Things to Do in La Costa / Carlsbad

Today’s Things to Do in San Diego Podcast is about the areas near La Costa, south/west Carlsbad, south Vista and west San Marcos. This is north San Diego County and about 5 miles inland. 

We’re covering this area because it is near where I live so I’m very familiar with it . Also, since this area is inland from Legoland by 10-15 minutes I think this area doesn’t get enough attention with some of the amazing places that are here.

Just a reminder. I want for you to have the BEST day every in San Diego. To keep it authentic neither my guests nor I are paid or compensated for any place mentioned on the podcast. There are no sponosrs. I just want to talk about places that my guests or I are very passionate about because they are great. 

What is the catch? I am setting up a Patreon account. If you’d like to donate, I would appreciate it as I put a lot of time into making this podcast.

I also may have affiliate links on the website but those will be clearly laid out. I’m only including affiliate links for products or services that I believe in that I’d actually buy myself. 

For today’s show you might want to take a look on the map on the show notes at to orient yourself. This area is north San Diego county. The epicenter of where we are talking about is around Palomar Airport Road and Melose. We are about 5 miles inland from the Ocean. 

Things to do in San Diego Podcast - this episode is for La Costa and Carlsbad (just to the East of Legoland)
Map of La Costa, south-east Carlsbad and San Marcos

If I had to describe the vibe of this area, I’d say that it was extremely family oriented as well as dog friendly. Also very safe, comfortable and beautiful. Who is this are not for? If you like lots of people, like to party, like the action of downtown I’m not sure you’d appreaciate the quiet comfort. If you have kids this is probably a great location to visit and stay. 

Hotels/Accommodations near La Costa, Carlsbad and west San Marcos

The best hotels in this area if you are price sensitive and would rather not be where most of the tourist stay would be near Palomar Airport and El Fuerte. There are several new hotels (Staybridge, Holiday Inn) that popped up recently and they are walking distance to a lot of food, bars and breweries. 

If you are interested in luxury, check out the Omni La Costa Resort. They have nice restaurants, golf, tennis, shopping and the Chopra Center.

You can also find a lot of Airbnb places to rent.

Transportation and Parking in La Costa and Carlsbad

There is not much public transportation this area. You can get to Poinsettia station in south Carlsbad by the Coaster train. Most people drive here so if you don’t have a car you’ll be relying on Uber or Lyft. 

Shopping in Carlsbad and La Costa

You’ll find the typical Target and other chains but if you are looking for more boutique, try The Forum which is a lifestyle mall at El Camino Real and Calle Barcelona in Carlsbad.

There is a good place to shop near Aviara Parkway and El Camino near the Dove Library. The Plaza is called Plaza Paseo Real. A place called Uptown Cheapskate has great finds. It is really cute and the owner and staff are so helpful. Great place for women’s clothes and a bit of men’s clothes. Good for teenagers as well. 

Not a lot of shopping other than that. You’ll find more at the Carlsbad Outlet mall or driving down the 101 along the coast. 

Museums in Carlsbad and Vista

We are only covering a few of the museums in the Carlsbad / Vista area because we have other episodes coming that will cover more of them.

Craftsmanship Museum

Gemological Institute of America (GIA) – museum – take a guided tour – reservations required. GIA is in Carlsbad next to both the Carlsbad Flower Fields and Legoland.

Leo Carrillo Ranch Historic Park – This ranch used to belong to Leo Carrillo who was an actor in the early to mid 1900s. He was Poncho on the Cisco Kid. Have you ever seen a peacock? You’ll see about 40 peacocks here. They were brought in to kill rattlesnakes. Nice area for a picnic too.

Coffee Houses in Carlsbad and San Marcos

La Costa Coffee Roasting – Great hangout in Carlsbad at the Plaza Paseo Real with lots of seating outside that is comfortable. Inside you can watch them roast the beans. Nice selection of tea and pastries. One of my favorite coffee houses.

Peet’s Coffee -Although this is a chain, I have to recommend it because of the location and patio.

Old California Coffee House – This coffee house is a fun eclectic hangout in San Marcos’s Restaurant Row. They have good tea, gelato, and some food. Fun place to hang out at since it is so different.


2Plank Vineyards – Winery in Vista Business Park. You can take a painting class while having a glass of wine every Saturday night.

Le Fleurs Winery – Winery in San Marcos. Glass painting on Sunday nights and Paint and Wine on Friday Nights.

Cider and Mead

Twisted Horn Mead and Cider – Cider and Mead Hall

Breweries in Carlsbad and San Marcos

Carlsbad Brewing – new place with great food and a huge brewery system. A bit loud as it is all one large space and very popular.

Booze Brothers Brewing Co – If you are looking for live music, good beer and a living room like setting, you’ll love Booze Brothers.

Battlemage Brewing Company – If you like Magic the Gathering or Dungeons and Dragons you’ll enjoy this place.

Bars and Restaurants in Carlsbad, La Costa and Surrounding Areas

Casero Taqueria – new place in Carlsbad’s Bressi Ranch with elevated Mexican food. This place has the cutest outside area with personal fire pits and a full service bar. Open later than most places in the area.

Panini Kabob Grill – Another place in Carlsbad’s Bressi Ranch. Fresh, Mediterraan food. New restaurant. We’re impressed.

Tomoyama Sushi – Good sushi in Carlsbad at the Plaza Paseo Real strip mall. For a great deal go between 3:30-5:30 for Happy Hour.

Beach Plum Kitchen – Super fresh food and great breakfast and lunch. In Carlsbad at the Plaza Paseo Real. Super busy for breakfast.

Tin Leaf Kitchen – Owed by Beach Plum Cafe and also in Carlsbad at the Plaza Paseo Real. Casual sandwiches and fries. Order up front and they will bring it to you. 10 sauces to choose from just for the fries. Elevated but also still good for kids.

Chins Gourmet – Our favorite Chinese food in North County.

Fish District – Fast food, casual with poke bowls, fish tacos and salads. Located in Bressi Ranch in Carlsbad.

Taco Bar – a bit more authentic then most of the taco / Mexican restaurants around. Ron’s favorite is the street tacos.

Churchills Pub and Grille – This English Pub has been around for many decades. May have the largest selection of beer of any other place in North County. They really know their beer and pull in a lot of interesting ones.

Curry & More – Curry & More is Ron’s favorite Indian Restaurant in North San Diego County.

Mama Kat’s – Our favorite breakfast place in San Diego County. Best Eggs Benedict we’ve ever had. This place gets incredibly busy but they have turned it into more of a destination with a gift shop, games and a coffee bar to keep you busy while you wait. They also do lunch.

Foster’s Donuts has been in San Marcos for years. We like it better than any other donut place including Krispy Kreme. It is a hole in the wall and they only take cash.


Aztec Brewing – Aztec is in Vista’s Business Park. Known as a place for scouting talent.

Old California Coffee House– Music on the patio a few times a week.

Booze Brothers – Music occasionally outside on a stage.

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