If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen my recent Instagram stories and California picture spam (not really spam, though, because palm trees and donuts are awesome, right?!). I love, love, love Carlsbad. My family has deep roots there (the Little League field is named after my grandfather, who built it so many years ago) – I have lived there, and today my dad, brother and sister all live there. Now, I get to take my kids back to visit, and guess what? They love it there, too.
In Jack’s words..”Man…this is kind of like paradise.”
Today I want to share with you some tips to help you plan your visit to Carlsbad, California, with kids.
Put some thought into when you visit.
- Seasonal water temps (although I have clear memories of visiting the beach and swimming in the ocean in November, December and January, this was likely due to uncharacteristically warm weather conditions and is not the norm). The water last week (mid-April) was in the mid-fifties. Chilly! Like, REALLY chilly. Check out the water temps before planning your trip if swimming in the ocean is going to be the most important part of your trip.
- Tourists and crowds: Sure, the water is chilly is in April, but guess what? The weather is beautiful and the tourists aren’t out in full force yet, which means fewer crowds. Carlsbad and San Diego in general is beautiful year-round. If you can plan a trip during a “down-time” for tourism, you’ll save money and have the place to yourself. Like a local!
- Weather: Expect it to be beautiful most of the year. It will be chilly mornings, evenings, and can be pretty chilly from October-April. Summers can get hot!
- May Gray and June Gloom: This is legit, y’all, so listen up! In May and June, the skies will be grey in Carlsbad all morning and often into the afternoon. Sometimes, they won’t burn off all day. It’s the weirdest thing. Drive just a couple miles inland and you’ll see nothing but blue skies and sunshine. But on the coast, and particularly Carlsbad, the sun will be hidden by haze. Which is not to say that can’t still get a sunburn (sorry!). But you definitely won’t be getting the sunny SoCal beach experience you probably imagined. These weird weather conditions usually start in May and end in June.
Decide where to stay.
Carlsbad is full of beautiful hotels, many within walking distance to the beach. Others, just a teeny bit inland, will be less expensive and still offer great accomodations. You can also look for ahouse on (affiliate link) Airbnb, which might be my new favorite way to travel.
You really can’t go wrong in Carlsbad…start here if you’re looking for a place to stay.
You might also want to take a look at Legoland Hotel if you’re traveling with the kids!
Plan a trip to the beach.
Carlsbad is flanked by beautiful coastline. The kids will love the sandy beaches. You can spend a few hours or all day at the beach, and you have lots of coastline to choose from. My favorite beach is Tamarack beach (parking is free, but can be hard to find during the summer). Pack your beach toys, plenty of sunscreen, lunch and snacks. Or, you can walk the to the Harbor Fish Cafe (which is fun because of its outdoor seating) and grab lunch – then stroll into one of the many surf shops in the area to grab some new flip-flops!
Take the kids to Legoland.
Legoland is great fun for the littles. You can also visit SeaLife Aquarium and the Legoland Water Park – check for tickets that cover admission to all three.
Decide how you’ll get around town.
You’ll probably want to rent a car if you have kids. There’s a lot to see and do, and it’s kind of spread out. You’ll definitely want to rent a car if you plan on visiting other San Diego attractions (which I totally recommend, and talk about below).
I wasn’t sure if a truck would be the perfect vehicle for our trip (we had three adults and two kids in car seats, so it was crowded), but it was perfect. We attended a wedding and my uncle’s house, and they were both located on dirt roads. We loved having the truck for that! Plus, it was great to toss all the luggage into the back (we had a lot of luggage since my son, daughter and I were all in the wedding!).
The Colorado has its own wifi, which was great for the long drives (the wedding venue was over an hour away, and we had to make the drive several times – it was nice the kids could have wifi). It has Apple CarPlay, so our phnoe features were integrated into the dashboard. And it can even wirelessly charge a mobile device, which is awesome because I’m that girl whose phone is never charged.
For trips to San Diego (want to catch a Padre game, for example) or other coastal towns, you’ll also want to check out the Coaster – this train is a handy way to get to places (especially great if you’re going somewhere with limited parking).
Think about food.
OK, honestly? Food is amazing and aplenty in Southern California. You don’t need to do much planning or scope out the best restaurants, because there are so many…you’ll always have one nearby. My recommendation, though, is to avoid chain restaurants and eat as local as possible. If you like Mexican food, ask a local for the best place to get fish tacos. And if you want donuts, make the short drive to Leucadia and get some VG’s. You will not be disappointed.
Y’all. There is SO MUCH to do in southern California. You are within an hour-and-a-half of the mountains, the desert, and Disneyland. What else could you want? Here are some ideas for day trips from Carlsbad:
- Disneyland (about an hour away, but check traffic before you leave – get there right when they open, or even before!)
- Palomar Mountain Observatory (depending on the time of year, there might be snow – this pretty drive will take you to Palomar mountain, where you can find hiking and quaint restaurants – plan out your route before you go, though!)
- San Diego Zoo (wear your walking shoes – the zoo is SUPER hilly)
- San Diego Safari Park
- Visit the mountain town of Julian (eat some apple pie while you’re there!)
- Bates Nut Farm – check out the schedule to see if they have any fun events coming up
- Knott’s Berry Farm
- Go to a Padre game
- Visit Seaport Village (take a Harbor Cruise while you’re there)
- Visit the Midway (this is SO COOL)
- Go to Temecula (this is actually wine country, so not super kid-friendly, but if you can swing an adults-only day trip to Temecula…totally worth it)
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