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Best Family Things to Do in Carlsbad California

Best Family Things to Do in Carlsbad California


The seaside community of Carlsbad in San Diego county offers visitors fresh ocean air, walkable dining options and plenty of outdoor entertainment. For families traveling with younger kids, LEGOLAND California is the perfect theme park adventure! Keep reading for a family friendly hotel recommendation and best dining spots. Additional details on outdoor activities, travel tips and best things to do in Carlsbad.

I received two days overnight stay at the Sheraton Carlsbad, lunch at 7 Mile Kitchen, and complimentary use of bicycles from Pedego. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Mom Rewritten uses affiliate links which means I may earn a small commission if you purchase through the links in these posts. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. For more information, see the Privacy Policy and Disclosures tab.

Best Things to Do in Carlsbad – Booking the Right Hotel

My husband and I stayed for the first time at the expansive Sheraton Carlsbad Resort & Spa. This 50 acre complex offers 169 guest rooms and suites. The resort location is just a few miles east of the beaches and adjacent to LEGOLAND California.

These highlights make it one of the more kid friendly hotels in the Carlsbad area. For families visiting LEGOLAND California, the Sheraton Carlsbad has a private entrance for guests visiting the theme park.

Lobby at Sheraton Carlsbad in San Diego
Lobby in Sheraton Carlsbad

In addition to the free form pool with water slide there are plenty of lounging spaces around the pool area to relax. Return to the resort in the evenings to gather around the many fire pits located around the property.

Many rooms also offer balconies and chairs to enjoy the weather or watch the sunset. I’m sharing tips for planning a perfect family vacation to Carlsbad with additional details about this resort throughout the article – keep reading!

Woman wearing a facial covering sitting near a fountain at the Sheraton CArlsbad hotel in San Diego

Safe Travel at Sheraton Carlsbad Resort & Spa

The Sheraton Carlsbad is following Marriott’s Commitment to Clean Standards, not only in individual hotel rooms but in the public spaces as well. All proper health, safety and social distancing guidelines are being implemented at the hotel.

Lobby at Sheraton Carlsbad in San Diego
Sheraton Carlsbad check in with clear dividers & hand sanitizing stations

With San Diego following the state of California’s guidelines, there are certain restrictions that extend to public areas. There may be a restriction on the number of people permitted in the pool area. This might mean signing up for a time slot so check with the front desk at check-in.

During our visit the Sheraton Carlsbad fitness center was limiting use to one family at a time inside the gym room. Check with the front desk about current guidelines.

Empty fitness center at the Sheraton Carlsbad hotel

Rooms at the Sheraton Carlsbad

Continuing the safe travel theme, all rooms are sealed with a sticker after thorough cleaning. Our room was on the fourth floor, one of the 48 Studio Ponto Suites, with views of the Pacific coastline.

Ideal for those traveling with children, this resort room offers a king bed, separate room with two twin-beds and a shared bathroom. Three televisions, a mini-fridge and large lounging space make this room perfect for work or play retreats. 

Woman sitting on edge of bed holding a glass of wine at the Sheraton Carlsbad

Guest rooms include a desk with data ports, complimentary Wi-Fi, and streaming services on TV. The Sheraton’s signature Sweet Sleeper beds are in a word – AMAZING. I slept so well and the mattress and pillows were unbelievably comfortable. For a complete room tour with video, see my Carlsbad Instagram Highlights.

Best Things to Do in Carlsbad With Kids

This was my second time staying in Carlsbad. Last time we brought our kids and are planning another trip to bring them again. There are a lot of great things to do in Carlsbad with children and teens!

Here are a few top family activities. Note that some indoor locations may be currently non-operational; be sure to check websites before planning a visit.

Hands-on family learning at the Museum of Making Music in Carlsbad, San Diego
My son playing an electric guitar at the Museum of Making Music
  • Museum of Making Music
  • Carlsbad Lagoon
  • Hidden Canyon community park – offers two play areas along with short hiking trails and grassy lawns.
  • Handel’s Ice Cream
  • Water sports on Aqua Hedionda Lagoon – rent a kayak, stand-up paddleboard 
  • Leo Carrillo Ranch and historic park
  • Carlsbad Premium Outlets for shopping
  • The Flower Fields – this springtime display of 500 acres of ranunculus is the perfect photo opportunity
  • LEGOLAND California
  • LEGOLAND Water Park
  • SEA LIFE Aquarium
These LEGOLAND California tips for traveling with kids is the ultimate guide to enjoying this San Diego California theme park. Find out more about what to see & do, visiting with teens, what to eat and more about the LEGOLAND water park, seasonal events and aquarium.
Inside the LEGOLAND Sea Life Aquarium

LEGOLAND California

Located adjacent to the Sheraton Carlsbad via a short walking path, the LEGOLAND California theme park is a San Diego highlight for families with younger kids. Most appropriate for children aged 3-12, this amusement park features 60+ rides and attractions. 

