101 Things to do In and Around Carlsbad CA

Real Estate Agent with eXp Realty of California, Inc. CA DRE #01490977

101 Things to do In and Around Carlsbad CA

There are lots of things to do in North County San Diego (so this post is LONG), no matter whether you prefer indoors or out. I guess that's one of the things that appeals to me about being here.

While I am still learning my way around, after only being here barely 2 years (at the time this was written), I have discovered a tremendous array of things to do. Lots of this is in Carlsbad, bit there's so much more if we start at the north part of the county in Oceanside.

This post is about things to do on Route 101 (the Coast Highway, as it is commonly called). While there may be 101 of them, or likely many more, the focus is on this eclectic road along the ocean from Oceanside to Torrey Pines, just south of Del Mar.

California Welcome Center in Oceanside CA   Oceanside Marina in Oceanside CA The 101 in down town Oceanside CA


Starting your journey in north Oceanside just south of Camp Pendleton, you can begin at the State of California Welcome Center (lots of maps, brochures, and much more) if you haven't a clue as to where you are going. On the other hand just taking the trip down the 101 will yield an amazing collection of things you can enjoy, in addition to visits to the beach along the way, and it's much more fun just to see what you encounter. If you want to visit the Marina, start a little further north of the Center.

Heading south from the Welcome Center you will encounter:

  • Lots of restaurants (nothing high end, but an incredible collection of fast food, sea food, family style eateries, grills, bakeries,  and so on - take your pick of ethnic too)
  • The Oceanside Pier - worth a side trip to take a walk from the beach end all the way out (and enjoy Ruby's Restaurant at the end with terrific ocean views)
  • New condos being built along the oceanfront by the pier - interested in a new condo in Oceanside? Let me know.
  • The Strand- the walkway directly along the beach with great views of the ocean, beach, and beachfront condos. Real estate here is PRICEY! BTW there is a Strand in Manhattan Beach as well, and probably some of the other beach Cities south of LA.
  • The Beach - of course you have to stop here
  • Movies
  • Shopping- well you can shop for just about anything...cars, insurance, homes, furniture, liquor, wine, second hand clothes, places to pawn things, jewelry, gold and diamonds, surfboards, beachwear, food, CDs and DVDs, car hitches, tires, mufflers, art work, T-shirts, boats, donuts, electronics, check cashing, motorcycles, moving supplies, and much more.
  • Oceanside Public Library
  • New Vision Theatre
  • Become a dealer at the Casino Dealer School
  • Go Bowling
  • Play Billiards
  • Park your RV
  • Get your transmission fixed
  • Have your floor covering repaired
  • Buy antiques - ESW Consignment Warehouse is a terrific place with a ever-changing supply of stuff at great prices. Read more here...
  • Take dance lessons at Ariel's Dance Studio
  • Buy flowers
  • Get you nails done (well, not me but maybe you)
  • Go fishing at the lagoon between Oceanside and Carlsbad

After the lagoon you enter the charming village of Carlsbad (often called Carlsbad Village by the Sea or Carlsbad Village).


Carlsbad CA The 101/Coast Road in Carlsbad CA 

Carlsbad Village in Carlsbad CA


There is lots to do in Carlsbad, too, and the link will give you a great overview of all you can see - restaurants, the beaches, shopping and more (there are several virtual tours with music to enjoy). Read on for more things to do

Next stop along the 101 is Encinitas. Just past Carlsbad State Beach you enter Leucadia, a funky eclectic beach town with a strong surfing history and presence. The community profile I just noted has lots of information about things to do and what the community is like.


Le Papagayo Restaurant in Leucadia    The Classic Leucadia Donut Shop in Leucadia on the 101 

Surfing at the Leucadia beaches


Heading down the 101 you can:

  • Get a tattoo
  • Buy a new surfboard
  • Buy dozens of T-shirts for yourself, friends and family
  • Shop at some cool stores like M'Aimer.
  • Have lunch, brunch OR dinner at the coolest restaurant, Le Papagayo, with live music at night (jazz, latin, blues, etc).
  • Visit Grandview Beach to watch the surfers (a block over from the 101)
  • Buy Donuts at the Leucadia Donut Shop - known by locals for miles around
  • Visit the Madd Potter - a terrific garden and pottery shop with fountains, plants and all kinds of cool stuff
  • Eat Italian food at Robbie's,one of the Vigilucci's restaurants


The Encinitas sign, gateway to down town Encinitas    Moonlight Beach in Encinitas 

The Self Realization Fellowship Retreat in Encinitas


As you pass out of Leucadia and into Encinitas proper you will find even more to do, and a more upscale feel (in general). Depends on what you like.

Next you will cruise by some beautiful bluff vistas of the ocean to your right and the camping area along the 101 (watch out for surfers and their boards as they cross the 101 to get to the beach and hit the waves) as you head in to Cardiff (more formally known as Cardiff-by-the-Sea). You will pass the Composer District (residential) on your left on the other side of the RR tracks, and a short distance later you will see the town itself on the left.


