Carlsbad Wall

Want to stretch your legs and smell the heavenly salty ocean air? Lace-up your sneakers and enjoy the endless ocean views as you get in some steps along the sea wall.

The sea wall is a paved path that runs parallel to Carlsbad State Beach down to Tamarack at beach level.

Walking along the seawall along Carlsbad Beach that is a nice flat paved path parallel to the beach

If you want more of a bird’s eye view of the beach then walk up top along the sidewalk that also runs parallel to the sea wall.

Although not quite a boardwalk that you may be familiar with, it is sometimes referred to as the Carlsbad Boardwalk.

My favorite is to make it a loop walking south on top, going down steps at Tamarack, and walking back along the sea wall.

Walking up on top and looking down onto the seawall with view of beach and Pacific Ocean too

If you want to take it up a notch, you can walk or run up and down the stairs scattered throughout to get your heart rate up.

The Carlsbad Sea Wall Trail is 1.4-miles out and back making it an easy and scenic spot to get in some exercise.

Tips: If you have the AllTrails app, just type in Carlsbad Sea Wall Trail to map it out for you. There are restrooms at both the start and turning point of this trail which is a bonus.

4. Wander Carlsbad Village

Plenty of Carlsbad attractions can be found in The Village as it is the heart of Carlsbad.

This is where you will find countless restaurants, bars, and cafes that could keep you very well satiated and coming back for seconds!

Two girls riding their bikes in Carlsbad Village in font of an old house turned into shops

Sprinkled throughout the restaurants and bars are boutique shops, places to find a bathing suit, and plenty of outdoor space to enjoy the California sun.

Make sure to walk over to the Carlsbad Mineral Water Spa to buy some fresh “most healthful” alkaline water that Carlsbad is famous for!

And maybe book yourself a spa treatment while you are at it…

An outdoor seating area in front of a healthy food, juice and smoothie shop in Carlsbad Village

Tip: If you love to participate in races and are visiting in the end of March/early April, you might want to sign up to do the Carlsbad 5000 which is a 5k walk/run that is said to be one of the fastest 5ks in the world. And it is a beautiful course along Carlsbad Blvd too.

Take A Food Tour!

What a better way to experience Carlsbad Village than to explore its best eats on a food tour and learn more about the history!

5. Find Art Murals In Carlsbad Village

Surprisingly for a small beach community, Carlsbad has some fun spots to search out colorful murals.

You will find these murals within the Carlsbad Village area with my favorite behind the Senior Grubby’s building.

A beautiful art mural of a woman's face appearing under water with her hair flowing and jelly fish around her all in various shades of blue

This wall changes every few months with a different artist creating a new mural that is always a treat to see!

Some of my favorites are the mural above and the first photo of this post over the past few years seen off of Carlsbad Village Drive.

Another popular mural is “Catnap” which has two tigers one of which is napping. Rain or rather colorful paint is dripping down onto the napping tiger.

The art mural Catnap with two tigers underneath a cascade of rain that looks like paint in various colors

Whereas the other tiger is protected from the rain of paint by an umbrella. It is a mural that will make you smile!

Catnap can be found on the side of Witch Creek Winery on the corner of Grand Ave and Carlsbad Blvd.

A bright yellow art mural with a side profile of a girl wearing sunglasses and hot pink lipstick

6. Eat Yummy Fish And Chips

I was never a fan of fish and chips until I traveled to England and Scotland. It was there that my love affair with fish and chips was born.

Upon returning I was on a hunt to find the best in San Diego that was close to the style of what I’d enjoyed abroad.

So far, my favorite local fish and chips is right here in Carlsbad at the Harbor Fish Café.

The Harbor Fish Cafe is right along Carlsbad State Beach and a small grassy area
A plate of fish and chips from the Harbor Fish Cafe in Carlsbad

Besides the ridiculously delicious food, it is an outdoor restaurant just steps above Carlsbad Beach.

