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Flying into John Wayne Airport (SNA) in Santa Ana will get you within an hour’s drive of Carlsbad. At the airport, you’ll have your pick of rideshares, taxis, shuttles, or buses to ferry you into town, although if you plan to explore nearby areas such as glitzy Orange County or the world-famous attractions of San Diego, a rental car is the best option. Once in Carlsbad, it’s easy to walk to shops and restaurants downtown, and the Breeze bus system makes stops throughout, including at Legoland. Rideshares and taxis are also plentiful.
Spring and summer are the high seasons in Carlsbad, when the sun shines bright and hot and flowers are in bloom. Sunbathers flock to the beach, and the parking lots can get crowded, so consider alternative transport if you’re driving during this time. In July and August, the city hosts live Friday night music performances in the parks and outdoor movie screenings downtown. Every May and November the village throws the Carlsbad Village Street Faire, with more than 900 vendors selling antiques and house plants, as well as a beer and wine garden. With generally warm weather and sunny days, fall and winter can be pleasant times to visit Carlsbad, when the crowds are lower, lending the beaches a secluded feel.
Don’t write this off as a tots-only zone. In addition to the usual theme park fare, Legoland is also home to detailed miniature recreations of New York, San Francisco, and Las Vegas. The attention to detail is stunning — the sounds played in the San Francisco model were recorded at Pier 39 — and the builders have been known to add in a cheeky joke or two, just for grown-ups, so stay alert.
Every spring, 50 acres of hillside in Carlsbad transform into a riotous rainbow when rows and rows of brightly colored ranunculus flowers bloom at the Flower Fields. For more than 40 years the farm has been growing and selling these colorful flowers and their bulbs, and from March through early May, guests can explore the farm on walking paths or via a tractor ride.
Carlsbad is home to one of the last coastal wetlands in California. Unfolding over 610 acres, the nature preserve is home to scores of native plants such as pickleweed — which usually looks like thick green fingers, but turns bright red in the fall — and birds such as snowy plovers and herons. You can navigate a network of trails yourself, or join a guided nature walk.