photo of Carlsbad

Beaches in Carlsbad, California. (ThinkStock)

What to do in Carlsbad

Families come to Carlsbad for LEGOLAND, the theme park that's tailored for two- to 12-year-olds, but stay to find a whole city with attractions for visitors of all ages and interests.

Carlsbad's seven miles of beaches stretch between natural areas at either end; freshwater Buena Vista Lagoon sits at the city's northern reaches, while the tidal marshes of Batiquitos Lagoon lie on its south side. Both lagoons host migratory and resident birds, and have trails for nature enthusiasts to wander.

Another perfect place to wander is through Carlsbad's village, which has a thriving art scene (and a monthly art walk). You can see art in action at The Foundry, a working artists community that is part of the innovative New Village Arts Theatre. You can even take a walking tour of Carlsbad's colorful fire hydrants, 26 of which have been hand-painted by local artists and residents. Shoppers here will find treasures from the past at the antiques shops on and around State Street.

But you can't leave without seeing the water. Stroll along one of the paved boardwalks or walk through the sand at Carlsbad City Beach, where you can catch the sunset from the north end. Or just view it from your campground at South Carlsbad State Beach, where you can fall asleep to the sound of the surf, a welcome respite from the excited masses of LEGOLAND.