Is there anything better than smelling the salty ocean air while enjoying some fish and chips? I think not…

Address: 3179 Carlsbad Blvd, Carlsbad, CA 92008

7. Go Paddle Boarding

Located just a few minutes from Carlsbad Village is Aqua Hedionda Lagoon also known as the Carlsbad Lagoon.

The lagoon is a watersport playground where you can take part in boating, windsurfing, kayaks, and paddle boarding (SUP).

One of a few trails to access to the lagoon to go kayaking and paddle boarding
White sandy beach area running along the lagoon, a bright sail for wind sailing and trail to walk along

Whether you are a new or experienced paddle boarder, paddle boarding or SUP at Aqua Hedionda Lagoon is a great spot.

Unless there are a ton of jet skis, the lagoon is very calm and easy to stabilize on a board especially for those that are new to SUP.

If you don’t have your own paddleboard or kayak, you can rent one onsite at the lagoon rental shop.

View of the area of Carlsbad Lagoon where you can dock boats and jet skis as there is a ramp here

Whether you bring your own gear or rent, you do need a permit to go out onto the lagoon. You can purchase a $9 day-use permit at the Carlsbad Lagoon website.

Note: Dogs are welcome as long as they are on a leash and can’t go in the water. There are no restrooms at the lagoon so plan to go before!

Address: 4751 Bayshore Dr, Carlsbad, CA 92008

8. Dive Into Awesome Mexican Food

If you didn’t already know, San Diego is quite famous for its unbelievably delicious Mexican food. No surprise as it borders Mexico and therefore the flavors and spices play a strong influence here.

If your favorite Mexican food is tacos, then check out my post on where to find the best tacos in San Diego!

But if you are new to eating Mexican food and want to know the best places to find it in Carlsbad Village, then pay a visit to Las Olas Mexican Restaurant and Norte Mexican Food.

At both of these restaurants, you will find authentic and tasty cuisine.

A plate of Mexican food with beans, rice and tacos

Another favorite that is a few minutes from the Village is Miguel’s Cocina off of Palomar Airport Road. Beware of the cheese dip that comes with the chips, it is heavenly and quite addictive…

Las Olas Address: 2939 Carlsbad Blvd, CA 92008 (in the Village)

Norte Mexican Address: 3003 Carlsbad Blvd, CA 92008 (in the Village)

Miguel’s Address: 5980 Avenida Encinas, Carlsbad, CA 92008

If you want the complete guide on the best places to eat in Carlsbad then sign up to get a FREE checklist of all the spots you don’t want to miss!

9. Stroll Along Batiquitos Lagoon

One of the most peaceful settings to go for a walk or run in nature is at the Batiquitos Lagoon. The Batiquitos Lagoon is a coastal wetland and estuary that has an outlet to the Pacific Ocean.

Beginning of the Batiquitos Lagoon Trail with welcoming sign

The environment of the lagoon makes it an ideal home to numerous species of birds so if you enjoy bird watching that is a bonus of visiting.

Or if you are a photography buff you will enjoy endless spots to photograph. The Batiquitos Lagoon Trail runs between the lagoon and the Park Hyatt Aviara golf course.

Many sections of the trail have a bit of shade and along the entire trail, you can find benches to sit back and enjoy the serene views.

One of many benches scattered along the trail so that you can sit down, relax and take in the beautiful view of the lagoon
The dirt trail along Batiquitos Lagoon is super wide, flat and easy to navigate

If you are interested in learning more about the nature reserve, you can visit the Nature Center right at the start of the trail. There is also a bathroom at the Nature Center when it is open.

There are a few places you can park and hop onto the 3.3-mile out and back trail but the main parking area is near the Nature Center.

It is a small parking lot so likely you will need to park on the street.

A wide angle view of Batiquitos Lagoon which is home to several birds

Tips: Do not leave any valuables in your car or visible as it has been known for people to have their car broken into. It is a very nice area but still there are those that take advantage as with any trailhead parking area.

