Located just a short drive from Los Angeles and San Diego, Carlsbad is a lovely coastal town in California famed for its beautiful stretch of coastline, vibrantly-colored flower fields, and attractions like LEGOLAND California and Sea Life Aquarium. With incredible scenery, perfect climate, and many dining and shopping options, this small beach town is a popular weekend destination where travelers can enjoy a variety of outdoor activities ranging from boogie boarding and surfing to hiking and biking.
Enjoy the town’s gorgeous beaches, explore the downtown commercial area also known as Carlsbad Village, or engage in wellness activities at the popular Chopra Center. To make the most out of your stay, we’ve curated a list of the best things to do in Carlsbad.
1. South Carlsbad State Beach
If you are looking for a perfect Carlsbad beach with an array of outdoor activities to enjoy, make sure to visit the fantastic South Carlsbad State Beach. This stretch of coastline is a very popular destination for both tourists and locals who come here to enjoy water activities like scuba diving, snorkeling, and swimming. If you wish to spend the night, there is a nice campground nearby with all the necessary amenities including electricity, showers, bathrooms, and Wi-Fi.
2. LEGOLAND California
Overlooking the Pacific Ocean, LEGOLAND California is without a doubt the most famous attraction in Carlsbad. Travelers can look forward to everything from the amazing scenery and over 60 theme rides to giant Lego statues and shows for kids. Hop on thrilling rides such as Dragon Roller and Splash Battle or check out the new Lego Friends area. LEGOLAND California also hosts numerous events including Jingle Jammers, Holiday Show Days, and Winter Nights. It’s a great place to visit, especially if you are in Carlsbad with the little ones.
3. The Flower Fields
The Flower Fields in Carlsbad is a seasonal attraction that lasts from March to May and showcases a collection of colorful flowers. From admiring white and red petunias and beauteous cymbidium orchids to hopping on a ride on an antique tractor, there are plenty of activities at this working ranunculus farm to keep you entertained for at least a couple of hours. The site also hosts many musical events, as well as other social gatherings. Keep in mind that no pets are allowed at the property.
4. Oceanside Fishing Pier
One of the longest wooden piers in the region, the historical Oceanside Fishing Pier is an excellent spot to see seals, stingrays, pelicans, and even dolphins. This picturesque pear is perfect for strolls, watching the local fishermen, and enjoying surf competitions. Located close to the entrance to the pier, the local amphitheater hosts a wide range of cultural and musical shows. In case you wish to grab something to eat, Ruby’s Diner should not be missed.
5. Carlsbad Lagoon
No visit to this picturesque coastal town is complete without spending an afternoon at the popular water sports center called Carlsbad Lagoon. Visitors can look forward to enjoying watersports activities such as stand up paddleboarding, jet skiing, kayaking, canoeing, and much more. Speedboats can be rented out. During the summer season, visitors can join youth camps at the Carlsbad Lagoon and learn more about oceanography.
6. Leo Carrillo Ranch Historic Park
A former 27-acre working ranch of Leo Carrillo (an actor in the 1930s and 1940s), Leo Carrillo Ranch Historic Park has become and a Historical National Landmark back in 2003 when it got opened to the public. Travelers can opt for either a guided or a self-guided tour of the property of the historic ranch and visit many cool attractions ranging from a carriage house, barn, and stable to a reflecting pool, windmill, hacienda, and other structures. In case you opt for a guided tour, make a reservation at least a day ahead.
7. Miniland USA
Part of the LEGOLAND California, Miniland USA is a nice miniature park where travelers can admire the beauty of symbols and architecture from a bunch of different places in the US. The kids just love these models which were made from over 20 million lego bricks. From the recently added Grand Central Station model to the fabulous model of the Star War’s Death Star and scenes from the famous Force Awakens, there are many cool models to discover at the extraordinary Miniland USA.
