33 Best Things to Do in Carlsbad, CA (By a Local)
👉 Jump to: Best Things | Beaches | Food & Drink | Sites & Attractions | Outdoor Adventure | Museums & Culture
One of the best beach towns in the U.S., you’ll find a ton of fun things to do in Carlsbad.
And, as a Carlsbad local, I’m here to share the best of it with you! Carlsbad has epic sunsets and some of the most gorgeous sandy beaches near San Diego. Plus, there are great roots to uncover here — a coastal town in North San Diego County, Carlsbad was originally the home of the Luiseno Tribe.
From Carlsbad’s European-style charm of the Village by the Sea to the cozy suburban life inland, there’s so much to explore within this picturesque Southern California town. Let’s dive into my picks for the best stuff to do in Carlsbad in 2022.
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33 Best Things to Do in Carlsbad
The Flower Fields
Get joyfully lost in a sea of rainbow flowers
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (760) 431-0352 | Website | Hours: 9 am – 6 pm daily, 2022 Blooms Season March 1 – May 8 | Entrance: $22 adults, $20 seniors/military, $10 children
Carlsbad Flower Fields near Legoland is famous for its colorful ranunculus flowers that bloom every spring. They bring people from near and far to walk through their beauty.
If you’re looking for seasonal and specialty things to do in Carlsbad, then the field hosts a variety of events with which to enjoy the flowers – including wine tasting, yoga, tea time, painting, and music. Then, in the off-season, watch them grow and sprout all over again.
If you don’t want to pay admission, but still want to enjoy the scene from a different viewpoint, check out the benches and walking path next to the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) Museum. You’ll find locals picnicking here while the sun sets over the flower field.
👉 Pro Tip: Go early in the season to pick your own blueberries and to walk the sweetpea flower maze.
Carlsbad Strawberry Company
Pick up fresh strawberry baskets or handpick your own berries
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (760) 603-9608 | Website | Hours: 9 am – 5 pm daily, year-round produce market | Entrance: $15, bucket & entrance fee for u-pick events
Another great field is the Carlsbad Strawberry Company, right off Cannon Rd. In the Spring and Summer, stop by the field to enjoy freshly picked strawberries or to pick your own (picking your own can be done from March through July).
Then, during the fall from September to November, they convert the field into an amazing pumpkin patch and event space. Check out their apple shooting cannons, tractor rides, a bounce land for kids, a haunted corn maze with a secret saloon, and a sunflower maze.
Carlsbad Beach Boardwalk & Seawall
Feel the breeze as you stroll the paved oceanfront pathway
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (760) 720-7001 | Website | Hours: 6 am – 11 pm daily | Entrance: Free | Free Parking Lot at 3093 Ocean St.
The paved and fenced boardwalk in downtown Carlsbad boasts scenic views of the ocean while, right below it and parallel to the beach, the seawall is another great walking path. Both paths are about a mile long. If you’re looking for a nice stroll, this is a hot spot for dog walkers, roller bladders, runners, and outdoor enthusiasts.
Carlsbad Village Farmers Market
Shop fresh produce in the heart of the vibrant village
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (760) 453-7076 | Website | Hours: Fall/Winter – Wednesdays 2:30 pm – 6 pm, Spring until 6:30 pm, Summer, until 7 pm | Entrance: Free | Dogs Allowed
One of the best Farmer’s Markets near San Diego is right in Carlsbad Village on State Street. Farmers come from surrounding areas to bring special varietals of fruits and vegetables, flowers, kombucha, and all sorts of baked goods.
I guarantee you’ll find something you’ve never tried before at the Carlsbad Village Farmers Market. The market is nicely laid out with space to roam, and they even feature live music performances. The best part? You’re only a few blocks away from the ocean for a farm-to-beach picnic.
Legoland & Sea Life Aquarium
Play all day at a colorful theme park
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (888) 690-5346 | Website | Hours: Legoland, Sun 10 am – 6 pm, Mon-Fri 10 am – 5 pm daily, Say/Sun till 6 pm, Sea Life, 10:30 am – 6:30 pm daily | Entrance: $99, 1-day theme park + aquarium | 👉 Browse Tours on Viator
Two of the most popular theme parks in California, The Legoland California Resort and Sea Life Aquarium are centrally located in the city of Carlsbad. Both are a kids’ paradise with vibrant and interactive hands-on learning exhibits, rides, and games.
