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Carlsbad, California: A Brief Recreation & Travel Guide

Updated on June 8, 2016

Carlsbad, California

Carlsbad city sign along Carlsbad Blvd.
Carlsbad city sign along Carlsbad Blvd. | Source

Short history & overview.

Carlsbad, California was established as a seaside resort long before it was incorporated in 1952. Located 30 miles north of San Diego, the city of over 100,000 was named after Karlsbad in Bohemia because the spring water was found to be pure, clear, and reputedly a natural composition closely matching that of its European namesake. The original settlement, known as Frazier’s Stop, was a train stop on the line between L.A. and San Diego. Here, along the bluffs overlooking the Pacific a few seaside hotels opened in the late 1880s and John Frazier peddled his pure spring water to train passengers. The name was changed to Carlsbad by the 1890s and it was this original location, now known as Carlsbad Village, which eventually formed the nucleus for today’s ever-expanding city, well known for its resorts and sprawling master-planned communities. Incorporation of the city was done to avoid annexation by its neighbor to the north, the City of Oceanside. Carlsbad has a number of attractions which include Legoland California, the Flower Fields as well as the Omni La Costa and Park Hyatt Resorts. Year-round mild climate allows for great golfing and it’s to no one’s surprise that the city hosts the headquarters of Callaway Golf Company.

The Flower Fields, Carlsbad, California.

View of Carlsbad, California from Armada Drive showing the Flower Fields.
View of Carlsbad, California from Armada Drive showing the Flower Fields. | Source

Leo Carrillo Ranch Park

Leo Carrillo Ranch Park
Leo Carrillo Ranch Park | Source

Carlsbad downtown

Where it all began - the well, which still pumps water along Carlsbad Boulevard.
Where it all began - the well, which still pumps water along Carlsbad Boulevard. | Source
Victorian era hotel, Carlsbad Village.
Victorian era hotel, Carlsbad Village. | Source

Legoland California

Entrance to Legoland.
Entrance to Legoland. | Source

Batiquitos Lagoon

Entrance to Batiquitos Lagoon. A favorite walking spot for locals.
Entrance to Batiquitos Lagoon. A favorite walking spot for locals. | Source

The famous Flower Fields

Looking down at the Carlsbad Flower Fields.
Looking down at the Carlsbad Flower Fields. | Source

Points of Interest & Attractions

Leo Carrillo Ranch. Now administered as a city park the Leo Carrillo Ranch & Historic Park was formerly the home of actor Leo Carrillo most famous for his role in the Cisco Kid. The ranch contains half a dozen historic adobe buildings with a self-guided trail system across 27 acres.

Carlsbad Village is the original and quirky downtown if the city ever had one. Lined with shops that sell surfer’s gear, hotels, wineries, micro breweries, restaurants, and antiques, the Village overlooks the ocean and has public beach access too. Parking can be tight on weekends, especially in the summer. The Art and Antique Mall is a local favorite.

Carlsbad Mineral Water Spa. Located in Carlsbad Village along Carlsbad Boulevard and housed in the all-too-obvious Hanseatic, half-timbered look-alike from the old country, the spa serves as both an outlet for filling up water bottles from the city's famous alkaline spring water and a spa facility with themed rooms for the self-indulgent. Quite simply, "this is the place" and why the city came into existence.

Legoland California. Opened in 1999 Legoland California’s location is perfect located halfway between Disneyland and Sea World San Diego (it’s actually closer to Sea World). Featuring more than 40 rides and attractions which include miniature city displays of New York, San Francisco Las Vegas, and Washington, D.C., a waterpark, and aquarium, Legoland has been continuously expanding and its latest attraction is the theme-based hotel which opened in 2014 which sits at the park’s entrance.

Museum of Making Music. Within walking distance of Legoland, this nice museum is dedicated to it's eponym and is hands-on and might be a great way to take a break from the crowds at Legoland and introduce kids to something besides the LEGO bricks and kiddie rides. Opened in 2000 the museum holds a permanent collection of instruments and exhibits as well as roving exhibits. Five galleries take you through the age of music in the United States. The museum was founded by NAMM (The National Association of Music Merchants).