The theme park & LEGOLAND’s SEA LIFE Aquarium are currently open with reservations for guests to explore the underwater exhibits and LEGO themed displays.

These LEGOLAND California tips for traveling with kids is the ultimate guide to enjoying this San Diego California theme park. Find out more about what to see & do, visiting with teens, what to eat and more about the LEGOLAND water park, seasonal events and aquarium.

Southern California Discount Travel

My travel partners at Get Away Today offer both discounted theme park tickets and SoCal-area hotels to fit any budget! Many hotels include exclusive discounts like free parking, complimentary breakfast or even free nights, just for booking through Get Away Today.

When you’re ready to book your Southern California vacation, my friends at Get Away Today are ready to help! Call 1-855-GET-AWAY to book your trip.

BONUS DISCOUNT! – Mention code REWRITTEN to receive an extra discount off your SoCal vacation package of two or more days.

My travel partner Get Away Today offers LEGOLAND California vacation packages.

Additional LEGOLAND events if your visit during these particular seasons:

Stormtrooper with LEGOLAND Brick or Treat bag

Getting Around in Carlsbad

Driving a car is easy in and around the Carlsbad area. Street parking can be a challenge, especially on the weekends, so arrive early for quick beach access. Some shopping and dining locations offer patrons free parking up to 3 hours.

The COASTER is a short 2 miles from the resort. This commuter train will take travelers from north and south, between Oceanside to downtown San Diego. Grab a ride at the Carlsbad Poinsettia Coaster Station.

Sheraton Carlsbad offers a complimentary trolley shuttle for their guests. Pick up a Ride the Tide! schedule at the front desk with times for departure and arrival. This transportation option is shared with other resorts in the area. Guests are shuttled to and from the beach, Carlsbad Village and Carlsbad Premium Outlets.

RIDE THE TIDE beach trolley from hotel in Carlsbad

Where to Eat in Carlsbad

Since we don’t do a lot of dining out at home, eating in restaurants is a vacation highlight. We love to discover new dining spots wherever we travel.

For lunch during our visit, we had the opportunity to dine at 7 Mile Kitchen. This restaurant is located conveniently onsite at the Sheraton Carlsbad, the entrance being just inside the hotel lobby.

Entrance to 7 Mile Kitchen restaurant in Carlsbad

7 Mile Kitchen features open, outdoor seating next to the pool area. Grab & Go options are also available if you prefer to dine in your hotel room. Simply call ahead to order, then pick it up to go.

Outdoor patio dining overlooking the pool at 7 Mile Kitchen in Carlsbad

Dining at 7 Mile Kitchen

We started off with the House BBQ Chips & Bacon Onion Dip, recommended by our attentive server. This delicious appetizer was the ideal kickstart to what would be a stellar lunch experience. My husband and I appreciated the variety on the menu that includes gourmet burgers, artisanal pizzas, salads, specialty plates and local craft brews.

House BBQ chips and dip at 7 Mile Kitchen in Carlsbad

While my husband went all-out with the decadent Beef & Pastrami Burger, I was still able to eat healthfully with a veggie “Impossible Burger”. Next time we’ll go for one of the wood fired pizzas that are made fresh to order within minutes!

Beef and pastrami burger at 7 Mile Kitchen in Carlsbad
Woman holding a margarita at 7 Mile Kitchen in Carlsbad

After this filling meal, we sat back a bit and took in the beautiful weather and view from the patio. This allowed us to make room for dessert from EscoGelato, the poolside coffee bar with seasonal flavors that are locally made. Try the Horchata if it’s available!

Gelato at 7 Mile Kitchen in Carlsbad

More Dining in Carlsbad

There’s no lack of dining choices in the Carlsbad area to please every palate. From seafood to Mexican, sushi to juices, you’ll find many restaurants within walking distance of the beach. Here are a few top picks:

  • Barrio Eat Mexican – fresh and delicious Mexican dishes including street tacos and burritos (see photo of me with the flautas and a margarita).
Woman eating Barrio Eat Mexican food on patio in Carlsbad
  • Blue Ocean Sushi Bar – large menu of elegant seafood and sushi along with salads and desserts.
  • Senior Grubby’s – upscale quick service Mexican dining for all three meals. The guacamole is amazing!
  • Choice Juicery – fill up on fresh juices, smoothie bowls and craft milks from morning until late afternoon.
  • Park 101 – this is one of those dining experiences that could take hours! Families can leisurely lounge in the cozy seating areas, chat around the fire pits and eat hot barbecue. 
  • Vigilucci’s Seafood and Steakhouse –  the fine Italian dining and seafood must be incredible – there are two locations within a mile of each other in Carlsbad! 
  • The Naked Cafe – grab breakfast or lunch from this extensive menu of whole food options.
  • Pizza Port – this popular restaurant is known for their freshly made pizzas. There are in-house made craft brews, with seasonal varieties on tap or available in cans to go. Patio dining available but arrive early to avoid a long wait.
Woman wearing facial mask holding a pizza at Pizza Port in Carlsbad

