I lived in Carlsbad for eight years and it still feels like home to me so whenever I head back to the San Diego area with my kids in tow, we pretty much always stay in Carlsbad Village. Carlsbad is a fabulous place for children. There’s Legoland California in Carlsbad, but there are so many other things to do for families traveling there with children of all ages.
Here are some of my favorite things to do with kids in Carlsbad.
If you ask my daughters I’m sure they would say that their favorite thing to do in Carlsbad is playing on the beach. Carlsbad State Beach near Carlsbad Village is great for kids because it’s a little bit more secluded due to the clip area you have to go down to get to it. This can be a bit of a pain for parents since they have to lug all that wonderful kids stuff up and down the stairs, but it’s worth it when you’re at the bottom.
If you don’t want to deal with stairs head further south to Tamarack Beach, where there is a small parking lot you can drive down to and park right next to the sand. There is also lots of street parking, but that might end up being a bit of a hike to get to the beach, though it won’t be quite as strenuous as dealing with stairs.
While little kids will probably be content with some buckets and sand toys to just dig and build castles on the beach all afternoon, older kids will probably enjoy partaking in some of the water activities that you can do in Carlsbad.
Boogie boarding is a huge hit with kids since it’s much easier to master than surfing. The waves along Carlsbad State Beach also tend to break where the water is still waist-deep meaning it’s easier for kids to catch the waves. Plan to stay on the northern part of the beach by Carlsbad Village. If you head south toward Tamarack Beach, the waves get much stronger — which is also why Tamarack Beach is popular with surfers.
If you have a kid who is itching to try surfing in Carlsbad, sign them up for a lesson through SoCal Surf Lessons, which is located right in Carlsbad.
The Carlsbad Flower Fields
If you’re visiting Carlsbad with kids in the spring, you can’t miss an amble through the flower fields. Kids and adults alike will enjoy the bursts of color than line a hillside in Carlsbad just above the Carlsbad Premium Outlets.
In addition to the colorful ranunculus flowers, you’ll enjoy panoramic ocean views as well. The scenic locale also makes a great setting for a family picture.
Carlsbad Tide Pools
A little known beach area in Carlsbad is home to tide pools. Though not nearly as famous as the La Jolla or Point Loma tide pools, you can still see some little sea urchins hanging out amongst the rocks when the tide is out.
To get to the Carlsbad tide pools, head down the beach access stairs off of Cerezo Street, near the power plant.
Go Kart Fun in Carlsbad
To do some Go Karting in Carlsbad, you’ll want to head to K1 Speed Go Kart Track, the largest indoor karting facility on the west coast that houses the longest single track on the west coast (the total track area covers 60,000 square feet!).
In addition to go kating, the facility is home to a game room with aarcade games, pool table, and more.
Hike Carlsbad’s Aviara Trail System
Southeast Carlsbad is home to the Aviara Trail System, one of the best trail systems in San Diego County. The trails are easy enough for most kids to navigate, though if your kids are especially young, consider bringing an Ergo or other kid pack to carry them around in.
Museum of Making Music in Carlsbad
Have a music-loving kid? Introduce them to the history of music at the Museum of Making Music in Carlsbad. The museum focuses on how music has evolved over time and teaches kids about different types of music. In addition, there are a variety of vintage musical instruments available at the museum that kids can pick up and try playing. They may find a new favorite instrument that they want to learn – adults, too!
This is the big thing to do in Carlsbad with kids! And it’s what draws most families to Carlsbad — though as already discussed above, there is much more to do in Carlsbad than just Legoland.
Legoland California has the added benefit of usually being a temperate day (thanks San Diego weather!) so you can usually plan on a day without an umbrella or without kids whining that they’re too hot.
But if it does get too hot, you can just head to the water park…
Legoland Water Park
This is a separate entry because it’s a separate ticket (though you can get the ticket duo and save some money when purchasing your tickets) so if you and your kids aren’t into legos or have been there, done that, then you can just purchase a ticket to the water park.
Sea Life Aquarium
Legoland doesn’t just stop at amusement parks — there is also an aquarium onsite. The Sea Life Aquarium has a fun Lego vibe while also being educational and teaching kids about ocean animals through hands-on exhibits and mesmerizing underwater viewing.
Smoothies and Acai at Beach City Smoothies
This is a great place to get a yummy strawberry smoothie for the kids and a delicious acai bowl for yourself (my favorite in all of San Diego County!). The beachy themed cafe is located right in Carlsbad Village just a couple blocks from the beach, but what makes it so great for kids is the little table set up in a corner with books and games for the kids to play with while you wait for your order. They might even let you eat that acai bowl in peace at one of the tables in the cafe!
Learn Some American History While Eating at Green Dragon Tavern
This is one of the coolest ideas for a restaurant that I’ve ever been to. Located near the Carlsbad Premium Outlets , the Green Dragon Tavern is a unique dining experience. While you wait for table or for your meal to be brought to your table, you can walk around the museum, which is connected to the dining area. The dining room has an old-timey feel, which fits in perfect with the museum that houses memorabilia from the early days of the United States of America, most of which are part of the private collection of Green Dragon Tavern’s owner.
Pints and Play at Park 101
For parents who don’t want to give up on trying new beers on vacation, but don’t want to drag the kids to a tasting room, then your perfect answer is Park 101. This restaurant has many local beers on tap, but what makes it such a hit with families is the large outdoor patio that has yard games in the middle. Kids can play on a large tic tac toe board or throw sand bags while the grown-up enjoy a pint of beer (or iced tea) under the San Diego sunshine.
Children will also enjoy the kid menu that features favorite kid fare, while adults can feast on the BBQ-style offerings.
Park 101 is located right on Carlsbad Boulevard on the southern part of Carlsbad Village.
Other kid-friendly places to eat in Carlsbad:
Pizza Port – Picnic tables are set up inside this laidback pizza joint that doubles as a brewery. There are arcade games against one wall and the exuberant ambiance means no one will notice if your kid is being loud. Pizza Port has two locations in Carlsbad: one right in Carlsbad Village and the other in the neighborhood of Bressi Ranch.
Windmill Food Hall – This is a new food hall located by the windmill in south Carlsbad just west of Legoland and the Carlsbad Premium Outlets. Windmill Food Hall has a number of different food stands inside with lots of seating in the middle — perfect for families that have picky eaters!