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Welcome to Carlsbad, CA|©Juliet Bennett Rylah
Welcome to Carlsbad, CA|©Juliet Bennett Rylah
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How to Spend a Day in Carlsbad, California

Picture of Juliet Bennett Rylah
Updated: 15 April 2017
Just a short drive or train ride from Los Angeles or San Diego, laid-back Carlsbad provides a sea-swept getaway. Visitors are drawn to the area for its beautiful stretch of coastline and gorgeous beaches, while Carlsbad Village offers numerous shopping and dining opportunities at a relaxed pace. Here are 15 places to visit with various activities in the city known as the “Village by the Sea.”
Welcome to Carlsbad, CA|©Juliet Bennett Rylah
Welcome to Carlsbad, CA | ©Juliet Bennett Rylah

State Street Farmers Market

The State Street Farmers Market takes over Carlsbad Village every Wednesday from 3:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m., year-round. The pedestrian-friendly strip features close to 20 produce vendors, 25 packaged food vendors, a handful of artisans, and a half-dozen vendors serving up cooked meals. Shoppers might find fresh-cut flowers, seasonal fruits and vegetables, olive oil, dips, cookies, jams, or even cheesecake-in-a-cup. Many vendors offer samples to help shoppers select their purchases.

State Street Farmers Market|©Juliet Bennett Rylah
State Street Farmers Market | ©Juliet Bennett Rylah

Barrel Republic

Barrel Republic is a popular beer bar in Carlsbad Village with open windows that face the bustling street. It’s unique not just for the sheer number of craft beers and ciders it serves—more than 50—but in how they are served. Guests receive a wristband, which allows them to pour their own beer from the numerous taps located around the pub. You can select which size glass you’d like to use, then choose your beer. Cicerones are available for those who need help deciding. Food includes hearty bar fare, such as mac and cheese, pickle chips, burgers, flatbreads, and more.

Barrel Republic|©Juliet Bennett Rylah
Barrel Republic | ©Juliet Bennett Rylah

Take a bike ride along the beach

Fewer rides are more scenic than a cruise along the PCH overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Potential riders don’t have to bring their own bikes, as there are many places to rent. Of note is Pedego Electric Bikes. These colorful bikes have a battery fixed onto the back, which propels the bike should the rider need extra help getting up a hill or catching up with a group. Those who crave exercise, however, are free to pedal just as with any other bike. The rental facility is just blocks away from the beach.

Pedego Electric Bikes|©Juliet Bennett Rylah
Pedego Electric Bikes | ©Juliet Bennett Rylah

Campfire

Campfire offers meals cooked over—as the name implies—a flame. Meats and vegetables are obvious fares, yet the folks here also incorporate this focus into their craft cocktails. The menu is divided into a raw bar, or seafood, vegetables, and larger meat entrees. The roasted broccoli is a must, and any meal is perfectly finished with the quintessential campfire dessert: S’mores! Guests roast the marshmallows themselves at their table. An airy, rustic feel and solid wooden tables expertly blend the beach-town feel with a woodsy ambiance.

Campfire|©Juliet Bennett Rylah
Campfire | ©Juliet Bennett Rylah

The Carlsbad Flower Fields

The Carlsbad Flower Fields are in full bloom for about six to eight weeks each spring. Established in its current location in the 1960s, guests can take wagon tours of the property, try to escape a pretty sweet pea maze, purchase fresh-cut flowers, and gaze at a 50-acre field of vibrant Giant Tecolote Ranunculuses.

There are 50 acres of gorgeous Ranunculus flowers | © Juliet Bennett Rylah
There are 50 acres of gorgeous Ranunculus flowers | © Juliet Bennett Rylah

Argyle Steakhouse

The gorgeous Park Hyatt Aviara offers beautiful views, a lush golf course, and expertly landscaped grounds. It’s a splendid place to stay, but you don’t have to book a room to enjoy the scenery. The Argyle Steakhouse is open for lunch and dinner, as well as brunch on the weekends. Patio seating offers divine views of Batiquitos Lagoon, and happy hour is daily from 3:00-6:00 p.m.

The view from Argyle Steakhouse|©Juliet Bennett Rylah
The view from Argyle Steakhouse | ©Juliet Bennett Rylah

LEGOLAND

Kids and fun-loving adults alike will want to hit up LEGOLAND, a theme park dedicated to the colorful building blocks. More than 60 rides and attractions are spread out over numerous areas, including the dinosaur-themed Explorer Island, Miniland USA, and the medieval-themed Castle Hill. Families can also visit the Sea Life Aquarium, add on a visit to LEGOLAND Water Park, or book a stay in one of the LEGOLAND California Resorts. Amenities include themed rooms, a heated pool, a scavenger hunt for kids, and early access to the park.

