View of the Carlsbad Coastline

Best Things to Do in Carlsbad for a Great Weekend Getaway

Carlsbad is a coastal town located in Southern California. Carlsbad is known for its beautiful pristine beaches and vibrant village atmosphere. It has a small town vibe within reach of larger cities. And its almost year-round sunshine makes Carlsbad the perfect place for a weekend getaway. 

There are many places to visit and explore in and around Carlsbad. It is the perfect destination for golf lovers, wine lovers, and those seeking to enjoy watersports. It is also the perfect family getaway as Carlsbad is the home of Legoland and the Sea Life Aquarium. No matter what your interest is, you will find many exciting and fun things to do in Carlsbad.   

Where is Carlsbad?

Carlsbad is located in North San Diego County along the California coastline. Carlsbad is about a 30 to 40 minute drive north of San Diego and about a two hour drive from Los Angeles. The quickest way to get to Carlsbad is by taking the 5 Freeway. That is unless there is a lot of traffic. Taking the 15 Freeway and cutting through the 76 or 78 is another option for driving to Carlsbad during times when traffic on the 5 Freeway isn’t cooperating. 

When is the Best Time to Visit Carlsbad

Being located in California means that Carlsbad has great weather the majority of the time. There are a few months where the rain will set in, however, you will enjoy the California sunshine the majority of the time. The majority of the rainfall occurs during the winter months of December through February. There might be some light rainfall in March, however, the rain tapers off during this time.

Carlsbad Welcome Sign
Carlsbad Sign

The best time to visit Carlsbad is between March and November. The warmest months are between July and October. However, its coastal location means that even during the warmer months there is a nice breeze in the evening and the days are comfortable. 

How Many Days Should You Stay in Carlsbad

There are many places to visit in and around Carlsbad. Aside from the points of interest within Carlsbad, there are other sites to visit in the neighboring towns. If you want to stay within Carlsbad, you can visit many locations in three days. If you would like to visit some of the closeby towns, then visiting for five days would be ideal.  

Is Uber or Lyft Available

Yes! Both Uber and Lyft are available in Carlsbad. Having both available makes it easy to plan an evening out without the worry of having to drive.

Best Things to Do in Carlsbad

There are many places to visit in and around Carlsbad. Here are our top picks for things you should not miss when visiting Carlsbad.

Visit the Carlsbad Visitors Center

If you would like information on your visit to Carlsbad, you can stop at the Carlsbad Visitor Center. The Visitor Center can provide you with information about local places to visit, eat, and answer any other questions you may have. The Carlsbad Visitors Center is located at 400 Carlsbad Village Drive.  

Visit Carlsbad Village

Carlsbad Village is the heart of Carlsbad and one the the top Carlsbad attractions to visit. It is a quaint area with many restaurants, cafes, bars, and places where you can rent bikes to ride on the beach. Carlsbad Village is close to the shore allowing you to walk along the boardwalk. The village is very popular during the weekend where you will see a busier and livelier town. Carlsbad Village is a great place to grab a bite to eat and then spend the rest of the afternoon exploring the town and enjoying the coast. 

View of Carlsbad Village
View of Carlsbad Village

Visit the Carlsbad Village Farmers Market

The Carlsbad Village Farmers Market is open every Wednesday from 2:30 pm to 6:00 pm on State Street in the Carlsbad Village. You will find fresh, locally grown fruit and vegetables, cheese, bakery items, and gourmet coffee. There are also a variety of hot food vendors. Visiting the Carlsbad Village Farmers Market is a great way to spend Wednesday afternoon and get a delicious bite to eat.    

Strawberries at the Farmers Market
Strawberries at the Farmers Market

Visit The Carlsbad Beach Boardwalk and Seawall

The Carlsbad Beach Boardwalk is a great walking path along the coastline and one of the top things to do on your family vacation to Carlsbad. The boardwalk begins near the Carlsbad arch and extends down the coast approximately four miles. There are signs directing you towards the boardwalk to help you find the walking path. The boardwalk and the seawall are essentially the same path. The seawall path is just closer to the ocean while the boardwalk path is the sidewalk above the seawall path. You can stay on the boardwalk or walk along the lower seawall path.  

