Carlsbad sign in Carlsbad Village, California

Carlsbad sits along a 7-mile stretch of Pacific coastline and is most notably known as the home of  Legoland. While the theme park is the most famous Carlsbad tourist attraction,  this quaint  seaside town — The Village by the Sea — as it’s called by residents — also offers a wide array of fun activities and places to explore. Next time you head to Legoland with the family, make sure to set aside a bit of time to see more of this beach side town. From picking strawberries to paddle-boarding at the Carlsbad Lagoon or visiting a local farmers market, Carlsbad just may surprise you.  Here are 10 great ways to explore Carlsbad (that don’t include a visit to Legoland).

1. Learn to Surf at Ponto Beach
Ponto Beach is located in South Carlsbad State Beach. The surf here is usually small to medium (2-5 feet) making this a great spot for a first time surfer. Rent a board or sign up for a lesson with a local surf shop and head to Ponto Beach for some fun in the sun and learn to catch a wave.

Surfers at Ponto Beach in Carlsbad, California

Surfers at Ponto Beach in Carlsbad, California

Surfers at Ponto Beach in Carlsbad, California

2. Skimboard at Tamarack Beach
Carlsbad State Beach, known as Tamarack Beach to the locals, stretches from the jetty, just south of Tamarack Avenue, to Frazee Beach, near Carlsbad Village Drive. This is a great beach to try skimboarding. Get a running start, toss the skimboard on the wet sand and slide into the waves. Hours of beach fun!

Skimboarding at Tamarack Beach in Carlsbad, California

Skimboarding at Tamarack Beach in Carlsbad, California

3. Paddleboard or Kayak at the Carlsbad Lagoon
This ocean-fed lagoon just east of the I-5  is open for public use. There is a water sports office located right on the edge of the bay where you can rent lots of equipment for both paddle & motorized watersports plus wakeboarding & waterskiing. There is a small beach with picnic tables and umbrellas as well as life guards on duty.

Paddleboard at Carlsbad Lagoon in Califonia

Lifeguards at Carlsbad Lagoon located in California.


4. Wednesday State Street Farmers Market
The Carlsbad farmers market is ranked 4th of all the markets within San Diego County and is a great place to meet locals, shop for fresh produce, olive oils, balsamic vinegar, hot sauces, and sample delicious food from local Carlsbad and San Diego chefs. Located on State Street Between Carlsbad Village Drive and Grand Avenue; make sure to visit the tamale stand and follow it up with an individual cup sized cheesecake from California Cheesecakes.
Winter hours are from 3-6pm and summer hours are from 3-7pm.

carlsbad farmers market in southern california

5. Visit Carlsbad Village

There are over 100 shops, restaurants, galleries and antique shops located in the heart of Carlsbad Village. Head to State Street to start your exploration of the village. Visit the shops, stop for a treat at the Chocolate Bar or just meander the quaint street.

Chocolate shop in Carlsbad Village in California

6. Explore the Outdoor Art
If you take a stroll in the heart of Carlsbad, you will quickly find murals, statues and sculptures. The City of Carlsbad’s Art in Public Places program, began in 1985 and was the first public art program established in San Diego County. The outdoor art ranges from displays with herbs and flowers to quirky beach themed murals.
california-carlsbad-village-outdoor-art-mural california-carlsbad-village-outdoor-art

7. Shop at the Outlets
90 Outlets including Banana Republic, Barneys New York, Calvin Klein, Cole Haan, Crate and Barrel, DKNY, Lacoste, Michael Kors, Polo Ralph Lauren, Theory, Tommy Hilfiger offering 25% to 65% off regular prices. Need I say more? If you are in the mood to shop until you drop, the Carlsbad Premium Outlets offer a high end shopping experience at discount prices.

Polo Ralph Lauren Store at the Carlsbad Premium Outlets

8. Visit the Museum of Music
This small museum is devoted to the history of music from the 1800’s to current day. If you appreciate music and the history of music, this is a great way to spend a few hours. Make sure to talk to the docents, they are a treasure trove of information and can turn your visit from fun to fantastic.

Museum of Music percussion exhibit located in Carlsbad, California

Museum of Music exhibit located in Carlsbad, California

Museum of Music located in Carlsbad, California

9. Hike or Mountain Bike at Calavera Nature Preserve
Calavera Preserve trail is a 2.4 mile loop trail located east of Carlsbad village. The trail is considered moderate and is a perfect place for a hike, run or even for mountain biking. 

Map for Calavera Nature Preserve in Carlsbad


Calavera Nature Preserve at Sunset in Carlsbad

Photo Credit: City of Carlsbad

10. Camp at South Carlsbad State Beach

There are only a handful of San Diego beaches that offer over night camping and Carlsbad State Beach is one of the most beautiful. The campground is located on a large bluff, overlooking South Carlsbad State Beach. The beach features beachcombing, swimming, boogie boarding, surfing, picnicking, sunbathing, fishing, skin diving and endless views of the Pacific Ocean.

Carlsbad State Beach Camp Ground.


If you visit Carlsbad I recommend the Hilton Garden Inn and Cape Rey Carlsbad. Click here for a full review of the Hilton Garden Inn.

For more Southern California adventures check out A Perfect Day Exploring Oceanside and A Visit to the Legacy Brewing Co.

top 10 things to do in carlsbad besides legoland