Carlsbad Travel Guide
Carlsbad is just thirty minutes north of downtown San Diego, and has a cool upscale vibe but is also extremely family friendly. Home to both LEGOLAND® California and SEA LIFE® Aquarium, Carlsbad has lots of gorgeous hotels where kids enjoy special amenities, world-class shopping for grownup travelers, and restaurants enough to satisfy every whim. It’s also staggeringly beautiful, with fabulous beaches with some of the best swimming and surfing in the city and multiple manicured golf courses.
The Best Things to Do in Carlsbad with Kids
A lot of people don’t think of Carlsbad as a family destination, which is fair. It’s a wonderful place to explore with a significant other or a group of friends. That said, there are plenty of things to do in Carlsbad with kids, and LEGOLAND (which I’ll write more about below) is just one of them.
You can rent a paddle board or kayak and paddle around the calm waters of Carlsbad Lagoon — also known as Agua Hedionda Lagoon — or walk the quiz trail at LEGOLAND’s SEA LIFE Aquarium. Kids who love a good tune will love touring the Museum of Making Music, which is a hands-on gallery space that explores the evolution of musical instruments. And of course, no visit to Carlsbad would be complete without a stop at its beaches (all of which are easily accessible from the area’s hotels).
The Best Restaurants in Carlsbad
While Carlsbad is a beach town and relatively laid back, this is definitely a city that takes food seriously. You find a vibrant food and drink scene here ranging from upscale fast casual to high-end resort dining. You’ll get everything from the freshest seafood to farm-to-table veggies to steaks that will satisfy even the most critical carnivores. In fact, some of the most popular Carlsbad restaurants cater to meat eaters, like Argyle Steakhouse and West Steak and Seafood.
One of my personal favorites for barbecue (not to mention bottomless mimosas) is Carlsbad’s Park 101. It’s a restaurant — multiple eateries, actually — but it’s also a multi-concept community hangout with a garden pub, a rooftop lounge, special events, and outdoor games. Campfire is equally popular (if not more popular) with its outdoor teepee and indoor/outdoor gathering spots.
The Best Hotels Near Carlsbad Beaches
Even though I live in La Jolla, I’ve spent a fair amount of time in luxury hotels in Carlsbad. A popular family hotel in the area is probably the Omni La Costa Resort and Spa, which has an award-winning spa, two championship golf courses, 17 tennis courts, 8 pools (including an adults-only pool and jacuzzi), splash pads and water slides, and great fitness facilities. This particular hotel has one of the only kids’ clubs in San Diego.
There’s also the Park Hyatt Aviara Resort in Carlsbad, which is home to the world-renowned Aviara Golf Club and is close to popular San Diego attractions. Four Seasons Residence Club Aviara, North San Diego (a top pick of mine for all of San Diego) is right next door.
Or you could stay at the friendly and upbeat Cape Rey Carlsbad, which is an official LEGOLAND California partner hotel with a concierge on site to help you make the most of your LEGOLAND vacation and time on the beach.
Visiting LEGOLAND in Carlsbad
This is definitely one of San Diego’s best attractions for families with kids under 12. Grownup LEGO enthusiasts will find a lot to love here, too, and the park itself (which now has more than 60 rides and shows) can be done in just a half day, though keep in mind there’s also the SEA LIFE Aquarium and the LEGOLAND Water Park to explore. You might want to buy multi-day passes if you’re staying at one of the resort hotels.
Want a deluxe experience? VIP packages are available that include a personal host, priority ride access, and exclusive experiences, and you can rent cabanas in the water parks that include drinks in your own mini-fridge. However you plan to explore LEGOLAND, there are a lot of ways to get discounted tickets to LEGOLAND California.
The Best Hotels Near LEGOLAND California in Carlsbad
When you come to Carlsbad and want your home base to be close to LEGOLAND, you’ll have lots of options. There are plenty of hotels near the theme park, but to find the best hotels near LEGOLAND California you’ll need to think about what you’re looking for.
There are luxury hotels (which are some of the best in San Diego), if you’d like to be pampered during your stay, hotels that feel more like condos and offer amenities like kitchenettes, the LEGOLAND Hotel for diehard LEGO® fans who want to be immersed in all things brick and get exclusive early entry into the park, and the newer LEGOLAND Castle Hotel with its amazing themed rooms.