This Coastal Town Is Bustling With Festive Activities for People of All Ages
Renowned for quality eateries, serene stays and quaint, coastal charm, Carlsbad is the perfect destination for your holiday getaway. This beach town, also known as the Village by the Sea, boasts resorts in LEGOLAND’s backyard, intention-infused spa experiences and a plethora of quality dining destinations. Whether you’re motivated by outdoor activities, wellness, food, family time or mornings spent in the sun, this city is one worth visiting this winter. While you’re at it, don’t forget to take advantage of s’mores stations, Santa sightings, light shows and makers markets galore. Carlsbad has something for everyone this season! Holiday Itineraries Carlsbad
For the Outdoor Enthusiasts
Fit with an ocean view, Cape Rey is nestled into a quiet corner of Carlsbad, but it’s still only a few miles from the village. Cruise around the coastal cliffs on one of the hotel’s complimentary bikes, go for a surf or take advantage of their Spice Up Your Fall package, which offers a $50 credit to be used at the restaurant or spa. Spend the day in the sun and return for a restful evening.
Start your morning with brunch at local favorite, Café Topes. Offering both indoor and outdoor seating, this one is poppin’ on the weekends, so make sure to carve out enough time to enjoy a classic Benedict or the cinnamon roll French toast.
End your day on the romantic outdoor patio of 264 Fresco, where everything from roasted carrots to butternut squash ravioli will refresh your spirits and surprise your taste buds. Finish off the foodie experience with a cocktail at their vibey rooftop bar.
DO Holiday Itineraries Carlsbad
Soak up the sun and cruise around the Carlsbad Lagoon, where you can paddleboard with a view. This cozy body of water is just a hop, skip and a jump away from the ocean, so you can spend the day on the beach before enjoying a relaxing sunset ride on your board. Another activity to add to your list is the trails at Hidden Canyon Community Park, which are nestled between the dog park for your fur baby and playgrounds for the kiddos.
The Carlsbad Campground has a sweet little Camp Store (named accordingly) overlooking the cliffs and crashing waves. Whether you’ve pitched your tent or are just popping in for an evening of fun, this spot hails with all the vibes—hot pizza, cold beverages, live music and shows like The Sound of Light. This ongoing event is their annual holiday light and music show, and it is running now until Jan. 2. Don’t miss it!
For the Wellness Warriors
Sporting 360-degree golf course views, Park Hyatt Aviara is where rest meets rejuvenation. Practice your swing where the pros play, and dine in good company at celebrity chef Richard Blais’ restaurant, Ember & Rye. Whether it’s tee time or time to step into the spa, the resort’s Relax & Renew package is ready to refresh your wellness routines with a $250 credit toward Miraval Life in Balance Spa Aviara’s culinary experiences, fitness classes or spa services.
Start your morning at Naked Café, where you can sip on an ocean blue latte or satisfy your sweet tooth with a refreshing fruit smoothie. This restaurant allows you to dine in or order online—depending on your mood for the day. And next up, we recommend you end your food tour with a grilled New York strip steak at Canyons Restaurant at the Crossings at Carlsbad. Overlooking a beautiful ocean view, this patio’s sunset views are simply divine.
Pamper your spirit, soul and skin at the stunning, all-new Miraval Life in Balance Spa Aviara. From deep-tissue massages to floating meditations, there is something for every wellness guru. Experience an underwater Thai massage called Vasudhara, where you will occupy an atmosphere of calm as soundwaves dance from submerged speakers and your being remains neutral within the embrace of body temperature water. The intentionality behind this extraordinary spa’s services is unmatched.
Making memories with loved ones can be one of the sweetest parts of the holiday season—and this year, why not celebrate Christmas poolside? Park Hyatt Aviara transforms their pool area into a winter wonderland (aka a Cabana Christmas Village)! Step into the spirit of the holidays by decorating cookies, sipping on cocoa or cider, snapping selfies with Santa, snacking on some heartwarming foods and indulging in s’mores.
For the Foodies
Cozy just got cuter. The Cassara Carlsbad’s Stay S’more Treat Package includes s’mores kits and free parking with your stay. Spend the day exploring Carlsbad, golfing or going for a coastal beach walk—then pass the evening near the fire pit, telling campfire stories and roasting s’mores ‘til the cows come home. Do you like your mallows golden brown or burnt? Make it an ice-breaker question for your soon-to-be friends at the next fire pit over!
