20 Things to Do near Carlsbad for under $20

Carlsbad, California, is most famous for its seven miles of coastline and LEGOLAND California theme park. But North San Diego County has much more to offer than sandy beaches and LEGO-inspired rides.

If you’re the kind of traveler who likes to explore out-of-the-way and budget-friendly attractions, this post is for you. We’ve compiled 20 of our favorite things to do near Carlsbad, all of which cost under $20.

  1. Oceanside Pier Fishing. Rent tackle from one of the local bait shops (there’s even one right on the pier) or bring your own. You’ll catch different fish depending on where you drop your line. Cost: A few dollars for bait if you bring your own tackle.
  1. California Surf Museum. Surfers will love this Oceanside museum, which tells how the sport developed through a series of colorful exhibits. The museum was even featured on an episode of American Pickers. Cost: $5 for adults and free for kids under 12.
  1. San Diego Botanic Garden. Tour Asia, Australia, Africa, and more at this gorgeous garden located in Encinitas, which is also home to quail, butterflies, and other native species. Cost: $14 for adults and $8 for children ages three to 12, plus $2 for parking.
  1. Farmers Markets. Looking to stock your condo with farm fresh ingredients? There’s always a farmers market going on somewhere in North San Diego County. Check out the San Diego Farm Bureau for more information on this family-friendly activity. Cost: Free
  1. Batiquitos Lagoon. This ecological reserve in Carlsbad includes a two-mile walking path and nature center. You’ll see several species of endangered plants and birds in their native habitat as you explore the lagoon. Cost: Free
  1. Museum of Making Music. This Carlsbad museum houses hundreds of vintage instruments, along with numerous audio and visual clips to give you a feel for how music has developed through the ages. Cost: $8 for adults and $5 for children ages six to 18.
  1. Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve. The 2,000-acre reserve near Del Mar is home to the rare Torrey pine trees and overlooks the beach. You’ll find eight miles of well-manicured trails and gorgeous views of the Pacific Ocean. Cost: $10 to $15 per vehicle based on demand.
  1. Beach Cruisers. Borrow beach cruisers from your resort or rent them from a local bike shop. Carlsbad Village is full of quaint shops and restaurants, or you can take the bikes to the seawall and ride along the beach. Cost: $10 per hour per bike.
  1. Agua Hedionda. The 400-acre lagoon is well-known locally for its kayaking, jet skiing, and boating. But it’s also home to dozens of plant and animal species and a relatively new Discovery Center, which features historical and environmental exhibits and displays. Cost: $5
  1. Carlsbad Craftsmanship Museum. There’s a worldwide community of engineers who build miniature working versions of machines using tools smaller than a penny, and many such models are on display at this unusual museum. Cost: Free
  1. Leo Carillo Ranch Historic Park. Leo Carillo was a famous actor in the mid-20th Later in life he recreated an Old California-style working rancho, which you can still visit today in Carlsbad. Cost: Free
  1. Oceanside Museum of Art. OMA features rotating modern art exhibits, many of which showcase the natural and architectural beauty of San Diego County. The museum also offers films, lectures, and other events. Cost: $8
  1. Mission San Luis Rey. Located in Oceanside, this National Historic Landmark is the largest of the California missions. The grounds include a historic church, gardens, and a museum featuring pre-Columbian and Spanish artifacts. Cost: $5 for adults and $4 for children ages six to 18.
  1. Green Dragon Tavern & Museum. This Carlsbad newcomer features a 22,000-square-foot replica of Boston’s original Green Dragon Tavern and a small Revolutionary War museum. Stop by the working tavern for a pint of local beer. Cost: Free
  1. Indoor Go Karting. For a real thrill, visit one of San Diego County’s indoor go karting tracks. Perfect for kids and adults alike. Try K1 Speed in Carlsbad, which also has games and a snack bar. Cost: $20 per race.
  1. Craft Beer Tastings. Interstate 78, also known as the “Hops Highways” is your ticket to San Diego’s booming craft beer scene. Check out Mother Earth Brewery in Vista or Bagby Beer Company in Oceanside. Cost: Varies.
  1. Wine Tasting. Wine may not get as much attention these days as beer, but you’ll find a handful of tasting rooms in North San Diego County, including Witch Creek in downtown Carlsbad. Or consider driving just over an hour to Temecula Wine County. Cost: Varies.
  1. Meditation Gardens. Known locally as Swami’s, the meditation gardens in Encinitas offer a tranquil reprieve from Southern California’s fast pace of life. You’ll enjoy the gorgeous views of the ocean. Cost: Free
  1. Trampoline Park. Your kids will love bouncing around the wall-to-wall trampolines at Get Air in Vista. The indoor trampoline park also has a giant foam pit and an adrenaline-pumping ninja maze. Cost: $10 for 30 minutes.
  1. California Center for the Arts, Escondido. The art museum features new exhibits every season, which typically showcase local artists. Check out the event calendar too, as the center offers free musical performances throughout the year. Cost: Varies
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