For most Californians, the perfect vacation is on the water. Looking at it, swimming in it, even just driving nearby: proximity to the Pacific and an abundance of pools, spas, lakes and beaches are part of what makes this state such a desirable location. And it’s also why Carlsbad’s nickname, “Village by the Sea,” has persisted, documenting not only the pastoral charm of suburban San Diego, but more importantly its coveted proximity to the ocean.
Today, beautiful water also serves as a tourist attraction, but centuries ago, proximity to fresh water was essential for survival. Early Carlsbad settlements congregated in the area due to the abundance of fresh water, available to anyone with the ability to clear land and dig a well. Folklore has it that a famous mineral well with healing properties is exactly what earned the town its name, after Karlsbad, Bavaria, which was famous for the same healing mineral water.
Today, the area is full of beachfront hotels, emerging restaurants (including Michelin-starred cuisine), locally produced seafood, and plenty of outdoor attractions, like the few remaining tidal wetlands , surfer beaches, hiking the 38-hilling trail system, and the glittering peacocks of Leo Carrillo Ranch. Less than two hours from Los Angeles by car, this coastal haven should be your next SoCal road trip destination—here’s why:
Swimming in the water while watching *more* water is the best activity on the planet
There are ocean views, and then there’s the sweeping expanse from skyline to shore that The Cassara boasts. Perched on a hill, the property’s Olympic-size pool is located directly in front of the hotel, so nothing blocks pretty, beautiful scenery. Even better? This pool is the “quiet pool”, completely separate from a family pool area, where splashing is only for those who enjoy it. Oh, and if you fancy spending time in the hot tub, it’s even closer to that ocean view than the pool. Sometimes great hospitality is all about the views, but sometimes it’s as simple as a clever pool layout.
Visit the Carlsbad Aquafarm to learn about the life cycle and care of shellfish, taste the freshest oysters possible, and learn how to shell your own
Whether you’re an oyster enthusiast or just want to learn more about the local industry, Carlsbad Aquafarm is one of the most fascinating tours in the area. As the only oyster farm in Southern California, Carlsbad’s Aquafarm is able to offer oysters directly to customers that are fresher and cheaper than any restaurant or market. Biologist Rachael Taylor joined Aquafarm in April 2021 and helped initiate the farm tour to help both the community and its influx of visitors understand the steps to sustainably harvesting shellfish.
“The process of growing mussels and oysters improves the environment,” Taylor explained. “There is a direct correlation between farming mussels and oysters and having a rich and biodiverse environment. Each year, we plant millions of oysters in the lagoon. Our farm-to-table products are also significantly less expensive than what you find at seafood restaurants because we remove the extra costs of handling, shipping and shucking oysters for consumption. in restaurants.
The tour includes an oyster shucking class and oyster tasting, so visitors can learn how to open the delicate shells and taste exactly how fresh the farm’s shellfish are for themselves. It’s been so popular so far that tours are now offered three times a day, seven days a week. If you’re looking for a weekend slot, book early.
Campfire’s eclectic grill – premier style, herbal cocktails and a funky natural wine list is so popular that it not only attracts tourists, but also locals from other suburbs
On a recent trip to Oceanside, another thriving San Diego suburb, locals kept suggesting we head to Campfire in Carlsbad. It’s the kind of restaurant that inspires so much local pride that even foodies from a few towns make the trip to taste it. In the same way that a large brasserie can feel both sexy and family-friendly, Campfire’s environment is so warm and inviting that guests of all ages and walks of life seemed to dine at the restaurant the night we left. Eating at Campfire is more like dining in the sprawling house of a very generous friend, but the relaxed dining experience is punctuated by the attentive service.
Arrive early and sit at the bar for funky cocktails made with natural wine or herbs, then get into the campfire spirit by sharing some apps, kindly called “kindling” here, and veggies and more substantial grilled meats. The Pasturebird charred chicken with smoked plum and dandelion is outstanding, but the smoked, coffee-rubbed breast was a send-off of all things smoky and decadent. For those who still crave pasta, the mushroom cavatelli were just as hearty as any of the carnivorous offerings. And if you’re with kids or just adults who love burnt sugar, yes, they have s’mores for dessert. Obviously.
Beaches and lagoons, water sports and hiking trails, there is an outdoor activity for everyone. Additionally, Leo Carrillo Ranch is another stunning local landmark.
Like any seaside village, Carlsbad doubles its status as a seaside town by offering a multitude of water sports. Local favorites, like South Ponto Beach and Terramar Beach, are both open to the public for surfing, volleyball, long walks, and beach walks.
Carlsbad Lagoon will rent you anything from a pontoon boat to kayaks and paddle boards to a swan boat, and the lagoons themselves are among the few remaining along the SoCal coast. There are plenty of bird sightings at Batiquitos Lagoon, or earthlings can stick to sashaying with the peacocks at the historic Leo Carrillo Ranch. The park is so beautiful and secluded that it’s sometimes called Carlsbad’s “sleeping beauty,” and the retreat is now preserved by the state.
Jeune et Jolie is a formal yet playful dining experience that lives up to its recent Michelin accolade.
Every relatively small town dreams of global recognition, but Carlsbad got it in droves in September 2021 when it nabbed its first Michelin star. Chef Eric Bost opened the upscale French bistro in 2018 and got away with dreamy French elegance in the decor, four-course prix-fixe menu and cocktails that rival Manhattan’s poshest haunts. . It may cost a pretty penny ($95 for prix fixe, $70 for wine pairings), but that investment in Bost’s vision is magnified tenfold when a meal with the detailed precision of a tapestry unfolds. Ask the expert staff for full descriptions and recommendations of options for each course, and let yourself be swept away in the excitement of it all. With all the cooking and prep done centrally in the restaurant’s bright, open kitchen, you’ll be treated to dinner and a show as the chefs shout tickets to each other in unison. The best thing Jeune et Jolie reminded me of after months of bringing takeout to my couch? Eating is supposed to be fun.
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