Maybe the most underrated vacation destination in San Diego County and a quick Amtrak ride from Los Angeles, Carlsbad is bordered by Oceanside, Vista, San Marcos, and Encinitas. You may know it as that one SoCal town parents take their lego-loving kids to, but there’s so much more to the city than play zones and water slides. This beachside destination has amazing food, beer, and outdoor activities.
It’s also home to one of the few Five-Star, Five-Diamond properties in Southern California.
Another unique thing about Carlsbad? It’s wildly Instagrammable—a trait sure to attract millennials (like myself) who love to take photos and share their experiences online. This was recently proven by the “2018 Colors of Travel Study,” a collaboration between Visit Carlsbad, Pantone Color Institute and HireMarketing to identify trending colors used in inspirational travel photos across social media.
The result: a cohesive #ColorsOfCarlsbad palette, including Salmon, Island Paradise, Eden and Brandie Melon—Pantone colors that are all found in the town’s sandy beaches, blue ocean, multicolored flower fields and lush, green hills. Visit Carlsbad is celebrating the #ColorsOfCarlsbad launch city-wide with colorful cocktail specials, spa treatments and art installations at Omni La Costa Resort & Spa, Park 101 (frosé all day, y’all), Campfire restaurant, the Carlsbad Art Wall and other locations, as well.
But there’s more! You can pack a ton into a weekend in Carlsbad or spend a whole week exploring the city on Pedego Electric Bikes bikes (they go up to 20 m.p.h., so yes I’d recommend a helmet). If your visit coincides with the weekly Wednesday Carlsbad Village Farmers’ Market, head on over for samples—lots and lots of samples—of seasonal fresh fruits, bread, cheeses and all kinds of spreads. Don’t leave without snagging a bouquet of fresh flowers for your home or hotel room and make sure to ride by the beach at magic hour for watercolor sunset views.
The weather in Carlsbad is mild, perfect for lounging poolside although you may need to keep a light blanket on hand for when the sun decides to hide behind that fluffy gray marine layer. Engage all your senses at Park Hyatt Aviara Resort & Spa; the hotel has got lots of greenery, (more!) frosé and a lobby that smells of gardenia. If you book a room, you’ll be spoiled with—one of my favorites—mini Le Labo Bergamot 22 toiletries.
Cape Rey Carlsbad, a Hilton Resort, is a lovely place to spend the day, too. The hotel offers premium cabana rentals poolside and a lavish Red Algae Foot Treatment that ended way too soon for me, in a good way. If you must bring the kiddos along (only kidding, kids are great), Westin/Sheraton Carlsbad will soon feature a waterslide, sand entry pool, family activity center and fire pits, for all your marshmallow roasting needs. The resort’s restaurant, Twenty/20 Grill, also has a fun Spanish-inspired tapas menu and mobile sangria cart on Thursdays.
Grab a beer and a pie at Pizza Port or indulge in the camp feast tasting menu at Campfire ($55 per person). Do not stop eating until you get to the cavatelli. With lamb, carrots, fava beans, pistachios and whipped feta, this was one of the best pastas I’ve had, by far anywhere. Also, though, dessert. The s’mores is phenomenal as is the sacred leaf pannacotta, but the real winner, in my opinion, is the solid white chocolate dish that closely resembles corn on the cob and is filled with elote-flavored ice cream. Fake corn has never tasted this good.
Work off the calories at Agua Hedionda Lagoon. Known to most as just Carlsbad Lagoon, this saltwater wetland is ideal for kayaking, paddleboarding, wakeboarding or windsurfing. For the most Instagrammable opp of all, the Flower Fields at Carlsbad Ranch offers visitors access to the only commercial ranunculus field in the world (that’s open to the public). The bad news is, the Flower Fields close yearly after Mother’s Day and don’t reopen until March.
The good news: you have something bright to look forward to in spring.
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