Dogs are welcome on the trail as long as they are on leashes.

Address: 7380 Gabbiano Lane, Carlsbad, CA 92011 (main lot). Another parking lot option is at 1377 Shorebird Lane, Carlsbad, CA 92011.

10. Carlsbad Aquafarm Oyster Tour

If you are looking for one of the most unique things to do in Carlsbad, then book a tour of the Carlsbad Aquafarm!

The aquafarm offers a 1 hour Carlsbad Oyster Farm tour where you can learn all about the oyster lifecycle, how they grow, and how they help clean the seawater around them.

Located in the Aqua Hedionda Lagoon just south of Tamarack Beach and along the Pacific Coast Highway.

People standing and shucking oysters outside on at barrel stations on an oyster farm tour at the Carlsbad Aquafarm.
Looking out on the beautiful lagoon with several rows of bouys where oysters are growing at the Carlsbad Oyster Farm.
Holding an oyster in my gloved hand that has been opened up with the fleshy meat showing after shucking it at the Carlsbad Aquafarm.

The Carlsbad Aquafarm is the only oyster farm in Southern California and they practice sustainable farming too.

During your tour you get an oyster shucking lesson and eat the oysters you shuck at the end. If you love oysters, these are the tastiest and fresh!

Plus, you get to enjoy the beautiful setting along the lagoon and the salty sea air from the Pacific Ocean.

READ MORE: Carlsbad Oyster Farm Tour Complete Guide!

11. Go For A Coastal Bike Ride

One of the best things to do in Carlsbad is to see it by bike and cruise the Village and the Pacific coastline.

And if you haven’t been on a bike in a while no worries as you can rent an electric bike that will make cycling a little easier!

The Pedegro bike shop with a bright turquoise electric bike out front

Pedegro Electric Bikes is located in the Carlsbad Village and where you can rent an electric bike with a helmet and lock.

You can rent for a few hours or a day depending on your pace and have the flexibility to get around Carlsbad and not worry about finding a parking spot.

But if you would prefer a guided bike tour of the coast then Pedegro offers those too. They have various tours that last from 1.5-hours to 3 hours.

Address: 2978 Carlsbad Blvd Unit 130, Carlsbad, CA 92008

12. Splurge On A Spa Day

Whether you are on a vacation or on a staycation, pampering yourself with a spa day is one of the best ways to reset and recharge.

The two resorts that are known for their spas in Carlsbad are the Omni La Costa Resort & Spa and Driftwood Spa @ Four Season Aviara.

I have done a few spa days at Omni La Costa Resort & Spa and loved each occasion. You can get various massages (including couples), body treatments, facials, and lounge before or after at the pool. Top off a spectacular day with lunch and some cocktails.

A woman on her stomach getting her back massaged at a spa

I have not visited the Driftwood Spa at the Four Seasons yet, but I have dined at the resort and fully enjoyed it. I would expect a superb experience at their spa too.

You can choose from a selection of massages, facials, body treatments, and yoga. Or just close your eyes and get in some vitamin D as you lay out by the pool!

13. Visit The Carlsbad Flower Fields

If you are visiting Carlsbad between the beginning of March and the first week of May, then make sure to put the Flower Fields in Carlsbad on your list!

It is one of the most spectacular sights to see thousands of colorful flowers covering the hillside.

A close up view of Ranunculus flowers in shades of orange and pink at the Carlsbad Flower Fields

And not only do you get to explore the vibrant fields of Ranunculus flowers but you get an ocean view too!

Explore my post, Flower Fields in Carlsbad: The Ultimate Guide to find out everything you need to know about visiting the flower fields!

The vibrant rows of flower fields in all colors at the Flower Fields in Carlsbad

Tip: If you are in need of some retail therapy, the Carlsbad Premium Outlets is right below the Carlsbad Flower Fields.

READ MORE: Carlsbad Flower Fields Visitor Guide!

