I don’t know that I’m some expert on all there is to do in Carlsbad, Calif. But after our recent visit to this beach community in North San Diego County, I feel I know a thing or two about how to enjoy Carlsbad, California.
When the sun is shining, it’s hard to find much more perfect weather than in Carlsbad, California. Even during what we came to discover is known as the May Gray, temperatures hovering in the mid- to upper-60s in late May with just a slight breeze is still sunglasses-worthy.
We stayed in two properties in Carlsbad that, while in the same city, provided two unique experiences. For the first few days of our visit to Carlsbad we stayed at the Cape Rey Carlsbad, a Hilton Resort on the eastern side of California Highway 1, just across from the Pacific Ocean. The end of our stay saw us spend a few days at the Sheraton Carlsbad Resort & Spa, adjacent to Legoland California with distant views of the Pacific.
Two properties in one city on the same trip and what turned out to be the base for two great experiences.
First, the beach.
Cape Rey Carlsbad is situated in a residential area fronting the coastline, where locals run and cycle at all times of the day, not to mention head down to the beach to surf at a time I can only assume is before heading into work.
Carlsbad is one of the beach communities of North San Diego County with a population of some 100,000. With beaches, Legoland and close proximity to San Diego — it’s a 30-minute drive without traffic — it only makes sense there are plenty of visitors. But there is also a business side to the city, making it one we thought long and hard about while visiting as a destination we could see ourselves moving to one day.
And as we enjoyed morning runs along the Pacific Coast Highway with beautiful residences sitting across from the ocean, I could only imagine the people I passed walking, jogging and cycling were living a pretty cool existence that allows time in nature before the daily grind.
We enjoyed walking down to the beach, although it wasn’t the kind of experience we usually have when we head to the Gulf Coast in the American South or other warm destinations such as our visit to Puerto Rico last summer. Standing knee deep as the waves crashed nearby was exhilarating if not cold.
I could see why all the surfers were wearing wetsuits and there weren’t many people playing in the water. That didn’t keep me from giving the experience a go our first day. But it would be off to the heated pool at Cape Rey after that, although playing in the sand and picking up some of the smooth rocks that wash ashore never got old.
We ended our first three days in Carlsbad and went north for a couple of days in Anaheim to visit Disneyland. We returned to Carlsbad for a couple of days of relaxation at the Sheraton and a visit to Legoland.
One of the cool things about the Sheraton Carlsbad Resort & Spa is its proximity to Legoland. A short walk along a paved path from the front of the resort gets you to a private back entrance to Legoland, and the ability to not deal with the crowds at the main entrance.
That private entrance proved invaluable when we were able to easily get back to the hotel for a quick clothing change after getting drenched on a water ride. And after our day at Legoland it was refreshing to relax in the massive pool at the Sheraton Carlsbad and its large hot tub.
Speaking of Legoland, our son had been looking forward to this part of our 10 days in Southern California the most. He’s never been a huge Lego fan, although he does play with the blocks from time to time. He has seen the movie and owns the video game, but he has always been more of a sports guy.
Still, he was excited about this visit, and even after spending time at mind-blowing Disneyland a couple of days prior, Legoland didn’t disappoint.
One of the things I really appreciated about Legoland came at the rides with longer lines where there are Lego play areas set up for the children while parents can wait in line. After standing in line at Disneyland I really appreciated this offering.
Our son is 8, and while I found some of the rides and attractions to be too young for him, there was plenty of great fun for him to want to stay there all day. We had a park hopper ticket that enabled us to check out the aquarium and water park, but we kept finding things to keep our attention in the main Legoland park.
There are plenty of other things to do in Carlsbad, Calif.; we picked strawberries and visited one of the numerous breweries in the area. The Carlsbad Village area has lots of fun shops and restaurants, but we didn’t have a chance to check it out.
Out of a 10-day trip to Southern California, we spent parts of six days in Carlsbad, including drive times to and from Los Angeles and Anaheim. We found that we could have spent more time, especially since the community is a good base to visit San Diego and we would have liked to experience more of that city. Another day enjoying the waterpark at Legoland would have been nice, and more time in the pool at the Sheraton Carlsbad would have hit the spot.
We could have stayed a week at Cape Rey. We had a room overlooking the pool and the ocean in the distance. On our last day there we decided to spend a couple of hours sitting around a fire pit at the property’s restaurant having drinks and food instead of sticking to our original plan of driving into San Diego. It just had a relaxed Southern California vibe that we wanted to savor.
In Carlsbad, California we had a mix of great regional cuisine, relaxing pools at comfortable hotels, unforgettable views of the Pacific Ocean and easy access to a fun amusement park in Legoland. It was a great base for our family’s first trip to Southern California.