Carlsbad Village is the downtown commercial area of Carlsbad located right along the coast. The majority of the hotels and vacation rentals are in, or very close to, the village, with some properties directly on the beach and others within walking distance to the ocean. The well-known Carlsbad Inn, a Bavarian looking hotel at the edge of town with ocean views from some rooms, is a prime example of an ocean front hotel at the edge of town.
The downtown area is very walkable, and the best way to experience Carlsbad Village is to find a parking spot (it’s all FREE!) for a few hours and set out on foot. You can explore all the shopping that Carlsbad Village offers – second hand clothing shops; antique stores (the Carlsbad Village Art and Antique Mall is particularly well known with over 100 vendors); jewelry; gold; toys; furniture and home furnishings; florists; clothing stores and boutiques for men, women and children; art galleries; the Witch Creek Winery and Tasting Room and several wine bars; hair and nail salons; spas…the list goes on and on.
One of the more famous landmarks is the Alt Karlsbad Hanse House on Carlsbad Boulevard, site of the first mineral water spa in the town, a mainstay of Carlsbad since the 1880s. Carlsbad was named after the famous Karlsbad Spa in Europe (in the present-day Czech Republic). Stop by to buy some water (bring your own jug) for just $.50 or to have a massage or other treatment.
The Carlsbad Farmer’s Market is a great place to buy local fruits and vegetables, among many other products and service. The market is held on Wednesdays from 3 – 6 pm on State Street between Grand and Carlsbad Village Drive.
There are dozens of dining opportunities in Carlsbad varying from very casual to upscale. Fresco Trattoria is a popular Italian eatery about a block from the beach just off the main drag. Jay’s Gourmet is a favorite, as is Dini’s Bistro (with views of the ocean from across the road); Vigilucci’s, at the corner of Tamarack and the coast road, about ½ mile south of town, also enjoys ocean views. Norte is a Mexican eatery on Carlsbad Boulevard that has been in business for 30 years. And Cicciotti’s Trattoria Italiana and Seafood just opened in the heart of downtown (July 2016).
You’ll also find a number of bars and night spots, which can get rather rowdy on the weekends, especially in the summer months when the crowds are substantial.
Carlsbad’s original train depot built in the 1880s is now a visitor’s center and worth a visit. There are two train stops on the Coaster in Carlsbad – one at 6511 Avenida Encinitas by Poinsettia south of town, the other at 2775 State Street in the Village. Amtrak now also makes a couple of stops in Carlsbad but offers more trains at Oceanside a few miles to the north or from Solana Beach to the south.
Last, but not least, Carlsbad beaches are a hit with residents and visitors alike. While the beach runs continuously from one end of Carlsbad to the other, about 7 miles, there are some particularly popular beaches – Carlsbad State Beach (with camping sites), Ponto and Tamarack Beach; Frazee Beach is located at the end of Carlsbad Village Drive in the Village. There is a cement “boardwalk” along the beach in town running south from the small park as you enter the Village, offering views north to Camp Pendleton and south as far as La Jolla.
The beaches and the boardwalk are popular all year, especially for sunset watching, but can get fairly crowded during the summer months. It’s a great area to walk, ride bikes, or simply watch the surfers, pelicans and seagulls and other colorful characters that also enjoy the Southern California lifestyle that Carlsbad is so famous for. You’ll be charmed if you haven’t visited!