Carlsbad is the third largest city in San Diego County. The city has a relaxed beach town atmosphere away from the urban madness of LA and SD, but close enough for easy access. It has a 7 mile stretch of mostly undeveloped coastline with nice beaches, secluded coves and picturesque cliffs that are well maintained and accessible. Its northern neighbor is the second biggest city in San Diego County, Oceanside. South of Carlsbad is the affluent beach town of Encinitas.
Carlsbad is a favorite destination for families and foreign tourists, especially Germans.
For families with children, Carlsbad's biggest draw is Legoland California, a theme park based on the popular toy line with sculptures made of the little plastic bricks and lots of Lego-themed rides. The downtown Carlsbad Village by-the-Sea area is a nice place to spend the day shopping and eating at an eclectic mix of places. For now the area has kept a charming mix of the Old California single story development - giving its European Village feel - with the modern amenities of a modern city.
Carlsbad is served by Amtrak via its Pacific Surfliner service between Los Angeles and San Diego, however only a limited number of trains calls here. Another option are the more numerus commuter Coaster trains between Oceanside and San Diego, run by NCTD. There are two stations in Carlsbad, 1 Carlsbad Village located at 2775 State St near downtown and 2 Carlsbad Poinsettia located at 6511 Avenida Encinas, between Palomar Airport Road and Poinsettia Lane.
There's also regional Metrolink trains from Los Angeles to nearby Oceanside, from where it's possible to either take a bus or taxi to Carlsbad.
- Palomar Airport (CLD IATA). Carlsbad's local airport is open to general aviation. In the past, it has served commercial commuter flights but this is no longer the case.
San Diego International Airport (SAN IATA) is the closest major airport to Carlsbad. From SAN, you may take San Diego Transit's Route 992 bus to the Santa Fe Depot, connect to the COASTER, and get off at the COASTER stations at either Carlsbad Poinsettia or Carlsbad Village.
The North County Transit District provides public bus service within Carlsbad.
- 1 Legoland California, One Legoland Dr (exit I-5 at Cannon Road, turn east, then turn south onto Legoland Drive), ☏ . Operating hours vary. Sister park to the Danish park themed to the phenomenally popular toy line. Strikingly accurate Lego sculptures, thrill rides, a pair of water parks, and more. Adults $89, children 3-12 $83, children under age 3 free; water park extra $21 (parking $15 per car, $20 RVs, $5 motorcycles).
- 2 Flower Fields. For six to eight weeks each year - from early March through early May, almost fifty acres of Giant Tecolote Ranunculus flowers are in full bloom. Admission to the fields is $11, though the fields are quite visible from outside as well.
- 3 Sea Life Aquarium at Legoland Resort, 1 Legoland Drive (next to the entrance to Legoland), ☏ . Operating hours vary. An aquarium with touchpools, play areas, and lots of interactive exhibits for children. $20; discount if purchased online; can be purchased in combination with Legoland admission.
- 1 Carlsbad Mineral Water Spa, 2802 Carlsbad Blvd, ☏ . Hot baths in Carlsbad.
- 2 Carlsbad State Beach, from Cannon Road north to Pine Street (near the end of Palomar Airport Road). One of the area's nicest beaches. In warm weather there may be stingrays, so walk carefully. The area also has an R/C Gliderport along the cliffs.
- 3 Carlsbad Village Street Faire, Grand Ave from Carlsbad Blvd to Jefferson St, ☏ . First Sunday in May and November. 900 vendors and an international food court.
- Carlsbad Pipeline. Beachwear and accessories.
- Carlsbad Premium Outlets, off Carlsbad Village Drive. Upscale outlet center.
- St John Outlet, 5617 Paseo Del Norte (Across from the Carlsbad Premium Outlet Mall), ☏ . 10:00-8PM. St John Knit, Outlet. Boutique style store with range of St John signature collections and great prices.
- 1 Benihana. Part of a chain of Japanese restaurants. Their food is good, and they prepare it entertainingly right in front of you.
- 2 Captain Keno's, 158 N Coast Highway 101, ☏ . Large portions. $3 breakfast all day, $3 spaghetti after 4.
- Claim Jumper. South of town on I-5. Part of a chain of tasteful Old West themed restaurants featuring large proportions of good food. Especially recommended is the steak.
- Coyote Bar & Grill. Mostly featuring Southwestern and Mexican food, a wide range of tequilas, and live bands.