You’ll need to make sure you have an admission ticket to both Legoland and the Sea Life Aquarium, even though they are on the same property. If you happen to be visiting in summer, then don’t miss the incredible July 4th fireworks at Legoland California Resort!
🛎️ Need a Hotel? Stay overnight at the Legoland Hotel to experience uniquely-themed rooms overlooking the Legoland California Resort park. It’s one of the best places to stay in Carlsbad.
Agua Hedionda Lagoon
Boat, fish, and paddle around a saltwater lagoon near the ocean
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (760) 804-1969 | Website | Open Daily | Entrance: Free
Not far from the Carlsbad State beach lies an ecological reserve full of a variety of fish (including the intriguing jumping mullet fish). This is a great spot with calm water for fishing, stand-up paddleboarding, stand-up paddleboard yoga, kayaking, and motorboats.
Watersports are a highlight here, but it is also a great place to hike or walk around with a trail that leads to the beach.
👉 Looking for more activity ideas? Check out our mega list of unique things to do in San Diego for more fun.
Shuck an oyster at Southern California’s only shellfish farm
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (760) 908-2744 | Website | Hours: 9 am – 4:30 pm daily | Entrance: $30 for adults, $10 for kids
Probably one of the best-kept secrets of this city is the Carlsbad Aquafarm. Located right on the Carlsbad Lagoon, this is a great place to learn about the facility’s sustainable ocean farming practices.
You can order oysters and muscles for pick up, but definitely sign up for the farm tour. The tours receive a hands-on oyster shucking demonstration and tasting amidst great scenery. The Aquafarm is a major highlight for those looking for educational things to do in Carlsbad.
Carlsbad’s New Village Alley Art Wall
Explore the creative diversity and murals of Carlsbad’s cherished local art scene
📍 Google Maps | Website | Hours: Open Daily | Entrance: Free
There’s a strong art scene in Carlsbad, thanks to a longtime native artist, Bryan Snyder (Snyder Art). You can spot Bryan’s art trickled throughout the village, such as in the new Tyler Street alley – a community art wall with a mission to foster creative expression and artistic individuality. The alley consists of a handful of talented muralist collaborations along with a blank space where teen street art workshops encourage learning.
👉Street Art Lover? Don’t miss the rest of the village art scene. Save this local mural map I’ve custom-created for you to keep on exploring!
Carlsbad Premium Outlets
Snag the best bargains on your favorite brands
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (760) 804-9000 | Website | Hours: Monday – Thursday, Sunday, 11 am – 7 pm, Friday – Saturday, 10 am – 8 pm | Entrance: Free | Stores: Dogs allowed
If you visit Carlsbad and love a great deal, then take a trip to the Carlsbad Premium Outlets. The Carlsbad Outlets include over 60 stores with up to 60% off retail prices.
They have a great selection of name brands including Nike, Vans, Banana Republic, Michael Kors, Adidas, and Tory Burch, plus a Ruby’s Diner. This outdoor mall has plenty of parking and seating all around, perfect for resting, people watching, having coffee, or having a bite to eat.
Omni La Costa Resort & Spa
Experience Spanish colonial-style architecture amidst a relaxing golf and spa retreat
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (760) 438-9111 | Website | Hours: Spa – Wednesday – Sunday 9:30 am – 5:30 pm, Golf – Open Daily 7 am – 6:30 pm | Entrance: Free, be sure to book treatments or tee time prior
One of the longest-standing hotels in Carlsbad, CA, is formerly the La Costa Resort & Spa, now a part of Omni. This spot is great for travelers willing to spend a little more money for a luxurious experience.
The grounds of the property are pristine with a top-rated golf course, a luxurious spa, and a pool. I can vouch for their amazing paraffin wax foot pedicure, in particular. They also have diverse restaurants along with a specialized fitness and nutrition retreat (the latter of which took the place of the previous renowned Deepak Chopra retreat).
