Carlsbad is home to miles of beautiful beaches, delightful shops, a highly acclaimed factory outlet, world-classs resorts, a city-owned golf course, excellent restaurants, and LEGOLAND® California. All of make Carlsbad a great place for a vacation as well as the perfect place to live. Carlsbad is also known for its famous Flower Fields, which bloom in early March through May.
Carlsbad has been 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 to Orange County and Los Angeles.
LEGOLAND is one of many Carlsbad attractions to see in sunny Carlsbad
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 TO CARLSBAD
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. This thoroughfare marks the heart of the Village. This unique shopping district is best viewed on foot.
Another option for getting to Carlsbad is to ride the Coaster train 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 airports tab on the navigation bar above.
WHERE TO SHOP IN CARLSBAD
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 designers 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. Across the avenue from the outlet center are a host of free-standing restaurants to choose from including BJ’s Pizzeria, PF Chang’s, and Sam’s Fish House. All are excellent.
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. Highly recommended along State Street are Viggilucci’s for gourmet cuisine at 2943 State Street and their popular happy hour. No less charming for Italian food is Caldo Pomodoro at 2907 State St. While the Farmer’s market is in full swing Viggilucci’s entices customers with their complimentary garlic bread with real butter. It’s to die for!
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.
More Shopping in Carlsbad
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.
ATTRACTIONS IN CARLSBAD
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, is 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 Carrillo’s movies and life. An added treat is 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.
Chuao Chocolatier at 2350 Vida Robles #101 (760-476-0197) must also be considered a local attraction according to chocolate lovers everywhere. Their large store is also their factory.
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 are just down the street to the south. It’s Tip Top Meats a European Deli at 6118 Paseo 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 exciting at Poinsetta Avenue from the freeway or traveling south further on Paseo Del Norte is Pelly’s Fish Market & Cafe at 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. Pelly’s 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 PICTURESQUE VILLAGE OF CARLSBAD
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 ambiance 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 and dinner Sun. – Thurs. 11 a.m.–10 p.m., and Sat. and Sun. from 11 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. If you are a steak lover, you’ll love this place.
For awesome seafood for lunch and dinner, look no further than the Bluewater Grill at 417 Carlsbad Blvd. They are open Sun.–Thurs.1 a.m.–9 p.m.and Sat. and Sun. 11 a.m.–10 p.m. Their other San Diego location is in the historic Coronado Boathouse. They are a big chain of seafood restaurants with a location in Temecula near the wineries. Plus, they have locations in Santa Barbara, Santa Catalina Island, Newport Beach, Tustin, Redondo Beach and even in Phoenix, Arizona. Just opened in Avalon is their new bayfront Toyon Grill Kitchen, Bar, Barista offering outdoor dining in romantic Santa Catalina. With so many locations you know they have to be good. They feature classic contemporary sustainable seafood with a happy hour, kids meals, and are pet friendly.
Previously recommended was Pomodoro and Viggilucci’s, which are both on State Street in the Village. Viggilucci’s has a total of four locations in the Carlsbad area. Owner Roberto Viggilucci is passionate about his cuisine.
WHERE TO STAY IN CARLSBAD
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-bedroom 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.