Miles of beautiful beaches, delightful shops, a highly acclaimed factory outlet, world-class resorts, a city-owned golf course, excellent restaurants and LEGOLAND® California make Carlsbad a great place for a vacation as well as the perfect place to live. Carlsbad is also known for the famous Flower Fields, which bloom in early March through May.
Long recognized as one of the most picturesque coastal communities in Southern California, Carlsbad is blessed with sun-splashed beaches, three graceful lagoons and a quaint downtown Village. The Village, which is in North Carlsbad, is home to many antique stores, boutiques, sidewalk cafés and romantic beachfront hotels. Carlsbad is definitely one of the prettiest and most desirable places to live. Plus, it’s freeway close from Orange County and Los Angeles.
South Carlsbad is centered around exciting attractions like the world famous Carlsbad Flower Fields. Carlsbad is also home to SEALIFE™ Aquarium and LEGOLAND® California (13), a 128-acre family theme park dedicated to families and children between the ages of 2 and 12. They also offer a 250 room kid-friendly hotel. For resort information, call (760-918-LEGO) or visit [www.LEGOLAND.com].
HOW TO GET THERE
Carlsbad, which is just south of Oceanside, is less than a 45-minute drive from downtown San Diego via Interstate 5, and slightly longer on historic North Coast Highway 101. The 101 route is by far the more pleasant, with its spectacular coastline scenery and the opportunity to stop at excellent beaches that stretch for miles.
If you prefer to travel on Interstate 5, take the Carlsbad Village Drive off-ramp and drive west a half mile to State Street, the heart of the Village. This unique shopping district is best viewed on foot.
Another option is to ride the Coaster that runs between downtown San Diego’s Santa Fe Depot and Oceanside. There are two Coaster stations in Carlsbad: the Poinsettia station and the Village station (see map for their locations). Regular round-trip fare is ($11) and ($5.50) for seniors and disabled persons. For information call (760-966-6500).
With nearly 142,000 flights a year, North County’s commuter commercial airport is McClellan-Palomar Airport (16) at 2198 Palomar Airport Rd. (760-431-4646). This popular regional airport is only three minutes from Interstate 5. See map. It is home to 304 aircraft and brings in more than $359 million to the Carlsbad economy. This state-of-the-art airport includes a new terminal building, parking lots and a restaurant. For commercial airline and reservation information, see the Welcome chapter.
WHERE TO SHOP
Shopping adventures in Carlsbad are abundant. The quaint village lends itself to shopping and dining, and is the perfect place to while away an afternoon. Also here is Carlsbad’s big shopping attraction, Carlsbad Premium Outlets.
Carlsbad Premium Outlets
Located just 30 minutes north of downtown San Diego is Carlsbad Premium Outlets® (2), 5620 Paseo del Norte (760-804-9000). With 90 designer and name-brand outlet stores, it’s one of the most upscale outlet shopping destinations in the county where you’ll enjoy savings of 25 to 65 percent every day. A walk through this beautiful village-style center will reveal a collection of designer and leading brands that will thrill even the most discriminating shopper. As for where to dine, there is a wide variety of dining options to choose from at Carlsbad Premium Outlets, including Rubio’s Fresh Mexican Grill, Panda Express, Ruby’s Diner, San Sai Japanese Grill, Starbucks Coffee and more.
Carlsbad Premium Outlet Center has annual sales during the weekends of Presidents’ Day, Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day and Columbus Day. Plus their famous After Thanksgiving Sale kicks off at midnight as Thanksgiving ends and continues with special savings through Sunday. The center is open Mon.–Sat., 10 a.m.–9 p.m.; Sun., 10 a.m.–7 p.m. with extended hours for selected sales and holidays. The center is located off Interstate 5 between Palomar Airport and Cannon Roads. Plus, it’s part of the family of Premium Outlet Centers®, which has locations across the United States, Mexico, Japan and Korea. Find more information about Premium Outlets here .
