Here’s How to Enjoy a Weekend in This Coastal California City
Nestled on the north end of sunny San Diego, Carlsbad exudes a laid-back, coastal allure that’s irresistibly charming. This SoCal city, also known as “The Village by the Sea,” boasts miles of sandy beaches, a handful of charming hotels and plenty to eat, see and do. It’s the perfect place to explore—even if only for a quick weekend staycation. With that said, pack your bags and set your GPS! This is your guide to spending 48 hours in Carlsbad.
4 p.m. Check-in at Beach Terrace
Check in and prepare to mentally check out at Beach Terrace, the only beachfront hotel in Carlsbad. Family-owned and -operated and perched on a private beach, this hotel is all about ensuring your vacation is full of rest and relaxation. That’s why they go the extra mile, offering guests special perks and amenities, including complimentary beach cruiser bike rentals, communal fire rings and yoga kits in every room. If you’re keen on kicking back, their incredibly spacious, SoCal-inspired rooms are set with streaming-enabled TVs and two very important room-service menus: the made-to-order brunch menu and a pillow menu.
That’s right—you can choose from seven different kinds of pillows! Take full advantage with a plush nap time or head out to the beach or the waterfront pool deck and soak up some sun before dinner. This quaint beach hotel even offers beach valet service, so take advantage of the complimentary boogie boards, beach toys, umbrellas, towels, teak chairs and blankets.
Local Insight: Built in the 1960s, the hotel was originally apartments, which explains why the rooms are so huge!
6 p.m. Dinner at Campfire
Gather ‘round and get your vacation underway at Campfire, an eatery welcoming all with the goal of mingling over a delicious meal. Inspired by the various landscapes of California, this restaurant reminds us of nature’s best—a perfect homage to your SoCal stay. Start with a refreshing beverage like the Tarantula, made with mezcal, Dolin, pickled celery, ginger and soda. Then take a journey from land to sea with the Wagyu skewers and the market fish. Do not skip the s’mores—no campfire is complete without them!
8:30 p.m. Drinks at Same Same
You think we should keep these good vibes goin’? Same. Make the short hop over to Same Same, a Thai-themed craft cocktail bar and restaurant glowing with neon decor. This place will transport you straight to the tropics! Try one of their stand-out signature cocktails like the I Got Warrants, a careful blend of gin, raspberry, shiso, grapefruit, rose vermouth, lemon and a touch of absinthe. Alternatively, find an extensive draft beer list and even their very own Same Same Hard Seltzer!
9 a.m. Doughnuts at The Goods
Greet the sunshine with a little sugar and stroll over to The Goods, a doughnut shop boasting only the finest morning pick-me-ups, each created with locally sourced ingredients and an artisanal approach. Choose a classic like the Tahitian vanilla glaze, apple fritter or Boston cream, or branch out big time with the rosemary eggnog doughnut, topped with an eggnog glaze and filled with rosemary syrup. Vegan and gluten-free options are also available, such as the cinnamon-coated, gluten-free vegan churro doughnut!
10 a.m. SUP Yoga at Carlsbad Lagoon
Ride that sugar high all the way to a must-try San Diego adventure: stand-up paddleboard yoga. Yep, we’re talking yoga class on a SUP. Never done either? Don’t be shy: Yoga Your Way’s classes are carefully designed to keep you out of the water, with balance-friendly boards and plenty of modifications offered throughout the flow. Everything will be provided for you, making for a gorgeous morning on the Carlsbad Lagoon and a sure-fire way to better your balance. Don’t skip this local favorite!
11 a.m. Visit Carlsbad Aquafarm
Spend the morning at a new kind of sanctuary and dive into the diversity of San Diego’s lagoon life! Carlsbad Aquafarm is a veritable superhero of a farm: They protect shellfish, shuck oysters and educate the community all at once. This sustainable shellfish farm works to improve the ecological health of coastal waters and preserve associated environments and habitats. Book a farm tour and tasting, each complete with a guided discovery walk, shucking class and oyster sampling! The hands-on tour takes you through harvesting techniques, the equipment they use and you can even touch live shellfish.
