There are plenty of things to do in Carlsbad California with or without kids. Read on for our 3 night Carlsbad, CA trip itinerary.
California is such a great place to visit in the United States. If you are planning a visit you should consider a visit to the coastal town of Carlsbad, California.
It is a beautiful beach town with lots of good food and fun things to do. We included Carlsbad in our Southwest Road trip vacation because we wanted to visit LEGOLAND California and ended up having the best time.
By the time we reached Carlsbad we were ready for a more relaxed pace and that is just what we got for our stay in Carlsbad, California.
Carlsbad has a very relaxed vibe. Being from Rochester, NY we all fell in love with the surfer style and atmosphere, it is very different from the Northeast, and is a great spot to enjoy a relaxed California vacation.
We had 3 nights to enjoy the atmosphere and soak up the best things to do in Carlsbad.
Where is Carlsbad, CA
Carlsbad, California is located south of Anaheim and north of San Diego in San Diego county. It is a great location for a quieter stay in Southern California, but close to a lot of great locations.
Keep in mind traffic can be very busy. If you are using Carlsbad as a central location, check the travel times from your destinations. The hour drive to Disneyland can take a lot longer on a busy day.
The best way to get to Carlsbad is by driving. Most people will fly into San Diego when visiting Carlsbad.
Fun Things to Do in Carlsbad, CA
- LEGOLAND California Resort
- LEGOLAND Water Park
- Sea Life Aquarium
- Green Dragon Tavern & Museum: Unique historic dining experience.
- Explore Carlsbad Village
- Visit Carlsbad Ranch to see the Carlsbad Flower Fields, typically blooms in early March.
- Pacific Surf: Surf Lessons
- Carlsbad Aquafarm
- Add a few days of your trip to visit San Diego. You can do a day trip to San Diego Zoo, Balboa Park, or downtown San Diego.
- Visit South Carlsbad State Beach: Popular destination that has easy access to the beach and picnic tables.
- Carlsbad Premium Outlets
- Carlsbad Village Farmers Market
- Carlsbad Food Tours
- Check out a golf course.
- Leo Carillo Ranch Historic Park: Learn about historic adobe buildings, antique windmills, a reflecting pool and many other historic structures.
- Drive up North to spend the day at Disneyland or Universal Studios Hollywood.
- Take a drive along the pacific ocean. Stop at some of the sandy beaches or wineries for wine tastings.
- Batiquitos Lagoon: Preserved wetlands that has trails for the entire family.
- Museum of Making Music: explore different instruments and learn more about the history of making music with interactive exhibits.
The best Carlsbad attractions will be different for each family so consider your priorities when planning your trip.
Where to Stay in Carlsbad, CA
If you are visiting Carlsbad with kids you want to check out the West Inn & Suites hotel. Although not located on the coast it is within 5 minutes from LEGOLAND and offers great amenities for families.
It was the perfect place to stay with our family.
The full breakfast was a hit with the kids. This breakfast was outstanding. From cold cereal and fruit to hot breakfast options, there was something everyone could enjoy.
The hotel also offered game and DVD rentals, cookies and milk in the evenings, as well as a pool and hot tub.
The rooms were very spacious for our family. We had a 2 king suite with plenty of room for our family of five.
If you have your heart set on staying on the coast check out Carlsbad Inn Beach Resort, but honestly the drive from West Inn to the beach was under 10 minutes and we would stay there again.
Where to Eat in Carlsbad, CA
When visiting Carlsbad with kids you want places that are kid friendly and satisfy even the pickiest eater.
We are not the most adventurous eaters but we try to find local places to enjoy when we visit a new place.
If you can only visit one place I highly suggest Cessy’s Taco Shop in Carlsbad Village Drive. It offers large portions and it is delicious. There is not a large dining area so you may want to get it to go or eat outside. (Closed in 2022)
When we travel as a family we tend to order order take-out after a long day of sight seeing rather than go out to eat. One night we order pizza and subs from Primo Pizza and it did not disappoint.