14. Legoland Theme Park

Did you enjoy playing with Legos as a kid? I know I sure did as they were one of my favorite toys!

You might already know that Carlsbad is famous for the theme park Legoland and has been one of the top things to do in Carlsbad since 1999!

Entrance to the theme park Legoland California in Carlsbad centered around the famous toys Legos

I personally have never been even though I only live a few minutes away. For years I have heard that I should wait to have kids and then take them.

Well, I never had kids so I’ve yet to go… I have heard it is very kid-oriented which makes sense as Legos are the coolest toy ever!

A brightly colored Lego man standing on top of a blue Lego building block

Of all the moms I know, most have a season pass and love taking their kids there. The newest addition to the park is the SEA LIFE Aquarium where Lego models are part of the aquarium theme with Lego characters going on underwater adventures.

Tip: If you and your family plan to visit Legoland then you might love to stay at the Legoland Hotel or Legoland Castle Hotel!

Each room has a cool Lego-themed room which adds to the fun and both are only steps to the park entrance.

Purchase your LegoLand California tickets!

15. Go Beer Tasting

Are you a beer lover? If so, there are many craft breweries in Carlsbad that offer plenty of beer tasting options to fill a day.

Craft beers are served together in a sampler tray for the beer enthusiast

If you combine the number of breweries in all of North County primarily in Carlsbad, Vista, San Marcos, and Oceanside it will take days or weeks to try them all.

To help you narrow down the top places for a beer tasting in Carlsbad, the one’s you need to try are:

  • Burgeon Beer Company – 6350 Yarrow Drive Ste C, Carlsbad, CA 92011
  • Barrel Republic – 2961 State St, Carlsbad, CA 92008 (in Carlsbad Village)
  • Arcana Brewing Company – 5621 Palmer Way Ste C, Carlsbad, CA 92010
  • Pizza Port – 571 Carlsbad Village Dr, Carlsbad, CA 92008 (in Carlsbad Village)
  • Pure Project Carlsbad – 2825 State St, Carlsbad, CA 92008 (in Carlsbad Village)
  • Culver Beer Co. – 2719 Loker Ave W Unit D, Carlsbad CA 92010

16. Shop The Farmers Market

One of my favorite Farmer’s Market in the county is the Carlsbad Farmer’s Market. It is held every Wednesday from 2:30 pm to 7:00 pm on State Street in the Carlsbad Village (to 6:00 pm in the Winter).

On top of having several vendors selling wonderful fruits, vegetables, cheeses, nuts, and baked goods you must try the insanely delicious yogurt from Frenchy Yogurt!

The yogurt is outstanding with unusual flavors such as Rose and Fig along with Lemon, Strawberry, and more.

And if shopping for all this yummy food has got you a little hangry then you can buy some hot food for dinner. Each month food vendors might change but you can get Thai, Indian, Vegan, and other options!

Address: The farmers market is on State Street between Carlsbad Village Drive and Grand Avenue. You can use this address to get you in the close vicinity, 2961 State St, Carlsbad, CA 92008.

17. Watch The Sunset In Carlsbad At This Local Spot

One of the best places to see the sunset in Carlsbad? Head to the Batiquitos Lagoon North Bluff Trail.

On this short but scenic trail, you have gorgeous views of the Batiquitos Lagoon and the coastline along the Pacific Ocean.

There are a handful of benches, you can sit back and take in the tranquil beauty of this spot or in the gazebo!

A paved walking trail lined with plants and purple flowers overlooking Batiquitos Lagoon and the ocean in Carlsbad.
Walking on trail overlooking the Batiquitos Lagoon and Pacific Ocean in Carlsbad with purple flowers in the forefront.
View overlooking the Batiquitos Lagoon, wetlands, plants, and the Pacific coastline in Carlsbad, California.

The trail is just 0.7-miles long but there are a few other short trails you can add on to make it slightly longer.

There are a few points where you can access the trail but one of the easiest is from Windrose Circle.