2 p.m. Lunch at Café Topes
Vacation is all about trying new things. That’s why a trip to Café Topes, with its beautifully presented, innovative brunch delicacies, is the only way to go when in Carlsbad. Start with a specialty coffee; we suggest the Hawaiian Express, made with hazelnut and Ghirardelli chocolate, espresso and coconut milk, then move on to the main. Ride the vacation wave with the Gone to Maui—decadent pancakes topped with shredded coconut, macadamia nuts, sliced bananas and cream cheese frosting—or choose savory with a classic ham or tri-tip Benedict!
3 p.m. State Street Farmers Market
Keep the leisurely local activities going at the State Street Farmers Market, happening every Wednesday from 2:30 to 7 p.m. Located on State Street between Carlsbad Village Drive and Grand Avenue, this market boasts tons of fresh organic produce, locally prepared foods and handmade crafts, all accompanied by live entertainment. There’s no better way to experience the local lifestyle than to shop small and support neighborhood businesses, making this market an ideal stop on your Carlsbad itinerary. Nothing says staycation like stopping to smell the floral arrangements!
4 p.m. Candle-Making at Candle Bar
They say scent has a way of bringing back memories, and at Candle Bar, you can create a unique scent reminiscent of your Carlsbad vacation! This candle making studio allows you to pour a completely custom, high-quality candle and customize it with accessories like sea glass and dried florals. This mother-daughter-owned crafter’s dream has cultivated a place for community and creativity, offering a variety of vessels for your candle, scents to mix and match, and fun adornments like shells and pebbles to set in wax. Book a reservation to secure a spot and prepare to tap into some nostalgia!
5:30 p.m. Dinner at Fresco Cocina
It wouldn’t be a true trip to San Diego without a taste of Mexican cuisine. Serving tradition with a twist of modernity, Fresco Cocina bridges various Latin cultures to offer a stand-out dining experience with flavor at the forefront. This modern, airy space is filled with bright paintings and decor that complements the bold flavors of the food. We recommend a shared approach: Start with chile mango cocktails, move to Peruvian ceviche and Argentinian empanadas, then order the Brazilian steak for the main course. You deserve it.
7 p.m. Live Music at The Camp Store
We’ve been there: torn between a nice sunset at the beach and a proper nightlife party in the city. But you don’t have to choose—The Camp Store is both of these things and more. Situated near South Carlsbad State Beach Park, this restaurant offers a delicious all-day menu alongside beachfront views, not to mention its calendar full of live music and events. Catch neighborhood bands and local artist performances on the campgrounds every Wednesday through Sunday—the perfect place to kick back with a glass of wine and let loose. Check out their events page for a full list of performers!
10 a.m. The Lullabar
Seal the end of your perfect vacation with a little self-care. Created with the hectic life of a parent in mind, The Lullabar is especially perfect for caregivers on a weekend away—or those who even brought their little ones along! Equipped with a day care center, cafe, nail salon and fitness studio, it’s truly a space that has it all. Stop in and grab your favorite coffee before heading over to the salon, where they offer everything from classic manicures to relaxing paraffin and aromatherapy treatments. Breathe in, breathe out.
You picked the perfect vacation. Now, there’s just one more thing for you to do: pick your perfect pumpkin. Celebrate the start of fall at the Carlsbad Strawberry Company’s Pumpkin Patch, where they offer tractor rides around the lagoon, feeding time at the petting zoo and even a 1.5-mile corn maze! Plan your visit on the weekend to catch their food, games and rides, then set course for home with a massive grin—guaranteed!
Jaclyn is a sunshine chasing San Diego native with an extensive writing background. When she isn’t word-smithing, you can find her playing beach volleyball, skating the boardwalk, or on a rooftop enjoying a drink in the sunshine with her pals.