The Flower Fields. Also known as the Flower Fields at Carlsbad Ranch, the hillside between Canon Road and Palomar Airport Road exits along I-5 fires up its beautiful hews between March and April. The Fields are opened to the public (fee) between March 1 and mid-May and have been an attraction for 60 years now. The windmill, a well known landmark, off Palomar Airport Road exit, was originally a spin-off from Andersen's in Solvang, California, but now it is part of the Holiday Inn.

Batiquitos Lagoon. The lagoon is part of the California Department of Fish and wildlife although the Batiquitos Lagoon Foundation, a non-profit, looks after the area. Access to this nature reserve is from the Carlsbad side and it preserve one of the few tidal wetlands of southern California. Hiking trails are accessed by at least three trailheads with parking along Batiquitos Drive.

Buena Vista Lagoon. Buena Vista Lagoon is one of three lagoons in Carlsbad and one of two which is protected and preserved by a non-profit although the body of water is owned by the California Department of Fish and Game. It sits in north Carlsbad and straddles the city line between Carlsbad and Oceanside. Unlike it’s southern counterpart, the Batiquitos lagoon, the Buena Vista Lagoon has much more reed and march habitat. I-5 crosses over it but if you want a better look there is an access road which drives around it and parking is available on the Carlsbad side of Las Flores Drive.

Visitor Center, Carlsbad Village

The old train depot, now the Visitor's Center, Carlsbad village.
The old train depot, now the Visitor's Center, Carlsbad village. | Source

Museum of Making Music, Carlsbad, CA

Entrance to Museum of Making Music along Armada Drive, Carlsbad, CA
Entrance to Museum of Making Music along Armada Drive, Carlsbad, CA | Source

favorite place in Carlsbad?

What is your favorite place in Carlsbad?

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Famous hotels in Carlsbad

Entrance to Omni La Costa Resort, Carlsbad.
Entrance to Omni La Costa Resort, Carlsbad. | Source
Entrance to Park Hyatt Resort, Carlsbad.
Entrance to Park Hyatt Resort, Carlsbad. | Source

Carlsbad beaches

Surfers, South Carlsbad State Beach.
Surfers, South Carlsbad State Beach. | Source
South Carlsbad State Beach
South Carlsbad State Beach | Source
Sunset, Carlsbad, California.
Sunset, Carlsbad, California. | Source

Legoland Hotel, Carlsbad, CA

Legoland Hotel, Carlsbad, CA
Legoland Hotel, Carlsbad, CA | Source

Resorts & Recreation

Omni La Costa Resort and Spa. Opened in 1965 the Omni La Costa Resort, formerly the La Costa resort, is a sprawling hotel resort with a golf course in the La Costa section of Carlsbad and the first mega resort opened in the city since the Victorian era beach hotels in carlsbad village. The resort annually hosts the WTA’s southern Caliofrnia Open and formley hosted the PGA events as well as the Kia Classic LPGA.

Park Hyatt Resort Aviara. Formerly a Four Seasons Resort and billed as the only 5 star hotel in Carlsbad, the hotel has been owned and managed by Park Hyatt since 2010. Built in 1997 the resort overlooks Batiquitos Lagoon off Aviara Drive and features and 18 hole gold course designed by Arnold Palmer and annually hosts the LPGA Kia Classic. The resort is billed as the only 5 star in North County San Diego.

Grand Pacific Palisades Hotel & Resort. Just across the street from Legoland California (Armada Drive) and with pedestrian access to the theme park is Grand Pacific Palisades Hotel & Resort. It has excellent views of the ocean and Flower Fields as it overlooks both. It is also very close to the Carlsbad premium Outlets, within walking distance.

Beaches. Most of Carlsbad is fronted by about 7 miles of State Beach. The southern half is operated by South Carlsbad State Beach, or South Ponto. The north half is known as Carlsbad State Beach. The former has camping facilities with 223 campsites and hookups for RVs.

