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Carlsbad and Surrounding Areas

Carlsbad Beach. Photo: Jakesmome.
Carlsbad Beach. Photo: Jakesmome.

Traveling to North San Diego County for the Carlsbad 5000? Here are some fun things to do there besides run.

Written by: John Mendelsohn

As is typical of the locales in which our races are held, North County San Diego — whose coastal location, scenic beauty, low population density, thriving commerce, abundant upscale housing, and high-performing schools have made Carlsbad one of the country’s most expensive housing markets — abounds with notable attractions.

Legoland California, one of only two such parks outside Europe, is the locale’s most famous attraction, by at least 5K. The park may well prove at least a little enchanting to anyone who has played with the colorful plastic bricks after which it’s named, and who has not? Obviously, the level of enchantment is inversely proportional to age, but only the most implacable curmudgeon could fail to be at least slightly delighted by the miniature dioramas of seven areas of the United States displayed around the park. Over 40 million LEGO bricks in 1:20 scale were involved, and required three years to assemble. A large viewing window at the front of Miniland USA’s Model Shop allows you to watch the park’s 10 Master Model Builders at work.

At K1 Speed you can drive European-built electric go-karts up to 40 mph on an indoor asphalt track that provides tremendous grip through high speed corners, with computerized scoring. The very petite are advised that no one under 58 inches tall is allowed behind the wheel of an adult kart, and they check for lifts in your shoes.

The 15,000-square foot Carlsbad Skatepark is conveniently located right between a police and a fire station. Should you be mugged or burst aflame while enjoying its skateable rails, ramps, bowls and stairs, help will be but a short dash away!

Run by the California Department of Fish and Game, the Batiquitos Lagoon is a coastal wetland nature reserve of rare fascination. You’ll learn on guided walks about the importance of the lagoon as a habitat for birds, insects, plants, fish, mammals and even benthic organisms.

The Carlsbad Lagoon has wave runners, kayaks, canoes, peddle boats, and standup paddleboards for rent, and offers wakeboard lessons. All sorts of beach toys — wetsuits, surfboards, skim boards, boogie boards — may be purchased at the little shop. But you needn’t rent or buy anything to have a good time; a picnic on the beach can be a source of great pleasure too! California Watersports too has its own private beach. Jet ski, kayak, or just, you know, chill!

Witt’s Carlsbad Pipelines, easily found between Jays Pizza and Cold Stone Creamery, has some great T-shirts, albeit not, the last time we popped in, any proclaiming Mom and Dad Went to Carlsbad and All I Got Was This [deleted] T-Shirt!

Nice clean Carlsbad State Beach is nearly always crowded, so if you’re planning to camp, you should have tried to make a reservation six months ago. But there are always a few last-minute cancellations, so if you’re in the ‘hood, by all means ask. The campsites are up on a cliff, requiring you to descend some serious stairs to get to the beach, but Leucadia Pizza will deliver to your actual campsite, shattering any illusion that you’ve Returned to Nature.

The staff of the Spa at La Costa could hardly be more pleasant, even if your treatment goes over the allocated time. The facility itself is clean and beautiful, with lots of lounging space available. Be forewarned, though, that the Spa Cafe has a knack for making you wish you’d eaten elsewhere, or even ordered from Leucadia Pizza.

In Carlsbad Village, you can browse in antique and curio stores, or even enjoy a delicious snack. It’s easy and fun to shop at Carlsbad Premium Outlets’ nearly 100 stores, including Banana Republic Outlet, Coach, Barneys and Calvin Klein. The landscaping’s pretty, and the restaurants better than you’d expect in a shopping mall, and there are comfortable benches from which to observe or compare purchases with fellow bargain enthusiasts.

The 18-hole Aviara Golf Club was designed by Arnold Palmer, and is as beautiful as challenging; experts agree it’s one of North America’s premier courses! If it’s your short game you want to improve, though, you might be better directed to Rancho Carlsbad Golf Course, though let’s not pretend that the greens don’t have lots of ball marks and the tee-boxes more divots than you’d wish. There are trees on almost every hole, and the fairways are a good mix of narrow and wide. The relatively small (about 60 feet x 60 feet) greens drive some golfers crazy — they are almost all domed or sloping – and are likely to add at least six shots to any scratch-golfer’s score.

Well-maintained Poinsettia Park is a great place for a picnic, a jog on one of the trails (don’t dare tell us you’re all jogged out after five kilometers!) or a game of tennis, basketball or baseball.

At the Museum of Making Music, visitors are invited to make their own music on a number of instruments — through headphones, thank God — on which the average person is unlikely ever to get her hands. Be forewarned that, because retailers sponsor the place, there’s a bit of medium-sell interspersed with recordings from various eras.

The Coyote Bar & Grill is a howlingly good local place for those craving smaller, cheaper, and lower-key than down in San Diego to dance. Sometimes they’ll add more liquor to your drink if you complain bitterly that it’s too weak.