Known as “The Village by the Sea,” Carlsbad has the charm of a delightful European village. Its many antique stores and boutiques, sidewalk cafés and romantic hotels are just a short walk from the beach. After browsing in delightful little shops and relaxing over lunch at a sidewalk café, you will likely succumb to Carlsbad’s charm.
While in the Village, don’t miss the State Street Farmers’ Market in Carlsbad Village (18) held between Grand Avenue and Carlsbad Village Drive. Local vendors gather to sell everything from fresh fruits and vegetables to flowers, specialty foods and crafts. It takes place Wed. at 3 p.m. rain or shine. Plus, it’s California Certified, which means only the freshest produce from local farmers is offered.
Also be sure to visit The Village Faire (20) at 300 Carlsbad Village Dr. (760-434-3838), a shopping center with distinctive New England architecture. Village Faire, which is one block west of the center of the Village, features lots of little shops, boutiques, services and restaurants surrounding a spacious patio and large fountain.
For destination shopping at its very best, The Forum Carlsbad (5) at 1923 Calle Barcelona (760-479-0166) gets rave reviews. It’s near the corner of El Camino Real and Leucadia Boulevard at Calle Barcelona. Name-brand stores include Talbots, an Apple Store, Anthropologie and Free People.
In season, the famous Flower Fields at Carlsbad Ranch (7) (760-431-0352), located at the corner of Palomar Airport Road and Paseo del Norte, are a sight to see. In the spring from March through Mother’s Day, a rainbow of brightly colored flowers can be seen from Interstate 5, and all but stops traffic. There are 50 acres of colorful ranunculus and a mixture of specialty flowers shimmering on the hillside.
Celebrating its 16th anniversary is The Museum of Making Music (17), which is located near LEGOLAND at 5790 Armada Dr. (760-438-5996). Open Tues.–Sun., 10 a.m.–5 p.m. General admission is ($10), seniors, students and active military ($7) and children under 3 are admitted free. The focus of this impressive museum is to present a nostalgic walk through the past 100 years of American music and music-making. Featured are more than 500 vintage instruments. Plus, there are lots of interactive exhibits and hundreds of audio and video clips. This is a unique educational adventure for everyone! Credit cards: AE, DISC, MC, VISA.
If you feel the need for speed, visit K1 Speed (11) at 6212 Corte Del Abeto (760-929-2225) [k1speed.com/carlsbad-location]. At their indoor karting center, you’ll see firsthand what K1 Speed has to offer. Battle it out with friends and family and see who can set the fastest lap.
One of Carlsbad’s most popular attractions is The Leo Carrillo Ranch Historic Park (14) at 6200 Flying Leo Carrillo Lane (760-476-1042). It’s a wonderful tribute to one of California’s famous movie stars. Park guides provide informative tours filled with insights into the culture of Hollywood and its stars from the 1930s. A video presents pictures from Leo Carrillos movies and life. An added treat are the many peacocks that wander the grounds. The historic site is open Tues.–Sat., 9 a.m.–5 p.m. and Sun., 11 a.m.–5 p.m.
CARLSBAD’S RESTAURANT ROW
East of Interstate 5 along a two block stretch of Paseo Del Norte (see map) is home to a dozen excellent restaurants. Each one is so special that you owe it to yourself to dine in each one.
The newest addition to this classy restaurant row is an incredible showpiece called The Green Dragon Tavern and Museum. Believe it or not but it is literally 22,000 sq. ft. in size, which is about five times the size of a typical restaurant. And its centerpiece is a fascinating “must see” historical museum devoted to the American Revolution. You’ll see Samuel Adams’ signature, lottery tickets and other artifacts from the American Revolutionary War.
This one-of-a-kind museum is the private collection of the restaurant’s owner. And he chose to create a stunning recreation of the two story tavern where Benjamin Franklin, Sam Adams, John Hancock and our founding fathers frequently met to wage war for American Independence just to showcase his valuable collection.
And Paul Revere left his name in history by departing from the original tavern to alert the militia sounding the alarm that “the British are coming”. There is no doubt about it, the recreation of the American Revolutionary Headquarters at The Green Dragon Tavern at 6115 Paseo Del Norte (760-918-2421) should be your first choice for where to dine in Carlsbad. See Restaurants. Both the two story tavern and the comfortable main dining room are excellent dining destinations as well.