Carlsbad Lagoon (Agua Hedionda). If you enjoy watersports such as jet ski, paddles boards, and paddle boats, this is the place to go. Visible from I-5, the Carlsbad Lagoon is accessible from Tamarack Road exit on I-5. It’s one of three lagoons in Carlsbad but unlike the other two, this one is open to water sport and recreation.

Golf. Carlsbad offers four great gold courses which include a variety of playing levels. The Omni La Costa Course is located on the Omni Resort, Aviara Golf at the Park Hyatt is beautifully landscaped and annually hosts the Kia Classic, the Crossings has great views, and finally the Rancho Carlsbad Golf Course Club off El Camino Real offers 54 par 18 holes.

Tip Top Meats, Carlsbad

The grocery section of Tip Top Meats sells imported European foods mostly from Germany.
The grocery section of Tip Top Meats sells imported European foods mostly from Germany. | Source

Favorite local eats: Carlsbad & Encinitas

Tip Top Meats. This German-style deli and self-order restaurant is a long time fixture in Carlsbad and a favorite among locals. You won't leave hungry if you order an entree, many of which are German, such as Sauerbraten and Roladen. There is a also a nice European grocery store within the restaurant which has a number mostly Central (German & Austrian) foods. Tip Top Meats is located on Paseo del Norte about a block south of Palomar Airport Road in Carlsbad.

Yoshino Japanese Deli. Located in Carlsbad Village and a well-known Yelp hit, this small hole-in-the-wall Mom and Pop joint consistently rates in the top 50 Yelp reviews nationwide! Expect limited hours and seating and cash only for some of your favorite Japanese rice bowl mixes.

Primo Pizza & Pasta. This modest pizza place is a favorite of the author for pizza in particular. The pizza is short on chain-pizza frills but has excellent taste and friendly small-town service.

Casa de Bandini. It's glitzy and dressy with alot of fanfare. Expect to be entertained by the mariachi band and dance alongside seniors, agog in the moment, who seem to make a habit of spontaneously hitting the floor (tequila maybe?). The food is good too, especially the Nachos Grande, a meal-sized appetizer. Casa de Bandini is located in the upscale shopping niche, The Forum. Avoid Friday and Saturday nights unless you don't mind waiting.

Thai Pan Cuisine. Located in Encinitas just off El Camino Real this modest Thai restaurant belies its humble appearance and serves up great Thai dishes of every sort. Lunch can get busy.

The Original Pancake House. Not to be confused with the mega-chain, IHOP, this is another locals' fav. This breakfast-serving pancake house can have long lines on weekend mornings and holidays but they tend to move fast. The omelettes and German-style pancakes are great.



Map to local eats

show route and directions
A markerTip Top Meats, 6118 Paseo del Norte Carlsbad, CA -
6118 Paseo Del Norte, Carlsbad, CA 92011, USA
get directions

B markerYoshino Japanese Deli, 2913 State Street, Carlsbad 92008 -
2913 State Street, Carlsbad, CA 92008, USA
get directions

C markerPrimo Pizza & Pasta, 7110 Avenida Encinas, Carlsbad -
Poinsettia Village, 7110 Avenida Encinas, Carlsbad, CA 92011, USA
get directions

D markerCasa de Bandini, 1901 Calle Barcelona -
1901 Calle Barcelona, Carlsbad, CA 92009, USA
get directions

E markerThai Pan Cuisine, 138 N El Camino Real, Encinitas -
138 North El Camino Real, Encinitas, CA 92024, USA
get directions

F markerThe Original Pancake House, 160 South Rancho Santa Fe Road, Encinitas -
160 South Rancho Santa Fe Road, Encinitas, CA 92024, USA
get directions

Carlsbad Village

Tree-shaded streets in Carlsbad Village.
Tree-shaded streets in Carlsbad Village. | Source

The Forum, Carlsbad, CA

Shops at the Forum, Carlsbad.
Shops at the Forum, Carlsbad. | Source

Carlsbad Premium Outlets

Looking down the middle of the Outlets.
Looking down the middle of the Outlets. | Source

Shopping

The Forum is Carlsbad’s answer to high end shopping and occupies a little niche on the west side of El Camino Real just before the Encinitas city line. An outdoor mall, the Forum offers more than 50 shops and places to dine. There are also a number of popular restaurants including ther Casa de Bandini, a local favorite. Friday and Saturday nights may have wait times of up to an hour before seating so plan ahead. The mariachi band adds to the highlights of this restaurant as does the outdoor seating to say nothing of the good food.

