Carlsbad is a popular San Diego family vacation destination for families. The beaches can be quieter and are stunning. LEGOLAND California is here, as are some of San Diego’s best resorts. The list of things to do in Carlsbad with kids is long, but here are a few suggestions.
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1. LEGOLAND California
Carlsbad’s famous theme park, LEGOLAND California, is geared toward LEGO enthusiasts of all ages (but most commonly kids 12 and under) with about 60 rides, a LEGOLAND water park, hands-on LEGO pits, and other interactive amusement park experiences.
If you are planning on visiting LEGOLAND California during the holiday season, make sure to check out what this kid-friendly park has in store. For one, families can reign in New Year’s Eve at LEGOLAND California, which will be full of fireworks, activities, and endless amounts of family-friendly fun.
You can stay at the resort in one of two themed hotel options with separate kids’ sleeping areas in every room, free breakfast daily, and nightly entertainment. LEGOLAND Castle Hotel offers 250 premium LEGO Castle themed rooms, LEGO Castle décor throughout featuring knights, princesses, dragons, wizards, and more, as well as a pool area featuring fountains, slides, and play features and a themed restaurant
Kids love LEGOLAND Hotel and its themed rooms (Pirate, Kingdom, Adventure, LEGO NINJAGO or LEGO Friends) and interactive LEGO features (and others like the whoopie cushion next to the elevators). Parents enjoy an adult beverage at the bar next to the LEGO pits.
See also: What It’s Like to Stay at LEGOLAND Hotel
It is wise to always check the calendar before planning a trip because the park is not open daily during the low season. If you are going to visit other popular San Diego attractions, you may save money with a Go San Diego pass, a bundled attractions admissions pass with discounts of up to 55%. Or, save on LEGOLAND tickets with aRes Travel. Right now, reservations are required to visit LEGOLAND California.
See also: How to Buy Discount Tickets to LEGOLAND California
2. Enjoy Carlsbad Beaches
A Carlsbad vacation isn’t complete without a visit to one of its gorgeous beaches, whether you learn to surf or not. Some Carlsbad beaches are more secluded than others and easily accessible from some of San Diego’s best beach hotels in the area.
Of the seven miles of sand in Carlsbad, the most popular choices for families include South Ponto State Beach and Tamarack Beach.
3. Watersports on the Carlsbad Lagoon
Test your balance on a stand-up paddleboard or kayak in Carlsbad with kids (or without) by renting a variety of water sports equipment at Carlsbad Lagoon.
I used to wakeboard here (its proper name is Agua Hedionda Lagoon) quite a bit in my 20s, and it’s really fun. The variety of rentals include speedboats, aqua cycles, boat rentals, and much more.
You can also practice sun salutes in a Stand-Up Paddleboard yoga class on the Carlsbad Lagoon too.
4. Museum of Making Music
Visit the fun and rhythmic Museum of Making Music—a hands-on museum that showcases the evolution of musical instruments from the late 19th century to the present day.
This is a great place to take kids who already love music or are thinking about taking lessons. They will be able to see, touch, and feel how guitars, pianos, drums, and other more exotic instruments work. And the docents are amazingly helpful.
5. Batiquitos Lagoon Walks and Fun
Enjoy kid-friendly conservation talks, birding, and hands-on events hosted by the Batiquitos Lagoon Foundation. It’s one of the only remaining tidal wetlands in Southern California.
There are also a few nice and easy walking trails that are stroller and wheelchair-friendly. You can walk to these trails from Park Hyatt Aviara and Four Seasons Aviara, two of my favorite resorts in town. Maps are available at the Nature Center.
6. Flower Fields at Carlsbad Ranch (Seasonal)
Start your own spring tradition at the Carlsbad Flower Fields a distinctly Carlsbad attraction. The field opens for six to eight weeks in March, showcasing the vibrantly blooming ranunculus flowers.
Visitors enjoy tractor rides, mazes, the orchid greenhouse, rose garden, and much more over the 55 acres. Be sure to check their calendar before you go.
