My hubs and I have been coming to Southern California for years and have visited many different towns – San Diego, Coronado, Mission Bay, and Carlsbad. We stayed in Carlsbad for the first time in 2016. We came for our 10 year wedding anniversary and fell in love. The entire time we were here we kept saying, “oh my gosh, the girls would love it here!” Or “we have to bring the girls here!”

But three years went by before we were able to bring the girls to Carlsbad. Life and other important trips (ahem, Disney) kept pushing back our timeline to get the girls here. 

When we stayed here in 2016, we stayed at the Beach Terrace Inn. It was an awesome deal, in the heart of Carlsbad Village, the only hotel right on the beach, free breakfast and free parking! Fast forward to 2019, they’ve raised the prices substantially! So we opted for the more affordable Hilton Cape Rey about 5 miles down the 101. It’s kind of a bummer being so far out of the village, but the amenities TOTALLY make up for it!

It’s more of a mid-range Hilton, a 4-star hotel, and still really nice.  It has an awesome pool with tons of pool toys and floaties with awesome poolside food and beverage service and you can also rent a canopy for the day. We never did that because there were plenty of umbrellas to shield us from the sun. But the best part was the free beach service! They had a shuttle to take you anywhere within 5 miles of the hotel, including Ponto Beach. (This saved us having to pay $25 to park at Legoland. The zoo has free parking.) When you arrive at the beach, they had a staff member there to set you up with towels, chairs, umbrella, toys and everything you’d need to enjoy the beach. All for FREE! Just bring your own food and beverages. 

Here’s my guide to best things to see and do while staying in Carlsbad with your family (and it’s important to note it’s free parking nearly everywhere in Carlsbad village!):

Food in Carlsbad 

The Compass – by far our favorite place! We visited about 4 times back in 2016. Great happy hour deals and awesome vibe.

Norte – fantastic Mexican

Pizza Port – great pizza and beer selection but they don’t deliver

Leucadia Pizzeria – delicious and they deliver!

Fish 101 – affordable priced fish just a couple of minutes down the 101

Cafe Tropes – amazing cinnamon rolls. We found them in 2016 and learned they only make so many a day and often sell out! We’ve been fortunate enough to get them each trip. Other delicious breakfast and lunch items. Awesome aesthetic. 

Get the cinnamon roll “dirty” like this because you’ll be so happy you did!

Senor Grubbys – quick Mexican. Amaze. 

Baked Bear – in La Costa, a short drive, but we became loyal followers of this shop back in Mission Bay.  Custom ice cream sandwiches on fresh baked cookies and brownies. COME TO MOMMA! 

To Do in Carlsbad (with family)

Pedego Bikes – electric bikes are the way to cruise around town! We were nervous to let our 8-year-old out on the road even though the area is super bike friendly and everywhere has a bike lane, so we did a kid’s double seater! You can rent by the hour.

Village Faire – hang out by the fountain, let the kids play with the giant size chess pieces; eat some gelato at Gelatolove, see the shops and enjoy the scenery. It’s also where Compass and Pedego Bikes are located,

San Diego Zoo – best zoo in the world.

Legoland – I personally found this park overrated and overpriced for what it is! It’s Kings Island with a LEGO twist at Disney prices!! Plus, even though my 8-year-old had so much fun, and some of the rides said they were up to 12 or 13-years-old, I felt like she was at the top of the age category. It definitely seemed to appeal to younger kids. There weren’t too many rides and lots of random play areas. As you can see, I wasn’t impressed. My kids had a blast, but I wouldn’t go back. As I mentioned above, if your hotel offers a shuttle service TAKE IT! Parking is $25.

Beach and pool – walk the beach and pick up cool shells and rocks. Play in the pool and have some drinks and snacks. 

To Do in Carlsbad (couples)

Charles Kenneth – a legit speakeasy. So much cool history – you can even see where they used to have their front business for the speakeasy – and you need a password to get in (available if you call or visit Facebook: I still have their number on my phone!) Craft cocktails. So cool. 

Skinsational Spa – amazing services. I could have stayed there all day. 

Torrey Pines – if golf is your thing 🙂

For great deals and discounts to the big attractions, visit they have the best deals online!

We truly can’t say enough great things about being in Carlsbad with our family. Our kids have also fallen in love and are already asking to return soon! 

**I’m not making a dime or receiving any incentives on anything in this post. This is my unadulterated truth about our trip to Carlsbad!**