Every parent wants to make their kid’s dream come true and sometimes that means planning a kid-centered vacation. Case in point: my six-year-old son’s Lego obsession led us to a family holiday to Carlsbad, California, home of Legoland California Resort.
Carlsbad is a classic Southern California town about 35 miles north of San Diego. Ostensibly a beach town, Carlsbad is a place where you can slow down and enjoy the chill vibe. A visit to Carlsbad and Legoland might just earn you Mom or Dad of the Year status, and the entire family can enjoy the laidback charms of the town.
Kick off your weekend at Legoland California Resort. Six seems to be the magic age for ultimate Legoland enjoyment. Kids older than nine might find Legoland a bit boring or too young to sustain their attention. Younger children will find plenty to keep them entertained, so if you are traveling with multiple kids, go to Legoland while they are on the younger side.
Tip: Bring miniature figures (aka minifigs) from home. These are the Lego people that come with the sets. Throughout Legoland, both at the resort and the park, kids can trade their boring old minifigs for new ones with Legoland employees.
Tip: Head straight to the furthest point from the entrance — Pirate Shores — when the park opens in order to move away from the crowds that bunch up at the entrance to the park, affectionately referred to as “The Beginning.” Then you can leisurely find your way back to the entrance. Fewer crowds equal shorter lines and that makes the whole family happy.
Food: Legoland has a number of restaurants and snack bars but also allows families to bring their own food. Pack a picnic lunch and treat the kids to ice cream or apple fries for a treat/sugar jolt later in the afternoon.
The Legoland Resort Hotel goes to extra lengths to make the experience kid-centered and fun. Rooms have treasure maps that lead to a secret code that opens a safe with a special Lego prize. Five different Lego themes decorate the rooms: Adventure, Ninjago, Pirates, Kingdom and Friends. The magical elevator is a favorite hotel feature. As soon as the doors close, a disco ball descends from the ceiling, the lights dim and dance music fills the air.
The Legoland Resort Hotel is steps away from the entrance to the park and resort guests may enter 30 minutes prior to the official gate opening time. On our visit, we walked right in with no lines at 9:30 am, thus beginning what my son later called “the best day of my entire life.”
More than anything, Carlsbad is a beach town. Nothing is finer than a long walk along a pristine California beach. Even in the middle of winter, the average temperature in Carlsbad is in the mid-60’s. Rent pedal or electric bikes at Pedego and zip along the lengthy bike path that parallels the Pacific Coast Highway and the stunning California coastline.
Señor Grubby’s offers classic Mexican taqueria fare with an emphasis on fresh ingredients, homemade salsas and Baja style fish tacos and burritos that prove just how close Carlsbad is to the Mexican border.
Another great lunch option is Pokewan, a poke bowl made to order answer to fast food. Customers can choose their fish and toppings or go for one of the chef-curated creations of rice, veggies, poke and sauces.
Carlsbad Village, a collection of shops and restaurants in the center of town, offers a great chance to experience the fabled Southern California lifestyle. Ampersand features beautiful objects, art and gifts for the home. Ooh La La sells “grown-up” surf-style clothing for women.
Before you leave, fuel up on treats. Carlsbad Village has no less than four ice cream shops and two places to get smoothies.
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