South Carlsbad State Beach
Hang cliffside for epic views and catch some rays swimming, surfing, picnicking
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (760) 438-3143 | Website | Hours: Open daily, 6 am – 10 pm | Entrance: Free | $15 Campground parking lot, free street parking | free secure bike parking spaces
South Carlsbad State Beach is just a few minutes drive from Carlsbad Village. The beach is fairly remote so it’s a great choice if you’re looking for less-crowded beach activities.
Also, right above the beach is a great campground with the fantastic Campstore – San Diego’s only bluff-top bar and restaurant. They often feature live music!
Robert Frazee State Beach
Avoid the crowds with extra space for outdoor activities
📍 Google Maps | Beach public group sports | Hours: Open daily, 6 am – 10 pm | Entrance: Free | Free Parking Lot at 3093 Ocean St.
In my opinion, Robert Frazee Beach is one of the best Carlsbad beaches within Carlsbad State Beach. It’s a spacious and sandy beach that sits between Carlsbad City Beach and Tamarack Beach.
This beach is central to the village, runs parallel to the boardwalk and seawall, and is right below the scenic overlook. Additionally, the local Carlsbad Village Athletic Clubs hosts volleyball, yoga, and special events right on the sand. This makes for a great fitness-infused activity when looking for things to do in Carlsbad.
🏖️ Beach bum? Then check out this list of the best beaches in Southern California!
Food & Drink in Carlsbad
Sips & Sunsets
Experience Carlsbad Village over a delicious drink
📍 Google Maps | Website
Let me remind you that Carlsbad is home to a ton of bars and restaurants from which you can catch incredible beach sunsets. So many bars have oceanfront views and live music.
Then, after the sunset, walk down State Street where you’ll find more spots to drink up this beach town’s nightlife. Some favorites include 264 Fresco, Jeune et Jolie, Beer Republic, Dini’s, Witch Creek Winery, and Campfire.
Discover the cuisines that make Carlsbad a foodie favorite
📍 Google Maps | 👉 Browse Tours on Viator
Downtown Carlsbad is packed with specialty food shops and a mix of cuisines that will satisfy every craving. Between the popular Handel’s ice cream shop (though I prefer GelatoLove,) the animal-shaped bao buns at Harumama, the Compass Sunday brunch and dog menu, and the lattes at Lofty Coffee, you’re in for a treat.
The best way to taste your way through the Village is through a culinary and history tour. Plan ahead and check out Carlsbad Food Tours to reserve your ticket before you go.
👉 Pro Tip: If you’re looking for places outside of Carlsbad Village, then check out Pelly’s Fish Market, Bressi Ranch, and the Windmill Food Hall.
Carlsbad Sites and Attractions
Indulge in a luxurious spa day and farm-to-table dining overlooking Carlsbad Beach
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (760) 602-0800 | Website | Hours: Oceanfront Brunch – 6 am – 10 am daily, until 11 am on weekends | Ocean Crest Spa – 9 am – 6 pm, Thursday – Monday | $26 self-parking, $31 valet parking, or free street parking
Cape Rey, a Hilton Resort and Spa, is located in South Carlsbad. The views from the pool are fantastic, especially from the sunset terrace at Chandler’s Restaurant.
The amenities on site are everything you need for an elegant beach getaway. For relaxing things to do in Carlsbad, check out the hotel’s Ocean Crest Spa for eco-friendly treatments and seasonal specials.
Handled Pottery Studio
Immerse yourself in local artistry and nourish your own creativity
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (760) 277- 4535 | Website | Hours: Monday, Tuesday, & Thursday, 6 pm – 8:30 pm, Wednesday and Friday by appointment from 10 am – 1 pm, Saturday 10:30 am – 1 pm and evenings by apt., closed every 3rd weekend of the month | Classes: $65 for adults, $35 for kids
Shop handmade dinnerware, mugs, and gifts, or learn how to create them yourself at Handled Pottery Studio. They have tons of events to stop by and test your skills on the potter’s wheel. The instructor will teach you how to knead your clay, develop techniques on the wheel, and glaze your creations.
