Carlsbad, California for Wellness and Work on Active Weekend Getaways
Nothing beats eating in view of the sea at Carlsbad's Fish Shack.
Enjoying the sun and a swim at Omni La Costa Resort, Carlsbad.
There's a music-making studio at the Museum of Making Music, where visitors play everything.
The Flower Fields of Carlsbad bloom in May and June.
The Flower Fields of Carlsbad bloom in May and June.

The southern California city of Carlsbad, home to Legoland California and within an hour of Disneyland and San Diego’s family attractions, may be best known for active family weekends, but this fall, the city will host the 2014 TMS Family Travel conference.

Rather than a seaside base for touring themeparks, our forefathers have considered Carlsbad a wellness destination since 1882. As history tells it, during the health craze that followed the Industrial Revolution, one Captain John Frazier discovered a mineral spring in the area whose waters cured his stomach ailment. The mineral water was so similar to the healing springs found in the famous European spa resort in Karlsbad, Germany, that the town took “Carlsbad” as its name.

Throughout the spring, several of Carlsbad’s day spas and resorts feature Wellness Weekends with an array of discounted packages that include such elements as spa treatments, fitness activities and accommodations. The saying “May gloom, June doom” is not for nothing; these months are prone to coastal fog so catching a tan may not happen. Luckily for TMS Family Travel conference attendees, the fall weather is ideal for exploring the area and enjoying the resorts.

Exploring In and Around Carlsbad, California

This seafront village has big outdoor spaces to let off steam, including the interesting Agua Hedionda Discover Center open weekend afternoons. There are hiking trails, some kids’ programs, and a lagoon where locals kayak and do stand up paddleboarding. Nearby, families can hike around the Batiquitos Lagoon, one of the few remaining tidal wetlands on the southern California coast.  

Movie fans should check out the classic adobe architecture and bountiful gardens of an old time rancho, the Leo Carrillo Ranch Historic Park.  They have free self-guided or guided walking tours of the property on Saturday and Sunday. Weekends in December are busy with holiday events such as a tree lighting and outdoor movies. Visitors can also rent bicycles and tackle the hilly terrain.

March to May is only time of year to enjoy the city’s most unique treat. The Flower Fields are an enormous carpet of ranunculus whose blossoms light up the city. Families can board a tractor for a hayride-style tour, or stroll all the way around the perimeter of this acreage and explore the greenhouse, taking pictures as the beds change color with the light.  The fields attract more than 125,000 annual visitors while producing flower bulbs for sale on the world market (bulbs can only be harvested after the flowers are spent.)

Carlsbad’s concrete boardwalk along the palisades is busy year-round with joggers and strollers, and there’s also a quieter beachfront path down along the sand. The Pacific is cold most of the year, but surfing lessons with wetsuits can be arranged. Locals describe the small green area by the Surf Shop at Tamarack and Carlsbad Blvd. as their favorite place to watch the sunset.

The Museum of Making Music (closed Monday) is a small and interesting collection of instruments funded by the Music Products Industry. Musicians will enjoy the variety of old, new and unusual instruments displayed along with historical information. Kids will most enjoy the sound room where they can make music by “playing” anything from a guitar to a drum set to a Moog synthesizer, and rock out to their own beat with headsets.

Carlsbad Hotels for Healthy Getaways

The world-class Omni La Costa Resort & Spa is the location for the 2014 TMS Family Travel conference, a place where work and wellness combine effortlessly for an unforgettable journey. Founded in 1965 as America’s first full-service spa-resort, it offers a large variety of treatments and recreation options. Read more about how families with children can be introduced to wellness, and check their website to see what special packages are available on your dates of travel.

May and June values are terrific, and the weeks around Mother’s Day are an ideal time to consider a Mother-Daughter (or Father-Son) getaway. However, many small Carlsbad resorts have family specials at other times of the year and, with the sun out and temperature hovering at 66°F, it’s a popular year-round getaway destination.

Spas participating in the spring Wellness Weekend packages include the Ocean Crest Spa at the Hilton Carlsbad Oceanfront Resort & Spa, which moves from spa to beach in winter, with beach toys and picnics prepared for guests who like the ocean breeze. Families who want to save at the inland Hilton Garden Inn can instead choose Family Packages and take 15% off a treatment at the Ocean Crest Spa, a meal at the hotel’s restaurant, or surf board, bicycle and watersports rentals.

The Sheraton Carlsbad sends its guests out, with special offers including tickets to the San Diego Safari Park, golf and breakfast deals, and the busy Playcation Package. This one takes full advantage of the region’s many activities, including on-site resort facilities, plus golf, spa treatments, Legoland tickets or jetski rentals to try after a hearty breakfast.

At the Park Hyatt Aviara, the “Pamper at the Park Package” gives guests up to 30% off on a guest room, and includes use of the solarium lounge, expansive fitness center, indoor whirlpools, sauna and steam rooms, two 50-minute massages and 25% off items from the spa shop. The resort features a championship Arnold Palmer 18-hole golf course, the Aviara Kids Academy by Camp Hyatt, several restaurants and easy beach access.

West Inn & Suites, a well regarded boutique hotel, is a favorite on TripAdvisor. In spring, they promote stand up paddleboarding (SUP) and send you out with a picnic. During winter and holidays, their Endless Summer Deal provides 10% to 20% off King Suites, depending on length of stay. Keep in mind that all year round, West Inn serves up a free hot breakfast buffet, large pool, in-room WiFi, parking, shuttle to Legoland, and cookies and milk at bedtime.

Trip Planning Details for a Carlsbad, California Family Vacation

No matter where you stay, allow time during your visit to stroll along Carlsbad Village Drive, the main street of shops and restaurants with a small town feel.  We enjoyed a dinner out at Paon, a  local wine shop serving delicious, all-organic California cuisine out on the patio, indoors in the wine bar or restaurant, and next door at tables in their tasting room.  At lunch, the beachside fish shacks are fun to try.

For more information about the region, see the Visit Carlsbad site.


This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question, and stay up to date with current events to ensure a safe and successful trip.