With a buzzy food and drink scene, this once-sleepy suburb of San Diego in North County now boasts so much more than good surfing. From museums and cafés to a walkable downtown, Carlsbad is a coastal enclave with its own brand of So-Cal culture.
With mountain scenes on the walls, camping kitsch on display and even a teepee for kids to play in, the vibe at Campfire is hip, foodie, family-oriented fun. Most dishes are wood-fried or have a nod to smoky flavors, and the cocktails are crafted by some of the region’s finest ‘tenders. Park 101 is another hit with cool families looking for good food (barbecue is the star here), drinks and plenty of room to roam with corn hole and other lawn games open for play in the outdoor dining room. For sushi and sashimi, locals head to Land & Water Co. for their all-sustainable seafood-and-small-plates menu. True foodies will love a visit to Prager Bros., an artisan bakery that specializes in old-school methods (without using yeast) like hand-shaping organic loaves, croissants and scones. Craft beer lovers will feel right at home at Burgeon Beer Co., started by a trio of locals with a hit list of IPAs, saisons, sours and more.
As beaches go, Carlsbad’s coast is lined with a diverse stretch of options. Tamarak State Beach is perfect for swimming, surfing, kayaking or easy beachcombing. The paved path called “the seawall” that separates the beach from Highway 101 is a favorite for locals looking for a scenic jog. For something a bit more rustic and undeveloped, try South Ponto Beach. The beach is wide, the waves are good for surfing or just splashing, and the sand dunes make a fine spot to catch the sunset. Clean, public restrooms are a bonus.