Check out their adult date nights, coffee and ceramic events, and kids’ crafts too.
👉 Visiting from San Diego? Our guides on the best places to go camping near San Diego and where to stay in San Diego will help you plan your trip and find you the best accommodations.
Coastal Rail “Fairy” Trail
Spot the fairy doors along a luscious and somewhat hidden public trail
📍 Google Maps | Website | Open Daily | Entrance: Free | Street parking
When looking for unique things to do in Carlsbad, look for the hidden fairy doors down the Coastal Rail Trail. The trail is less than a mile long from Tamarack Ave to Oak Ave, and is right near the train tracks.
This trail is well traversed by dogs, walkers, runners, bikers, and visitors looking for a nice paved and well-maintained path in town.
Shop the Village
Meander the streets of the village to find unique local souvenirs
📍 Google Maps | Website | Hours: Most shops open 10 am – 6 pm daily | Entrance: Free | Free street parking
You never know what you’ll find when meandering the streets of Carlsbad Village and hopping inside the unique boutiques. State Street is lined with retail shops, as well as the Village Faire Center a few blocks down the street.
Here, you’ll discover a mix of beachy clothing, shoes, jewelry, furniture, florists, home goods, and other Carlsbad souvenirs. Make sure to check the website before visiting in case you want to attend one of the various annual events and street fairs.
👉 Pro Tip: Take the Pacific Surfliner Amtrak to nearby coastal towns for shopping and entertainment.
Shop the Forum
Check out Carlsbad’s well-known upscale shopping plaza
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (760) 479-0166 | Website | Hours: 10 am – 8 pm Monday – Saturday, 11 am – 6 pm Sunday | Entrance: Free | Free parking lot
The Forum of Carlsbad is an upscale and outdoor shopping center that is within driving distance from Carlsbad Village. Stores here include Lululemon, Apple, H&M, Anthropologie, and Urban Outfitters.
They also have great dining options for lunch, dinner, and coffee, plus a local health-conscious grocery store. The Forum has exquisitely-designed mini play centers, great for kids and parents needing a travel break.
Scenic Overlook of Carlsbad Village
Rest your feet at this peaceful, grassy, meeting spot
📍 Google Maps | Hours: Open daily | Entrance: Free | Free Parking Lot at 3093 Ocean St.
Carlsbad’s Scenic Overlook is a mini grass park that’s connected to the boardwalk and an oceanfront parking lot. This place has tons of benches is people-watching worthy.
On any given day or night, I recommend coming here to watch oodles of dogs, sunset goers, picnics, meetups, fitness workouts, musicians, and a group of fire dancers and acrobats (yes, I said fire dancers!) Coming here is completely free so, if you’re a budget traveler, then this is the perfect thing to do in Carlsbad.
Easily hike a coastal wetland through a eucalyptus-lined trail
📍 Google Maps | Website | Hours: 6 am – 9 pm daily | Entrance: Free | Free street parking
For a Carlsbad attraction that is tranquil, Batiquitos Lagoon nature is quite serene. Located in South Carlsbad, CA, Batiquitos is one of few remaining preserved tidal wetlands.
It has a nice and easy walking or running trail, and the lagoon is home to a variety of birds and other wildlife – great for a photography excursion. While I recommend visiting Batiquitos Lagoon for its open water and nature trail, you can learn more about this protected habitat at the Batiquitos Lagoon Nature Center during business hours.
Carlsbad Alkaline Water
Drink water from a historic artesian mineral well
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (760) 434-1887 | Website | Hours: 9 am – 6 pm daily | Entrance: Free | $0.90 per gallon, machines only take $1, $5, $10 bills and coins
Have you ever tried mineral water? When visiting Carlsbad Village, stop by the historical landmark for delicious local mineral water, and hydrate with ph-balanced h20.
Around the outside exterior are self-vending machines for filling up large jugs of water – it’s a very Carlsbad thing to do. Note that the Mineral Water Spa is temporarily closed but should open back up soon for their mineral spa treatment and massages.
