Carlsbad, California: The Hidden Gem of Southern Cal
My husband, Eddie, and I traveled to Carlsbad, California, for a business convention and what a terrific little jewel it was!
If Carlsbad is off your radar, it is located 30 miles north of San Diego and 90 miles south of Los Angeles.
Carlsbad is a picturesque village with interesting restaurants, hotels and seaside activities. There were plenty of things to keep us occupied as well as many family activities for those traveling with children.
Staying at the Omni La Costa Resort
Our stay began at the Omni La Costa Resort & Spa. The resort is lovely and pristine with perfect relaxation energy. It has been renovated in the recent past to an upscale family resort with tons of teen/kid activities.
La Costa is also the site of many PGA events and features three pools and water slides. Upon check-in, the six people in our party were upgraded to suites at no additional cost. Our rooms were spacious and featured separate living room quarters, full balconies, and even a separate dressing area. We were impressed with the quick check-in procedure, as well as the bellmen and valet services.
Bluefire Grill**, La Costa’s top-billed restaurant, was ritzy and had a cool atmosphere. I recommend their steaks and seafood. La Costa features a 27-hole golf course with the Del Mar course being the group pick.
My favorite part of the resort was the Chopra Center, and its offering of many specialized holistic services. Deepak Chopra, the world renowned holistic physician, visits there monthly and for a hefty fee, you can schedule appointments with him. I opted for the mango-ginger scrub and body wrap. The staff was friendly and knowledgeable without being pushy.
** this restaurant is now permanently closed as of Dec 2016
The Four Seasons Resort Aviara
A few days later, Eddie and I packed up and headed to our convention which was being held at the Four Seasons Resort Aviara. The Four Seasons Hotel and its grounds were immaculate and upscale. Our room was nice, but much smaller than La Costa. If service is important to you, this is the place with the best.
The Four Seasons Resort Aviara (North San Diego) has a family pool as well as an adult-only tranquility pool overlooking the lush valley. Cabanas and umbrellas are first come, first serve, and healthy lunch options were available. Fresh and fragrant flowers seemed to be everywhere we looked and the arrangements were breathtaking. Local restaurants were plentiful at the resort and the amenities were grand.
A signature Arnold Palmer golf course is onsite and the only one in San Diego. The only thing disappointing was that the spa was small and way too expensive for the mediocre services I received.
Eddie and I (plus our conference friends) enjoyed sightseeing from Oceanside to Carlsbad, with visits to Encinitas (a top surfing spot in California), Cardiff-by-the-Sea, Del Mar, La Jolla, and Coronoado. You may want to visit or golf at Torrey Pines State Reserve along the way.
Side Trip to the Hotel Del
In Coronado, we ate lunch at Sheerwater, the restaurant within the Hotel Del Coronado complete with beach and ocean views. Their signature Baked Goat Cheese and the Monte Cristo Sandwich were excellent choices.
Built in 1888 and nicknamed “Hotel Del’, the property and the hotel’s famous history are worth the trip. The beach around the Hotel Del still has the quaintness of days gone by. The classic film “Some Like It Hot” was filmed at the Hotel Del and many US Presidents and top billed celebrities made it their choice of hotels. The”Wizard of Oz” author, Frank L. Baum traveled to the Hotel Del often and wrote of it, “And every day, her loveliness, shines pure, without a flaw; new charms entrance our every glance, and fill our souls with awe”.
A Dazzling Array of Color
By sheer luck and timing, we were able to visit The Flower Fields at Carlsbad Ranch, featuring 50 acres of stunning color. The fields are open from March through mid-May each year. Bring your camera and view the most eye-popping display of flowers, while the workers buzz around keeping things perfect. Take a ride on antique tractor wagons around the Flower Fields grounds. The American flag of flowers is quite impressive with its red, white, and blue petunias. Kid’s activities include arts & crafts, a playground, and a Sweet Pea maze.
We concluded our day by going to La Jolla for pictures and to enjoy the scenery. We ate lunch at George’s at the Cove. You must enjoy the ocean terrace dining with 360° views, which include the mountains and sparkling blue waters. George’s at the Cove claims to have invented fish tacos and after tasting them, I can believe it. They were fabulous! We tried the Ancho Chili Shrimp Tacos and for dessert, the Huckleberry Bread Pudding.
La Jolla is a surfer, snorkeler, scuba diver, and swimmers paradise. It was also the home to the author Theodore “Dr Seuss” Geisel.
VIPs at the San Diego Zoo
Last, but not least, we did the VIP tour of the San Diego Zoo, a 99-acre facility. Not only does it provide your own personal guide, but it also takes you behind-the-scenes with many animals. The San Diego Zoo is one of the best known and most admired zoos in the United States. We learned about the zookeeper’s jobs and how they care for the animals. The San Diego Zoo VIP Tour also included a bus ride through the entire park so you don’t miss a thing.
It was amazing for me, an animal lover, to learn about the top-notch care the animals receive and hear about the details of it. Simple things included figuring out how much and what types of eucalyptus koalas can have and what bedding materials will not irritate their skin. We got to feed camels and see several koala bears that the San Diego Zoo owns, that were not currently on display. My favorite part of the tour was meeting Mongo, a 1,900 lb. camel who loved showing off for us.
A Fantastic Southern Cal Vacation
I truly love Southern California and am glad to have added some new areas to my travels. The diversity of all the different cities in California never ceases to astound me.
Bonus: The shopping is fantastic; try out the Carlsbad Premium Outlets (Le Creuset, Lacoste, Banana Republic.), Fashion Valley Mall (Sak’s, Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus), University Towne Center (Nordstrom, Crate & Barrel, See’s Candies, Williams Sonoma Grande Cuisine).
Tip: Dine at one the many Vigilucci restaurants around the Carlsbad area. I recommend Vigilucci’s Steak & Seafood for the delicious steaks and great pasta dishes. My favorite is the Asparagus & Salmon Pappardelle.
FYI: If you have been to other aquariums across the country, skip the small Birch Aquarium at Scripps in La Jolla. We found it quite boring.
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