Carlsbad

Carlsbad is a beach city north of San Diego in southern California famous for its flower fields, LEGOLAND resort and water park, surfing, and SEA LIFE Aquarium.

Sunset over the Pacific Ocean in Carlsbad, CaliforniaCarlsbad Sunset

Where is Carlsbad?

Carlsbad is about 35 miles (56 km) north of San Diego. The drive will take you about 40 minutes if you take Interstate-5 or about an hour if you follow the coastal route, which is a lovely drive. Besides, what will you do with the 20 minutes you save by taking the Interstate?

Beach and cliffs in Carlsbad, CaliforniaThe Beach at Carlsbad

Carlsbad is about 90 miles south of Los Angeles Airport, which you can do in about 90 minutes along I-5. If you cut across to the Pacific Coast Highway to do the coastal route, you can add about 30 minutes to that, though more if you want to stop off and see places like Huntington Beach, Newport Beach, and Laguna Beach.

A beach in Carlsbad, CaliforniaA Carlsbad Beach

If you're headed to Carlsbad from LAX for a long vacation, our advice this time would be to take the faster interstate route, and save the beach towns to explore more at leisure during your stay. Carlsbad and Oceanside pretty much run into each other, for example, and you can get to most of the other beach resorts in less than an hour.

Or you could plan a terrific week in southern California by spending a night or two in each place between Los Angeles and San Diego.

Dog wearing sunglasses in Carlsbad, CaliforniaEven the Dogs are Cool in Carlsbad!

You could fly into LAX and out of San Diego, and do a one-way car rental, although these do tend to be more expensive and it might be cheaper to return to the airport you came in at. To get from San Diego to LAX on I-5 will take you about 2 hours.

When to Visit Carlsbad

A thermometer showing summer temperatures in Carlsbad, California

Carlsbad has what's called a semi-arid Mediterranean climate, which means you can pretty much visit all year round. It gets about 12 inches (30.5 cm) of rain a year, and though it can rain any time, you're not likely to see more than a shower or two from May to October.

As for temperatures, even in midwinter the record low temperature has never fallen below 32F (0C). Remember the song 'It Never Rains in Southern California'? Well, that's not true but it is fair to say that it never freezes in Carlsbad. In fact you're more likely to get sunburn in winter than frostbite. One year it reached 99F (37C) in November!  

Although the average temperature from May to October is only in the 60s Fahrenheit (15-20C), chances are you'll have days in the 70s (21-26C) and 80s(27-32C), even the 90s (32-37C). The all-time record high in Carlsbad is 104 degrees (40C), and that was in October.

What to Do in Carlsbad

Colorful flower fields in Carlsbad, CaliforniaCarlsbad's Flower Fields

There are plenty of things to do in Carlsbad, far too many to list them all here. Given that the population is only about 115,000, it certainly punches above its weight when it comes to attractions. Some are seasonal, like its famous flower fields, but others you can normally enjoy pretty much all year, like LEGOLAND and the SEA LIFE Aquarium.

Beaches

A beach in Carlsbad, CaliforniaCarlsbad Beach

Carlsbad has 7 miles (11 km) of sandy beaches, and they range from busy beaches with lots of facilities, to quiet ones with no facilities. South Ponto Beach is popular, for example, with public restrooms and showers, and the Pacific Coast Highway runs right by it.

Tamarack Surf Beach is in the center of town and attracts families and surfers. Alongside it is the 4-mile (6.4 km) Carlsbad Seawall, a paved walking path which separates the beach from the Pacific Coast Highway.

Carlsbad Flower Fields

Colorful flower fields in Carlsbad, CaliforniaCarlsbad's Colorful Flower Fields

The Flower Fields at Carlsbad Ranch are one of Carlsbad's big and unique attractions, if you're visiting from March to about early May. Even if you're not staying in Carlsbad but driving through during that period, it's worth making a stop to see the 50 acres of flowers in bloom, creating an absolute riot of color. 

LEGOLAND

The city's big family attraction is of course LEGOLAND, which is a 10-minute drive south of the city center and close to the Flower Fields. It was the first LEGOLAND to open outside of Europe, and your eyes will pop at the creative way that Lego bricks have been used to create just about anything you can think of - from dragons and Ancient Egyptian tombs to modern US cities, including a miniature Las Vegas, New York, and New Orleans.

At LEGOLAND in Carlsbad, CaliforniaAt LEGOLAND

It isn't just about Lego, though, as it's also a full-blown theme park with lots of rides for kids of all ages, including rollercoasters. You also get chance to build and control your own robot from Lego. Great fun.

LEGOLAND Water Park

LEGOLAND Water Park in Carlsbad, CaliforniaLEGOLAND Water Park

The Water Park is part of the LEGOLAND complex but with a separate admission charge, or you can buy a joint ticket at a discount. Lots of watery things to do, like slides, pools, a lazy river, and so on. You can try building your own boat out of Lego too.

Museum of Making Music

Carlsbad's Museum of Making MusicCarlsbad's Museum of Making Music

This fun Museum of Making Music stands in-between LEGOLAND and the Flower Fields and appeals to kids and adults alike. It covers the history of music from 1900 to the present day, with displays of instruments from around the world and, of course, the chance to make some music yourself. 

SEA LIFE Aquarium

SEA LIFE Aquarium in CarlsbadSEA LIFE Aquarium in Carlsbad

This is also a part of the LEGOLAND park but a separate attraction with a separate admission fee, or you can get a combined ticket with LEGOLAND. A new exhibit called Sea at Night lets you, as you've guessed, discover the nocturnal world beneath the waves.

There are plenty of hands-on experiences too, so if you've ever wanted to touch a shark or an octopus, now's your chance. There are educational talks, too, and plenty of opportunity to see the creatures being fed.

Surfing

Learning to Surf in Carlsbad, CaliforniaLearning to Surf in Carlsbad

There are lots of surfing opportunities in Carlsbad, and if you've always wanted to learn then there are places like the Pacific Surf School that are just dying to teach you.

Where to Stay in Carlsbad

More Information

If you're visiting Carlsbad call in at the Carlsbad Visitor Center. If you're planning a visit, head to the Visit Carlsbad website.

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