7. SEA LIFE Aquarium
Interact with the underwater creatures at the SEA LIFE Aquarium, located adjacent to LEGOLAND California.
This popular Carlsbad attraction for families also has interactive exhibits, talks and feedings, a great counter-order dining area, and some touch pools.
See also: San Diego Discounts: Experience The City For Less
8. Carlsbad Strawberry Company
The cool thing about Carlsbad Strawberry Company is that they have cool things to do in Carlsbad with kids outside of strawberry picking season.
During Halloween, you’ll come here for the corn maze, bounce houses, and pumpkins. You can come to Cannon Rd. Market here for fresh produce from across San Diego County.
But let’s face it, U-pick strawberries are a heck of a lot of fun for the whole family. You can enjoy this during the spring season.
9. Grab a Slice at Pizza Port
Taste Carlsbad’s best pizza at the Intergalactic Headquarters for the Pizza Port Empire. Adults will appreciate the extensive list of craft beer on tap in a kid-friendly atmosphere.
Try the Monterey Pizza with artichoke hearts, pepperoni, mushrooms, and onions. It’s one of the best places to eat in Carlsbad with kids.
10. Become a Junior Beach Ranger
Become a Junior Beach Ranger with Cape Rey Carlsbad. Families meet up at the Campfire Center at Carlsbad State Beach campground directly across from the hotel every Tuesday and Friday from March to October.
The 45-minute ranger-led program teaches visitors about marine life, ecology, and the environment in a fun interactive session, including nature walks, tide pooling, and hands-on activities.
Each participant also receives a special ranger logbook with stickers to track their accomplishments and take home as a keepsake. This program is ideal for little rangers ages 7-12.
See also: Guide to Cape Rey Carlsbad
11.Visit a Skatepark
Bring the skateboard. Not only is Carlsbad Tony Hawk’s home, but there are plenty of skateparks for all levels, including Alga Norte Skatepark.
12. Play Golf
One of the best places to improve your swing is at the Arnold Palmer-designed Aviara Golf Club, located adjacent to the lovely Park Hyatt Aviara hotel.
Kip Putterbaugh’s Aviara Golf Academy hosts junior clinics and lessons but they really can improve any level of player (adults, too). It’s the longest-running golf school in the Western United States.
13. Learn to Surf
Learning how to surf is one of the best things to do in San Diego with kids when on vacation here, in my opinion. In Carlsbad, the pros at So Cal Surf Lessons will be glad to help you hang ten.
Surf lessons are available year-round, and this SoCal business guarantees that you’ll be standing after your first lesson (if not, the next one will be free of charge).
14. Leo Carrillo Ranch Historic Park
Take a walk back into Hollywood history at Leo Carrillo’s historic ranch and roam the 27-acre property along with the resident peacocks. As the name implies, the ranch was once owned by actor Leo Carrillo.
Guests can take a self-guided tour and it’s a very popular spot for photos because of the adobe buildings and stunning landscape.
15. Carlsbad Premium Outlets for Discount Shopping
The teens traveling with you may want some retail therapy and this is a great place to get it. However, Carlsbad Premium Outlets is a fantastic place to score deals on gear for babies, toddlers, and kids, too.
Popular stores include Sketchers, Carter’s, Baby Gap, Lids, and other kid favorites.
16. Take a Helicopter Tour
Take in the amazing aerial views of the Pacific in an epic Icon Helicopter Tour. Tours can be customized based on what guests would like to see from above.
17. Enjoy American History
Enjoy a traditional shepherd’s pie and some U.S. colonial history at the Green Dragon Tavern & Museum.
This unique Carlsbad attraction is equipped with quite a large space complete with a museum, restaurant, tavern, coffee house, and meeting space.
For health and safety reasons, the museum is currently only available for guests who are also dining at the Green Dragon Tavern. The restaurant is open Thursday through Sunday from 4 – 8 p.m.
