Especially good option if you have Legoland annual passes.
Drive Time: About 1 ½ hours from LA and only ½ hour to 1 hour from OC.
Weather: It’s near the beach, so it can get foggy and there can be an ocean breeze. Bring a light jacket for the evenings.
Eat: Tip Top German Restaurant, Legoland restaurants, and Karl Strauss for breakfast (nearby kid-friendly restaurants/food: Ruby’s, Costco pizza, Islands)
Play: Museum of Making Music and Legoland
PM: The kids and I usually drive down right after school on Friday to beat the horrible Friday traffic. We can walk around the bluffs at Carlsbad — or right outside the hotel — and find a good spot to watch the sunset.
My husband takes the train home from work in downtown LA and we pick him up in Solana Beach at the train station across from Pizza Port (a San Diego favorite). We usually end up calling ahead to order take-out from Karl Strauss Restaurant & Brewery which is right on the Grand Pacific Palisades Resort and Hotel Carlsbad property. It’s busy to eat there on a Friday, but a cinch for takeout in the room.
The hotel is like an amusement park in itself with water play area, pools, game room with air hockey, and jukebox! It’s also a timeshare property so there are barbecues for cooking out and lots of scheduled family activities – like s’mores by the fire pit or free family movies in the room. Other hotels in the area are EITHER kid-focused OR adult-focused. We keep coming back to this hotel because it’s the best mix of BOTH and they are very family-friendly and accomodating.
Leisurely morning with buffet breakfast at Karl Strauss for 2 included in the price of the room. We often walk over to Legoland when it opens because we have annual passes, but it’s completely optional. Legoland has tons of good food for lunch with healthy fruit cups, granola and yogurt as options. Don’t forget the apple fries!
- 9 Tips for the Kindergarten and Under Crew at Legoland
- 6 Legoland California Places Adults Might Find Boring, But Kids Will Love
- Discovering Nature Play at Legoland
The Museum of Making Music (MoMM) is within walking distance of the hotel — and it’s a super fun walk through history of music with lots of opportunities to play different instruments or push buttons to hear examples. It’s small, but we had such a good time playing here! It takes about an hour to get through the exhibits. Best for school-age kids.
Night swimming in the pool for the kids to top off the day and maybe a play at the playground on the hotel grounds?
Another yummy buffet breakfast at Karl Strauss. Then we pack up and check out of the hotel. We go to San Elijo or Batiquitos Lagoon for a hike/nature walk and visit their nature centers before heading home.
- Fuel costs
- Food costs
- Grand Pacific Palisades Resort and Hotel Carlsbad – rates from $125+
- Legoland (optional if you have annual passes)
- Museum of Making Music ($8 general, $5 for ages 6-18, free for 5 and under)
- Outdoor activities are free
- Total cost: Approx $300 plus meals and fuel
- Save money by just spending one night – since it’s easy to arrive early morning on Saturday
Disclosure: No compensation received for this post. We always express our honest opinion. Please do all your own fact-checking before booking travel.