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Your Complete Guide: Things to See & Do in Carlsbad

a sunset over a sandy beach

Nestled between the City of Angels and the beaches of San Diego is California’s best kept secret: Carlsbad. Anybody who has been to this sleepy town will agree that it is perfect for both a weekend getaway and for settling down. The long list of things to see and do in Carlsbad appeals to all ages, which is why it beloved by so many.  So, what is there to do in Carlsbad today? Check out below our top 15 things to see and do in Carlsbad, so you can begin to plan your first trip!

Whale watching. Whale watchers come from all over the nation to experience whale watching in San Diego. Peak whale watching season goes from mid-December through April. During that time, it’s common to see migrating gray whales, minke whales, humpback whales and fin whales. In late season, whale watchers often witness females with their calves as they travel north. You can even watch them from the shoreline during their migration. 

Legoland California. If you ever find yourself wondering, “What is Carlsbad famous for?” you now have your answer! Legoland is a theme park made up of  60 rides, interactive displays and shows for kids ages 2-12. In addition, Legoland also has a water park! The water park provides the opportunity for the whole family to have fun with more advanced rides and attractions. It’s no wonder Legoland is a Carlsbad staple! 

South Carlsbad State Beach. Asking yourself what to see and do in Carlsbad that are free? The South Carlsbad State Beach is one of the most picturesque stretches of coastline in California, and it won’t cost you a cent. Locals and out of towners alike are often spotted taking advantage of this local landmark by picnicking, swimming, beachcombing, snorkeling and surfing. You can even set up camp at the bluffs above the beach at the South Carlsbad State Beach Campground! The campground offers 220 campsites with access to the beach and amenities including bathrooms, electricity and showers. 

Sea Life Aquarium. The Sea Life Aquarium is the perfect activity for a family trip. This interactive aquarium is located on Legoland Drive in Carlsbad and has over 5,000 sea creatures! Some of the sea creatures include octopus, sting rays, sharks and clownfish. In addition to being interactive, the aquarium offers live diving and feeding shows.

Carlsbad Village. If you’re visiting Carlsbad, locals will without a doubt tell you to spend time in Carlsbad Village. Its downtown location is home to numerous shops, hotels and restaurants and is known to be the best spot in town to explore. There are even 100 different types of vendors!

Leo Carrillo Ranch Historic Park. Spanning 27 acres, the Leo Carrillo Ranch Historic Park only opened in 2003 and is already deemed a historic landmark. The park was once a ranch owned by actor Leo Carillo. Due to its history, the park includes features from its old ranch days such as a reflecting pool and old windmills.

The Flower Fields. Especially in the age of social media, the Flower Fields are an essential place to visit in Carlsbad. The view is absolutely stunning-the field spans up to fifty acres and every inch is covered in colorful Giant Tecolote Ranunculus flowers. The flowers bloom only from early March to May. Although fleeting, the beauty of the Flower Fields leaves a lasting memory.

Oceanside Fishing Pier. Although technically located right outside Carlsbad in Oceanside, Carlsbad locals will tell you to visit the Oceanside Fishing Pier. This iconic wooden pier is the home for all San Diego fishermen. You can catch a multitude of different types of fish, including barracuda, small white seabass, and even yellowtail!

Batiquitos Lagoon. Want to know what to see and do in Carlsbad that are free? The Batiquitos Lagoon is top of the list. Located between Carlsbad and Encinitas, the lagoon is one of the few remaining tidal wetlands on the southern California coast. The lagoon is managed by the wildlife reserve, and is extremely preserved with even calm sports such as kayaking banned. There is an easy trail to hike around the lagoon that provides the perfect opportunity to explore the area.

Cape Rey. Originally opened as the Hilton Carlsbad Oceanfront Resort and Spa, this hotel offers some of the best views in San Diego. The hotel overlooks the Pacific Ocean and is known for its luxurious rooms and suites. Some of the most upscale rooms even offer separate dining and living areas with private balconies!

Food Tours. The foodies of the world will be happy to know that Carlsbad offers some of the best food tours in the United States! The tours are run by extremely passionate culinary guides who take you through some of the most historic neighborhoods in Carlsbad so you can learn about the origin of the food you’re tasting as well.

The Chopra Center. The Chopra Center for Wellbeing is one of the most peaceful escapes in Carlsbad. The picturesque sanctuary is located in the Omni La Costa Resort & Spa and is the perfect place to unwind and meditate. The center prides itself on providing experiences meant to improve your mental, physical and spiritual wellbeing.

Aviara Golf Club. In what is known as the “Golf Manufacturing Capital of the World,” the Aviara Golf Club does not disappoint even the most experienced golfers. The golf club overlooks the Batiquitos Lagoon and provides an ideal location for a day on the course.

Craftsmanship Museum. The Craftsmanship Museum is an extremely unique experience committed to preserving and displaying wood and metal crafts. It is the home to over 500 working miniature engines and even models of airplanes and cars.

GIA Museum. The Gemological Institute of America Museum displays, researches and educates visitors on everything there is to know about gemstones and gemology. The GIA Museum is known to have some of the most exquisite exhibits, including a trumpet made solely of turquoise and gold!