The Carlsbad Premium Outlets offer outlet shopping just off I-5 between the canon Road and Palomar Airport Road exits. Located just below the Flower Fields, Outlet parking can be tight on weekends and offers about 90 outlet stores and a seemingly endless variety of places to eat. There’s even more of both across the Paseo del Norte.

Mission San Luis Rey, Oceanside, CA.

Mission San Luis Rey. Oceanside, California.
Mission San Luis Rey. Oceanside, California. | Source

San Diego Botanic Gardens, Encinitas, California

Native southern California plants at the San Diego Botanic Gardens.
Native southern California plants at the San Diego Botanic Gardens. | Source

Nearby Points of Interest

Mission San Luis Rey de Francia, Oceanside, California. Mission San Luis Rey in nearby Oceanside was founded in 1798 although the current structure dates to 1811. Nicknamed the "King of the Missions", the Mission San Luis Rey was the 18th of the twenty-one Alta California missions and is a mixture of Spanish Colonial, Renaissance and Moorish architecture. The grounds are great for exploring highlighted by the sandstone steps at the lavanderia, the expansive courtyard, and gardens which feature California’s first pepper tree, and of course the museum and beautiful church nave.

San Diego Botanic Gardens, Encinitas, California. Formerly called the Quail Botanical Gardens, the San Diego Botanic Gardens are easily reached a half mile off I-5 exit Encinitas Boulevard only a couple miles south of Carlsbad. There are different gardens themed according to continent or region such as the Australian, African, and Central America Garden to name a few. Trails wind through the Gardens and provide good views from the Overlook Natural Area. If you have kids, there is a great place to for them to climb, and explore in the Hamilton Children’s Garden – a botanical playground of sorts.

Transportation

Interstate 5 has 7 exits in Carlsbad and the city is only about 20 miles south of Orange County line and less than thirty miles from the San Diego City limits. Typically rush hour slows things down. The Coaster train operated by Amtrak is another great option for commuters to and from San Diego and Orange County and it offers two stops in Carlsbad. If you don’t want to fly out of San Diego’s Lindbergh International Airport, Carlsbad’s Palomar-McClellan Airport may be an option serviced by daily commuter air travel mostly to and from LAX.

Carlsbad, California

show route and directions
A markerLegoland California -
Legoland California Resort, 1 Legoland Drive, Carlsbad, CA 92008, USA
get directions

B markerThe Flower Fields -
The Flower Fields, 5704 Paseo Del Norte, Carlsbad, CA 92008, USA
get directions

C markerLeo Carrillo Ranch -
Leo Carrillo Ranch Historic Park, 6200 Flying Leo Carrillo Lane, Carlsbad, CA 92009, USA
get directions

D markerCarlsbad Village Drive, California -
Village Drive, Carlsbad, CA 92008, USA
get directions

E markerMission San Luis Rey -
Old Mission San Luis Rey, 4050 Mission Avenue, Oceanside, CA 92057, USA
get directions

F markerSan Diego Botanic Gardens -
San Diego Botanic Garden, 230 Quail Gardens Drive, Encinitas, CA 92024, USA
get directions

G markerOmni La Costa Resort & Spa 2100 Costa Del Mar Road, Carlsbad, CA 92009, United States -
2100 Costa Del Mar Road, Carlsbad, CA 92009, USA
get directions