There is street parking in the neighborhood or a few spots on Windrose Circle (see map below).

18. Camping At Carlsbad State Beach

As far back as I can remember, my parents and I went beach camping in Carlsbad every summer and they are some of my fondest memories growing up.

Back before the internet, it was a mad dash to call in to reserve a camping spot for the particular week we camped with a bunch of other families.

Today you can book a camping site at South Carlsbad State Beach Campground online which is a lot easier.

If you are looking to book a week in the summer months, I recommend reserving a spot about 6 months in advance.

The rest of the year you can get a site last minute. Luckily with awesome year-round weather in San Diego, it is a pretty nice place to camp any month. Overall to avoid lots of fog, the top months would be from July to November.

There are 215 sites with hook-ups and ones without allowing for both tent and RV camping possible (35’ or less).

The bonus is that you are steps from a beautiful beach! The campgrounds are high up on the cliff, so just make your way down one of the staircases for some beach fun.

If you haven’t camped at a beach before, you will sleep like a baby listening to the crashing waves lulling you into a slumber!

Note: There are showers, picnic tables, laundry, and a camp store onsite

Address: 7201 Carlsbad Blvd, CA 92008 (where Poinsettia Lane meets the 101 Coast Highway or Carlsbad Blvd).

19. Take A Surf Lesson

The beaches of Southern California are strongly associated with surfing as it has so many excellent surf spots.

If you have ever wanted to give surfing a try or maybe brush up on your skills then consider taking a lesson.

A surfer with his surfboard getting ready to take to the water
Two surfers sitting on Carlsbad Beach waiting for the waves to come before heading out

Two popular places that you can take a surf lesson with are So Cal Surf Lessons and Surfin Fire Surf School. With both, you can take either a private or group lesson to learn how to stand up on a board and ride a wave in!

20. Visit Chuao Chocolatier

If you love chocolate and are familiar with Chuao Chocolatier then you will be excited to know they are based in Carlsbad! I loved Chuao’s chocolate before I even realized they were a local business.

And if you are anything like me then you are probably wondering how to properly say Chuao? The simplest way is to pronounce it as “chew-wow”. Much easier!

A package of Chuao chocolate pumpkin spice smores candy bar

Not only is Chuao’s chocolate unbelievably delicious but they make fun chocolate-flavored combinations. Before you realize it, you will find yourself buying multiple packages to sample…

And you will most certainly find joy in the Joy Factory & Chocolate Shop to taste the products!

Some of my favorite flavors are the Cheeky Cheeky Churro, Firecracker, Honeycomb, Pretzel Toffee Twirl, and Totally Tangy Mango!

You can take a tasting tour at the Chuao Chocolatier but they are currently on hold. Check their website to see when tours are back and running.

Address: 2350 Camino Visa Roble, Carlsbad, CA 92011

21. Try Beach Yoga

There might be plenty of great yoga studios in Carlsbad but wouldn’t be way cooler to do yoga on the beach? You can sign up to take various yoga classes with the Carlsbad Village Athletic Clubs.

You just need to bring a beach towel, sunblock, hat, sunglasses, and water to enjoy getting in a great workout. It will leave you relaxed and refreshed with the ocean air and sand between your toes…

Tip: If you are looking for a great water bottle to take to any yoga class, workout or hike then read my post, 7 Best Filtered Water Bottles For Travel & Hiking!

22. Leo Carrillo Ranch & Historic Park

Visiting Leo Carrillo Ranch & Historic Park is literally one of those hidden gems that unless you know about it, you would likely drive right by.

The ranch is located in a canyon nestled between Bressi Ranch and other housing developments.

The caretaker's house at the Leo Carrillo Ranch
There many large plants in the park including these enormous succulent type plants

I’m very happy that this area has been preserved with many trails and lush foliage to enjoy. So, who is Leo Carrillo you might be wondering?

He is famous for his character Poncho from the 1950s TV show The Cisco Kid.