Restaurant Row in Cardiff seen from the hills    The famous Seaside Market in down town Cardiff by the Sea 

One of a number of shops in Cardiff

Take a left at the light if you want to pay a visit to:

  • Seaside Market - small but upscale market with all you need for a beach picnic
  • Pipes - the BEST breakfast place around
  • Shopping for beach and surf wear at Patagonia or at Bikinis
  • A walk up the hill into the hip Walking District to check out the real estate with great ocean views
  • Continue down the 101 to Cardiff's Restaurant Row along the beach - Charlie's By the Sea, The Charthouse, The Beach House (eat UPSTAIRS for best views), Las Olas and more. You can watch the surfers or enjoy the sunsets.
  • Hit the beach just beyond the restaurants for kite flying, surfing, or just walking the beach
  • Watch for the creative "rock sculptures" that occasionally appear

After Cardiff State Beach (this is a great area to ride you bike, by the way) you will enter Solana Beach, an upscale beach town just north of Del Mar. Much of the downtown area is along the 101 to your right, with more on the other side of the RR tracks. The beach, with amazing, but unstable, bluffs and ocean front housing is a couple of blocks to the right.


Solana Beach     Solana Beach 


The Cedros Avenue Design District in Solana Beach


In Solana Beach...

  • Shop til you drop
  • Visit dog beach(just a few hundred yards from Via de la Valle heading south in Del Mar) with your pooch then head over to the Do It Yourself Dog Wash (just a ½ block from the 101)
  • Get your hair done
  • Dine at Blanca or at Parioli Italian Restaurant
  • Rent a room for the night or weekend at the Holiday Inn Express.
  • Work out at a great health club, Frog's
  • Turn left at the light in the heart of town and cruise over 1 block to the Cedros Avenue Design District where you can shop and eat to your heart's content, and beyond.
  • Hop the Coasterat the train station just north of the Cedros District and head to San Diego or back north
  • Or catch the Amtrak for Los Angeles

It's been a long journey and the 101 continues into Del Mar and then to Torrey Pines - we'll take that trip later.

But before we go, take a left off the 101 at Via de la Valle and head over to the Del Mar Race Track - the horses are running now (July 18 until September 5). Perhaps a snack at the Fish Market on the way?


The Fish Market in Del Mar        The famed Del Mar Racetrack in Del Mar


Hope you enjoyed the trip. Bet you didn't know there was so much to do...and I just grazed the surface.

If you have any questions or need more information, why not give me a ring at 760-840-1360, TEXT ME, or shoot me an email at JeffDowlerSolutions@Gmail.com. Cheers!


Comments (10)

Vicki Lloyd
The Lloyd Realty Group - San Diego, CA
(619)452-9798, Real Estate San Diego California

Wow Jeff!  This is a very meaty post with lots of great photos and links!  You've really raised the bar here.  I am going to try to do something similar for my area!


Jul 18, 2007 12:34 PM
Bill Gassett
RE/MAX Executive Realty - Hopkinton, MA
Metrowest Massachusetts Real Estate

Jeff - Agree with Vicki - great to have all the nice photos and links - very captivating! Best of luck.

Jul 18, 2007 12:53 PM
Jeff Dowler, CRS
eXp Realty of California, Inc. - Carlsbad, CA
The Southern California Relocation Dude

Thanks, Vicky - it was a lot of wrok, but I was able to bring in some of the other posts I have written on various communities. I love the area so writing about it (and touring around) was great fun.


Jul 18, 2007 01:57 PM
Jeff Dowler, CRS
eXp Realty of California, Inc. - Carlsbad, CA
The Southern California Relocation Dude

Thanks, Bill. Glad you stopped by and commented. I appreciate the compliment.


Jul 18, 2007 01:58 PM
Kim Wood
The Tech Byte - West Chester, PA
Kim Wood ~ The Tech Byte
This post must have taken you DAYS to write! Love the layout, pictures, great you linked so many interesting spots and things to do..... WOWZA that deserves a 5 !!
Jul 18, 2007 02:17 PM
Paula Henry
Home to Indy Team @ HomeSmart Realty Group - Avon, IN
Realtor - Indianapolis Real Estate - 317-605-4174
Jeff - You just outdid yourself, which BTW, is quite an accomplishment.
Jul 18, 2007 04:27 PM
Jeff Dowler, CRS
eXp Realty of California, Inc. - Carlsbad, CA
The Southern California Relocation Dude

Kim - thank you. Well, not days, but it did take about 6 hours all total. Had to take some more photos, but all the tours and community posts I included were already posted before. I know the road well so it was fun.


Jul 18, 2007 06:54 PM
Jeff Dowler, CRS
eXp Realty of California, Inc. - Carlsbad, CA
The Southern California Relocation Dude

Paula - thank you for your kind words. Hmmm, now what to do for an encore?


Jul 18, 2007 06:55 PM
James Goodale
First Home Tour, LLC - San Diego, CA
Jeff this was a great, well done post. Heck I live in San Elijo Hills and you still taught me a few things about our area. Nice job!
Jul 24, 2007 05:32 AM
Jeff Dowler, CRS
eXp Realty of California, Inc. - Carlsbad, CA
The Southern California Relocation Dude

Ryan - thanks for the compliment. Glad it was helpful.


Jul 24, 2007 06:47 AM