18. Aviara Community Park for Playgrounds, Picnics and Spores
Pretend you’re Jack Sparrow at the Aviara Community Park’s pirate-themed play area. Or just enjoy a day out at this 24-acre spot.
The park is also equipped with a soccer field, softball and baseball field, outdoor basketball courts, a children’s play area for toddlers, restrooms, and plenty of picnic areas. This is one of Carlsbad’s many community parks.
See also: 55 Best Things to Do in San Diego with Kids
19. Take an Electric Bike Tour
Take an electric bike tour through the village with Pedego Electric Bike Rental. These electric bikes allow you to put in as much pedaling effort as you like.
If a tour isn’t your thing, rest assured that they also rent bikes including tandem bikes, road bikes, and even kids’ bike trailers.
20. Book a Food Tour
Take a bite out of Carlsbad’s culinary best on a food tour where you’ll visit 7-8 eateries while learning insight about the architectural details and history of the village area.
This 3-hour tour is perfect for people of all ages and is available as a public or private tour experience. Reservations can be booked online.
21. Carlsbad Village Farmers Market
Farmers’ markets in San Diego aren’t just for buying produce. You can buy hot food, enjoy live entertainment, come home with locally-made souvenirs, and much more.
The State Street Farmers’ Market happens in the Carlsbad Village and is one of the area’s fabulous outdoor activities for families that supports local farmers and artisans.
22. Race Go Karts
Yes, the largest indoor karting facility on the West Coast is at K1 Speed Go Kart Track. Adults and junior drivers (must be 48″ tall) can rev up an Italian electric Pro Kart (zero emissions).
23. Magee House
Take a glimpse at what life was like in the late 19th century at the Magee House, one of Carlsbad’s oldest structures, and roam its historic walls and surrounding rose gardens.
See also: The Best Kid-Friendly Hotels in San Diego
LJM Exclusive: Use promo code LJM10SDO to apply an extra 10% discount on ALL Go San Diego passes. The discount stacks on top of sale prices. Expires 12/31/23.
FAQs About Things to Do in Carlsbad with Kids
I help people plan vacations to San Diego so I have heard nearly every question imaginable about where and why one would stay in North San Diego County.
Why Should I Stay in Carlsbad with Kids?
Families stay in Carlsbad with kids because they are looking for big luxury resorts (three of our best are here) or are focusing a vacation on LEGOLAND California.
Carlsbad also makes a great base for families who intend to explore San Diego attractions but also visit Disneyland Resort on the same trip.
How Far Is Carlsbad from San Diego Zoo?
One of the main concerns for families visiting Carlsbad is the driving distance to San Diego Zoo. Do not worry so much about this if you can plan a visit around rush hour traffic. The drive, which is mostly freeway driving and not difficult, should take about 35 minutes without traffic.
It takes the same amount of time to get to downtown San Diego.
What Are the Best Family Hotels Near the Beach in Carlsbad?
The best beachfront kid-friendly hotels in Carlsbad are Beach Terrace Inn (a family-owned boutique hotel on the sand) and Cape Rey Carlsbad Beach, a Hilton Resort and Spa (across the street from the beach).
Most families that I work with stay in the larger resorts like Four Seasons Aviara, Park Hyatt Aviara, and Omni La Costa.
What are your favorite things to do in Carlsbad with kids? See also my complete list of family activities in San Diego.
*Photos are provided courtesy of Visit Carlsbad.
Katie Dillon is the managing editor of La Jolla Mom. She helps readers plan San Diego vacations through her hotel expertise (that stems from living in a Four Seasons hotel) and local connections. Readers have access to exclusive discounts on theme park tickets (like Disneyland and San Diego Zoo) and perks at luxury hotels worldwide through her. She also shares insider tips for visiting major cities worldwide like Hong Kong, London, Paris, and Shanghai that her family has either lived in or visits regularly (or both).
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And, don’t forget to save money on sightseeing with my discount tickets or a Go San Diego Card.
Things to Do
Before You Go
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