The boardwalk takes you past a couple of Carlsbad’s best beaches, including Tamarack Beach. You can enjoy the beautiful coastal view, have a family picnic, or simply enjoy the sunset as you walk down the boardwalk.

Visit the Carlsbad Premium Outlets

The Carlsbad Premium Outlets offers an excellent shopping experience with many stores to choose from. There are several upscale stores where you can purchase designer items. You will find stores such as Coach, Michael Kors, Kate Spade, Skechers, and many others. It is a great place to go for a walk and window shop as well.  

View of Carlsbad Premium Outlets with the ocean in the background
Carlsbad Premium Outlets with the ocean in the background

Visit The Crossings at Carlsbad

The Crossings at Carlsbad is a high-end public golf course. The 18-hole golf course has spectacular views of the surrounding area and the Pacific Ocean. There is a restaurant on site that is open for lunch and dinner. Breakfast is available Thursday and Friday and brunch is available Saturday and Sundays. If you are new to golf or want to improve your golf game, you can sign up for golf lessons. 

Visit The Carlsbad Flower Fields

The Carlsbad Flower Fields is a working ranch and popular tourist attraction. The ranch at The Flower Fields is a 55 acre field that primarily grows Persian Buttercups in a variety of colors. People can visit the fields and purchase flowers. Many items are available for purchase at the Armstrong Garden Center. 

Armstrong Center at The Flower Fields in Carlsbad
Armstrong Garden Center at The Flower Fields in Carlsbad

The Flower Fields are open in March and the season goes through mid-May. Many people visit The Flower Fields and it can get very busy. It is a good idea to purchase entrance tickets early as they can sell out. It can also get hot as there is little to no shade throughout the fields. You should bring water and possibly a hat to protect yourself from the sun.   

The Flower Fields in Carlsbad.
The Flower Fields Carlsbad.

Visit the Carlsbad Strawberry Company

The Carlsbad Strawberry Company has been in Carlsbad for over 70 years. They have a working farm that offers seasonal items. During the winter, they have a pumpkin patch with two corn mazes you can walk through. The corn maze is located on a trail that is 1.5 miles. During early spring, the strawberry fields begin producing strawberries. The Carlsbad Strawberry Company offers u-pick strawberries beginning in early March. Strawberry stands begin opening in late February for those that would like to purchase strawberries prior to the u-pick season.

Strawberry plant in a field
Strawberry plant in a field

The Carlsbad Strawberry Company is located at 1050 Canon Road. Tickets are available on a walk-in basis only.  

Visit Legoland California Resort, One of the Best Things to Do in Carlsbad With Kids

If you are looking for a fun-filled family adventure, Legoland is one of the best places to visit in Carlsbad. Legoland is a great theme park for families, especially for families with small children. Legoland has over 60 rides and attractions, many of which are especially designed for kids ages two through twelve. You and your family will have a fun time at Legoland California Resort.

The Lego Miniland USA exhibit is incredible. Miniland USA features several miniature towns of the USA. The towns are crafted out of Legos and have lots of incredible detail. The towns features in Miniland USA are Las Vegas, including the Las Vegas strip with some of incredible hotels on the strip. Los Angeles is another town featured in Miniland USA and includes parts of Hollywood. New York is also featured and has a very detailed replica of Central Park. Other towns you will see in Miniland USA include Washington DC, San Francisco, and San Diego. A new part of Miniland USA is Sofi Stadium, the new football stadium located in Inglewood, California. You and your family will definitely enjoy looking at Miniland USA. It is incredible what can be created out of Legos.

For an added adventure, consider spending a few days at one of the Legoland Hotel. There are two hotels to choose from: The Legoland Hotel and the Legoland Castle Hotel. Both hotels are steps away from Legoland California and have theme rooms, and nightly entertainment for kids. Staying at Legoland California Resort is a great addition to your vacation in Carlsbad.