Exploring Sand, Sea & Trail – Things to Do Carlsbad

Many of the great outdoor attractions in San Diego for kids are in the Carlsbad area. Sand, sea or trail, there are lots of outdoor adventure locations for families in Carlsbad. 

During our recent visit to Carlsbad, my husband and I opted to explore the area by bike. Pedego Electric Bicycles is conveniently located in the Carlsbad Village shopping center. Within minutes of checking in, my husband and I were given a quick rundown on how to operate the bike’s electric “pedal assist” system. 

We chose to ride the bikes along the miles of Pacific coastline. It’s a view that can’t be beat! In fact, we rode our bikes all the way back to the hotel (nearly 4 miles), so we could grab our bathing suits.

After pedaling back to the ocean, we locked up the bikes. We spent some time on the sand before riding back to Pedego for the bike return. It’s a pleasant way to get around the area and you don’t have to worry about finding parking!

Woman standing with electric bicycle

Beaches in Carlsbad

San Diego boasts some of the best beaches in the United States. For additional tips on top San Diego beaches be sure to read this article. The beach is one of the best things to do in Carlsbad, so choose to spend a few hours or all day. But choose your location wisely – Some beaches do not have restrooms or lifeguards on duty.

Most parking is free on the streets and there are a few free additional parking lots. Here’s a brief overview on Carlsbad beaches:

  • Tamarack State Beach is our go-to. There are clean restrooms, outdoor showers to rinse off sand and multiple lifeguard towers. We also enjoy walking along the paved Seawall path.
  • South Ponto Beach – good for families, with lifeguard, bathrooms and showers.
  • North Carlsbad Beaches – no lifeguards or bathrooms
  • South State Beach – best for camping, no bathrooms
  • Terramar Beach – ideal for surfing, no restrooms or lifeguards
Terramar Beach during high tide

More Carlsbad Beach Tips for Families

One thing to note about the beaches in Carlsbad that is different than other San Diego area beach locations. The waves tend to break closer to the shore. Shore breaks can be very powerful. There is also a quick drop off into deep water.

Bring a Puddle Jumpers Swim Vest for young children or kids that aren’t very strong swimmers.

Planning a Work, Learn & Play Vacation!

Take your work or school on the road by planning a “Work, Learn & Play” vacation! The Sheraton Carlsbad offers families a convenient space away from home to work virtually.

Kids can participate in distance learning with a mobile work station. Move this desk space wherever you choose within the hotel room. A permanent desk work station is already included in the room.

Ponto Suite separate twin bedroom for kids.

The Ponto suites are the perfect work/school vacation space. The large king bedroom studio includes a connecting room with two twin beds, three televisions, a shared bathroom and a balcony or patio.

Upgraded WiFi is complimentary and intended to support multiple devices. USB charging ports and extension cords included with a mobile work station request. And the best part – taking the kid’s recess at the beautiful pool area and water slide!

Free form pool and water slide at Sheraton Carlsbad

Best Times to Vacation in Carlsbad

San Diego county is generally a good vacation destination year-round. Just like any other location, there is rain, cold and inclement weather in the late winter and spring months. Best to check the forecast before packing for the trip as each year can vary from the next.

Late spring and summer are often more crowded at popular tourist destinations with weekend crowds heaviest. May and June can see overcast weather in the mornings. These seasons are called “May Gray” and “June Gloom” by locals.

Fall is a great time for a Carlsbad beach vacation. The water temperatures are at the highest in autumn with temperatures still consistently above 75 in September and October. Bring sunscreen year-round and remember to reapply.

Day Trips Around Carlsbad & Ways to SAVE!

Looking for other things to do in San Diego? Carlsbad is located about 45 minutes from downtown San Diego, allowing for easy access to other attractions by driving south on the I-5 freeway. Other popular destinations include the San Diego Zoo, SeaWorld San Diego and San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

If you’re looking to save money on a San Diego vacation, the best time to visit is during the month of October.

Many hotels, restaurants and kid-friendly attractions offer Kids Free in October. This is potentially a huge savings for families, with theme park entrance free for children in October.

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