Craftsmanship Museum

The Joe Martin Foundation Craftsmanship Museum features a collection of model and miniature engines, as well as an intricate machine called the Do Nothing Machine that, well, does nothing. The facility also hosts a fully stocked machine shop, where guests can watch machinists at work. The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., except holidays. Admission is free, although donations are accepted (and tax-deductible).

Hit the beach

It goes without saying that one of Carlsbad’s major draws is its proximity to the Pacific Ocean and many beaches. Carlsbad State Beach, sometimes referred to as Tamarack Beach, offers numerous water activities and fishing, plus a 4-mile paved path for walking, jogging, and cycling. Amenities include picnic areas, restrooms, and spigots for rinsing away the sand. South Ponto Beach is popular with families and surfers, and has public restrooms and showers. South Carlsbad State Beach features a campground that gets busy in the warm summer months. It is located near a Camp Store for sundries, and across from Cape Rey Hotel, where campers can stop by for a meal or, perhaps, if feeling particularly indulgent, a spa treatment.

Carlsbad is known for its gorgeous beaches|Courtesy of Visit Carlsbad
Carlsbad is known for its gorgeous beaches | Courtesy of Visit Carlsbad

Museum of Making Music

The Museum of Making Music is located on the first floor of the non-profit National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM). Here, guests can learn about and view musical instruments used in various genres throughout history. Some of the instruments are available to be played by visitors. Admission is $10, or $7 for students, seniors, and active military. Closed Mondays and select holidays, otherwise open from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m, with free parking.

Museum of Making Music|Courtesy of Museum of Making Music
Museum of Making Music | Courtesy of Museum of Making Music

The Chopra Center

The Chopra Center was founded in 1996 by author Deepak Chopra. Here, guests can engage in wellness activities including yoga and meditation, while the spa offers Ayurvedic treatments. The Center is located at the Omni La Costa Resort, which has its own spa. The Spa at La Costa features its own treatments, including scrubs, facials, massages, nail and hair services, and more.

La Costa Resort and Spa, 2100 Costa del Mar Road, Carslbad, CA, USA +1 760 438 9111

Lee Carrillo Ranch Historic Park

The former ranch of actor Lee Carrillo is a Historic National Landmark, and the 27-acre property has been open to visitors since 2003. The bucolic scene includes trees, roaming peacocks, windmills, and long-standing adobe structures. A walking tour, which guests can arrange with a guide or explore alone, provides both exercise and education.

Lee Carrillo Ranch|©Ken Lund/Flickr
Lee Carrillo Ranch | ©Ken Lund/Flickr

The Crossings at Carlsbad

Carlsbad boasts many lovely, sprawling golf courses. In particular, The Crossings is an 18-hole course designed by landscape architect Greg Nash, where players enjoy views of the Pacific Ocean. Each hole has five different teeing areas, which allow golfers to customize the course to their own skill level. A large clubhouse features a golf shop and dining options.

The Crossings at Carlsbad|Courtesy of Visit Carlsbad
The Crossings at Carlsbad | Courtesy of Visit Carlsbad

Visit a lagoon

Carlsbad has not one, but three lagoons. Batiquitos Lagoon is the largest of the three at 561 acres. A 1.3-mile trail draws joggers, walkers, and hikers, and guided tours of the area are available. Those with a license may also fish in select areas.The Buena Vista Lagoon is an ecological preserve popular with bird watchers, as it is home to more than 100 different species of birds. Agua Hedionda Lagoon is the smallest at 66 acres, and can be used for boating, water skiing, windsurfing, and fishing with proper permits.

Batiquitos Lagoon|Courtesy of Visit Carlsbad
Batiquitos Lagoon | Courtesy of Visit Carlsbad

The Gemological Institute of America Museum (GIA)

The GIA is dedicated to the study of gems, and also establishes standards of quality when it comes to the trade of gems and pearls. The Institute’s museum is open to the public during weekday business hours by appointment, and both self-guided and docent-led tours are available. Exhibits focus on both the science and physical beauty of gems and minerals, as well as intricate and dazzling jewelry. To book a tour, guests may email guestservices@gia.edu or call 1-800-421-7250, ext. 4116, or 1-760-603-4116.