Legoland sign
Legoland Carlsbad

Legoland Water Park

If you want to enhance your Legoland visit, add a visit to the Legoland Water Park. The Legoland Water Park is open during warmer months starting in March. There are 10 acres of water fun which include seven water slides, sandy beaches, and the build-a-raft river. There are also places to grab a bite to eat and a couple of stores. A visit to Legoland Water Park is a great way to cool off on a hot day in Carlsbad.

Visit the Sea Life Aquarium

Sea Life Aquarium offers interactive, educational, hands-on experience with sea life. There are over 350 different species of sea animals that kids can learn about and explore. Sea Life Aquarium has interactive feeding experiences, a chance to interact with starfish in their rock pool, and shark feeding demonstrations. Your kids will enjoy all of the activities available to them at Sea Life Aquarium. The Aquarium is open from 10:30 am to 5:30 pm. However, times can change depending on the time of year. You should call to verify their operating hours. 

Visit the Carlsbad Aquafarm

The Carlsbad Aquafarm is the only oyster farm in Southern California. You can tour the farm and taste fresh oysters. On the tour you will learn about the process involved in growing and harvesting oysters. You will also learn how to shuck oysters and will be able to taste the oysters you shuck. There are oysters available for purchase if you would like to take some home. The Carlsbad Aquafarm is located at 4600 Carlsbad Boulevard.  

Visit the Gemological Institute of America Museum

The Gemological Institute of America (GIA) Museum is a great place to visit, especially if you have an interest in gems and minerals. The museum has a wide variety of pieces on exhibit including Tourmaline carvings and agate slices, which are part of their permanent exhibit. The museum also has guest exhibits and presents pieces which are on temporary loan. Part of their exhibits also include jewelry with precious gemstones, including diamonds and pearls. 

The exhibits at the Gia Museum are unique. It is a great place to see items that you would not likely see in other places. The museum is located at 5345 Armada Drive. The GIA Museum is open Monday through Friday 8:00 am to 5:00 pm. If you would like to visit the museum, you will need to call and schedule a tour, as visiting the museum is by appointment only. 

GIA Museum in Carlsbad
GIA Museum in Carlsbad

Visit the Museum of Making Music

At the Museum of Making Music, you will learn about the evolution of music from the early 1900s to the present. You will also learn about various instruments and how they are made. You will hear a variety of music and even make some music of your own. The museum is currently undergoing a renovation and is slated to reopen April 12th of 2024. 

The Miniature Engineering Craftsmanship Museum

The Craftsmanship Museum has a collection of miniature machines, engines, airplanes, and automobiles. Many of the miniatures are working models. The museum also honors craftsmen from many different trades and maintains a fully equipped machine shop. The Miniature Engineering Craftsmanship Museum is truly a unique thing to do in Carlsbad. The museum is open Thursday through Sunday from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm.    

Airplane model at the Craftsmanship Museum
Airplane model at the Craftsmanship Museum in Carlsbad

Visit a Karl Strauss Brewing Company

Karl Strauss Brewing Company started in downtown San Diego making craft beer. Since its start, Karl Strauss Brewing Company has expanded to other cities. Luckily, they have a location in Carlsbad. Karl Strauss offers many delicious options to choose from on its menu. They also have a wide variety of craft beer available, which is brewed onsite. They have flights available where you can choose what beers you would like to taste. Their beer selection is very good as well as their food. Karl Strauss is a great place to visit while in Carlsbad. Karl Strauss Brewing Company is located at 5801 Armada Drive in Carlsbad.  

Flight of beer at Karl Strauss Brewing Company
Flight of beer at Karl Strauss Brewing Company

Leo Carrillo Ranch Historic Park

Leo Carrillo Ranch is the former home of actor Leo Carrillo. The Leo Carrillo Ranch a 27-acre park with beautiful grounds which you can explore. The Carlsbad Ranch was inspired by the historical ranchos of California and is open to the public and also has educational programs. The ranch is a great place to learn about the history of the area as you tour the grounds. A you tour the ranch, you will find a 19th century hacienda with a large compound. In the compound, you will see a few original buildings, the swimming pool, and Deedie’s house, which was a private retreat for Leo’s wife. There is also a carriage house and stables on the grounds with so much more to explore in this wonderful Historic park. There is no charge to enter and explore the park. 