The old ranch cantina that is white with a small door and a turquoise framed window

Fulfilling his childhood dream, he created a 1750-acre working ranch in the exact area that you see when visiting today.

Later the city of Carlsbad purchased the remaining property and have worked to preserve and restore the structures left on the current 27-acres of the park.

The old stable and bunkhouse that is all white and with a bright turquoise door surrounded by cacti
A huge bright turquoise colored door that is an eye-catcher as the entrance into the old bunkhouse

There is a visitor center, the stable bunkhouse, cantina, hacienda, cabana reflecting pool, and caretaker’s house to name a few to see. If you are lucky, you might even see a few of the peacock residents that call the park home!

Address: 6200 Flying Leo Carrillo Lane, Carlsbad, CA 92009.

Hours & Admission: Open daily from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm and is FREE to all visitors. Guided tours are only on the weekends at 10:00 am and 1:00 pm.

23. Green Dragon Tavern & Museum

When I first visited the Green Dragon Tavern & Museum, I immediately felt like I was stepping into a tavern that might be found in Boston or really anywhere on the east coast.

Having previously lived in NYC and spending a lot of time in New England it was a welcome surprise to find this in Carlsbad!

The red bricked building of the Green Tavern and Museum that has the architecture of a building you would see in Boston

And how cool is the name? It definitely grabs your attention with a curiosity to go in…The tavern was indeed made to look like 18th-century taverns and to include a museum next to the restaurant.

The museum is a way to bring the East Coast history right here to California’s West Coast with documents, exhibits, and newspapers.

Everything you see is from the early colonial days leading up to America’s independence.

White front door surrounded by red bricks at the entrance of the Green Dragon Tavern

Before or after you wander the museum, grab yourself something to eat and a pint of beer while you are at it. I have tried multiple appetizers, the Shepard’s Pie and Connecticut Lobster Roll which were all quite yummy!

Note: This site is a replica of the original 1770s Green Dragon Tavern located in Boston and where America’s founding fathers would meet in secret to create the nation as we know it today!

The original tavern is no longer there but it has a fascinating history of how the United States became to be.

Address: 6115 Paseo Del Norte, Carlsbad, CA 92011. Open on Friday and Saturdays from 11:30 am to 2:30 pm and again from 4:00 pm to 7:30 pm.

24. Museum Of Making Music

Curious about the history of music and how the music industry we know today got its start? The Museum of Making Music (NAMM museum) takes you back to the early 1900s and shares how music changed over the various decades.

Find out how jazz, folk, rock n ’roll, pop, and more came to be and the evolution from one genre to the next. You also get to see various instruments and learn about famous music makers throughout history. If you have the Go San Diego Pass, admission to the museum is free!

Note: The museum is closed for renovations but is scheduled to open mid-April 2024.

Address: 5790 Armada Drive, Carlsbad, CA 92008. Open daily from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm except for Mondays (closed).

25. Gemological Institute of America (GIA)

If you have a thing for gems, particularly diamonds then visiting the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) is one of the most unique things to do in Carlsbad.

GIA is the world headquarters and campus for classroom studies, laboratories, and a museum centered around gems.

For those wanting to become gemologists and jewelers, this is the ideal location just mins from the beach, the Flower Fields, and Legoland.

A single diamond being looked at closely

For those of us not planning to become gemologists, you can visit the GIA Museum that is continuously having different gem exhibits to see. You get to learn all about the various gems and what makes them so valuable.

Note: Visit their website to schedule a tour.

Address: 5345 Armada Dr, Carlsbad, CA 92008

26. Explore Lake Calavera Hiking Trail

Up for a hike? Head to Lake Calavera for an easy and scenic hike tucked among suburban neighborhoods.

On the trail you’ll come across birds, wetlands, various plants, trees, and wildlife.

Lake Calavera Loop Trail is a fun hike in Carlsbad totaling a 4.8-mile loop that I would recommend doing either in the morning or late afternoon to avoid the midday sun.