Hosp Grove Park
Retreat to a cool, shady eucalyptus grove hideaway not far from town
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (442) 339-2510 | Website | Hours: 8 am – 10 pm daily | Entrance: Free | Free parking lot
You won’t even realize you’re in Carlsbad near Buena Vista Lagoon when walking through Hosp Grove Park. It is quite tucked away in a secluded pasture, so while it can be extremely calming, I recommend going there with a group.
Hosp Grove includes a 3-mile trail that’s nestled beneath 50 acres of trees. You can see the ocean from parts of the park as well as the nearby Buena Vista Lagoon. There are also recreation areas with a children’s play area and picnic tables. Overall, Hosp Grove is great for nature enthusiasts, wildlife spotting, picnics, and leisurely hiking trails.
Aviara Golf Club
Golf at a hillside course designed by the one-and-only Arnold Palmer
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (760) 603-6900 | Website | Hours: Monday 8 am – 6 pm, Tuesday – Sunday 6:30 am – 6 pm | Tee Time: $200 on average
Carlsbad is known as a golf manufacturing capital with prestigious golf brands including Callaway and Taylor Made headquartered here. Aviara Golf Club is located at Aviara’s Park Hyatt Hotel and is known as one of the best courses in California. Plus, it’s great for all skill levels.
This beautiful golf course was designed by the famed golfer Arnold Palmer. Wildflowers, waterfalls, and ponds line the course, and it also includes a driving range and a nice bar and lounge.
Adventure off the beaten path for a Carlsbad secret gem
📍 Google Maps | Best time to explore: Sunrise – Sunset | Must walk there, no parking
This list wouldn’t be complete without including the top-secret things to do in Carlsbad. The secret swings are hidden near the Sunny Creek Apartments. To get there, head past the parking lot towards a dirt road that leads to residential houses. Before you get to those houses, you’ll find a creek concealed behind some bushes.
Adventure awaits. Once found, enjoy the calming creek and swing right over it!
🚗 Wanna take a day trip? Check out these best day trips from San Diego for more SoCal inspiration — most are well within reach of Carlsbad!
Ride through Carlsbad at the speed of the ocean breeze
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (760) 729-2453 | Website | Hours: 10 am – 5 pm daily | Rentals: $20 – $35 hourly, $40 – $135 overnight | 👉 Browse Tours on Viator
Pedego Carlsbad is minutes from the beach and a great place in Carlsbad Village to get cruisers and electric bike rentals. It’s locally owned and also a full-service bike shop.
Pedego also has guided bike tours if you’re interested in cruising down the coastline and pedaling past some awesome views. The tours do fill up fast so you’ll want to book your preferred bike tour beforehand. If you plan on self-exploring, then I recommend biking to the Campstore in South Carlsbad and back – it makes for a nice loop.
📚 Related Reading: Looking for more things to do in the area? Then bike on over to the next beach towns and bookmark my guides to what to do in Oceanside and what to do in Encinitas.
Evrgrounded & Evrbottle
Experience a unique little shop with lots of charm
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (760) 884-9390 | Website | Events | Hours: By appointment
If you’ve been to other businesses in Carlsbad Village, then you might have already experienced a part of Evrgrounded (rebranded from Evrbottle). They’re an artistic welding shop that made some of the welded signage and furniture you see at State Street Commons and Jeune et Jolie.
To get to their storefront, walk down a hallway of Alice-in-Wonderland-esque butterflies and lush greenery, adjacent to the pottery studio. Spot Evrgrounded’s hobbit-looking door installation/patio, where they sometimes hold special events.
Their amazing craftsmanship is taught during welding workshops and their gift shop includes handcrafted items with repurposed materials.
The Skyline Farm Stand
Feel like a local at the neighborhood farm stand
📍 Google Maps | Hours: Sunrise – Sunset | Entrance: Free | Street Parking
On your way to Carlsbad Village, stop by a produce stand that overlooks a hillside view of the ocean up ahead. For those looking for off-the-beaten-path things to do in Carlsbad, this farm stand should be on your list.
