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. Below you’ll find our Carlsbad travel guide for best things to do in this seaside town, just 30 miles north of downtown San Diego, California.

Next time you head to Legoland with the family, make sure to set aside a bit of time to see more of this beachside 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).

 

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Top 10 Things to do in Carlsbad

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. South Ponto Beach is open to the public from 6 am to 10 pm and North Ponto Beach is open to the public from 6 am to 11 pm.

Surfer at Ponto Beach in Carlsbad, California

Surfer at Ponto Beach Tamarack Beach in Carlsbad, California

Surfer at Tamarack 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!

Skim boarding at Tamarack Beach in Carlsbad, California

Skim boarding 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 lifeguards on duty. Bring a picnic lunch and stay for the day. The Carlsbad Lagoon is open to the public between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. daily.

 

Carlsbad Lagoon
 
 

lifeguards at Carlsbad Lagoon

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. The Carlsbad Farmers Market is open to the public year-round. Spring/Summer Hours are 3 p.m to 7 p.m. and Fall/Winter Hours are 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Wednesday State Street Farmers Market

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 streets. This is especially nice in the early evening.

Carlsbad Village

Carlsbad Village

 

6. Explore Outdoor Art in Carlsbad

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. It makes for a fun afternoon, as you’ll find many different pieces of street art as you explore downtown.

Outdoor Art in Carlsbad, CA

Outdoor Art in Carlsbad, CA

Outdoor Art in Carlsbad, CA

7. Shop at the Carlsbad Premium 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. The Carlsbad Premium Outlets are open to the public between 10 a.m. and 9 p.m. daily.

Outlets in Carlsbad

 

8. Visit the Museum of Music

This small museum is devoted to the history of music from the 1800s to the 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. The Museum of Music is closed on Monday, all other days it is open to the public between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m.

Museum of Music in Carlsbad, CA

 

Museum of Music in Carlsbad, CA

Museum of Music in Carlsbad, CA

 

 

 

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. I especially enjoy heading out for a hike in the early morning, before the sun reaches is peak!

Calavera Nature Preserve

Calavera Nature Preserve

Photo Credit: City of Carlsbad

 

10. Camp at South Carlsbad State Beach

There are only a handful of San Diego beaches that offer overnight 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. For reservations and to find current campsite costs you can visit parks.ca.gov

 

Camp at South Carlsbad State Beach

Most Popular Tours in Carlsbad

 


 

Best Hotels in Carlsbad

If you visit Carlsbad I recommend the Hilton Garden Inn and Cape Rey Carlsbad.

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