What makes the location of this hike unique is that it used to be a volcano way back when.

Today, all you’ll see today is the extinct Mt. Calavera with its peak standing tall as you make your way around the lake.

To start the hike, the trailhead is right off of Tamarack Ave across from Calaveras Hills Middle School. There are also several other trails and access points in the surrounding area.

Tip: Dogs are welcome but must stay on a leash.

27. Play A Round Of Golf

There are a handful of great golf courses in Carlsbad to choose from if you want to get in some rounds on your vacation. I’m not a golfer myself but I know several people that have recommended these courses, so hopefully, you will enjoy them too!

A carved tiki face sticking out his tongue on an old palm tree stump

Carlsbad Tours

Couple laying on a blanket sun bathing at the beach in Carlsbad

Beach Trip Essentials

Where Is Carlsbad?

Carlsbad is located in the North County area of San Diego right along the coast of California. From downtown San Diego, it is about a 40-minute drive north up along the coastline to reach the idyllic beach town of Carlsbad.

If you are driving down from Los Angeles then it will be around 2 hours but can vary depending on traffic.

Also, check out the city of Encinitas a little south of Carlsbad as another cool beach town to explore.

The beach community of Carlsbad is also referred to as Carlsbad Village which is the heart of the Carlsbad attractions to see.

If you are flying into California, there are two airport options, the San Diego International Airport which is 40 minutes south of Carlsbad.

Or you can fly into the John Wayne Airport in Orange County, California which is about 1 hour, 15 minutes north of Carlsbad.

Start exploring the best flight deals today!

Tip: If you are visiting other areas of San Diego, don’t miss out on reading 15 Best Things To Do In San Diego!

Staircase leading down to the beach in Carlsbad

How To Get Around Carlsbad

If you are flying into California at one of the airports listed above, then you have a few options. If you know that you will be touring other areas of San Diego County including downtown, then I would recommend renting a car.

That way you will have the flexibility to visit any of the beaches, go on hikes, or various attractions near Carlsbad.

If you will spending all of your time in Carlsbad, then you can either take an Uber or Lyft to your hotel from the airport although likely expect to spend between $45-$70.

If you are keeping costs down you could take an Uber or Lyft to the closest Coaster station and take the Coaster (train) to the Carlsbad Village Station. From there, either make your way to the hotel or grab another Uber if the hotel is further than you want to walk.

Tips: To see the Coaster schedule visit their website here. The two main stops in Carlsbad are Poinsettia and Carlsbad Village stations.

Check The Best Car Rental Rates!

Map Of Top Carlsbad Attractions

Best Time To Visit Carlsbad

Carlsbad is one of those beach towns that is ideal any time of the year as the temperatures don’t vary a ton from season to season.

July through November – Prime time to visit if spending time on the beach is the focus as there is less fog and warm temps.

March & April – Perfect time to get in some nice beach days and visit the blooming flowers at the Flower Fields in Carlsbad. Plus, you can join the Carlsbad 5000 race!

May & June – Tend to be the most overcast and foggy although there are still great days sprinkled in. Usually, the fog doesn’t burn off until 12:00 pm or 1:00 pm during this time famously known as “June gloom”…

January & February – Southern California doesn’t see a lot of rain, but if we do then you will likely encounter it the most during these months.

FAQ About Visiting Carlsbad, CA

Is Carlsbad, CA Worth Visiting?

Yes! Carlsbad is one of the prettiest beach towns in all of San Diego County with a charming downtown known as Carlsbad Village, gorgeous beaches, top eateries, the famous Carlsbad Flower Fields, and LegoLand.

How Far Apart Are Carlsbad And San Diego?

Carlsbad and San Diego are 35 miles apart with Carlsbad directly north of downtown San Diego along the coast. You can take the coaster in between cities, drive on the 5 freeway, or along the scenic Pacific Coast Highway.

Why Is Carlsbad So Popular?