Depending on what you and your family like I suggest checking out this list of options and choose the best for you.
3 Night Carlsbad Itinerary with Kids
This 3 night stay in Carlsbad was part of a big Southwest Road trip we did with the kids. It is still one of my favorite trips ever.
Day 1: Depart from Anaheim to Carlsbad, CA
After spending one day at Disneyland and California Adventure we were ready for the final part of our trip, 3 nights in Carlsbad.
We slept in a little and checked out of our Anaheim hotel then made the short drive from Anaheim to Carlsbad.
Anaheim is 61 miles from Carlsbad. The drive took us about 1.5 hours. Expect traffic and try to plan your day before or after daily commutes.
Our first stop was checking into our hotel for the next three days. We checked into the West Inn & Suites and got settled, unpacked a bit. At that point we were ready for lunch.
We made the 5 minute drive to Cessy’s Taco Shop for lunch. The food was so good!! Huge portions and budget friendly prices. I am so sad that this place closed!! I will have to plan another trip to find something as good as this taco shop was.
After lunch we decided to drive along the coast and explore. We stopped at a Menchie’s for an afternoon snack. Our local Menchie’s closed and the kids were happy to make the stop.
Then we made our way back to the resort where we relaxed, had some pool time, ate leftovers for dinner, and enjoyed the complimentary cookies and milk before bed.
Day 2: LEGOLAND California Resort
We love visiting theme parks and were looking forward to adding LEGOLAND California to our list. We had visited the LEGOLAND Florida and LEGOLAND New York location but we were looking forward to this.
We started with breakfast at the hotel and then arrived before park open to check out the LEGOLAND Hotel and get ready for park opening.
It rarely rains in Southern California but this was one of the rainiest days for us. It rained the entire day and the park was empty except for us and a bunch of school field trips.
The rain almost made our day better because the crowds were so low! A few attractions were closed because of the rain but for the most part we experienced everything.
One of the cool things they have at LEGOLAND California is the Sea Life Aquarium. This is located on the same property but you need a separate or a two-park ticket to visit.
If you are planning a one day visit you can easily visit both parks in one day. Make sure to check the park hours before your visit and plan your day.
After the park we headed back to the hotel, ordered pizza from Primo Pizza, and had a game and movie night. It was a great ending to a fun day.
Day 3: La Jolla, CA
The next day we planned a day trip to La Jolla, California. We hadn’t spent anytime on the ocean and wanted to see the seals.
The drive was under and hour and when we arrived you could smell the seals before you could see them. Parking was difficult to find but eventually we found a spot along the street.
At this point we were tired from all the driving and travel, it was nice to dip our feet in the sand. We spent some time running in the waves.
After that we walked up to see the seals at La Jolla Cove. This was a really special moment. We saw moms and babies soaking up the sun on the shore.
You can’t walk down to the seals and we kept our distance but it was a very cool experience and I was glad we made the drive down to see them.
After that we ended up picking up Five Guys for lunch in our room. We had to take some time to pack and get things ready for our drive to San Diego to catch our flight the next day.
For dinner we ate at a Joe’s Crab Shack in Oceanside. It was along a harbor and we had a great view of the sunset. It wasn’t fancy but it was a perfect last night of vacation dinner.
Day 4: Time to Go Home
We had a mid-afternoon flight which gave us a little time to eat breakfast, go in the pool, and drive down to the San Diego airport to head back home.
Overall we found so many fun things to do in Carlsbad as a family. It was the perfect pace to finish our family vacation.
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Leah has been traveling with her family of 5 since 2012 and sharing her expertise on planning family vacations and visiting theme parks since 2016. Leah has been featured in Visit Rochester, Undercover Tourist, and Home Publications. She has worked with brands like Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando, Hersheypark, Toyota, and various Tourism boards and destinations. Leah creates family travel itineraries based on real trip experiences with her family. Her guides and tips help others plan great family vacations. Learn more about Leah and Five for the Road.