Carlsbad, California is a cool, coastal town nestled in San Diego county, about 35 miles north of downtown San Diego and 50 miles south of Orange County. With an incredible foodie scene and some of the best beaches on the California coast, Carlsbad is a must-see for solo travelers, families, couples, and everyone in between.
Whether craving relaxation time on the beach, creating an itinerary around an upcoming LEGOLAND California trip, or just spending the weekend in Carlsbad with a partner, there is something for everyone in this happening beach town. Keep reading for all the best things to do in Carlsbad.
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!
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.
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!
- Most significant landmark – Carlsbad Village
- Best park – Leo Carrillo Ranch Historic Park
- Best free activity – South Carlsbad State Beach
- Best activity for kids – LEGOLAND California Resort
- Best activity for adults – Witch Creek Winery
- Best food – Campfire
- Best nightlife – Park 101
- Best all-around accommodation – Omni La Costa Resort
Fun & Best Things to Do in Carlsbad, California
Here are some of the most popular Carlsbad attractions for anyone thinking of paying this coastal city a visit!
1. Carlsbad Village
Address: Carlsbad Village Drive, Carlsbad, CA 92008
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. From Carlsbad Village, visitors can access Tamarack Beach, Ocean Avenue, Grand Avenue, and Cherry Avenue beaches.
Grab a meal at one of the many restaurants in the village; everything from smoothies, sandwiches, and coffee houses to premium steakhouses and pubs are open and ready to serve you at Carlsbad Village. There are many gluten-free and vegan options as well.
Carlsbad Village also 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 some homemade bread. Support local small businesses selling antiques, apparel, books, specialty food shops, gifts, jewelry, and much more!
Carlsbad Village is a must-see for the best free things to do in Carlsbad, California. 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
Address: One Legoland Dr, Carlsbad, CA 92008
With over 60 rides, shows, and attractions, LEGOLAND California Resort and theme park offer fun for the entire family, no matter their age! Explore the different lands inside the theme park, like Ninjago World, Imagination Zone, Pirate Shores, Castle Hill, and more.
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. For safe and hassle-free travel, secure travel insurance like World Nomads as you explore the resort and Carlsbad attractions.
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 SEA LIFE Aquarium, home to more than 350 underwater species and 6,000 creatures. Get a close-up look at sharks, octopi, sting rays, sea horses, jellyfish, and more.
Listen in on 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 have no doubt that a stay at LEGOLAND California Resort will be one for the memory books for your family. LEGOLAND California is a must-see if you’re bringing kids on your Carlsbad vacation. You can book your LEGOLAND tickets here!
See Related: Best Things to Do in California
3. Omni La Costa Resort & Spa
Address: 2100 Costa Del Mar Road, Carlsbad, CA 92009
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 is joining 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 get some exercise at one of the 17 tennis courts or at their state-of-the-art fitness center.
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. That said, if you’re traveling without kids, enjoy the adults-only pool for some peace and quiet.
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.
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4. Carlsbad Premium Outlets
Address: 5620 Paseo Del Norte, Carlsbad, CA 92008
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 5 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, grab 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 the hours of 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.
5. South Carlsbad State Beach
Address: South Carlsbad Boulevard, Carlsbad, CA 92008
The city of 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 a visitor seeking some 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 and snorkeling, windsurfing, and is even popular with geocachers! With picnic areas for families staying all day, there’s something for everyone at this awesome local beach.
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: Best Spring Break Destinations for Families
6. Witch Creek Winery
Address: 2906 Carlsbad Blvd, Carlsbad CA 92008
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 and specializes 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 then 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 both thoroughly 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.
7. Leo Carrillo Ranch Historic Park
Address: 6200 Flying Leo Carrillo Ln, Carlsbad, CA 92009
One of Southern California’s hidden gems, Leo Carrillo Ranch Historic Park is a treasured landmark that visitors and locals both 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 plant and wildlife.
The old Spanish-style rancho was developed into a community park by locals and the city of Carlsbad in the 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
Address: 3040 Carlsbad Blvd, Carlsbad, CA 92008
Whether it’s your first time in Carlsbad or you’ve been coming for years, you probably know the foodie scene has exploded in the area, with new restaurants popping up all the time to the delight of everyone within reach.
One of Carlsbad’s most popular dining spots is Park 101, a barbecue restaurant offering savory food, cocktails, and beer, along with 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. Definitely bring your appetite!