Carlsbad, also known as The Village by the Sea, is a beautiful and scenic coastal town with dramatic coastline views, beaches, outdoor activities, and fantastic weather year round. Plus, it has the famed Flower Fields each spring in addition to the fun at LEGOLAND.

Is Carlsbad A Walkable City?

If you are staying in Carlsbad Village, many attractions are all within walking distance such as the beach, coffee shops, restaurants, and shopping. From there you can easily take an Uber/Lyft to places a little further such as the Flower Fields at Carlsbad Ranch and Batiquitos Lagoon.

Does Carlsbad Have A Boardwalk?

There is the Carlsbad Wall that runs parallel to the Pacific Ocean and Carlsbad State Beach level with the sand. Or you can walk up above with incredible views of the ocean that is in walking distance of Carlsbad Village.

Can You Drink Alcohol On Carlsbad Beaches?

No, sadly alcohol is not allowed on and Carlsbad Beaches anymore. There used to be which I loved but it stopped in 2008 as many abused it or brought glass containers which is also banned on the beach.

But Before You Go…

If you love hanging out at cool and charming beach towns then head down to Encinitas which is just south of Carlsbad. Discover more in my post what to do in Encinitas!

Got Travel Insurance?

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Looking For More Travel Inspiration?

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10 Awesome Things To Do On Catalina Island

The Flower Fields In Carlsbad: The Ultimate Guide

19 Fun Things To Do In Encinitas, California

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A Guide To The 5 Most Beautiful Beaches Of Malibu, California

A Fun Pismo Beach Weekend Getaway: Where To Eat, Play, And Stay

Venice Beach to Santa Monica: A Fun One Day Itinerary

11 Best Wineries In Fredericksburg, Texas That Are A Must To Try

If you want the complete guide on the best places to eat in Carlsbad then sign up to get a FREE checklist of all the spots you don’t want to miss!


Vanessa Shields

Vanessa Shields is the founder of Traveling Ness helping people with trip ideas, itineraries, travel planning, and boosting confidence for female travelers to take a solo trip. She has been a travel writer and content creator since 2019.

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56 Comments

    1. Carlsbad is such a beautiful and awesome beach community. You would love those coastal views! 🙂

  1. Wow there’s no shortage of things to do. It’s definitely not just a beach resort. I’d turn up for the flower festival and stat for the street art. And the food. Great guide Vanessa and as ever excellent photos.

    1. Thank you! You are so right John, there is a lot of variety of things to do in Carlsbad! Beach, flowers, art, and awesome food, what else could you ask for! 🙂

    1. I haven’t been to the Czech version yet but it is on my list! When you visit San Diego next time you will be in for a treat spending some time in Carlsbad! 🙂

  2. I’m FROM California, and lived there for a year before the pandemic, and I still managed to miss Carlsbad! I’ve learned so much about it in the past week for some reason, I am so excited to get back there and visit.

    1. Now you have a fabulous reason to come back to California for a visit. As I mentioned, I’m a little biased as a local but Carlsbad is a pretty awesome town to spend time in. I hope you enjoy it when you do go! 🙂

  3. These are great things to do! I’ve spent lots of time in California but not tons in Carlsbad. I’ll have to add it to my list for my next trip!

    1. Yes, definitely spend some time in Carlsbad on your next trip and enjoy this gem of a beach town! 🙂

  4. Wow I’ve only been to San Diego, but Carlsbad looks amazing and there’s so much to do there. I’d love to visit the Flower Fields and do some beach yoga!

  5. I love the look of the town, the beautiful buildings and the amazing street art. What a great looking place. The beaches don’t look too bad either. Definitely a place I’d happily visit if I could right now. I really like the look of the tiki hotel, but so many of the accommodation options sound great

    1. Thanks Emma! Yes, Carlsbad has a little of everything and blessed with great weather and the beach which add to its charm. The tikis are so cool to see as there are a bunch at that hotel. I hope you make it out for a visit one day! 🙂

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