Keep it classy when you head to the Cassara Kitchen & Bar for lunch, enjoying poolside views as you indulge in truffled Boursin, mulled wine and more.
For dinner, experience a local bite or two at Windmill Food Hall, designed in the German style of many historic buildings around town. Offering a variety of dining options, such as Thai food and tacos, this lively spot is popping with live music, open mics and trivia nights.
Whether you and your people love Italian treats, Mexican cuisine or good ol’ American dining, Carlsbad is for the foodies. Food tours give you the opportunity to create memories with your loved ones by indulging in six tastings around town. Sip on wine, meet and greet the owners and chefs of local restaurants, tantalize your taste buds with delicious cuisine, and learn all about the history of Carlsbad’s iconic buildings, food and culture.
Meander through historic St. Michael’s by the Sea Episcopal Church for the 7th annual Makers Market on Dec. 2 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Exchange a new toy for a professional photo with Santa—with all donations going to the Toys for Tots drive. Browse and behold local and regional artists’ work, including handmade, vintage and upcycled goods such as jewelry, leather pieces and artisan foods. Happy holiday shopping!
For the Families
Stack up that family fun like LEGO bricks. When you stay at the Sheraton Carlsbad Resort & Spa, you’ll have easy access to LEGOLAND through the hotel’s private entrance, so no need to get the kids in and out of the car. Receive an arts and crafts activities basket when you book the Family Fun package, along with a credit to the Sheraton’s restaurant, 7 Mile Kitchen, and The Westin Carlsbad’s Ocean Pearl Spa (located next door).
Whether you’re in the mood for local tunes or a game on the big screen, Park 101 is a local favorite for family hangs, boasting two stories of entertainment space. Keep cozy around the fire as you order a burger and fries, chicken nuggets for the kiddos and maybe even indulge in a cocktail or two!
Just around the corner is another local favorite, Pizza Port—an equally great spot to enjoy fresh-out-of-the-oven pizzas and local brews.
DO Holiday Itineraries Carlsbad
Get crafting this holiday season! Handled Pottery Studio offers unique workshops for those who want to tap into their creative side. Throw pottery at their Wheelin’ Afternoon class, make your own winter mug at their Handbuilding Mugs class or sip wine and practice your brushstrokes at their Pottery Paint & Sip class. The options are endless and there’s no better place to get crafty this season!
Experience the holidays on another level at the Forum in Carlsbad. From the hustle and bustle of holiday shopping to lights strung in festive fashion, any day you visit this shopping center will be magical. But wait, there’s more: don’t miss photos with Santa on Saturdays and Sundays—and mark your calendar for the Hanukkah Celebration on Dec. 12 from 4-6 p.m., during which you can enjoy family activities, treats and the lighting of the menorah.
For the Beach Dwellers
Step out of your morning slumber and sink those toes into the sand. When you stay at Beach Terrace Inn, you’re not only set up for success in the sun, but you’re just a short jaunt away from the village where an endless array of foodie options await. As Carlsbad’s only hotel on the sand, this 1960s-built boutique inn offers spacious rooms, private patios and an overall feeling of seaside serenity.
Boasting fish tacos and clam chowder with a view, Harbor Fish is an iconic Carlsbad landmark situated at the front of the village. This well-loved restaurant used to be a gas station back in the ‘30s, and while the building no longer fuels cars, it sure does fuel bodies. A little further into the village, Campfire Restaurant draws visitors from far and wide with their renowned roasted broccoli, amazing meat entrees and craft cocktails.
Make the most of your beach vacation with a moke rental as you cruise along the coastal highway toward South Carlsbad State Beach, where you can camp along the coast. With miles of beach off to your side, a trip in one of these guys is like Indiana Jones meets those Little Tikes kid cars we all used to drive back in the ‘90s. Yep, we’re giving you our secret on how to simultaneously soak up the sun and achieve that perfectly wind-blown look. You’re welcome.
Get cozy at Magee Park, where carols are sung and the reason for the season is shared at Christmas Under the Stars. Quaint and family friendly, this sweet holiday event is held outdoors in the open air—and hot cocoa plus cookies are most definitely included. Spend the evening with your friends and family, kicking the night off with a sunset stroll on the beach and finishing up with sweet memories made under the stars.