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 Carlsbad Village, Park 101 attracts quite the social scene on most nights. You’ll find yourself coming back for another visit after tasting the food and cocktails and experiencing the laid-back, enjoyable atmosphere.
9. Carlsbad Food Tours
Address: Across the street from Caldo Pomodoro, 2907 State Street, Carlsbad, CA 92008
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 to choose from, 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 8 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 so you can fully enjoy yourself! This tour happens rain or shine, so be prepared if the weather is less than ideal. If you’re looking for a guided way to see the heart of Carlsbad, this food tour is one of the best things to do in Carlsbad, California.
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10. Carlsbad Flower Fields
Address: 5704 Paseo Del Norte, Carlsbad, CA 92008
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.
Nearly 50 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 just to catch a glimpse of the stunning rows and rows of flowers in pink, red, and yellow.
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. While you’re there, go on a tractor ride around Carlsbad Ranch, enjoy live music or 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 along to take some beautiful pictures amongst 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.
Address: 6565 Alicante Road, Carlsbad, CA 92009
For some 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 to enjoy, along with a warm water spa for adults. Get a workout in 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.
Whether you stop by in the morning or plan to stay all day, there are convenient picnic areas with barbecues so you can grill out and share a meal with your family and friends. If you’re going to 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
Address: 4215 Harrison Street Carlsbad, CA 92008
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.
Whether you want to lounge and relax or get your heart pumping on the water, the Carlsbad Lagoon has rental options for the perfect day. 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.
13. Museum of Making Music
Address: 5790 Armada Dr, Carlsbad, CA 92008
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!
Take a step back in time at 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. Carlsbad is rich in culture and history, so be sure to experience it for yourself at the Museum of Making Music!
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14. Rancho Carlsbad Golf Course
Address: 5200 El Camino Real, Carlsbad, CA 92010
Carlsbad offers some of the most stunning and challenging golf courses in California. If you have time to play a round of golf while you’re 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 cheesesteak, 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.
Address: 2725 State St, Carlsbad, CA 92008
Craving a delicious feast in a laid-back environment? Campfire in Carlsbad checks every box and brings a powerful mission statement to the table— 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. There’s something for everyone on the booze list, so come in when you’re thirsty!
With starters like oysters, fresh crudites, and fish skewers, it’s easy to see that a meal at Campfire is going to be incredible. Their daily menu includes delectable main 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 at home for this meal.
While kids are welcome at Campfire, the environment, cocktails, and food are better enjoyed among adults. Take your friends, go on a date, and just enjoy the time away at Campfire.
See Related: What to Bring on a Camping Trip with Friends
16. Electric Bike Tour
Address: 2978 Carlsbad Blvd. Suite 130 Carlsbad, CA 92008
Eager to explore Carlsbad and all the stunning beaches? Rent an electric bike and explore at your own pace, with your family, or on your own.
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 a few 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 decide to 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, simply return your electric bikes to Pedego Carlsbad and go 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.
17. New Village Arts Theatre
Address: 2787 State Street, Carlsbad, CA 92008
In the mood for some professional theater? Head to New Village Arts Theatre in Carlsbad Village for an entertaining show or musical theater 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. Make sure to arrive early so you can 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.
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What are the best Carlsbad, California tourist attractions?
The most popular tourist attractions in Carlsbad are LEGOLAND California, Carlsbad Village Drive, the Carlsbad Flower Fields, and Carlsbad beaches. Visit Leo Carrillo Ranch Historic Park for a fun outdoor walk and a rich dose of California history. Carlsbad Village Farmers Market is a great way to interact with local small businesses.
What are some fun places to visit in Carlsbad, California?
For beach fun in Carlsbad, don’t miss the stunning views from South Carlsbad State beach, North Ponto Beach, and Tamarack Beach for surfing. Visit Carlsbad Lagoon for adventurous watersports with family and friends. Shop til you drop at Carlsbad Premium Outlets.
What are the best things to do in Carlsbad with kids?
The best things to do in Carlsbad, CA with kids are spending the day at LEGOLAND California, SEA LIFE Aquarium, or at any sparkling Carlsbad beach. Take the whole family to the Carlsbad Village Farmers Market on Wednesdays and enjoy an afternoon in the sunshine.
What are some things to do in Carlsbad when it’s raining?
If you’re traveling with kids, make a stop at SEA LIFE Aquarium and spend a few hours getting to know some fascinating underwater sea creatures. Discover the culture and history of music at the Museum of Making Music. Grab a glass of wine at Witch Creek Winery.
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