H markerPark Hyatt Aviara Resort 7100 Aviara Resort Drive, Carlsbad, CA 92011, United States -
7100 Aviara Resort Drive, Carlsbad, CA 92011, USA
get directions

I markerForum Carlsbad 1923 Calle Barcelona, Carlsbad, CA 92009, United States -
1923 Calle Barcelona, Carlsbad, CA 92009, USA
get directions

J markerCarlsbad Premium Outlets 5620 Paseo Del Norte, Carlsbad, CA 92008, United States -
Carlsbad Premium Outlets, 5620 Paseo Del Norte, Carlsbad, CA 92008, USA
get directions

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    • Throgmorton profile image
      Author

      Throgmorton 2 years ago

      Akriti - it's an interesting conversation and maybe worth writing a Hub: what requires citation, what doesn't, what's common knowledge/public domain and what constitutes plagiarism? I didn't take the material from the internet, but even if I did, for instance, the population of Carlsbad at 100,000 people, (something verifiable by Wikipedia), is 'common knowledge' open to the public domain and therefore not requiring a citation. Citations from the internet are indeed important otherwise, if esp. you directly quote or borrow someone's else's information specific to their research, ideas, etc.

    • Akriti Mattu profile image

      Akriti Mattu 2 years ago from Shimla, India

      But u did take material from the internet.Right ? So i was just wondering , being a new user here that aren't citations even of the internet important ?

    • Throgmorton profile image
      Author

      Throgmorton 2 years ago

      Akriti - I didn't cite anyone's work thus my lack of references. Thanks for reading!

    • Akriti Mattu profile image

      Akriti Mattu 2 years ago from Shimla, India

      Congratulations for your wonderful HOD post.

      I just have one question - Why did you not give any references at the end ?

    • Throgmorton profile image
      Author

      Throgmorton 2 years ago

      ArtDiva- thanks again. Hope you get a chance to take a closer look some time as well as another chance to double up on a side trip to Julian.

    • Throgmorton profile image
      Author

      Throgmorton 2 years ago

      VirginiaLynne - Many thanks for chiming in. Word has it that the strawberry field to which you refer will soon fall prey to the bulldozers of the developer. More stores and such near where the Outlets sit. That's perhaps the darker side of Carlsbad - the over-development which is non-stop.

    • VirginiaLynne profile image

      Virginia Kearney 2 years ago from United States

      As a native of California, I love going to Carlsbad. Legoland is absolutely our favorite family theme park. One thing that I'd add is that there is a pick your own strawberry patch right outside of Legoland. Strawberries aren't available year round, but when they are it is a wonderful thing to do with children. I'd also add Moonlight Beach in Encinitas as one of the best beaches to go with kids. There are also nature trails to visit and walk.

    • profile image

      ArtDiva 2 years ago

      A really comprehensive guide to the points of interest and attractions about Carlsbad, CA. Here I am, a native of California, and visited the beaches way back when, but don't recall most of the information written here, especially the flower fields...what a sight that would be. On my way down to NM to visit a friend, will have to take a side trip and revisit.

    • Throgmorton profile image
      Author

      Throgmorton 2 years ago

      ladyguitar - Many thanks! I feel like an instant Hub celebrity but mostly glad to hear people find the hub interesting and informative.

    • Throgmorton profile image
      Author

      Throgmorton 2 years ago

      Mactavers - Thank you and appreciate your sharing of the hub. I hope others find it useful!

    • Throgmorton profile image
      Author

      Throgmorton 2 years ago

      Kristen - thank you! Hope you make it down here sometime!

    • ladyguitarpicker profile image

      stella vadakin 2 years ago from 3460NW 50 St Bell, Fl32619

      A really good hub with lots of information. Best Wishes on HOTD. Voted up. and sharing.

    • mactavers profile image

      mactavers 2 years ago

      A really good Hub on Carlsbad. For those interested, there are some good antique shops in the downtown area too.

    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 2 years ago from Northeast Ohio

      Congrats on the HOTD. This was a lovely hub about Carlsbad California. I would love to visit there someday. Voted up for interesting!