The stand sits in between residential houses so you’ll definitely feel the neighborhood vibe. What’s unique about the Skyline Farm Stand is that payment is by the honor system (leave cash, or Venmo). Their produce is rather inexpensive with great baskets of tomatoes for $5, $1.50 avocados, 50 cent sweet peppers, $1 onions, and more.
Museums and Culture
Museum of Making Music
Interact with exotic instruments throughout the musical ages
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (760) 438-5996 | Website | Hours: 10 am – 5 pm, Tuesday – Sunday | Entrance: $15 general admission, $10 seniors/students/military, children are free age 3 and under | Free parking lot
The Museum of Making Music is located on the first-floor lobby of NAMM’s headquarters in Carlsbad, Ca. National Association of Music Merchants is a non-profit serving the music industry with educational events on new instruments, gear, sound, lighting, and recording innovations.
Visiting the museum will transcend you into the ages of musical evolution. You’ll hear all genres from pop, rock, jazz, folk, modern fusion, and more. Watch videos, hear audio clips, and pick up and play an instrument in the museum’s highly interactive exhibits and live events.
Witness the design quality and model engineering of buildings and vehicles
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (760) 727-9492 | Website | Hours: 9 am – 4 pm, Thursday – Saturday, closed Holidays | Admission: Free
Calling all history buffs. Learn about the historical makers behind the fine craftsmanship era at a museum great for the entire family. You could easily spend a few hours browsing several exhibits here, and the displays include metalworking, woodworking, aircraft, automobiles, preserved machine tools, and vintage steam and diesel engines housed in glass cases with informative plaques.
Appreciate the fine art and craft of creativity brewing in Carlsbad
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (760) 696-3022 | Website | Events | Hours: 2 pm – 7 pm, Thursday – Saturday | Entrance: Free | Street parking
These days, we could all use more meaning, connection, and a home away from home. At the PHES Gallery in Carlsbad Village, gain inspiration and walk away with new ideas.
This warm and inviting gallery in a converted lavender house sits on a quiet part of bustling State Street. This is more than just a gallery, it is a blossoming creative hub and event space for community connection, artist talks, poetry readings, live music, and so much more.
🚗 Need a car? Driving is one of the best ways to get around Southern California, and the car rental service Discover Cars makes finding the best vehicle for your needs a breeze!
New Village Arts
Head to the local theater for an intimate musical production
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (760) 433-3245 | Website | Hours: 12 pm – 5 pm, Tuesday – Friday | Tickets Range: $33-41, general, $15-23, student | Free street parking
New Village Arts Theatre, an award-winning theater group, creates shows in an intimate setting in Carlsbad Village. This small but mighty theater puts on powerful shows across performance art, musicals, and other ensembles. When you watch a show here, you’re getting a talent cast directly from San Diego, as the theater embraces and fosters local talent.
Gemological Institute of America
Spot rare gems and learn from the experts in all things gemology
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (760) 603-4000 | Website | Hours: 8 am – 5 pm Monday – Friday, temporarily closed | Entrance: Free | Free parking lot
The GIA Museum at the Gemological Institute of America is known for research and education on the gemology and jewelry arts industry. The museum has a notable guided tour but is temporarily closed to ensure both the public and students’ safety. It should open back up soon for self-guided tours around the gems and jewelry exhibits.
Here, you’ll find the exhibits sprinkled throughout the campus, highlighting a mix of the GIA collection as well as private collector pieces.
👉 Want More? Check out all of Travel Lemming’s free travel guides to California.
Thanks for reading my picks for the most popular and unique things to do in Carlsbad California! The next time you head to Carlsbad, CA, I hope you have a blast enjoying all the best activities and local happenings. For more great coastal inspiration, check out this list of the 21 best beaches in Southern California!
Have fun finding the best things to do in Carlsbad!
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Wonderful website! We already know what to do now.
Traveling to Carlsbad this week. A bit cool but we will look at some of your travel sites . Very helpful. Looking to go NE from Carlsbad one day- Joshua Tree national park and maybe Bear Lake.
Hi Bob – Travel Lemming has a great guide to Joshua Tree you can check out too. Enjoy your trip and thanks for reading!