- Daily News Cafe. Relaxed breakfast and lunch cafe near the beach. They have Reubens on Sunday.
- Fish House Veracruz. Located near the train station. Fresh seafood.
- Tip Top Meats. European market with a restaurant in the back that serves European foods. The lines can be long but its a local favorite.
- Las Olas. Mexican Reseraunt in the heart of Carlsbad.
- Cesseys. Mexican restaurant near the beach that has cheap good Mexican food.
- Jay's Gourmet. Pizza and seafood and seafood pizza.
- Rubio's Fresh Mexican Grill, at the Carlsbad Company Stores near Palomar Airport Rd. & I-5. A chain of unique restaurants spanning California and several other western states which has its roots in the San Diego area and is headquartered in Carlsbad. Try an Original Fish Taco.
- Yoshino Japanese Deli, 2913 State St. 10:30–13:00 Mon–Sat. Very good sushi and poke bowls at reasonable prices.
Gluten-Free Dining: If you are on a gluten-free diet you are in for treat. The following restaurants are located in Carlsbad Village and are walking distance from the train station: Pizza Port offers delicious gluten-free pizza and carries gluten-free beers and ciders. For Mexican dining try Garcia's, Norte, and Las Olas all of who can provide gluten-free options. Several Italian restaurants will substitute gluten-free pasta including Caldo Pomodoro and Vigilucci's. O'Sullivan's Irish Pub offers bangers and mash plus traditional corned beef (ask for no whiskey sauce). The Coyote Bar and Grill has an excellent roasted half chicken and other menu options that can be made gluten-free.
- Pizza Port Carlsbad, 571 Carlsbad Village Dr.. Beer enthusiasts will want to check out this place, which was featured in the Beer Advocate's Top 50 places to drink beer in America. The pub is family-friendly, and the California-style pizza is a local favorite. They also host local beer-tastings and microbrew events.
- Vinaka Cafe, 300 Carlsbad Village Dr #211, ☏ . Fresh coffee, tea and food in a comfortable coffee shop atmosphere. It's upstairs in the center of the Village Faire shopping center. Prices are about average coffee shop prices.
- 1 Carlsbad Inn Beach Resort, 3075 Carlsbad Blvd, ☏ . Charming beach-side vacation resort.
- 2 Carlsbad Seapointe Resort, 6400 Surfside Ln, toll-free: . Check-in: 4PM, check-out: 11AM. A seaside resort located adjacent to Carlsbad State Beach. Each condo has full kitchens, fireplaces and balconies with views. Two ocean view pools, lighted tennis and basketball courts, a putting green and fitness center. $98-399.
- Four Seasons Aviara Residence Rentals, 7210 Blue Heron Pl, toll-free: . Studios with mini kitchens up to two bedroom three bath full condos
- Park Hyatt Aviara Resort, 7100 Aviara Resort Dr, ☏ , fax: . Formerly the Four Seasons Aviara, this is a fine luxury resort, which features a golf course designed by Arnold Palmer.
- Grand Pacific Palisades. A resort overlooking the California flower fields, less than a mile from the beach. Across the street from a pedestrian entrance to Legoland.
- Homewood Suites by Hilton, 2223 Palomar Airport Rd, ☏ . Check-in: 3PM, check-out: 11AM. An all-suite hotel with fully-equipped kitchens. Complimentary hot breakfast daily, dinner with beer and wine Monday-Thursday, and high-speed Internet.
- La Costa Resort & Spa, 2100 Costa Del Mar Rd, toll-free: .
- Motel 6 Carlsbad Downtown, 1006 Carlsbad Village Dr, ☏ , fax: .
- Quality Inn & Suites, 751 Raintree Dr, ☏ , fax: . Hot breakfast, Hi-speed Internet, parking, outdoor heated pool, fitness center, in-room fridge/microwave all included in rate. Walking distance to beach.
- Residence Inn San Diego Carlsbad, 2000 Faraday Ave, ☏ , fax: . Suites with full kitchens.
- Seabreeze Vacation Rentals, 3150 Ocean St, ☏ .
- Sheraton Carlsbad Resort, 5480 Grand Pacific Dr, ☏ . Panoramic Pacific Ocean views from hotel and its 20 Grill & Wine Bar. Expansive free-form swimming pool and unique, marine-based treatments in its spa.
Carlsbad State Beach. A beautiful area south of town on the Pacific Coast Highway. Reservations required most dates.