8. Carlsbad Village
Located in the downtown area, Carlsbad Village is where all the action is. It is home to many restaurants, hotels, and bars, making it a popular destination for many tourists visiting the coastal town. Whether you wish to practice your bargaining skills at the Carlsbad Village Farmers Market which is held every Wednesday, explore antique stores, or sample some of the finest wines from the region at Witch Creek Wine Tasting Shop, a visit to Carlsbad Village should be included in every visitor’s travel itinerary.
9. The Crossings at Carlsbad
If you are into golfing, make sure to pay a visit to the Crossings at Carlsbad. This 18-hole public golf course is suited for everyone from beginners to skilled golfers and covers an area of nearly 5,000 acres. Thanks to the different teeing areas around the golf course, visitors can customize their game. There is also a golf clubhouse where guests will find banquet facilities, a golf shop, and a nice restaurant where they can enjoy both local and international food delicacies.
10. Carlsbad Premium Outlets
Shopaholics will be happy to hear that Carlsbad Premium Outlets is one of the best shopping destinations in the area. With nearly 100 high-end brands and shops like Calvin Klein, Michael Kors, and Tommy Hilfiger, this extraordinary outlet is an ideal place to go on a shopping spree. Expect to find several restaurants and casual eateries here including places such as Subway, Panda Express, Ruby’s Diner, and many others. If you are craving something sweet, make sure to check out Godiva Chocolatier.
11. Sea Life Aquarium
If you are visiting Carlsbad with kids, stop by the Sea Life Aquarium which is located on Legoland Drive. This family-friendly interactive sea aquarium houses over 5,000 sea creatures with about 2,000 different species including everything from sea horses and sharks to octopus. Make sure to visit during show times when the friendly staff narrated educational stories. You can also attend animal feedings and many dive shows. There is a nice gift shop on-site, as well as a cafeteria where you can sit for a drink afterward.
12. New Village Arts Theatre
Looking for things to do in Carlsbad on a rainy day? Head out to the New Village Arts Theatre, a performance arts center that organizes both musical and dramatic shows. With only 99 seats, a visit to the theater feels like an intimate experience. Apart from a variety of productions, the theater hosts many education programs, as well as local youth acting programs where kids can learn how to act.
13. Cape Rey
One of the most famous resorts in Carlsbad, Cape Rey is an ideal place to spend a couple of nights. With its cool New England-style décor and stylish rooms with comfortable beds, kitchenettes, and flat-screen TV’s, it’s easy to see why Cape Rey is a popular resort that attracts hundreds of travelers each day. Enjoy the full-service spa, go for a dip in the oceanfront outdoor pool, or stay in shape at the resort’s well-equipped fitness center.
14. Pedego Carlsbad
Wish to explore this fantastic seaside town and all of its attraction on an electric bike? Visit Pedego Carlsbad which offers a bunch of amazing excursions and tours including the Couples Romantic Picnic Tour, Oceanside Pier and Harbor Tour, and many others. Discover where popular Hollywood movies like Top Gun were filed and snap some cool photos of the gorgeous coastline.
15. The Chopra Center
Situated inside the Omni La Costa Resort & Spa in Carlsbad, this beautiful center offers a wide range of wellness activities such as spa treatments, yoga, and meditation. The sanctuary is surrounded by beautiful gardens, making it an ideal spot for a tranquil escape from the busy streets of Carlsbad Village. Whether you are searching for spiritual awakenings, wish to detox and attend workshops, or enjoy scrubs, massages, and facials, a visit to the Chopra Center is a memorable experience.
16. Batiquitos Lagoon Foundation Nature Center
A coastal wetland and nature reserve, Batiquitos Lagoon is located just a short drive from the center of Carlsbad and offers activities such as bird watching and hiking. The lagoon’s foundation nature center is a must-visit place that preserves and educates the public about this tidal wetland in California. Go on one of the guided walking tours to learn more about the plants and birds that call these wetlands their home.