Carlsbad has a relaxed oceanfront atmosphere away from the intense urbanization of LA, but close enough for easy access. It has 7 miles of mostly undeveloped beaches that are connected to its larger northern neighbor Oceanside. South of Carlsbad is the smaller beach town of Encinitas. Carlsbad has been a tourist destination since the 1800's when the railroad stopped on its way to San Diego. Today the Coaster takes you to San Diego 10 times per day. In 1880's spring water was discovered (with qualities similar to the Bohemian city of Karlsbad) and put Carlsbad on the map as a resort destination. With the advent of the automobile Carlsbad became a frequent stop for Angelenos on the way to San Diego when it took days to drive. Even today many Angelenos and OC residents come to Carlsbad to relax and enjoy an Old Southern California beach town the way LA, OC and SD once were.
Carlsbad is also a favorite destination for foreign tourists, especially the French, Italians, Scandinavians and Germans. Summer is the most popular time with families on summer break especially from Arizona. While winter has less visitors still a good amount visit from Oregon and Canada. For European (and particularly Danish) tourists and young children, Carlsbad's best draw is perhaps Legoland California.
The city has over 100,000 residents spread out over 40 square miles. The main tourist area is Carlsbad Village - a dense downtown area with many restaurants, night spots and shopping. The main street is Carlsbad Village Drive (CVD) starting at the 5 freeway and connecting to the beach just under a mile away. The commercial downtown area spreads 1 block south and 2 blocks north of CVD. This area has retained its Old California beach town atmosphere due to strict development policies implemented during the 80's before the large population boom.
The second main tourist area is La Costa - a suburban residential area with legendary golf and tennis resorts such as Aviara Four Seasons and La Costa Resort & Spa. This area is in the SE corner further inland from the ocean connected by large streets meandering up and down the hills and canyons. Tennis and golf is very popular in this area with some of the largest US golf corporate headquarters here.
Three large (for the area) salt water lagoons are also excellent natural attractions. With many miles of hiking trails and many different birds they are popular with locals. Another great attraction is the 7 miles of mostly undeveloped coastline. This offer a variety of options - from long sandy beaches to secluded coves and the campground cliffs. Surfing is popular year round at the Tamarack reef and beach breaks on the north end, Ponto jettys on the south end and the Campground reef and beach breaks in between.
Carlsbad is located about 30 miles north of San Diego on Interstate 5. The Pacific Coast Highway (California State Route 1) passes through Carlsbad as well.
Carlsbad has two train stations: Carlsbad Village (on State Street just north of Grand Avenue) on the north side and Carlsbad Poinsettia (on Avenida Encinas between Palomar Airport Road and Poinsettia Lane) on the south side. Both can be reached via the COASTER regional rail line, which runs between Oceanside (northern neighbor of Carlsbad) and the Santa Fe Depot in downtown San Diego.
If you are traveling from Los Angeles or Orange County, take Amtrak's Pacific Surfliner  or Metrolink's  Orange County Line to Oceanside. From the Oceanside Transit Center, take the COASTER, a bus, or a taxi to Carlsbad.
Carlsbad's local Palomar Airport (IATA: CLD) has commercial commuter flights to Los Angeles on United Express and to North Las Vegas on Vision Airlines, as well as general aviation.
San Diego International Airport (IATA: SAN)  is the closest major airport to Carlsbad. From SAN, you may take San Diego Transit's Route 992 bus to the Santa Fe Depot, connect to the COASTER, and get off at the COASTER stations at either Carlsbad Poinsettia or Carlsbad Village.
John Wayne Airport (IATA: SNA)  in Orange County is the next closest major airport; the nearest Amtrak/Metrolink stations are in Santa Ana, Tustin, and Irvine.
The North County Transit District provides public bus service within Carlsbad.
Legoland California, One Legoland Drive (exit I-5 at Cannon Road, turn east, then turn south onto Legoland Drive), +1 760 918-5346, . Operating hours vary. Sister park to the Danish park themed to the phenomenally popular toy line. Strikingly accurate Lego sculptures, thrill rides, and more. Adults $63, children/seniors $53, children under age 3 free (parking $10 per car, $11 RVs, $5 motorcycles).
Flower Fields, . For six to eight weeks each year - from early March through early May, almost fifty acres of Giant Tecolote Ranunculus flowers are in full bloom. Admission to the fields is $11, though the fields are quite visible from outside as well.
Carlsbad Mineral Water Spa, 2802 Carlsbad Blvd, +1 760 434-1887, . There are hot baths in Carlsbad.
Carlsbad State Beach near the end of Palomar Airport Road, is one of the area's nicest beaches. In warm weather there may be stingrays, so walk carefully. The area also has an R/C Gliderport along the cliffs.