Spend Time at a Beach in Carlsbad

Carlsbad has a beautiful coastline and several beaches to spend the day swimming, surfing, and sunbathing. The views from several of Carlsbad’s beaches are spectacular. You will be able to capture many fantastic photos of the coastline. If you are at the beach in the evening, make sure to stay and capture a photo of the beautiful California sunset. Spending the day at one of Carlsbad’s beautiful beaches is a great addition to your Carlsbad itinerary. 

View of the Carlsbad Coastline
View of the Carlsbad Coastline

Carlsbad State Beach / Carlsbad City Beach

There are a couple of beaches close to Carlsbad Village, Carlsbad State Beach, and Carlsbad City Beach. These soft sand beaches are great for swimming and sunbathing. Both beaches are next to each other and within walking distance from Carlsbad Village. You will find many places to eat within walking distance of the beach. There is also free beach parking in the area. 

Tamarack Surf Beach

South of Carlsbad State Beach and Carlsbad City Beach is Tamarack Surf Beach. This is a great beach for surfing, boogie boarding, and swimming. You should have water shoes as the beach can be rocky in some areas. If you do go swimming, care should be taken as the shorebreak can be strong. There is a paid parking lot available. The parking lot is not very big and can fill up early, especially on the weekend. 

South Carlsbad State Beach

South Carlsbad State Beach is in the southern part of Carlsbad. This beach is great for swimming, surfing, and picnicking. There is also a campsite available if you would like to camp at the beach. Reservations for campsites are taken 6 months in advance. There are many camping spots available. However, I recommend reserving your spot well in advance as the campsite does fill up. 

Stairs heading down to South Carlsbad State Beach
Stairs heading down to South Carlsbad State Beach

South Ponto Beach

Located just south of South Carlsbad State Beach is South Ponto Beach. This is a great beach for surfing, swimming, and sunbathing. It is one of the widest beaches in the area, so there is ample room on the sand and does not feel crowded. There is paid parking on the southern end of the beach.    

Visit the Lagoons in Carlsbad

There are three lagoons that you can visit in Carlsbad. The lagoons offer hiking trails, water activities and are nature preserves. Visiting the lagoons is a great way to enjoy an afternoon relaxing or exercising.

Visit Batiquitos Lagoons

Batiquitos Lagoon is a 650 acre lagoon that is a bird and game sanctuary that has an outlet to the Pacific Ocean. There are various hiking trails and nature walks for you to enjoy. Docent led nature walks are also available. There are picnic tables where you can enjoy a nice picnic during your visit. Fishing is allowed near the rock jetties close to South Ponto Beach. A fishing license is required.

Visit Agua Hedionda

Agua Hediona is a great place to hike, paddle, and fish. Boats, personal watercraft, and paddle boards are allowed in the lagoon with a permit. The lagoon is very calm, so this would be a great place to learn to paddle board. There are 4 different hiking trails at Agua Hedionda. All of the trails are easy and range from 1/4 mile to 1 mile long. There are paid eco-tours available if you would like an in-depth tour of the lagoon grounds. 

Hiking trail near the Agua Hedionda Lagoon
Hiking trail in Carlsbad near the lagoon

Visit Buena Vista Lagoon

Buena Vista Lagoon is located on the border of Carlsbad and Oceanside. It is a 350-acre freshwater lagoon. There is a nature trail with a variety of plants to explore. They offer an interactive map that helps identify the plants on the trail route.

Is Carlsbad Worth Visiting?

Yes! Carlsbad is definitely worth visiting! Carlsbad is truly a spectacular coastal town in Southern California. There are many gorgeous beaches to explore. It has miles of coastline that is magnificent to view, the downtown area is vibrant and lively, and perfect weather is nearly year round. I am sure you will enjoy your visit to Carlsbad and come away with many wonderful memories and spectacular photos!

Read our blog post on California’s Central Coast Beach Towns if you would like to learn about other coastal towns to visit in California.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top