“The Village by the Sea,” as Carlsbad is sometimes called, is known for being the home of LEGOLAND® California, but the tranquil city in San Diego County is also home to beautiful beaches, beaches, manicured golf courses, watersports, and five-star resorts.
Below, you’ll find my best Carlsbad travel tips and guides to Carlsbad attractions so that you’ll know where to stay and what to do whether you’re traveling alone, on business, or in San Diego with kids.
Why Stay In Carlsbad, California?
Many readers worry that staying in Carlsbad means that they’re too far from San Diego’s best attractions outside of LEGOLAND California. This isn’t necessarily the case, and there are a few things to consider.
Sometimes the resort drives the decision, which is completely fine. Some families need a kids’ club that takes babies (Omni La Costa). Other travelers prefer Four Seasons properties and this happens to be where the only one in San Diego is located. Carlsbad hotels can also price a little lower than others on the beach or in downtown.
You’ll probably need a rental car if you stay in Carlsbad and plan to sightsee. If some of your sightseeing includes Carlsbad, by all means, stay there. If you will primarily be driving to Balboa Park, La Jolla, or Coronado attractions, another neighborhood might be best to cut down on freeway time. But rest assured there are plenty of places to eat and things to do in Carlsbad to keep you busy.
Tip: During normal times, it’s doable to plan around rush hour traffic. It gets trafficky in the corridor where the I-5 and I-805 freeways meet near Del Mar. Don’t drive through it between 4-6:30 p.m. Instead, plan to eat dinner in La Jolla, Little Italy, or Downtown.
What to Do in Carlsbad with Kids
There are plenty of things to do in Carlsbad with kids besides LEGOLAND California. You can rent a paddle board or kayak 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, a hands-on gallery space that explores musical instruments’ evolution. 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).
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.
Need to Know
Most people who stay in Carlsbad have rental cars. Drive time to San Diego Airport is about 35 minutes without traffic.
There can be pockets of traffic during rush hour on the I-5 freeway, our main artery. Sightseers can avoid it by leaving after or before the commuters.
BEST TIME TO VISIT
For weather, come between July–October. For price, come in shoulder seasons of September (after Labor Day)–beginning of November or January–mid-March. Avoid major golf tournament dates.
THE BIG RESORTS ARE INLAND
Understand that the big, popular resorts are inland, which means you need to drive to the beach.