Carlsbad Village Street Faire, Grand Ave from Carlsbad Blvd to Jefferson St, ☎ +1 760 931-8400, . First Sunday in May and November. 900 vendors and an international food court .
Carlsbad Pipeline. Beachwear and accessories.
Carlsbad Premium Outlets, off Carlsbad Village Drive, . Upscale outlet center.
Benihana. Part of a chain of Japanese restaurants. Their food is good, and they prepare it entertainingly right in front of you.
Captain Keno's, 158 N Coast Highway 101, +1 760 753-4555. Large portions. $3 breakfast all day, $3 spaghetti after 4.
Claim Jumper, south of town on I-5. Part of a chain of tasteful Old West themed restaurants featuring large proportions of good food. Especially recommended is the steak.
Coyote Bar & Grill. Mostly featuring Southwestern and Mexican food, a wide range of tequilas, and live bands.
Daily News Cafe. Relaxed breakfast and lunch cafe near the beach. They have Reubens on Sunday.
Fish House Veracruz located near the train station. Fresh seafood.
Jay's Gourmet. Pizza and seafood - and seafood pizza.
Rubio's Fresh Mexican Grill, at the Carlsbad Company Stores near Palomar Airport Rd. & I-5., . A chain of unique restaurants spanning California and several other western states which has its roots in the San Diego area and is headquarterd in Carlsbad. Try an Original Fish Taco.
Gluten-Free Dining: If you are on a gluten-free diet you are in for treat. The following restaurants are located in Carlsbad Village and are walking distance from the train station: Pizza Port offers delicious gluten-free pizza and carries gluten-free beers and ciders. For Mexican dining try Garcia's, Norte, and Las Olas all of who can provide gluten-free options. Several Italian restaurants will substitute gluten-free pasta including Caldo Pomodoro and Vigilucci's. O'Sullivan's Irish Pub offers bangers and mash plus traditional corned beef (ask for no whiskey sauce). The Coyote Bar and Grill has an excellent roasted half chicken and other menu options that can be made gluten-free.
St John Outlet, 5617 Paseo Del Norte Carlsbad (Across from the Carlsbad Premium Outlet Mall), ☎ 760-585-9781. 10:00-8:00pm. St John Knit, Outlet. Boutique style store with range of St John signature collections and great prices.
Pizza Port Carlsbad, 571 Carlsbad Village Dr., . Beer enthusiasts will want to check out this place, which was featured in the Beer Advocate's Top 50 places to drink beer in America . The pub is family-friendly, and the California-style pizza is a local favorite. They also host local beer-tastings and microbrew events.
Vinaka Cafe. Fresh coffee, tea and food in a comfortable coffee shop atmosphere.
Carlsbad Seapointe Resort, 6400 Surfside Lane, ☎ +1 877 477-7368, . checkin: 4:00PM; checkout: 11:00AM. A seaside resort located adjacent to Carlsbad State Beach. Each condo has full kitchens, fireplaces and balconies with views. Two ocean view pools, lighted tennis and basketball courts, a putting green and fitness center.$98-$399. (33.113201,-117.322228)
Four Seasons Aviara Residence Rentals, 7210 Blue Heron Place, ☎ (800) 828-4466, . Studio's with mini kitchens up to two bedroom three bath full condo's
Park Hyatt Aviara Resort, 7100 Aviara Resort Drive, +1 760 448-1234 (fax: +1 760 603-6801, . Formerly the Four Seasons Aviara, this is a fine luxury resort, which features a golf course designed by Arnold Palmer.
Grand Pacific Palisades, . A resort overlooking the California flower fields, less than a mile from the beach. Across the street from a pedestrian entrance to Legoland.
Homewood Suites by Hilton, 2223 Palomar Airport Road, ☎ +1 760-431-2266, . checkin: 3PM; checkout: 11AM. An all-suite hotel with fully-equipped kitchens. Complimentary hot breakfast daily, dinner with beer and wine Monday-Thursday, and high-speed Internet.
La Costa Resort & Spa, 2100 Costa Del Mar Road, (800) 854-5000 .
Quality Inn & Suites. 751 Raintree Dr, +1 760 931-1185 (fax: +1 760 931-0970), . Hot breakfast, Hi-speed Internet, parking, outdoor heated pool, fitness center, in-room fridge/microwave all included in rate. Walking distance to beach.
Residence Inn San Diego Carlsbad, 2000 Faraday Ave., +1 760 431-9999 (fax: +1 760 431-0777), . Suites with full kitchens.
Sheraton Carlsbad Resort, 5480 Grand Pacific Drive, +1 760 827-2400.  Panoramic Pacific Ocean views from hotel and its 20 Grill & Wine Bar. Expansive free-form swimming pool and unique, marine-based treatments in its spa.
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