Your Ultimate Day Trip Guide to Carlsbad

When’s the last time you took a jaunt up the coast to see what’s in store in Carlsbad? If you want a fun day around town, grab the kiddos, hop in the car and see what’s waiting for you in this North County coastal neighborhood. Carlsbad has a mix of beautiful nature, great dining, fun-loving sports, cool culture and some SoCal attitude. We’ve scouted out the best spots and put together your hour-by-hour guide to the ultimate day trip in Carlsbad.


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Photo: Ricardo via Flickr Creative Commons

10 a.m. – A Visit to San Diego Lagoon
Start the day off with a healthy dose of sunshine and water at the San Diego Lagoon. With just over 400 acres, this is Mother Nature’s water park. You’ll find a shore front that’s great for the kids to frolic around. If you want to be more active, take advantage of the volleyball net set up along the nature strip. If getting in the water is your thing, check out the rental shop and get involved in tubing, wake boarding kayaking or paddle boarding. The staff at the shop are very willing to help with equipment guidance and how to’s. While you’re at the rental shop, pick up a snack, drink or even have a play on the ping pong table. There are limited restrooms at the lagoon, so plan your bathroom breaks accordingly and perhaps bring some extra water to rinse off. Parking is available at a small lot, or check out parking on street at Cannon Road or Bayview Drive.

4215 Harrison St.
Carlsbad, Ca 92008


Photo: Christina Cross

11.30 a.m. – Get Musical at the Museum of Making Music
Hidden within a non-descriptive office building you’ll find the magical musical emporium that is the Museum of Making Music. Kids will learn a thing or two about the history of American popular music from the swing ear to the Beatles and modern sounds. Musical instruments from saxophones, harps, harmonicas, keyboards and electric guitars cover the walls while exhibits like the power of bass and musical innovations leave everyone with a spring in their step. Speaking of leaving, be sure to allow plenty of time for the kids to get hands-on and make some music of their own. A jam session is definitely in order with keyboards, drum machines and bongos, just to name a few. The museum does get loud, so if your mini Mozart prefer a quieter environment, check out Tuesday and Thursday afternoons after 2.30 pm. Entry is $8 for adults and $5 for kiddos, and keep in mind the museum is closed on Mondays.

5790 Armada Dr.
Carlsbad, Ca 92008


Photo: Green Dragon Tavern and Museum Facebook Page

1 p.m. – Lunch at the Green Dragon Tavern and Museum
With tummies starting to grumble, it’s time to think about lunch. Located five minutes south of Carlsbad Village, the Green Tavern and Museum makes for a perfect family lunch spot. Housed in a replica of the Boston’s original Green Dragon Tavern (where history buffs will note that Sam Adams, Paul Revere and other founders met to plan the Boston Tea Party and American Revolution). This place is huge, so save time to visit their dine-in restaurant for a spot of lunch with New England fare like burgers, lobster rolls, BBQ chicken flat breads and a mean set of pretzel bread dippers. Then leave a bit of time and check out their museum, book shop or grounds. Parking is free and plentiful.

6115 Paseo Del Norte
Carlsbad, Ca 92011

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Photo: Fanklin Lopez via Flickr Creative Commons

2.30 p.m. – Take in a Carlsbad Gem at the Leo Carillo Ranch
Walk off lunch by checking out Carlsbad’s historic national landmark, the Leo Carrillo Ranch. Hidden away past Palomar Airport, this 27-acre historic park is the former working ranch and home of 1950’s actor Leo Carrillo. You’ll be transported away from modern day life with antique windmills, early California architecture, huge trees on expansive grounds and shimmering peacocks that roam around the ranch. Guided walking tours of the building exteriors and park grounds are available on the weekends for a fee or check out the free self-guided tour brochures if you’d rather do it yourself. Check out the visitors center to learn a little more history at the park, and grab a bathroom break if you need it. Make sure you bring your own food and snacks to the ranch to enjoy on their plentiful picnic tables.

6200 Flying Leo Carillo Ln.
Carlsbad, Ca 92009

Photo: Mfnure31 via Flickr Creative Commons 

4 p.m. – Stroll Around Carlsbad Village
Covering several blocks along Carlsbad Boulevard, Carlsbad Village Drive, Grand Avenue, State Street and Roosevelt Street, Carlsbad Village is a downtown district with a small town feel. Tree-lined streets where sunshine beams down on pretty boutiques and eateries make this the perfect place to stroll around and window shop. Check out the New Village Fair for a nice range of specialty shops. The kids will love Lollies and Jollies with candy, toys and kids clothing. When shopping’s over, grab an organic juice at Choice Superfood Bar and Juicery on the corner of Carlsbad Village Drive and State Street. They make several healthy juices (and sweet treats) all housed in an outdoor courtyard perfect for letting the kids run around and draw a masterpiece on the over-sized community chalk board.

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Photo: Bryce Bradford via Flickr Creative Commons

5.30 p.m. – Watch the Sunset at Carlsbad Beach
As the day comes to an end, there’s no better way to say farewell to Carlsbad than taking in a sunset at the beach. Head west on Carlsbad Village Drive and you’ll hit the sands of Carlsbad State Beach. There is plenty of sandy shoreline to take a seat on while you watch mother nature do her work. Or if you’d rather stay active, there are some plenty of walkways sitting up on the cliffs for a leisurely stroll. Parking can be a mixed bag of on street and small beach lots, so if it’s looking busy perhaps leave your car in Carlsbad Village and head out on foot. There are public restrooms at the beach as well.

What’s your favorite thing to do in Carlsbad?  Let us know in the comments below!

– Lenya McGrath


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