Carlsbad, California is a destination in itself, especially for those who love the ocean, yet the surrounding area also offers a wealth of other outdoor activities. Even if you stay several days, you can do something different every day, making this a great place for a well-rounded getaway.
Approximately a five-hour drive from Pahrump, it’s located in north coastal San Diego County. The town’s most obvious attraction is a seven-mile stretch of ocean frontage, ideal for surfing, body surfing, paddle boarding, or relaxing on the beach. (Of course, if you have children, their top priority may be nearby Legoland.) Besides those, there are also opportunities for hiking, birding, and one of the best spring flower displays in America.
The ideal times to visit are upon us. From March through May, temperatures remain mild with an abundance of sunny days. The celebrated flowers put on their best show during this time and the beaches aren’t yet overrun with the summer crowds.
For getting close to nature, one of my favorite places in Carlsbad is one of the three lagoons that together encompass more than 1,000 acres. The Agua Hedionda Lagoon, also known as the Carlsbad Lagoon, offers year-round recreation such as birding, kayaking, canoeing, paddleboarding and motor boating. This lagoon in particular is made up of 400 acres of mud flats, salt and freshwater marshes and deep water. It offers a perfectly relaxing day on the water without having to deal with the heavy surf of the open Pacific. There is even an excellent place here to rent any equipment you didn’t happen to bring with you – California Watersports, located on the lagoon. Contact them at www.carlsbadlagoon.com or (760) 434-3089.
Birders will especially like Batiquitos Lagoon, a 610-acre salt marsh with mud flats. There are 185 species of birds documented here and you can take a docent-led nature tour or a self-guided walk along the two-mile trail. For further information, visit www.batiquitosfoundation.org, or call (760) 931-0800.
Unique to this area are The Flower Fields at Carlsbad Ranch. In springtime, for more than 60 years, visitors have been enchanted by a solid carpet of real flowers stretching as far as the eye can see. The gardens encompass more than 50 acres of rolling hills overlooking the Pacific, an area so large you can take a tractor ride through the fields.
The featured flower is the Tecolote Giant Ranunculus, a member of the buttercup family. Its annual bloom lasts approximately six to eight weeks, peaking from mid-March to mid-April. Other acres are devoted to specialty flowers. The Flower Fields are open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. through May 8. For further information, visit www.theflowerfields.com or call (760) 431-0352.
When in Southern California, every child’s dream is to visit a theme park, and one of the most popular is Legoland, located in Carlsbad. Your children might not only build with Legos, but build their imagination and creativity through educational elements as well as enjoy amusements that the entire family will appreciate. This is a full-service park which also offers rollercoasters, a water park (open during spring break), Sea Life Aquarium and one vast exhibit that features miniature landmarks from around the globe, solely created out of Legos. Those with a lot of energy can easily spend an entire day, or longer, at the park. The park has a good variety of restaurants with food to please all ages and diets.
Legoland now even has a hotel on the property. It is totally kid-friendly with a pool, restaurant and café as well as play areas. For reservations visit www.california.legoland.com, or call (760)918-5346. For those who prefer accommodations that are a bit more grownup, Carlsbad offers them to fit just about every budget. (800)227-5722. www.visitcarlsbad.com/
But if you’re one of those rugged individuals who prefer pitching a tent wherever possible, this area offers a great place to do it: South Carlsbad State Beach has a campground with more than 200 sites on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. For more information and reservations contact (760)438-3143, or www.parks.ca.gov.
Deborah Wall is the author of “Base Camp Las Vegas, Hiking the Southwestern States,” “Great Hikes, A Cerca Country Guide,” and co-author of “Access For All, Touring the Southwest with Limited Mobility.” Wall can be reached at Deborabus@aol.com.