Discover small-town charm with all the amenities of a big city By Marguerite Cleveland
Charming Carlsbad, California, was named after Karlsbad, a famous spa in Bohemia due to mineral springs with a similar mineral content. Overlooking the Pacific Ocean, the town sits on the traditional lands of the Luiseño Indians, who first settled this coastal area. Visitors will love the 7 miles of beautiful beaches. Explore the historic village with adorable local shops and restaurants. History abounds with the nearby Carrillo Ranch and other historic attractions. There are miles of trails in the canyons, and golf enthusiasts will find upscale resorts with scenic yet challenging courses. Enjoy all the beauty California has to offer without the traffic and congestion of its larger cities.
Visitor Information - VisitCarlsbad.com
Where to Stay The Residence Inn San Diego Carlsbad is in a perfect location to explore all Carlsbad has to offer. Just a short drive away are beaches, Legoland, Carlsbad Historic Village, miles of hiking trails, and premium outlets. The all-suite hotel’s renovations were completed July 15, 2022, and the hotel feels brand new. There is a lovely pool area with lush landscaping. All rooms are suites and include a full kitchen—which comes in handy when traveling with children. Eat your main meal at lunch, then, after a day of exploring, have dinner in your room or out by the pool. Before heading out in the morning, enjoy a full hot breakfast included in your room rate.
If you want to stay oceanside, then the Carlsbad Inn is the place to be. The coastal vibe of this boutique hotel is just steps away from the beach in the center of downtown Carlsbad. Guests can choose from rooms and suites, as well as one-bedroom condos—featuring a full kitchen, dining and living area. If you're staying here, there's really no need to rent a car, as all amenities are right out your doorstep, from shopping and dining to entertainment. And, of course, the beach is ready to greet you at a moment's notice. Start your morning or end your day in the ocean-view courtyard.
Where to Eat Carlsbad has an eclectic dining scene, and some of the best restaurants can be found in Carlsbad Village. Take a food tour with Carlsbad Food Tours for a detailed overview of the history of the village and try a variety of tasty treats on this walking tour. The company’s website is also a wealth of information about where to dine outside of the village.
Campfire is a unique restaurant situated in an old Quonset Hut that serves up food cooked over a fire. The concept is fun, and the dining room is boisterous. Chef Eric Bost’s menu utilizes the best of local California ingredients and is seasonal based on what is fresh. The service is fantastic, and the servers are well versed on the menu and concept of each dish. The menu has a whole section highlighting just vegetables. Make sure to try the broccoli. This dish has remained on the menu exactly as it first appeared due to its popularity. The broccoli is roasted to a nice crispy outside with chermoula, lime and peanut. It lives up to the hype.
Eating at a butcher shop may seem a little strange, but this local favorite will change your mind. “Big John” Haedrich, the founder of Tip Top Meats, defected from East Germany and eventually made his way to California. Well versed in German meats and sausages, he eventually added a market and restaurant to his butcher shop. Order at the counter, then enjoy fresh cooked German specialties such as Sauerbraten, Rouladen, deli meats and German sausages. The lunch menu has such a large variety of sandwiches and entrees that it is hard to decide. You can order takeout meals, which are perfect to reheat at your hotel. Well worth a stop.
Guests will find 13 independent local food vendors inside the Windmill Food Hall. Most small vendors can’t afford a liquor license, and what makes this food hall unique is a full-service bar with craft bar and creative cocktails. So, order your favorite meal from your table with the unique ordering system, which allows you to order from multiple restaurants on one ticket. Once it is ready, pick it up from the vendor. This place has a cool vibe with live entertainment and events monthly. There are also board games available to play at your table.
Things to Do Make the Leo Carrillo Ranch Historical Park top on your list of things to do while in Carlsbad. Leo Carrillo was a famous actor who appeared in over 90 movies. His greatest fame came later in life on television when he played Pancho on the “Cisco Kid” in 156 episodes. Living and working in Hollywood, he wanted a retreat with the added goal of helping to preserve the ranch lifestyle from the early days of California. His ranch is now a historical site and a wonderful place to visit. Make sure to bring a picnic lunch to enjoy the property. There is a self-guided tour of the property and trails that connect to other trails in the area if you would like a longer hike. The best place to start is at Stop 12 on the walking tour at the Old Hay Barn. This serves as the visitors’ center, and guests can request to see the movie about Leo Carrillo’s life. The movie is truly fascinating and makes a better start to the tour. Bring water and sturdy shoes. The property is open to visit, and the historic buildings are open when docents are available, so call before heading there.
Mission San Luis Rey is known as “King of the Missions.” It was founded in 1798 and was named after St. Louis IX, King of France in the 13th century. Prior to the Spanish occupation, the Luiseño people inhabited the region. The mission now sits on 56 acres and is a great destination to explore some of the early history of California. Start your tour at the Museum with a self-guided map that will take you through the historic buildings and around some areas of the property. The mission church is recognized as one of the most beautiful among the 21 California missions. It is the only one that has a wooden dome and cupola. Insider Tip: Guests can also take a Behind-the-Scenes tour, which are offered a few times a month. Entertaining and knowledgeable docents lead a 75-minute walk through areas of the mission grounds that are not usually open to the public.
There are so many options of things to see and do in the area. The Carlsbad Seawall is a 4-mile walking trail that is popular with joggers, walkers and cyclists, and the roller blade craze is still a thing here. It overlooks Carlsbad State Beach, which is the perfect spot to watch the sunset followed by a meal in the village. Legoland California Resort, the Legoland Waterpark, and the Sea Aquarium are fun, family attractions. If visiting in the spring, the Flower Fields at Carlsbad Ranch will dazzle visitors with 50 acres of flowers, which really stand out when the surrounding area is so brown.
With mild temperatures year-round and very few rainy days, Carlsbad is the perfect late winter or early spring getaway destination. It is easy to get to via the San Diego International Airport. A rental car is a must to explore all this area has to offer. You won’t regret splurging on a convertible.