24 hours in carlsbad, california – with kids

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Family Attractions Carlsbad California


We recently spent 2 fun-filled days at Legoland in Carlsbad, California. Wanting to make it a true long weekend, we decided to spend an extra night in Carlsbad to take in the beach, the sights, some yummy restaurants, and of course to provide you readers with some information about the town. Here is our guide on where to stay, what to do, and where to eat with babies, toddlers and kids in Carlsbad. Most everything here is also within a few minute drive of Legoland and only a short drive from San Diego (see also our review of the Legoland Hotel).


family friendly hotels in carlsbad
family friendly attractions in carlsbad
family friendly restaurants in carlsbad


family friendly hotels in carlsbad


the west inn and suites (website)

the west inn and suites carlsbadThis 4 star boutique hotel was named as one of 2015’s best hotel for families in the Tripadvisor Traveler’s Choice Awards. It’s easy to see why with their spacious suites, and complimentary features such as DVD’s for loan, buffet breakfast, wifi, business center, shuttle within Carlsbad (including Legoland), beach equipment and toys, and nightly turndown service. Other thoughtful details include swim diapers provided at the pool, and nightly cookies and milk in the lobby. The hotel is also located on the same property as one of Carlsbad’s best farm to table restaurants (also very family friendly). After several frenetic days at Legoland, we found this hotel to be an oasis of calm.

rate class: $$
hotel class: 4 star
rooms: king and double king rooms, plus a double king suite that can sleep up to 7
reviews: 95% of families recommend on trip advisor
best room: splurge on the double king suite for it’s large size (517 square feet) and separate living room (It was only $20 more than a double king room for our dates.)
note: This hotel provides great value and makes an excellent base for visiting Legoland. If you are looking for a resort style hotel (and are planning to spend a lot of time at the property), you may prefer one of the other properties shown below.


the park hyatt aviara (website)

park hyatt aviara carlsbadIf a larger format luxury hotel is more your style, the Park Hyatt Aviara is a popular choice for families. Formerly a Four Seasons property, it gets very high marks for it’s lovely common spaces and gardens.  Cribs are high chairs are plentiful and they offer a special menu for kids (For Kids, By Kids see video). The Hyatt is a partner with the baby supply delivery company Babies Travel Lite, which allows you to order baby supplies ahead of time and have them delivered right to your hotel room.  The hotel also has a golf course, tennis courts, spa, gym, multiple pools (including a water playground) and a Camp Hyatt kids camp for children 4-12 ($40 half day/ $80 full day).

rate class: $$$
hotel class: 5 star
rooms: double/double and king room available
reviews: 88% of families recommend on tripadvisor
note: cots and cribs available on request, Palm Court King rooms have a double sofabed in the living area, 5th floor rooms have nicest views
get a deal: The hotel offers various package specials (see page).


four seasons residence club aviara (website)

The Four Seasons Aviara offers great features for families including child proofing kids, child-size robes, baby and children’s toiletries, crib and high chair upon request, babysitting services, and many on-site activities (crafts, board games, movies, video games etc.).

rate class: $$$$
hotel class: 5 star
rooms: standard room with kitchenette, as well as 1 and 2 bedroom suites
reviews: 97% of families recommend on tripadvisor


family friendly attractions in carlsbad


carlsbad state beach

I almost wanted to pick up shop and move my family to California when I saw the happy, sandy kids having a beach party on Carlsbad State Beach  (boogie boards, fire pit, guitar….pretty much a whole commercial) . I’m not sure what I was thinking, since I barely swim in the ocean (wave trauma – 1997), but it just looked so great.  While I was busy watching the surfers, my kids did some beach combing and obssessively stalked  the California ground squirrels living in the breakwater (where we come from, squirrels  live in trees).  Conveniently located close by are washrooms, stores and restaurants.

Carlsbad Beaches




the museum of making music (website)
790 armada drive (map)

What makes this place nice for children is that it is the museum of making music, not just the museum of music.  Knowledgeable music loving volunteers staff this interactive space with plenty of buttons for little ones to push.  Each room also has an instrument to be tried out (not just admired). The biggest hit with my two children was the studio room that contained a multitude of instruments to be experimented with (thankfully most with headphones).

reviews: 88% recommend on tripadvisor
rates: 5 years and under – free, students, seniors & military $5, adults $8
hours: tues- sun  10am – 5pm

Museum of Music Carlsbad


the flower fields (website)
5704 paseo del norte (map)

On a 50 acre hillside in Carlsbad is a stunning (although seasonal) display of the ranunculus flower. Kids love the wagon ride, sweet pea maze, rose garden, rock mining activity, vintage playground and scavenger hunt. Adults will enjoy the beautiful vistas, gardens (and garden shop) and delicious strawberry shortcake.

reviews: 84% recommend on tripadvisor
rates: 2 years and under – free, 3 – 10 years $6 , adults $11, seniors 60+ $10
hours: daily 9am- 6pm from march 1 – mid may (check website for exact dates)


If you have a car and are flying in and out of San Diego, La Jolla is also nice place to stop for a visit. Two interesting places for kids are:

the children’s pool (map)
850 coast blvd, la jolla
reviews: 82% recommend on tripadvisor

Although intended as a sheltered beach area for children, it was quickly taken over by harbor seals (now the main attraction).

the children's pool at la jolla


museum of contemporary art san diego – la jolla (website)
700 prospect st, la jolla (map)

Also in La Jolla, right near the children’s pool, is the MCASD.  Children are free, and many of the exhibits are very suitable for little ones, especially the sculpture garden.  This was kindly recommended to me by La Jolla Mom’s Katie Dillon. See her recent post on MCASD La Jolla with kids.

reviews: 81% recommend on tripadvisor
rates: admission $10, seniors $5, students 26+ (with ID) $5, 25 and under Free (with ID)
hours: 11 am-5pm daily (closed wednesdays)



family friendly restaurants in carlsbad

Really, it is not that hard to find a family friendly restaurant in Carlsbad, but here are some well reviewed places that we enjoyed during our stay.  For other recommendations, you can also check on yelp.com or urbanspoon.com (using the kid- friendly/good for kids filter).


bistro west (website)-new american, farm to table,$$$, 92% recommend
4960 avenida encinas (map)

pizza port (website) – california pizza/brew pub – $$ – 86% recommend
571 carlsbad village drive (map)
760- 720-7007
please note: this place gets really busy and you often need to line up to order

vigilucci’s (website) – fine dining italian -$$$- 79% recommend
2943 state street (map)

las olas (website) –mexican -$$ –  86% recommend
2939 carlsbad blvd (map)

corner bakery (website) – bakery, breakfast, lunch – $ –  95% recommend
5617 paseo del norte (map)


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