Soon after discovering the Green Dragon Tavern, you’ll undoubtedly discover that the rest of Paseo Del Norte is filled with a long list of potential dining destinations as well. A landmark restaurant and market serving delicious breakfast, lunch and dinner is just down the street to the south. It’s Tip Top Meats a European Deli at 6118 Paseon Del Norte (760-438-2620). And next door to the north of The Green Dragon Tavern and Museum is a popular hamburger spot called Islands Restaurant.
Everybody’s favorite for a quick burger is Ruby’s Diner at 5630 Paseo Del Norte (760-931-7829) in the Carlsbad Premium Outlets (2). Here too is a Panda Express, everybody’s favorite for Chinese Food. Everybody’s favorite is BJ’s Restaurant and Brewery at 5613 Paseo Del Norte (760-579-4440) for great salads and delicious pizzas and great tasting brews. Another pizza spot is Blaze Pizza at 5620 Paseo Del Norte (760-804-9027).
Just down the coast a bit is Pelly’s Fish Market & Cafe, 7110 Avenida Encinas, Suite 101 in the Poinsetta Village Shopping Center, South Carlsbad (760-431-8454) [pellysfishmarket.com]. Open Sun.–Thurs. 10 a.m.– 8 p.m.; Fri. & Sat. 10 a.m.–8:30 p.m. Pellys is destination dining at its very best, it’s been a local favorite for fish lovers from near and far for 27 years! So what makes Pelly’s a San Diego original? Owner Dave Marker has championed fish markets as being where to get the freshest fish anywhere. Most of the fish is locally caught, and it’s a great place to eat. Remember to save room for Pelly’s homemade Key Lime Pie.
DINING IN THE VILLAGE
For over 30 years the best seafood and steaks restaurant in Carlsbad with an ocean view is none other than Dini’s Bistro by the Sea (6) at 3290 Carlsbad Blvd. (760-434-6000). On hand to greet you is often one of the owners. They also have the best beach bar ambience in town. Located at the south end of the Tamarack Beach Resort, Dini’s now has an all-day menu. Their hours are Monday, Wednesday and Thursday 11:30 a.m.–9:30 p.m., Tuesday 3 p.m.–9:30 p.m., Friday 11:30 a.m. – 10 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday 10 a.m.-9:30 p.m. If you are interested in after-dinner cocktails, the bar stays open every night until 1:30 a.m. Delicious salads, steaks and seafood have made Dini’s a local favorite. For great seating, ask for table 14 or ask to be seated on the patio.
Also recommended in the village is KoKo Beach Restaurant (12) (760-434-6868) at the corner of Grand Ave. and Carlsbad Blvd. They’re open for lunch Mon.–Fri. 11 a.m.–midnight, and Sat. and Sun. from 10 a.m.–midnight. They specialize in prime rib, hand cutting their steaks every morning, but their seafood is delivered fresh six days a week, too. A house favorite is their perfectly-cooked steaks and a delicious baked potato with all the trimmings.
For awesome seafood for lunch and dinner, look no further than the newest location of the Bluewater Grill at 417 Carlsbad Blvd. They feature classic contemporary meals with a happy hour, kids meals, pet friendly and sustainable seafood.
WHERE TO STAY
For great places to stay, you won’t be disappointed with the fine selections available throughout Carlsbad. In fact, LEGOLAND® even has accommodations for adults and kids with an emphasis on the word “Kids”. It’s kid friendly! Highly recommended is the Tamarack Beach Resort (19) at 3200 Carlsbad Blvd. (760-729-3500) or (800-334-2199), which genuinely captures the charm of Carlsbad. This resort with its Mediterranean-style architecture and decor has 54 full-service one- and two-bedrooms vacation rentals and 23 luxury hotel rooms overlooking the beautiful Pacific ocean. And it’s housed in the same building as Dini’s Bistro by the Sea.
CARLSBAD WALKING AND DRIVING TOUR